The best budget 4×4 wagons in 2019
Shopping for a new, cheap 4×4 wagon on a budget can be tricky… there’s so many to choose. Here are the best buys.
EVERYONE HAS A budget when it comes to buying a new 4×4 wagon. Here are our top five picks no matter how little or how much money you have to spend, split into price points.
The criteria for inclusion? The vehicles must be 4×4 wagons with genuine off-road capability, so you won’t find any all-wheel drive SUVs on this list.
Here’s how to get the best bang for your bucks in the world of budget 4×4…
Top budget 4×4 under $25k: Suzuki Jimny
Price: From $23,990 plus on-road costs
If your budget is limited but you’re not willing to settle for anything other than a brand new 4×4, then you’d better get yourself down to your nearest Suzuki dealer and start looking for stock.
The Jimny starts at a low $23,990 with a five-speed manual transmission and $25,990 with a four-speed auto. It’s a pretty basic bit of kit but is surprisingly capable off-road, and it’s better than you might think on it, especially if around-town commuting is on the agenda.
The little Jimny measures just 3480mm long and 1645mm wide, so it’s easy to squeeze into small parking spots or manoeuvre on tight bush tracks. While its 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine musters just 75kW and 130Nm, the Jimny only weighs 1075kg, so it will keep up with traffic in the city, and will happily cruise at 100km/h on the open road. Expect a bumpy ride on rough roads, as the short wheelbase results in a fair bit of fore/aft pitching.
READ MORE: Suzuki Jimny review
The Jimny has a part-time 4×4 system, separate body on chassis construction and live axles front and rear with coil springs. The combination of good low-range gearing, electronic traction control, decent ground clearance and impressive approach, ramp-over and departure angles provides the Jimny with plenty of off-road potential, and its light weight results in impressive performance in soft sand.
Jimny owners will have to learn to pack light as there’s not a lot of interior space; there’s seating for four but if you want to get away for a weekend or longer then you’ll have to fold away the back seats to squeeze in your luggage.
Top budget 4×4 under $45k: Haval H9 Ultra
Price: From $44,990 plus on-road costs
The Haval H9 Luxury is a Prado-sized seven-seat wagon with impressive on-road performance and genuine off-road capability, along with more standard equipment than you can poke a stick at, yet it retails for a smidge under $50k drive-away! Now that’s an impressive budget 4×4.
The Haval H9 has been recently upgraded and its 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine now produces power and torque peaks of 180kW and 350Nm. The engine is mated to a super-smooth eight-speed ZF automatic transmission and the Haval H9 has a mode-selectable dual-range full-time 4×4 system with electronic traction control and auto rear diff lock.
Like Prado, the H9 is built on a separate chassis with independent front suspension and a live-axle rear with coil springs. It offers impressive ride quality but gets a little floaty at higher speeds on rough roads. The engine delivers surprisingly strong performance; it’s responsive from low in the rev range develops good midrange torque, but it can get a little noisy if revved hard.
READ MORE: Haval H9 review
Select the appropriate off-road mode (sand, snow, mud or auto) and the Haval impresses with its off-road capability. The Haval engineers have done an excellent job calibrating the H9’s traction control system for off-road use. Selecting low-range automatically engages the rear diff lock, although this can be overridden if desired.
If you like luxury appointments, you’ll love the H9. It’s loaded with gear including leather trim, heated/cooled electrically adjustable front seats with massage function, electric fold third-row seats, panoramic sunroof, eight-inch TFT screen, sat-nav, 10-speaker Infiniti sound system, tri-zone climate control air conditioning and more.
Safety equipment includes ABS with EBD and BA, traction control, stability control, a full complement of airbags, blind-spot monitoring, lane departure warning, front and rear parking sensors, reversing camera, driver condition monitor, tyre pressure monitor, DRLs, adaptive front lighting system and front fog lights.
Spending $50k on a brand that’s new to the market might be a little daunting for some but the Haval H9 is covered by a seven-year/unlimited km warranty, and it comes with roadside assistance. The downside to Haval ownership? A limited dealer network and questionable resale value.
Top budget 4×4 under $55k: Mitsubishi Pajero Sport Exceed
Price: From $54,200 plus on-road costs
The Mitsubishi Pajero Sport GLX is listed at almost bang on $45k and it represents amazing value for money when you consider the mechanical package and standard equipment on offer, which at the moment includes a long seven-year warranty.
Based on the Triton 4×4 ute platform, but with a coil-spring rear suspension, the Pajero Sport is powered by a 2.4-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine that’s mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Mitsubishi’s Super Select II 4WD system provides selectable full-time four-wheel drive, and a reduction of 2.566:1 results in impressive low-range gearing.
With a claimed 133kW at 3500rpm and 430Nm at 2500rpm on tap, the Pajero Sport offers lively on-road performance. The eight-speed auto is a gem, providing almost imperceptible shifts and a ratio for every occasion. Ride quality is on the firm side but the suspension works well over a variety of surfaces and the Pajero Sport offers lively handling.
READ MORE: Mitsubishi Pajero Sport review
An effective traction control system combines with the excellent low-range gearing to provide good off-road capability, and the Exceed’s rear diff lock is impressive. The Pajero Sport has a reasonable 218mm of ground clearance and while approach angle is good, departure angle isn’t, so care has to be taken when dropping off rock shelves or exiting gullies.
In GLX trim the Pajero Sport is a five-seater while the Exceed (and GLS) offers seating for seven. Standard equipment includes 18-inch alloy wheels, leather seats with heating and electric adjustment, 230v plug in the rear, 360-degree cameras, a seven-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. You won’t find a better-equipped five-seat 4×4 wagon for the money.
Top budget 4×4 under $65k: Toyota Prado GXL
Price: From $60,690 plus on-road costs
For those with $65k to spend it’s hard to go past the Toyota Prado GXL. This mid-spec seven-seat wagon might not have the luxury appointments of a Chinese newcomer like the Haval H9, but for those who want to drive into the outback and beyond there’s the reassurance of Australia’s largest dealer network and Toyota’s legendary reliability.
The Prado GXL’s 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine makes 130kW of power at 3400rpm. With the six-speed manual gearbox peak torque is limited to 420Nm at 1400rpm; with the six-speed auto it makes 450Nm at 1600rpm. The auto also has a higher braked towing capacity of 3000kg (2500kg for the manual) and is the pick of the range, adding $3000 to the price, so it still sneaks under the $65k price point.
Prado offers good on-road performance and excellent ride quality, and it has a class-leading 150-litre fuel capacity, which provides an excellent touring range.
The Prado is also impressive off the road, with plenty of ground clearance and wheel travel, good low-range gearing and an effective traction control system. The GXL auto also gets a rear diff lock.
READ MORE: Toyota Prado review
Standard equipment on the Prado GXL includes 17-inch alloy wheels, eight-inch colour touchscreen display, satnav, roof rails and side steps, privacy glass and three-zone climate control air conditioning. The auto also scores colour multi-information display. Safety equipment includes reversing camera, seven SRS airbags, Vehicle Stability Control and Active-Traction Control, Pre-Collision Safety system with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Alert, Automatic High Beam, Active Cruise Control, rear parking sensors, LED headlamps, LED fog lamps and daytime running lights. The auto also has Downhill Assist Control and Hill-start Assist Control.
Toyota has recently sharpened its pencil in regard to Prado pricing, and added more equipment, and the GXL is now better value than ever.