Top 5 4×4 Wagons Under $50k
Here are our Top 5 sub-$50k 4×4 wagons, all with touring-friendly diesel engines and genuine off-road capability.
So, you want a brand-new turbo-diesel 4×4 wagon with genuine off-road capability for less than $50k? You gotta be dreaming, right? Nope. It’s amazing what you can pick up for less than $50k. In fact, some of the bargains on this list are less than $45k, so long as you’re willing to forgo a few luxuries.
Here’s our pick of the sub-$50k 4×4 wagons, all of them powered by economical turbo-diesel engines that are well suited to long-distance touring, and all of them with genuine off-road capability.
Holden Trailblazer LT – $47,990+ORC
Based on the Colorado ute platform, Holden’s Trailblazer LT is a seven-seat 4×4 wagon powered by a 2.8-litre turbo-diesel makes a claimed 147kW of power at 3600rpm and a whopping 500Nm of torque at 2000rpm. The engine is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, which in turn is mated to a two-speed transfer case with part-time shift-on-the-fly 4×4 and a limited-slip rear differential.
On-road performance is impressive and the Trailblazer offers a compliant and well-controlled ride. Off-road capability is reasonable, although the Trailblazer’s traction control system is not as effective as some of its competitors, and its standard LSD is no match for vehicles fitted with a rear diff lock.
For those with a junior footy team to haul around, the Trailblazer offers good interior space, with a generous third row that puts some other seven-seater wagons to shame. The seats fold flat when not in use, providing plenty of cargo space, albeit a high load height that can prove a little awkward for shorter people.
The Trailblazer is well equipped considering its sub-$50k price, and standard gear on the LT includes 17-inch alloys, roof rails, fog lights, LED daytime running lamps and side steps. As you’d expect at this price point, the air conditioning is manual and seats are cloth covered items, but what you might not expect is six-way power adjustment for the driver’s seat, and comfort and convenience items such as a 7-inch colour touchscreen with Apple Carplay/Android Auto, six-speaker sound system with steering wheel controls, rear park assist, reversing camera, multi-function driver’s information display, cruise control, remote central locking, alarm and engine immobiliser.
On the safety front, the Trailblazer LT is equipped with electronic stability control, hill descent control, hill start assist, trailer sway control, a full complement of airbags and LED DRLs.
So what’s missing? Well, the Trailblazer LT misses out on comfort features such as leather trim, seat heaters and climate control as found in the mid-spec LTZ model, as well as safety gear such as front park assist, forward collision alert, lane departure warning, blind spot alert, rear cross traffic alert and tyre pressure monitor. Other than these absent items, the base-spec Trailblazer LT is mechanically identical to its more expensive siblings, and at $48k it represents excellent value for money.
Isuzu MU-X LS-M – $48,000+ORC
The Isuzu MU-X is another ute-based 4×4 wagon, in this case based on the D-Max platform. Both MU-X and D-Max are closely related to Holden Trailblazer and Colorado respectively, albeit with different drivelines.
The Isuzu MU-X has a 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine that makes a claimed 130kW of power at 3600rpm and 430Nm of torque from 2000-2200rpm. The standard transmission in the base-spec MU-X LS-M is a six-speed manual gearbox, which is mated to a part-time shift-on-the-fly 4×4 system with high and low ratios. An optional six-speed auto adds $2100, which just pushes the MU-X LS-M over the $50k mark.
While it doesn’t quite match the peak outputs of Trailblazer, the MU-X’s larger-capacity engine has a nice character and it develops good low-rpm torque and has a healthy midrange. On-road performance is more than acceptable and the MU-X offers decent ride quality on crook surfaces and class-average handling.
The MU-X has acceptable ground clearance for off-road driving and good low-range reduction. Features such as electronic traction control, hill-start assist and hill-descent control aid off-road capability, but the absence of a rear diff lock as fitted to some competitors is a drawback.
The MU-X offers similar interior packaging to the Trailblazer, with generous third-row seating and good cargo space when the seats are folded flat. Interior styling is unique, with a different dash design and HVAC controls.
Standard equipment on the MU-X LS-M includes 16-inch alloy wheels, self-levelling LED headlights, DRLs, remote central locking, cruise control and manual air conditioning, while on the safety front it scores ABS, ESC, EBD, TCS, EBA, HDC, six airbags, reversing camera and rear parking sensors.
The base-spec LS-M misses out on visual features such as chrome grille and door mirrors, as well as fog lights, side steps and roof rails. It also goes without comfort and convenience features found on higher grades such as climate control, rear cabin vents, leather trim, power seat adjustment and satnav.
Despite the deletion of a few things here and there, the sub-$50k MU-X LS-M is still a lot of 4×4 wagon for the money. It’s economical, comfortable and capable, even if it feels a bit ‘stripped-out’ compared with its siblings.
Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sport CRD – $49,990+ORC
The four-door Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sport CRD just slips under the $50k barrier at $49,990. The five-door soft-top wagon’s body sits atop a separate chassis and Wrangler Unlimited features old-school live axles front and rear and a high-tech 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine mated to a five-speed auto transmission.
The engine makes a claimed 147kW of power at 3600rpm and and 460Nm of torque at 1600rpm, which is enough to propel the Wrangler Unlimited’s brick-like aerodynamics down the highway at a reasonable clip, but wind noise can be a little excessive.
On-road ride and comfort are not Wrangler strengths, but the longer wheelbase of the Unlimited model exhibits much better manners than its short-wheelbase sibling. It’s off-road that the Wrangler Unlimited shines, with impressive ground clearance, good axle articulation, sufficient low-range reduction and an effective traction control system.
Standard safety equipment on the Unlimited Sport includes electronic stability control, hill start assist, roll mitigation, trailer-sway control, remote central locking, four airbags, fog lights and tyre pressure warning. Comfort and convenience features include cruise control, air conditioning, six-speaker sound system with Bluetooth and 18-inch alloy wheels. Unique to Jeep Wrangler in this Top 5 list, you also score a black soft-top, removable doors and hose-out interior which, depending on your intended usage, will either be fantastic attributes or… not.
Strangely, Jeep never offered the impressive 2.8-litre CRD engine in higher-grade Wrangler Unlimited models, so there’s not much point discussing the features Sport misses out on compared with the petrol-only Overland and Rubicon. If your budget stretches a little beyond $50k, however, it’s certainly worth considering the $3000 Renegade Pack, which includes a hardtop and sidesteps, along with a few other extras.
If you want a seriously capable, old school four-door off-road wagon for less than $50k, then it’s the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sport CRD or nothing.
Mitsubishi Pajero Sport GLX – $45,000+ORC
Another ute-based 4×4 wagon, the base-spec Mitsubishi Pajero Sport GLX is a bargain at just $45k. This five-seat 4×4 wagon is well equipped for the asking price and is loaded with standard features that far exceed expectations at this price point.
The Pajero Sport has a 2.4-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine that produces a claimed 133kW at 3500rpm and 430Nm at 2500rpm. A smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic is standard, as is Mitsubishi’s excellent Super Select II 4WD, providing selectable full-time 4WD for on-road use, which provides the security of added traction in wet weather.
Despite its small capacity, the Pajero Sport’s engine delivers good on-road performance, no doubt thanks in part to the excellent eight-speed auto. On-road handling is lively for the class and although initial compliance is a little firm the Pajero Sport rides well over bumpy roads.
The base-spec GLX misses out on the rear diff lock fitted to higher-grade Pajero Sports, but the electronic traction control works well in slippery terrain. Ground clearance isn’t fantastic, so care has to be taken in rougher off-road conditions.
As mentioned, the GLX is surprisingly well equipped for the money, with standard gear such as 18-inch alloy wheels, chrome grille and door mirrors, side steps, fog lights, LED headlights and DRLs, and roof rails. Other appointments include climate control air conditioning, 7-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, steering wheel audio controls, remote central locking, cruise control, three 12V power outlets and engine immobiliser. Safety equipment includes airbags all-round, traction control, stability control, trailer stability assist, hill start assist, reverse camera and parking sensors.
So what do you miss out on when opting for the poverty pack Pajero Sport GLX? Most importantly the GLS and Exceed models score a rear diff lock, and the latter also gets bonus safety gear including forward collision mitigation, adaptive cruise control, Ultrasonic Misacceleration Mitigation System, blind spot warning and multi-around monitor. Other than that, the differences are mostly comfort and convenience features such as GLS’s leather trim, electric-adjust front seats, dual-zone climate control, front parking sensors, rain-sensing wipers and dusk-sensing headlights, and Exceed’s heated seats and eight-speaker sound system.
If you don’t need seven seats and you’re willing to forgo a few active safety features and luxury appointments, the base-spec Pajero Sport GLX really is a fantastic 4×4 wagon, and it represents excellent value for money.
And the best bit? Even the mid-spec Pajero Sport GLS, with all of its extra equipment, also slips under the $50k price point at $48,500.
Toyota Fortuner GX – $42,590+ORC
Toyota repositioned its slow-selling Fortuner last year and the base-spec GX model now starts at just $42,590 with six-speed manual gearbox or $44,590 with six-speed auto. Even the mid-spec GXL slips under the $50k price barrier at $47,490 for the manual and $49,490 for the auto.
Fortuner has the same running gear as the HiLux on which it’s based, which means a 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine making a claimed 130kW at 3400rpm and 420Nm at 1400-2600rpm in manual guise or 450Nm at 1600-2400rpm for the auto. Both transmissions are mated to a two-speed transfer case with shift-on-the-fly part-time 4×4.
On-road performance is best described as adequate, although the engine is one of the most refined in the class and it works particularly well with the six-speed auto transmission. Ride and handling is well sorted and it’s not hard to see that Toyota has invested in local development when it comes to suspension tuning.
The Fortuner offers decent off-road capability with reasonable ground clearance and an effective electronic traction control system. All models come standard with a rear diff lock, but engaging it switches off the ETC, which limits its effectiveness somewhat.
Despite its keen pricing, even the base-spec Fortuner GX is reasonably well equipped, with standard equipment such as 17-inch alloy wheels, side steps, seven seats, 7-inch touchscreen display, cool box, auto headlights and reversing camera. The GXL adds Toyota’s Intelligent Manual Transmission (I-MT) (manual model) that rev-matches downshifts, paddle shifters (auto model), a 4.2-inch multi-information display, satnav, smart entry and start, privacy glass, fog lights and Downhill Assist Control.
Fortuner GX and GXL safety features include reversing camera, rear parking sensors, a full suite of airbags, vehicle stability control, trailer sway control and hill-start assist.
So what do sub-$50k Fortuner buyers miss out on by not stumping up for the auto only $56,990 Fortuner Crusade? Just a comfort and convenience items such as leather trim, upgraded audio system, power adjustable and heated front seats, power tailgate, climate control, LED headlights and a 220V power outlet.
At closer to $40k than $50k, the Fortuner GX is great value for money, especially when you consider it misses out on none of the mechanical or safety features of the closer to $60k Crusade model. But for our money, the Fortuner GXL auto is the pick of the Fortuner range; for a shade under $50k it’s equipped with everything you’d ever need in a seven-seat 4×4 wagon.