Buyer’s Guide: Rugged 7-Seater SUVs
South Africans love the outdoors and, consequently, the vehicles that can take them there. So, while it is true that the rise of the crossover and “soft-roader” has made the truly off-road capable SUV something of a niche purchase globally, there are still a large number of enthusiasts in this country.
For the purpose of this Buyer’s Guide, we have focused on popular 7-seater SUVs with 4×4 capability, dominated by the likes of the Toyota Fortuner and Ford Everest. Most of the vehicles detailed here are bakkie-based, but not all of them. Are there solid alternatives to consider? Let’s investigate.
Rugged 7-Seater SUVs in South Africa
The Champion: Toyota Fortuner
The ruler of the roost. The Fortuner remains a popular choice for those seeking a capable and rugged 7-seater.
The Toyota Fortuner is one of the most popular 7-seater SUVs in South Africa and the Fortuner 2.8 GD-6 4×4 Automatic is the 2018/19 Adventure SUV champion in the Cars.co.za Consumer Awards – Powered by WesBank and unsurprisingly it’s also a finalist in the 2019/2020 #CarsAwards. Compared with its predecessor, it is significantly more refined and upmarket, an offering that has seemingly lost none of its predecessor’s practicality and off-road ability. The new-generation turbodiesel engines are less noisy but equally as strong as ever. The Fortuner recently received a specification update, bolstering the offering with new comfort, convenience and safety features.
- Price Range: R605 000 – R845 500
- Pick of the Range: Toyota Fortuner 2.8 GD-6 4×4 VX Automatic
- Reason to Buy: Peace-of-mind, trusted all-road capability and resale value
- Criticisms: Clumsy, fold-up rear seats impractical for some users.
Toyota Fortuner (2021) Review
All-New Toyota Fortuner Due in 2022?
Find a Toyota Fortuner to buy on Cars.co.za
The Strong Challenger: Ford Everest
With new powertrains on offer, the latest Everest boasts impressive performance and efficiency.
Ford updated its Everest range in 2019 with revised exterior and interior styling, enhanced suspension and most importantly, new engine and transmission options. This major update was followed with the introduction of the Everest XLT 4×4 and additional specification updates in 2020. In 2021, Ford welcomed the Everest Sport to the fold, boasting additional sporty accoutrements. An all-new Ford Everest, however, is expected to be revealed in 2022.
The Everest is offered with a single-turbocharged and bi-turbocharged 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine with 132 kW/320 Nm and 157 kW/500 Nm respectively. These engines are paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission. The previous 118 kW/385 Nm 2.2-litre turbodiesel (entry-level) and 147 kW/470 Nm turbodiesel engine is still offered and both are mated with a 6-speed automatic transmission.
We rate the Everest highly for its all-around comfort and practicality levels – its suspension copes better with a wider variety of road surfaces than the Fortuner.
- Price Range: R575 400 – R858 600
- Pick of the Range: Ford Everest 2.0 Bi-Turbo 4WD Limited
- Reason to Buy: Spacious, comfortable cabin. Ride quality.
- Criticisms: Ford’s after-sales service and support are still problematic but efforts are being made to improve in this regard.
Ford Everest 2.0 Bi-turbo 4×4 XLT (2019) Review
Find a Ford Everest to buy on Cars.co.za
The Chinese Underdog – Haval H9
Chinese luxury SUV manufacturer, Haval, launched in South Africa in 2017 and its products have since gained impressive traction in the local market. Perched at the top of Haval’s lineup is the H9 7-seater adventure SUV which came to market in 2018. There’s only one 4-wheel-drive H9 derivative on offer locally and it’s powered by a 4-cylinder, 2.0-litre turbopetrol engine with 180 kW and 350 Nm on offer and mated with an 8-speed automatic transmission. The lack of a diesel option might deter some buyers but the H9 is an impressive product nonetheless.
It’s also a capable offroader with a 206 mm ground clearance and a wading depth of 700 mm. The H9 is fitted with an Eaton locking rear differential and a Borg Warner low-range transfer case. The driver can select various driving modes using the rotary dial in the centre console. The H9 is large and consequently very spacious and comes well-appointed with standard equipment. Its drivetrain and ride quality is more refined than some of its rivals and at its price, the Haval H9 makes a compelling case for itself.
- Price Range: R694 900
- Pick of the Range: Haval H9 2.0T 4WD Luxury
- Reason to Buy: Value-for-money, spaciousness, comfortable cabin, lots of standard features
- Criticisms: No diesel option, infotainment could be better
Haval H9 2.0T 4WD Luxury (2018) Review
Find a Haval H9 on Cars.co.za
The Looker: Land Rover Discovery Sport
Looking to combine adventure with premium appeal – look no further than the Land Rover Discovery Sport.
A facelifted Land Rover Discovery Sport arrived in South Africa early in 2020 and it’s undoubtedly one of the most stylish adventure vehicles in our market. With updated exterior styling, an improved interior (with Touch Pro infotainment) and improved refinement, the Discovery Sport retains its commendable offroading ability with all-wheel drive and a wading depth of up to 600 mm. A total of 3 powertrains are offered including a 2.0-litre turbopetrol engine with 183 kW and 365 Nm and a 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine with 132 kW and 430 Nm, both mated with a 9-speed automatic transmission. The plug-in hybrid (PHEV) P300e combines a 1.5-litre turbopetrol engine with an electric motor to produce a total output of 227 kW and 540 Nm and makes use of an 8-speed automatic transmission. Buyers can choose between the Urban Edition or R-Dynamic in either SE or HSE trim.
- Price Range: Approximately R1 032 008 – R1 449 900
- Pick of the Range: Range Rover Sport D200 R-Dynamic HSE
- Reason to Buy: A Premium product that places an emphasis on daily, on-road comfort but can still get its boots dirty convincingly.
- Criticisms: Expensive and many features are optional. It may be too “city-slicker” for frequent and serious off-road use.
Land Rover Discovery Sport D180 HSE (2020) Review
Find a Land Rover Discovery Sport for sale on Cars.co.za
The Trail Eater: Mitsubishi Pajero Sport
The Pajero Sport is capable and versatile, offering a good 2.4-litre turbodiesel engine and smooth 8-speed automatic transmission.
The new-generation Pajero Sport was introduced to the market in the second half of 2017 and although it may not be as popular and the Fortuner or Everest, the Pajero Sport is very capable offroad and offers good levels of refinement. The Pajero Sport received a meaningful facelift in 2020 which saw the introduction of a range-topping 4×4 Exceed derivative. Only one engine is offered for the Pajero Sport and it’s the same 2.4-litre turbodiesel engine found in the Triton bakkie with outputs of 133 kW and 430 Nm of torque. An 8-speed automatic transmission is standard and the Pajero Sport can be had in either 2WD or 4WD guise.
- Price range: R654 995 – R739 995
- Pick of the Range: Mitsubishi Pajero Sport 2.4DI-D 4×4 Exceed
- Reason to Buy: Refined powertrain, good engine power/efficiency balance, offroad capability.
- Criticisms: Polarising rear-end styling, low maximum tow rating (1 800 kg)
Mitsubishi Pajero Sport 2.4 D4 4×4 Auto (2017) Review
Mitsubishi Pajero Sport 2.4 D4 4×2 Auto (2018) Quick Review
Browse for a new / used Mitsubishi Pajero Sport on Cars.co.za
The Survivor: Nissan Patrol
The Patrol is getting on in age but it’s still hugely capable.
The Nissan Patrol’s history spans over 66 years and although its hefty price tag might scare you, it has the size to match. It’s a lumbering juggernaut that offers utilitarian luxury and a burly naturally-aspirated 5.6-litre V8 with 298 kW and 560 Nm of torque, mated to a 7-speed automatic transmission. Despite its price (R1 634 900) and age, the Nissan Patrol is a formidable offroad vehicle that will conquer the toughest terrains. The Patrol received an update in 2019 which arrived locally in 2020 ushering in a fresh look and a range of new comfort and convenience features.
- Price Range: R1 634 900
- Pick of the range: Nissan Patrol 5.6 V8 LE
- Reason to buy: Offroad ability, old-school appeal, comfort.
- Criticisms: It’s old, heavy fuel consumption, clumsy around town.
Nissan Patrol 5.6 LE Premium (2018) Review
Buy a new / used Nissan Patrol on Cars.co.za
The Luxo Cruiser: Toyota Land Cruiser Prado
Now with the Hilux’s 150kW 2.8-litre turbodiesel engine, the Prado is now more resolved.
The latest update for Toyota’s Land Cruiser Prado was in 2020, which saw the Prado receive the 150 kW / 500Nm 2.8-litre turbocharged diesel engine from the venerable Hilux while the 202 kW/381 Nm 4.0-litre V6 petrol engine remains. Both engines are paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission. The Prado is not a great option if on-road balance and performance matter to you. Its true worth comes to the fore in the rough stuff, tackling never-ending dirt roads with unrivalled comfort.
- Price Range: R1 007 500 – R1 186 900
- Pick of the range: Toyota Land Cruiser Prado 2.8GD VX-L
- Reasons to buy: Offroad capability, robust build quality, go-anywhere ability
- Criticisms: Poor on-road performance
Comparison: Land Rover Defender vs Toyota Prado
Buy a new/used Toyota Land Cruiser Prado on Cars.co.za
The Japanese Warrior – Isuzu MU-X
The Isuzu MU-X goes up against stiff competition, but with Isuzu’s notable 4×4 reputation, it’s been well received locally.
A new Isuzu MU-X came to market in 2021, marking a significant improvement over its predecessor.
Not only does the new MU-X look more purposeful but its interior design is now less utilitarian in execution and far more upmarket in terms of fit and finish. Under the bonnet is a new 3.0-litre 4-cylinder turbodiesel engine (codenamed 4JJ3), which now delivers 140 kW and 450 Nm, bringing it more in line with other offerings in this segment. A 6-speed automatic transmission is standard. The MU-X is available in both 4×2 and 4×4 guise, the latter of which employs Isuzu’s Terrain Command 4×4 system with electronically selected 2-High, 4-High and 4-Low modes. Furthermore, the MU-X has a braked tow rating of 3 500 kg and offers a ground clearance of 227 mm and a wading depth of 800 mm. A locally-developed rear differential lock is fitted as standard on 4×4 derivatives.
- Price Range: R693 800 – R860 500
- Pick of the Range: Isuzu MU-X 3.0TD Onyx 4×4
- Reason to buy: Reliability, value, 5-year/120 000 km warranty
- Criticisms: Pricier than some of its rivals
Isuzu MU-X (2022) Review
Buy an Isuzu mu-X on Cars.co.z
A More Affordable Alternative: Mahindra XUV500
The Mahindra XUV500 continues to offer outstanding value for money.
Priced from as low as R410 999, the Mahindra XUV500 appears to offer a serious amount of car for the money. Mahindra introduced a refreshed XUV500 in 2018 and it features a more modern and refined cabin that offers sufficient space for 7 occupants. However, given the XUV500’s slightly more compact dimensions it can’t match its more expensive rivals for outright spaciousness and practicality. Nevertheless, at the price (R460 999), the W8 automatic derivative offers a very comprehensive standard specification sheet that includes such niceties as leather upholstery, touch-screen navigation, park-distance control, cruise control and a 5-year warranty and service plan.
- Price Range: R410 999 – R475 999
- Pick of the Range: Mahindra XUV500 W8 automatic
- Reason to Buy: Value for money, standard features
- Criticisms: 2.2-litre turbodiesel engine not as powerful as rivals, limited off-road ability
Mahindra XUV500 2.2CRDe W10 Auto (2019) Review
Find a new / used Mahindra XUV500 to buy on Cars.co.za
Not a serious off-roader?
If regular, challenging off-road activities are not on the agenda but you’re looking for a spacious, practical 7-seater with at least some all-wheel-drive traction, consider the Korean duo, the new Hyundai Santa Fe and new Kia Sorento. Both are road-biased, near-premium offerings. On a tighter budget, you may want to consider the Nissan X-Trail, which can in some derivatives be specified with 7 seats. We rate the 2.5-litre AWD model as being particularly good value, though it is thirsty.