Suggest a SUV for Camping (Budget $20K - $25K)

Trying to decide on a good SUV for camping and very light offroading (mainly when the roads to campsites are unsealed) as my current Mazda3 is too small and not well-equipped.

My budget is 20-25K and I've been looking at a 2011 Toyota Kluger or Hyundai Santa Fe, would like something of that size. I'll definitely be waiting until the COVID-tax is dropped from second hand cars before purchasing.

I would prefer one that is AWD/4WD as standard and I would like diesel but I would be using this as a daily car also and I don't do the long(ish) drives recommended for diesel engines. Maybe I'm being pedantic about it? I usually drive about 15 minutes to work and it's a mix of 80km/h and 60km/h with lights, would a diesel engine cope fine with this?

The downside of a Kluger is the thirsty V6 engine, AWD only coming in at the top of the line model and it being 'selective' AWD (only engages when front wheels begin slipping).

The downside of a Santa Fe is the diesel engine (potentially) and I personally prefer the look of the Kluger.

Are there other options I'm missing? I'm not keen on SUVs where they are dumping 2.0L turbo petrol engines.


  • +2

    Suggest Me an SUV for Camping


    Edit: scrap that. Just saw your budget.

    • Might be able to stretch it just for that, but then I'd be changing the title to "Suggest Me an SUV for Living in Forever"

      • +2

        Subaru outback or lifted camry

  • They are some pretty large vehicles of it's just to throw in some camping gear. Though if you have a couple of kids I get it. Are you camping or glamping?

    • Camping, plan on using it for longer interstate trips eventually too (once it's all kitted out)

      • +1

        If it's just 2 of you then RAV4 size rather than Kluger size should be plenty enough. Before SUVs came along most most used a Camry, commodore or falcon for longer trips. If it's your daily driver then even more reason not to go with a large vehicle.

  • Nissan xtrail?

    • +2

      My missus in-laws have an xtrail and I've driven it a handful of times (mostly hour trips) and I'm not a fan of it, it's very 'meh' to me but that might be because of how they treat it

    • +2

      Only problem with the xtrail is the CVT transmission.

  • +4

    Subarus are good. I'm about to downsize from a Forester to an XV. Sacrificing storage for hopefully less dings.

    • +3

      Haha the XV is less than 2cm skinnier and only 15cm shorter. You aren't gonna get less dings!

      The boot is far smaller than you might think. You can't even fit a decent dog in the back.

      • XV is less than 2cm skinnier and only 15cm shorter. You aren't gonna get less dings!

        I'm hoping it makes a difference. I originally had in mind a Levorg but it doesn't come in a hybrid version.

        The boot is far smaller than you might think. You can't even fit a decent dog in the back.

        I did check it out and it's basically an Impreza but higher. But it's just me and the missus at this stage and I haven't been taking advantage of the boot space. So even when we go camping we can put the back seats down for space.

        • +1

          Oh no don't tell me you got a hybrid xv… It's like, the worst hybrid ever.

          • +1

            @DisabledUser220804: Yeah, I did… I am aware the hybrid Subarus aren't great but it's a work vehicle so can swap it out eventually.

            Edit: dunno who negged you

            • +1

              @Caped Baldy: Ah so long as it's not your money! That's cool's not that they're a bad vehicle, just not a great hybrid haha. Enjoy!

              • +1

                @DisabledUser220804: Thanks!

                Still paying a weekly charge but it covers petrol and insurance so a good deal. The alternative hybrids had too many sacrifices.

  • +6

    An Outback or Forester. Bit smaller than a Kluger but not by a lot.

    • Fairly sure the Outback is a bit shorter than the Forester but a bit wider. My Forester has a few dings from car doors so don't think it's great for cities.

      • +3

        The current Outback is 20cm longer and 2.5cm wider than the Forester. It's boot is 7% bigger but probably a lot more practical and it's space is more in length than height (good for bikes). The Outback is better on the highway due to its longer wheelbase.

        The Outback has always been the more upmarket more expensive model.

        I have a Forester too and love it, but I'd probably get an Outback if I had my time again.

        The Forester is not large, it's within 3cm of width and length when compared to a Corolla. Your dents aren't because of its size 😉

        • Yup yup. Meant shorter height wise.

          Your dents aren't because of its size 😉

          People are shits :'( I've got a nice and big one from a work colleague where they transferred red paint to silver.

          • +1

            @Caped Baldy: It's certainly surprising how similar in size most cars really are. Traditional small cars have grown heaps!

  • +5

    Pajero NT or NX. Comes with a 4cyl 3.2L Turbo Diesel.

    Yes, its an overkill for your current camping trips, but over time you may want to be a bit more adventurous and find out more isolated spots for your trips.

    • +1

      It's a great car but I don't you'd find one in budget without very high mileage.

      • Had a quick look and there were a few under 150k km, and quite a few under 200k. From memory, they are a good engine for a lot more if properly maintained.

    • +1

      I started with an XV.
      Now have a Pajero.

      It's annoying how with an XV/Forester they make the roof taper out at the back - thereby literally wasting cargo capacity to more sleek (and probably use less fuel). I like the cube boot of the Pajero.

    • +2

      Another vote for the Pajero. My '10 NT has 195,000km on it, and hasn't missed a beat.
      As for low km's of travel each day, just fit a "catch can" to limit soot deposit -
      You can also fit an EGR delete, but that is an illegal mod, though nearly every Pajero owner I know has one fitted.
      Cost of both the above is approx $300-400 in total.

      • I have an NP 2004.. same deal only 270 kms.. Usually I have a next car in mind, but I keep thinking if only I could buy a new one of these.. basic catch can to avoid soot blocking manifolds happens in all diesels..

  • +1

    One thing to consider here is whether you will ever want to upgrade to a Jayco pop top or camper trailer.

    A Kluger or Santa Fe will tow a Jayco pop top without too many dramas, but mid size SUVs such as the X-Trail, Rav4 or Forester will not.

    If you want a 4WD style camper trailer then you probably need bigger again such as a dual cab ute or Prado/Everest/Pajero Sport etc.

    Another thing to consider is roof rails/ roof pod. Our current camping setup with a toddler is a Forester with all camping gear jammed in the boot or in the pod.

  • You don't need a car as big as a Kluger if you're upgrading from a Mazda. You're sacrificing a lot for the occasional use of the car for your commute.

    Get a Subaru outback or forester, newest and lowest km you can find in budget. They drive like a car and have loads of room (outback is roomier). Great on the highway.

    Don't get a diesel for your use case.

  • +2

    If you can stretch to $30k then an FJ Cruiser. Brilliantly capable off-roader, infinitely moddable and keeps it's value very well.

    If not, best Prado for your budget. Avoid a diesel if possible.

    • +4

      Why the hell would you advise someone to commute in an FJ cruiser?

      • +2

        Petrol only, tiny fuel tank, suicide doors, terrible visibility…

        They're cool but not great for touring or families.

        • +2

          Also they're atrocious on fuel lol

      • +2

        Why not for a 15 min commute? It's comfortable lifestyle vehicle and meets all the other requirements with a 160L fuel tank and great setup for camping and off-roading.

        • +2

          Hard to park, not engaging to drive, awful on fuel, more expensive to repair than a smaller cheaper car (generally) more expensive tires you're putting wear onto etc etc.

      • +2

        Probably for its excellent visibility, pillars 3 feet wide are great for that. /S

  • +1

    Consider a ‘real’ 4wd. It might save you upgrading later if you find camping off the beaten track is really your thing.

    Consider R51 Pathfinder, Pajero, Challenger, MUX, Prado. All very capable in stock form, but are ‘trucks’ so not really suited to city driving. The Prado will be most expensive of these due to Toyota tax, not sure if you’ll get an MUX in your budget.

    Alternatively, Subaru Outback or forester. Much better suited to city driving and quite capable off road for what they are. The best AWD system of all the SUVs for any off road usage.

  • +2

    Suzuki Grand Vitara, if you're happy with the size?

    Full-time 4wd with low range, so will tackle whatever you want. Yes, she's a bit thirsty (around 10L/100km), but at least you can find newer vehicles within your budget, and it's 4wd not awd

    • 10l per 100km is not thirsty by midrange suv standard, the kluger can only hit 11l on pure highway driving.

  • Ever considered a 4WD wagon? I've got a Golf Alltrak and I find it way more practical than my old XV

    • +1

      Do you really consider an Alltrak 4wd? It's barely even AWD with the "computer says no" front/rear power split arrangement.

    • +1

      When looking at wagon options I really liked the Golf Alltrak but with a ground clearance of 174mm compared to a Forester/XV of 220mm (or outback with 215mm) I felt the increase in capability (camping spots/fire trails) was worth going down the Subaru route for the extra reassurance.

  • We love our JEEP Grand Cherokee and tow a camper trailer (if you’re considering that I highly recommend Jayco) when going camping. It’s diesel too so really good on fuel and has heaps of power. Just started getting into 4wding too and it handles it with ease, I was happily shocked.

    • +2

      Yeah don't get a Jeep OP - especially don't get a cheap used Jeep.

  • -2

  • Pajero/Prado type.. spare parts upgrades etc..
    All cars have their problems, but these 2 are quite user friendly for the combo daily driver and offroad (not hardcore) camping etc..
    I have a Pajero drives kids to school does shopping then tows a boat/fishing weekend.
    Dual cab Ute. Is another option.., but wagons have more comforts…
    Good luck.

  • Depending on how tall you are the Mitsubishi Outlander 4wd does fine for me. Seats lay completely flat making it easy to sleep on one side and load the other side with fridge and all your junk. I love the Mitsi for 3 or 4 night getaways :)

  • Yeah go with those above , the forester or outback suit you better, kluger is nice to have but it's thirsty as and only justify if you sometimes need that third row. And not sure what the secondary market like but I bought one that fit your criteria last year for less than your budget.

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