Our Best Buys series looks at the most appealing new vehicles in various market segments. This week we focus on affordable SUVs and crossovers selling for under R300 000.

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Honda’s versatile compact crossover has something that will appeal to many a family buyer - seven seats - and though the two extra seats are

ideally for children they’ll accept a pair of adults at a bit of a squeeze. If you’re not transporting seven people, you can tumble the third row forward to expand the boot from 223 litres to a roomy 691 litres.

All derivatives offer basics like aircon, electric windows, remote central locking, dual front airbags, ABS brakes, and a four-speaker audio system with USB and Bluetooth connectivity, while the range-topping Elegance models also get items like leather seats and push-button start.

The Comfort and Elegance versions (but not the Trend) also have a 2 year/30 000km service plan.

The engine feels adequately powered in town and cruises pleasantly on the highway, although it does need to be worked on the uphill sections. The BR-V is well suited to gravel roads with its comfortable ride quality and a higher-than-average ground clearance.

The new facelifted EcoSport sees big improvements in style, technology, and interior updates.

A new level of interior refinement includes classy soft-touch materials, along with an entirely new instrument cluster. Ford’s sophisticated Sync3 communications and entertainment system is fitted as standard on the Trend and Titanium models, and incorporates Bluetooth and Voice Control.

A 206mm ride height is among the highest in the segment, making for decent gravel road ability.

Yes it has a rather cheap-looking interior and noisy engine, but Mahindra’s old-school SUV also has a roomy seven-seater cabin (it’s nearly as large as a Toyota Fortuner) and gutsy diesel power. 

The Indian vehicle also lays on basic features such as air conditioning, electric windows and mirrors, remote central locking, a four-speaker CD/MP3/USB/iPod audio system, dual airbags, and ABS brakes. It’s a little rough around the edges but you’re getting a lot of vehicle for the money.

The diesel-engined Mahindra TUV 300 has a roomy five-plus-two seater cabin, a rugged body-on-frame design, and a very appealing price tag.

The three-cylinder turbo diesel engine has a bigger heart than its modest size suggests. Acceleration is unhurried but once it gets up to speed it cruises happily at the 120km/h speed limit (and more). High-profile 15” tyres make the ride feel well cushioned on rutted dirt roads.

The hard interior plastics don’t have the rich tactile feel of soft-touch surfaces, but they’re neatly fitted and seemingly solid, and a dual-tone dash inlaid with silver detailing creates an appealingly modern vibe.

A fairly bountiful spec sheet includes a Bluetooth/USB/AUX audio and infotainment system, aircon, remote central locking, reverse parking assist, dual airbags, and ABS.

Mazda’s five-seater CX-3 is one of the sportier crossovers in this price league.

First there’s that peppy 2-litre engine, second is the suspension which is set up for agility rather than offroading, making this a fun little performer when tar roads turn twisty. Thirdly, it’s very easy on the eye with its dashing styling.

The compact cabin is one of the most premium-feeling in the segment and there’s plenty of toys including aircon, cruise control, 16” alloys, hill launch assist, audio system with Bluetooth, electric windows and mirrors, tilt- and reach-adjustable steering, push-button engine start, and remote central locking. 

The full complement of six airbags, ABS brakes and stability control constitute better-than-average safety for this sub R300 000 segment.

The recently-facelifted French crossover received an updated cabin with a large touch screen infotainment system and latest-generation connectivity.

Space-wise there’s not much to brag about in this five-seater and rear passengers will find the legroom cramped, but the boot’s a fairly useful size offering 410 to 1400 litres. Equipment levels are comprehensive including remote central locking, cruise control, electric windows and mirrors, aircon, rear park distance control, and hill start assistance. The active and passive safety features are well represented too, with ABS, stability control, and six airbags.

Despite its slightly raised ride height the French vehicle feels like a normal hatch to drive with slick cornering agility. 

A likeable little car with trendy styling and an appealing interior, and that gutsy diesel engine runs on the smell of an oil rag.

Renault’s compact crossover packs more features than you’d expect at this bargain price, including 16” alloy wheels, LED daytime running lights, aircon, cruise control, audio system with Bluetooth, steering wheel controls, ABS brakes, stability control and four airbags.

Cabin space is pretty good for a small SUV based on the Renault Clio, and the sliding rear seat allows you to vary the amount of boot space on offer, from 377 litres to 455 litres depending on the amount of rear legroom required.

The Captur is quite nimble to drive on the tar with its quick-turning nature but it’s most at home in the urban jungle; the rather jittery ride over bumps doesn’t make it an ideal gravel car.

Standing out among today’s flashy compact crossovers and SUVs, the Duster adopts a more rugged and unpretentious approach to life.

Renault has put some effort into creating a decent offroader on a budget, including a lofty 210mm ground clearance and a six-speed manual gearbox with an extremely low-ratio first gear designed to mimic low range, albeit only on the four-wheel-drive model that costs R309 900.

The Duster offers ample front and back passenger room, and the 475 litre boot swallows holiday luggage with ease. A bountiful spec sheet includes a touch screen audio system with satnav and reverse camera (Dynamique only), cruise control, a multi-function steering wheel, ABS brakes and four airbags.

While the Duster offers great value for money, there are a few rough edges including a somewhat dated looking interior and ergonomics. These issues should be addressed in the new-generation Renault Duster due here later this year.

It may be diminutive in size and power output, but Suzuki’s iconic Jimny is a giant in terms of 4x4 prowess. Its short, obstacle-clearing wheelbase and selectable 4 wheel drive get it through offroad trails like SUVs twice its price.

Cute and chunky styling makes the Jimny look like a dinky toy and it’s basically sized like one, and the back seat is so tight that adults might need to be surgically removed. 

Aircon is one of the few luxuries that come standard, along with remote central locking and electric windows, with safety taken care of by dual front airbags and ABS anti-lock brakes. 

A little SUV for the serious weekend warrior, but you might want to wait for the new version due later in 2018.

Suzuki’s Vitara is a more palatable day-today ride than the Jimny if you’re not intent on regularly getting the wheels muddy. It’s more powerful, much roomier, and more refined.

A decent ride height and a cushy ride give it decent gravel ability, though its front-wheel drive setup will keep it off the real offroad trails.

You get a conventional audio system rather than a touchscreen, although it does have all the basics like a USB socket and Bluetooth connectivity. It also ticks boxes like tilt- and telescopic steering adjustment, aircon, electric windows, cruise control, seven airbags (including a driver’s knee airbag), ABS brakes and stability control.

A market-leading warranty makes it an appealing prospect too.

A recent addition to the market, Toyota’s Rush will appeal to those looking for a solid product with acres of boot space.

Although it’s based on the latest-generation seven-seat Daihatsu Terios (not available here), the Rush is only sold only as a five-seater in South Africa, which means that you get a really big boot (609 litres).

The Rush is fitted with a not-too-rushed 77kW/136Nm 1.5-litre petrol engine as per the Avanza. Its rear-wheel layout and high centre of gravity mean you should be extra careful in slippery conditions though.

Nonetheless, it is well stocked with all versions getting a modern touchscreen infotainment system, reverse camera, keyless start and six airbags. Only the manual version, however, comes in under R300 000 - although there is a four-speed auto for R313 500.

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