Top buys: 3 underrated SUVs to consider

By Sponsored Content Time of article published Sep 30, 2021

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In this feature, we take a closer look at three underrated SUV products: Mitsubishi Pajero Sport, Haval Jolion and Suzuki Vitara Brezza:

The Mitsubishi Pajero Sport certainly ticks all the right boxes when it comes to picking an SUV that will do duty as the daily family transport and then get you to difficult to reach places off the beaten track on the weekend.

Having won Car Magazine’s 2021 best Large SUV/Crossover Top 12 Best Buy award says a lot about how good it really is..

The recent styling upgrades have made it good to look at too with slim angled headlights, chrome ticks and a large bumper.

The cabin upgrade makes it modern with a full-colour eight-inch touchscreen, leather, multi-functional leather steering wheel that’s tilt and telescopic adjustable and chrome inserts, it's a pleasant place to spend time on the road.

The seats are comfortable and on long distance driving gives support in all the right places ensuring you arrive at your destination relaxed.

Bluetooth with voice control comes standard as does smartphone-link display audio with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The Exceed model includes remote-control connectivity, electronic tailgate and sliding sunroof.

The Pajero Sport also has a proper third row of seats that fold into the floor when not in use.

Under the hood is the tried and trusted 2.4-litre turbo-diesel plant that’s good for 133kW and 430Nm coupled to an eight-speed automatic transmission.

It’s fitted with Mitsubishi’s excellent Super Select II 4WD system with Electronic Off-road Assistance, Hill Descent control (between 2km/h and 20km/h) and locking rear differential.

The Pajero Sport impresses with its on-road manners and acoustic dampening with very little engine or road noise intrusion.

For a ladder frame set-up the engineers have managed to find a pleasant balance between comfort and handling.

There’s enough grunt in the engine to easily keep you up to speed on the highways, the gearbox providing only a hint as it switches gears when you accelerate to pass slower traffic or gears down on uphills with the cruise control set.

Safety is taken care of with seven airbags, ISOFIX child seat anchors, active stability and traction control (ASTC), anti-lock braking system (ABS), electronic brake-force distribution (EBD), and an emergency brake assist system (BAS). There’s also a hill-start assist system (HAS), dusk-sensing headlights, rain-sensing windscreen wipers, rear park distance control and a rear-view camera.

The Pajero Sport is particularly outstanding off the black stuff. The Super Select system sets it apart from any of the competition. It’s easy to set with the four wheel drive selector dial that gives you the option to switch between 2WD H, 4WD and 4WD high and low with a locked centre differential.

There’s also a rear differential lock, all of which means that there’s hardly a place which you won’t be able to reach especially in the rock setting. There’s also the option of gravel, mud/snow or sand.

A 30 degree approach angle, 24.2 degree departure angle and 23.1 degree ramp breakover angle doesn’t do any harm in the 4x4 stakes either.

On an off-road track with the fridge plugged into the 150W inverter plug, the Pajero Sport impressed with its ability to crawl up some of the more difficult obstacles with the Super Select system putting power as conditions dictated that had some of the more sceptical bystanders impressed with its ability.

It seems then that the Pajero has to be on your list of top SUVs to consider with a decent combination of refinement, safety, comfort, off-road ability and practicality.

Haval Jolion

Haval has been making a noticeable impact on local sales charts of late and leading this charge is the new Jolion, which was introduced earlier this year as a replacement for the H2.

The Haval Jolion range is priced between R299 900 and R398 900 and while that puts it into contention with the likes of the Ford EcoSport and Hyundai Venue, in size terms it's pretty close to far more expensive vehicles like the Kia Sportage and Opel Grandland. You are getting a lot of car for your money and it’s a decent looking chunk of metal too.

The Haval Jolion is built around the company’s new L.E.M.O.N modular architecture that it shares with the new Haval H6 and its modern underpinnings become apparent the second you hit the open road. At highway speeds the Jolion is very quiet, barring for a bit of wind noise, and we were impressed with its overall noise insulation. The ride quality is comfortable too, perhaps more so than most rivals.

Beneath the bonnet of all models you’ll find a 1.5-litre turbopetrol engine that’s carried over from the previous H2, and which produces 105kW and 210Nm. The performance it delivers is adequate for a modern urban-based SUV. The 1.5-litre engine is not necessarily the most refined unit around, and can sound a little gruff under acceleration, but given this vehicle’s keen pricing it’s a perfectly adequate package. As for fuel consumption, our test unit consumed 7.7 litres per 100km in a mixture of freeway and urban driving.

The Haval Jolion can be had with manual transmission, but most models - including our 1.5T Super Luxury test unit - are fitted with a seven-speed automated dual-clutch gearbox, which pairs nicely with the engine.

The cabin is a big step forward versus its predecessors, both in terms of digital gluttony and overall look and feel. The case of the Super Luxury model that we had on test comes with a digital instrument cluster as well as an upgraded 31.2cm infotainment screen. The system looks modern but we weren’t entirely impressed with the functionality. It can take a bit of menu digging from the far end of the screen to get to some functions and you also have to use the touchscreen for simple ventilation tasks like changing temperature or fan speed. But that’s the price you pay for the elegance of a ‘minimalist’ dashboard.

But is the Haval Jolion practical? We found rear legroom to be particularly impressive, there’s certainly space for passengers to stretch, although taller occupants might wish for a bit more headroom. The boot, which accommodates 337 litres when the back seats are in place, should meet most needs.

As for standard features, there is a variety of models to choose from and even the most affordable variant has a decent spec sheet, while the range-topping Super Luxury variant boasts a long list of advanced driver assistance systems.

Suzuki Vitara Brezza

There’s no denying that SUVs are taking the motoring world by storm these days, but sadly most SUVs are quite expensive. But thankfully for those seeking an SUV on a budget, 2021 has brought some new alternatives, such as the Suzuki Vitara Brezza. It starts at just R244 900 - and that’s with a fair amount of equipment.

What, exactly, is a Vitara Brezza?

This new offering hails from Maruti Suzuki in India and while it shares its 2500mm wheelbase with the regular Vitara, it’s a good 180mm shorter and 15mm wider, and with a ground clearance of 198mm, it’s also 13mm higher off the ground.

All Brezza variants are powered by Suzuki’s familiar 1.5-litre petrol engine, codenamed K15B and also found in the Jimny, Ertiga and Ciaz. The normally aspirated motor produces 77kW at 6000rpm and 138Nm from 4400 revs and unlike the more upmarket Vitara, which offers an all-wheel drive option, the Brezza is only available in front-wheel drive format. Buyers do however get to choose between a five-speed manual and four-speed automatic gearbox.

How does it drive?

We recently spent a week with one of the manual models and the little SUV impressed with its overall driveability.

The driving controls operate smoothly and the ride is comfortable. With just 77kW, however, this is not a speed machine and while it happily keeps up with fast-paced urban traffic, you will have to play with the gears and work it a bit harder when faced with steep hills or overtaking manoeuvres.

As for consumption, Suzuki claims a combined fuel consumption figure of 6.2 litres per 100km.

Is the Brezza practical?

We think this vehicle is going to do well on the market because it strikes a good balance between size and price.

It’s not a tiny SUV, but it’s not enormous either. The boot swallows 328 litres worth of luggage, and this should meet most needs but a family holiday might require some clever boxing. The rear legroom is decent and a teen or adult should fit quite comfortably in the back.

What features does it have?

Customers get to choose between GL and GLX spec grades, but even the base model is relatively well stocked, with standard features such as automatic climate control, SLDA touchscreen infotainment system with Android Auto and CarPlay connectivity, reverse camera, multi-function steering wheel and electric fold-in mirrors. Safety kit includes driver and passenger airbags, ISOFIX mountings and ABS brakes, but sadly there is no mention of any kind of stability control.

The GLX adds cruise control to the standard features mix, along with keyless entry and push-button start, auto-dimming rearview mirror, cooled glovebox, auto windscreen wipers and a leather-covered steering wheel.

On the visual front, the GL’s 16-inch steel wheels make way for alloy wheels in the GLX and the latter is also available with a trio of two-tone roof colour options for those that want to stand out a bit more. Buyers can for instance pair the Sizzling Red and Torque Blue exterior colours with a Midnight Black roof, or the Granite Grey option with an Autumn Orange roof.

As for aftersales, both models are sold with a five-year/200 000km warranty and four-year/60 000km service plan.

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