Can you still buy a decent SUV for R400,000? These are your best options

R400,000 doesn’t buy what it used to but a family-sized SUV is still within reach. Vehicle in the image is a rendering. Picture: Jason Woosey via Dall-E.

R400,000 doesn’t buy what it used to but a family-sized SUV is still within reach. Vehicle in the image is a rendering. Picture: Jason Woosey via Dall-E.

Published Apr 21, 2024


There are many things you can be certain of in this life, besides death and taxes. For one, we’ll always be complaining about how expensive that gleaming new dream ride in the showroom window has become.

Ten years ago R400,000 got you into a premium car, and around that time many baulked at how the entry price of a Mercedes C-Class had broken through that barrier, but today that is the transaction price of an average new car.

According to Wesbank, the average deal size for a new car was R389,000 in March 2024. We can argue in circles about the economy, inflation and salaries keeping up but at the end of the day that is the new normal for a mainstream car.

But what kind of vehicle can you get for that amount in April 2024?

Given that so many South Africans are buying SUVs, we decided to take a look at what some of the best options are at that price point.

The good news is that you can still get a new vehicle that is family sized and practical, but often you’ll have to settle for a lower specification level.

For demonstration purposes, we calculated the repayment using a 12.5% interest rate, 10% deposit and no balloon/residual payment.

Toyota Corolla Cross 1.8 Xi

* Repayment calculated using a 12.5% interest rate, 10% deposit and no balloon payment.

A case in point is the Toyota Corolla Cross. We’ll have to cheat a bit to include it in this list as the cheapest version starts at R408,400 but given its popularity on the market and what it has to offer it would be insane to ignore it.

The locally-built Corolla Cross is a good looking, practical, comfortable and dependable SUV that offers a great deal of metal for the money.

Despite being the base version, the 1.8 Xi is not too badly stocked, shipping with 17-inch alloys, LED headlights, an 8.0-inch (20.32cm) touchscreen system with reverse camera and cruise control.

But if you want leather seats and other nice stuff you’ll have to stretch to the more expensive XS and XR versions that start at R443,900 and R483,500 respectively. Getting the hybrid model into your garage requires R486,100 to R543,700.

The 1.8-litre normally aspirated engine in the non-hybrid versions is good for 103kW and 172Nm, offering average performance at best, and if we go by the claimed figures it uses 2.5 litres more fuel per 100km than the hybrid.

In 2023, the Corolla Cross was Mzansi’s second best-selling passenger vehicle, beaten narrowly by VW’s Polo Vivo, but like the latter it has also become something of a hijacking target according to the latest statistics.

It is too good for its own good, in a sense.

Honda Elevate 1.5 Comfort

The recently launched Honda Elevate is a new SUV that aims to put Honda back on the map in South Africa.

Somewhat bigger than the Honda WR-V that it replaces but not a whole lot more expensive, the Elevate plays a strong value card but unfortunately there are only two models available for now, with the 1.5 Comfort manual priced at R371,000 and the 1.5 Elegance CVT at R430,800.

Although it’s not a head turner the Elevate’s handsome design ticks all the SUV boxes, as does its practical cabin with ample legroom and a generously sized 458 litre boot.

There are some scratchy looking plastics inside but that’s not a deal breaker at this price point and it feels well put together.

You don’t get alloys on the base version but it is otherwise well specced with an 8.0-inch (20.32cm) infotainment system, automatic aircon and smart keyless entry, but sadly there are just two airbags.

Power comes from a normally aspirated 1.5-litre i-VTEC engine with 89kW and a six-speed manual gearbox, so if you want to go the auto (CVT) route you’ll have to stretch your budget to the flagship model. Surely Honda should consider adding a mid-spec auto model?

Either way, the Elevate is no ball of fire but the performance on offer should meet most needs. Read our launch review here.

Chery Tiggo 4 Pro

Despite being similar in size to the Honda Elevate and Hyundai Creta, making it among the larger of the compact SUVs, all but one of the Chery Tiggo models is priced beneath R400,000.

In fact you can buy a normally aspirated model for as little as R279,900 but if the budget allows, the turbo versions from R365,900 are the ones to go for.

All versions of the Tiggo 4 are impressively equipped but if you stretch to the top Elite SE you get some seriously high-end electronics like a 360-degree view camera, adaptive cruise control, blind spot detection, lane departure warning, powered sunroof and mood lighting.

They haven’t achieved this value proposition by making the cabin a cheap plastic extravaganza, instead the Tiggo 4 is a classy concoction of tasteful surfaces, many of which are soft to the touch.

And if you’re still struggling to trust its longevity, Chery is offering a 10-year or million-kilometre engine warranty for the first owner.

Haval Jolion 1.5T Premium

Another strong seller in this segment, the Jolion has a similar footprint to the Corolla Cross but with three of the models falling beneath R400,000 it offers a family sized package for the price of a compact.

The best you’ll get within our stated budget is the 1.5T Premium auto or 1.5T Luxury manual, with both priced at R389,450.

The Premium comes with 17-inch alloys, 10.25-inch (26cm) touchscreen, cruise control and dual-zone climate, while the Luxury adds 18” rims, panoramic sunroof and curtain airbags among other features.

Built around Haval’s curiously named L.E.M.O.N platform, the Jolion offers a mostly quiet and refined driving experience and comfortable ride, while reasonably brisk performance is ensured by the 1.5-litre turbopetrol engine.

The Jolion is a good all-rounder for the price, but you might want to hold off for the new-generation Jolion Pro that’s set to debut later this year. We just hope the newcomer can keep the value flame burning.

Renault Duster 1.5 DCi

The Renault Duster is getting expensive, with just one model now falling beneath the magical R400,000 mark. You’ll have to find R451,999 for the Zen auto, or R465,999 for the Zen 4WD or Intens 2WD.

But the Duster was designed to be a basic SUV and if you’re happy with a manual gearbox, it does offer a unique advantage in this segment in the form of a proven 1.5-litre turbodiesel engine that sips just 5.1 litres per 100km according to factory claims.

Apart from being highly economical the Duster is a semi-rugged sort of SUV that’s made for real life. It has a roomy and hardy interior that’s not afraid of what kids or dogs might throw at it.

With a name like “Zen” you might expect it to be look a bit bare inside, but it does come with things like cruise control, auto climate control and a 7-inch (17.8cm) infotainment system with reverse camera and parking sensors. No meditation cushion though.


The five SUVs you see above appear to offer the best value as far as we’re concerned, but they’re by no means the only decent options in the segment.

Another strong contender is the Kia Sonet, with half its range falling beneath the R400,000 mark. Its chunky design and solid build quality have made it a popular choice in the segment. But it’s not quite as practical as the SUVs it competes with in price and we can’t help but feel it’s become a little too expensive for its own good.

Also worthy of mention on our shortlist are the Suzuki Grand Vitara and Toyota Urban Cruiser twins.

Stylish, economical and practical, there is a lot to like about these Maruti-Suzuki sourced SUVs, but ultimately we feel their 1.5-litre engine and four-speed autobox combination is just not up to the task at Gauteng altitudes. A manual model at the coast, though, could be well worth a look-in.


This is where things get really interesting.

Going the used car route naturally comes with a higher risk, and you need to pay attention to how much warranty and service plan are still remaining, or pay for an extension. But if you look carefully and stick to reputable dealers there is a lot of value to be had on the used market.

For instance, why settle for the regular Toyota Corolla Cross when you can get a used hybrid model for even less?

Browsing some popular used car websites, we were able to find plenty of Corolla Cross hybrids for less than R400,000, most of them with mileage of between 30,000 and 45,000km.

But could you actually upgrade to something like a Fortuner in that price range?

Tired old Fortuner, anyone?

Sadly the examples we came across were mostly higher mileage cars with between 100,000 and 200,000km on the clock.

But if you want to take the sensible middle road, there are many Mazda CX-5s and previous-generation Hyundai Tucsons around in that price band.

We came across numerous 2020 and 2021 models with less than 50,000km on the clock.

Another SUV we really enjoyed recently was the new-generation Renault Captur. Sadly it could not make our new car list as it costs in the region of R500,000, but we did manage to find a few 2023 models with under 15,000km within our budget.

And those are just a few examples of how you can win big by going the second hand route if you find the right car from the right dealer.

The bottom line is that you can still buy a relatively practical SUV brand new for under R400,000 but in most cases you won’t get a turbo engine or anything in the way of indulgent specification.

But if you shop carefully you can easily manage that on the used market.

IOL Motoring