A big choice in bigger SUVs

Many buyers like a rough and tough vehicle to project themselves as tough macho people

There is a wide choice of large SUVs that are not quite as expensive as the luxury SUVs made by Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Porsche or Volvo. There is even a huge Bentley SUV for those who can afford to spend a fortune. These bigger SUVs offer the space and comfort of utility vehicles like the Innova provides the comforts of a sedan and the capabilities of an off-roader. Not everyone wants to go off-roading on rutted rural roads but many buyers like a rough and tough vehicle to project themselves as tough macho people. Not just the men. Many sassy women want to also make a statement on the road.

The Toyota Fortuner is a large, comfortable and very competent true SUV with a 4X4 transmission suitable for very rough roads. It comes with 2650-cc 166 HP petrol engine coupled to a 5-speed manual or a 6-speed automatic gearbox. Its twin is a 2755-cc 177 HP diesel engine mated to 6-speed manual and automatic transmissions. Both versions ride on big 17-inch tyres. Though a bit expensive, the Fortuner has an enviable reputation of being one of the most spacious, comfortable and reliable SUVs.

The new Ford Endeavour that had earlier looked a bit of a truck in SUV’s clothing is now better looking and has become a serious competitor. It comes powered by two big diesel engines. One of 3,200-cc delivers a huge 200 HP while its smaller cousin is of 2,200-cc delivering 160 HP. The transmission is a 6-speed automatic. It has excellent ride and handling and offers 7-seat seating though the third row is a bit cramped.

A new boy on the block is the Jeep Compass that comes with surprisingly powerful small engines. The 1370-cc petrol engine delivers a surprisingly big 162 HP through 6-speed manual and 7-speed automatic gearboxes. The larger 1956-cc diesel mill pumps out 173 HP with a 6-speed manual gearbox. It is very good looking and offers great ride and comfort plus the famous Jeep pedigree. As it is locally assembled it is much more affordable than the Jeep Wrangler or Grand Cherokee.

Comparisons with the Jeep Wrangler are difficult because it is a true off-roader and not really a SUV with soft edges. It therefore offers great off-road capabilities in a rugged looking vehicle that is not too long on creature comforts. The Jeep name and import duties however make it rather expensive.

The Isuzu MU-X is a tough,  powerful SUV with a rugged 3,000-cc 177 HP diesel engine and a 5-speed automatic transmission. It has huge 20-inch tyres for rough terrain but is not quite as quiet and refined as the Fortuner or Endeavour but is a bit less expensive.

Volkswagen Tiguan has a high quality German pedigree and a price to match. The 1970-cc 143 HP diesel engine with a 7-speed automatic is a spacious vehicle that is joy to drive especially over long journeys.

The Hyundai Tucson is roo-my and comfortable positioned between the smaller Creta and bigger Santa Fe. It comes with a 2000-cc 155 HP petrol engine and a 1995-cc 185 HP diesel mill that delivers power through 6-speed manual and automatic gearboxes. It is available in a 5-seat configuration, good value for money.

The author is the region’s most celebrated automobile columnist