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What SUV options are available for farm families on tight budgets?



The Mitsubishi Outlander

The Mitsubishi Outlander

The Kia Sorento

The Kia Sorento

The Hyundai Santa Fe

The Hyundai Santa Fe

The Subaru Forester

The Subaru Forester


The Mitsubishi Outlander

The modern farming household is a busy, all-hands-on deck operation and when it comes to motoring needs, the family car is required to be just as flexible as its members.

A car's ability to serve multiple purposes, sometimes simultaneously, could be invaluable to those who strive to strike a balance between work and play.

The adage of "never travel without a spare" rings true for farming families so it's fair to say that four-wheel drive SUVs make the most sense where typical daily tasks comprise school drop-offs and collecting machinery parts or bags of feed from suppliers.

However margins on the farm are being squeezed and, for many, forking out around €45,000 on a brand-new SUV simply is not feasible.

Instead, let us consider some affordable options on the used car market, where an increase in supply this year is helping to moderate prices.

Hyundai Santa Fe

Ignore Comfort Santa Fe models - they come as 2WD only. Instead, look for Executive versions. The model underwent a dramatic change late in 2012 so unless you stumble across an ultra-rare ex-demonstration model, you need to shop around for something from 2013 and onwards to get into the latest version.

As a very rough rule of thumb, the more expensive the car, the greater the difference in values between each registration plate.

However, the Santa Fe can fly in the face of that theory and this is important because it means that you might be able to come up a year and into something with fewer kilometres for less than you might otherwise have thought.

Gaps in prices between different registration plates are very tight on the used market so instead of shopping for a specific registration plate, pick a budget and see what that buys you instead.

The Santa Fe is a proper seven-seater with a decent boot and a capable 4WD system. It has excellent ground clearance, too. Hyundai does not offer a broad range of options so once you find an Executive model, you should have everything that a modern farming family needs.

Kia Sorento

When the Sorento changed model late in 2014, its styling considerably improved. In a good way, it borrowed some styling cues from the traditional American SUV - big, bold, imposing, and ready to tackle whatever is thrown at it. Like the Santa Fe, the 4WD system is capable of tackling all but the severest of terrain with identical ground clearance to the Hyundai. The 2.2-litre diesel engine produces 441 Nms of torque, which is plentiful enough to tow 2.5 tonnes.

So, whether the requirement is for transporting seven occupants on a vacation or picking up some heavy equipment, the Sorento should be a match for most things the Irish farming family can throw at it.

The model to choose is the Platinum seven-seat version but if five seats is perfectly ample, then the EX model will help trim used values by around €3,000.

The older version is getting a little dated but it is still a fine machine and a firm favourite around the country. If you are shopping between the years of 2010 and 2014, then look for GSE or Platinum models for providing the best kit.

Mitsubishi Outlander

This one gets overlooked far too frequently on the new-car market so do not make the mistake of ignoring it if you are looking for a seriously hard-working used SUV for your family.

Mitsubishi also has a 2.0-litre petrol Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) 5-seater version of the Outlander. It is probably best to stick with the regular 2.2-litre diesel versions as general availability of the Outlander is already anemic.

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Such limited availability might mean you need to travel further to find a decent used Outlander but a good one will be worth your time. Mitsubishi's four-wheel drive system is legendary and the Outlander has permanent 4WD so you don't need to mess about with different settings.

From a household budget perspective, the Outlander is a sensible choice if you want to trim the cost of your motoring as much as possible but still retain something with seven seats and an ability to tow two tonnes.

The Outlander starts out more than €4,000 cheaper than the Sorento and Santa Fe but the margin on the used market narrows somewhat.

Opt for the seven-seat Instyle model as the five-seat Intense version is not only a two-wheel drive but it might feel a little Spartan if you are used to creature comforts in your car. Although Mitsubishi offers an eight-year warranty with its passenger models, it is unlikely that you will need the remaining portion of that as they are robustly built to withstand abuse from the daily commute and the rigours of farming life.

Subaru Forester

Despite there being no seven-seat version of the Forester, it deserves mention because it represents excellent value for money and it has a brilliant Symmetrical-All-Wheel-Drive system.

The 2.0-litre Boxer-style diesel engine also gives smooth delivery of power so for families looking for predominantly strong on-road characteristics from their car, the Forester has your back. It can still tow up to two tonnes and there is virtually no loading lip in the boot so shoving and pulling bags from the boot is that bit easier.

The Forester makes a lot of sense for anyone with small or scattered land holdings who needs to cover a variety of terrains throughout the day.

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