I'm wondering which 5 seater SUV to buy. Looking for an SUV with good cabin space.

So far I've looked at the 2016 Hyundai Tucson, Subaru Outback, Kia Sportage Subaru Forester - but I think those last two have smaller cabin space compared with the first two.

[Clockwise from top left: Outback, Forester, Sportage, Tucson]

I like the panoramic sunroof and interior of the Hyundai Tucson. But Subaru has a better brand along with its reliable boxer diesel engine and AWD reputation. 

I'm caught between the looks and features of the Hyundai vs Subaru's branding (resale value) as well as Subaru's engine and hardware/mechanical reliability reputation.

What's your take? Aside from the Hyundai Tucson & Subaru Outback, what you think are worth considering within my budget?

I'm considering replacing my 2011 Mazda CX-7 classic. My budget is $40k-$45k (not including CX-7 value, if to be traded).



Broadly I'd suggest the four of them are about the same size, with a slight edge - especially in terms of cargo space/volume going to the Subaru Outback.

[Clockwise from top left: Subaru Outback, Subaru Forester, Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage.]

In terms of cabin space, wheelbase tends to be definitive. And here, Outback is definitely ahead (also on overall length). So if space is a primary concern - Outback is in front.


The relative SUV sizes:

  • Vehicle / Length / Wheelbase
  • Outback / 4815mm / 2745mm
  • Forester / 4610mm / 2640mm
  • Tucson / 4475mm / 2670mm
  • Sportage / 4480mm / 2670mm

We humans are just about totally crap at measuring volume and space by eye. If you want to get this right, it's essential to drill down into the specifications - because perception is notoriously fallible.

At the dealership, make sure you confirm any special requirements. If you're a cyclist (or a golfer) take your bike (of clubs/buggy) to the dealership, and see how well they fit, or not. Millimetres matter here - so confirming this kind of important detail up front can save a world of pain when you get the vehicle home ... only then to discover this important [whatever] is 10mm too long for the cargo bay.

SPACE INVADERS (Ergonomics for Dummies)

Front occupants' feet sit next to the front wheels and rear occupants' backs are against the rear wheel arches. This is why wheelbase is so definitive on passenger space. There's just 105mm in it across all four, but Outback is ahead. And seeing as the engine bay packaging requirements for Forester and Outback are the same (4cyl boxer) it's safe to assume the rest of the overall length (100mm) is packaged into the cargo bay. 

Without putting the dimensions down on paper, would you have guessed that the Forester is longer than the Tucson and Sportage?

It always amazes me that people make subjective size and space determinations in their heads without once referring to the actual dimensions.

Between the brands & models

Warranty, service, reliability, depreciation: All three brands are good at customer support, but Kia (7yrs) and Hyundai (5yrs) beat Subaru (3yrs) at warranty protection. Hyundai & Kia (12 months) also beat Subaru (6 months) at service interval - and Subarus tend to be expensive to service (comparatively). I'm not sure there's any evidence that the current Subarus enjoy markedly better reliability than Hyundai/Kia, nor do the SUVs depreciate better or worse - although this was not the case in the past.

Subaru's Symmetrical AWD system: a real plus in the wet and other situations where traction is limited. The on-demand AWD systems used by other manufacturers (including Hyundai/Kia) are less effective in these conditions. All of the vehicles benefit from a full-sized spare tyre (unlike the space saver favoured by, for example, Nissan, Mazda and the Euros).

EyeSight safety: Subaru 'Premium' equipment levels (eg - Outback 2.5i Premium) benefit from the EyeSight safety system, which is brilliant, and which also gives you adaptive cruise control. (Tucson and Sportage have regular cruise control, not adaptive cruise control.)

Powertrains: Interestingly, the main difference between the Sportage and Tucson is the petrol drivetrain in the fully loaded models. Tucson has a turbo 1.6 with a dual-clutch transmission, while the Sportage has an atmo 2.4 with a conventional auto. The Tucson is therefore a powerhouse in the mid- and high-rpm ranges, and the DCT delivers solid, positive gear changes for sporty driving. However, the 2.4 is no slouch, and the conventional six-speed auto is more refined for relaxed driving and a lot better at low-speed manoeuvering.

Alternative contender: You should probably also think about Australia's top-selling medium SUV (the Mazda CX-5, right). Mazda's CX-5 is also excellent, and the Akera also has adaptive cruise. (But is back to a three-year warranty, and has a space-saver spare.)

If you're looking at a wagon, I also think the Mazda6 has a lot of merit, and is in many ways more practical than an SUV, and in sedan-type cars with similar space there's always the Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima to consider. (None of these is as sexy as an SUV, however, and more than anything else, it's this inherent sexiness/desirability that promoted demand in the used market and boosts resale value.)

Redbook tells me the likely trade-in on a 20111 Mazda CX-7 Classic at about $13k with 60,000km-100,000km on the clock. So your budget is, broadly, a conservative $55k. It's more than adequate for the fully-loaded versions of all the SUVs in question.

Further research