What's a good car-like diesel SUV for long drives?

Hi John,

I need a car with reasonable power especially when I take off and for doing long drives - preferably diesel. 
Good for country driving, solid on road, comfortable after six hours plus, five-year warranty (or better) and fixed servicing. I also need room in the back for a Labrador dog.

Thanks, Kay

Hello Kay,

An civilised style of SUV sounds like the go here (as there are not many car-based wagons around), and the five-year warranty (or more) really narrows down the field of available choices.

Basically there are two sizes of SUV here: medium and large. There’s about $5-10k difference in the price between the sizes, and you get two extra seats in ‘large’.

At the right, from top to bottom, are the alternatives: Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage, Kia Sorento and Hyundai Santa Fe. (Tucson and Sportage are 'medium' and Sorento and Santa Fe are 'large' - but there's not really all that much in it.

I urge you to compare the Hyundai in each size with the equivalent Kia. (Kia and Hyundai are owned by the same parent company - they share engineering fundamentals, but the styling is different.) Kia offers a 7yr warranty, with Hyundai on five - both with unlimited kilometres. Both have a 12-month (or 15,000km - withever comes first) servicing interval. Putting Kia on the table, choice-wise, means more opportunity to save some cash, by playing one off against the other.

So I would advise you to look at the Hyundai Tucson and the larger Santa Fe, and then compare them, respectively, with Kia Sportage and Sorento. Then evaluate Sorento against Santa Fe, and Sportage against Tucson.

More here:

Both have capped-price servicing - Hyundai for life and Kia for 7yrs.

All four vehicles have a full-sized alloy spare wheel and tyre. That's good for highway driving as space-saver spares common in some other vehicles are limited to 80km/h. Mazda SUVs are like this, for example - and it's not much fun, therefore, to get a flat tyre on the freeway, at night, in the pouring rain. 

The seven-seat Sorento and Santa Fe have a third seating row that folds perfectly flat when not in use, and is quite labrador-friendly when configured in this way, as a five-seater.

I’ve driven all four of these vehicles extensively, and I find them very comfortable and well suited to long-distance driving. (Don’t bother comparing engine performance between Santa Fe and Sorento, or between Sportage and Tucson: the 2.2 diesel in the larger pair is exactly the same - common to both. Ditto the 2.0 diesel in the smaller pair - identical.) Both diesel engines are very strong performers for highway cruising, and fuel efficiency is great.

John Cadogan