What is the most affordable large SUV to own?

Stepping up to a large SUV not only costs more at purchase time, but also over the life of the vehicle. Here's how to buy smart and keep those costs down.

Choosing a large SUV over a medium SUV will add at least $15 per week to your outgoing costs compared to a medium SUV, Drive’s 2023 Best Value Car survey has revealed. 

But if you’re one of the many thousands of Australians who need the extra space, there are still levers you can pull to keep those costs as low as possible. 

Unfortunately, those levers do not include full electrification because not one of the Large SUVs on sale today is a fully-electric vehicle.

There are a couple of plug-in hybrids, namely the Kia Sorento PHEV and Hyundai Santa Fe PHEV, but we’ve excluded PHEVs from the rankings because their government-mandated energy consumption labels are, in our opinion, grossly misleading. 

There are, however, petrol-electric hybrids that can reduce your fuel bill – but not many. 

By far the more popular way to reduce fuel bills if you want a large SUV is to drive a turbo diesel. This once-crude, truck-derived engine choice has become refined and even more efficient in recent decades, to the point that 16 of the 20 most affordable large SUVs to own are turbo diesels. 

Three of the other four are hybrids, and there’s a lone petrol-powered representative in there. Read on to find out more.

1. Kia Sorento S 2.2TD

Drive’s 2023 Ownership Costs survey has crowned the Kia Sorento S turbo diesel as the most affordable Large SUV to own. 

The Sorento won thanks to an economical diesel powertrain, a competitive comprehensive insurance quote and affordable three-year servicing costs of $436 per year (average).

All up, the Kia Sorento S turbo diesel costs $82.53 per week to own.

2. Kia Sorento Sport 2.2TD

The Kia Sorento S turbo diesel finished just ahead of its mechanically identical Sorento Sport sibling ($83.02 per week), which had a $26 per year higher insurance premium.  

3. Mazda CX-8 Sport 2.2TD

Third place went to another turbo diesel SUV, the Mazda CX-8 Sport ($83.85).

Even though the CX-8 is marginally better than the diesel Sorento for fuel economy (6.0L/100km) and had a competitive insurance quote, higher annual servicing costs (an extra $65 per year) kept it from climbing higher on the list.

4. Kia Sorento Sport+ 2.2TD

Fourth place went to yet another Kia, the Sorento Sport+ turbo diesel, which costs just $84.30 per week to run.

5. Mazda CX-8 Touring Active 2.2TD

The second CX-8 variant to feature in the top five was yet another turbo diesel car, the Mazda CX-8 Touring Active.

It came in fifth, with a weekly ownership cost of $84.45.

And the best of the rest...

The first car to break the turbo diesel stranglehold was the Toyota Kluger GX AWD Hybrid in sixth place at $84.48 per week. The Kluger’s bottom dollar servicing rates ($795 over three years) and lower fuel consumption (5.6L/100km) were offset by its need for expensive premium unleaded and much higher annual insurance premium ($1690) versus the class-leading Sorento’s $1281 quote. 

Seventh place went to a fan favourite, the Ford Everest in Ambiente spec with the economical 2.0-litre turbo diesel ($85.62 per week). This rear-wheel-drive version of a popular rugged off-roader climbed higher than expected up the rankings thanks to a very affordable servicing schedule and a competitive comprehensive insurance quote.

The Hyundai Santa Fe Active turbo diesel came in eighth with a weekly ownership cost of $86.56, followed by another Kia Sorento, but this time it was the GT-Line Hybrid at $86.49 per week. While the Sorento Hybrid’s fuel bill over three years is up to $1000 cheaper than a Sorento turbo diesel, the servicing costs are much higher ($2385 versus $1308) because the hybrid needs servicing every 10,000km compared to the long-legged turbo diesel’s 15,000km intervals. 

In many cases, the fourth service for a vehicle can be an expensive one, as the Sorento range demonstrates. Services one to three average out at between $436 and $466 for the turbo diesel and hybrid respectively. Service number four for the turbo diesel is $735 and for the hybrid AWD variant it’s $1016.  

Interestingly, the Sorento Hybrid's twin under the skin, the Hyundai Santa Fe Hybrid, didn't make the top 10 because its all-wheel-drive system makes it thirstier on fuel. AWD also adds to the retail price, which in turn makes it more expensive to insure.

Rounding out the top 10 is the Ford Everest Trend wagon, again with a 2.0-litre turbo diesel powertrain, but with seven seats compared to the Ambiente's five.

The least affordable large SUV to own

According to Drive's data, the least affordable Large SUV under $75,000 to own is the Nissan Pathfinder Ti. The new-generation Pathfinder took a huge leap forward in refinement, safety, space and equipment, but sadly not engine technology.

Its old-school 3.5-litre petrol V6 engine is one of the thirstiest in the class, and sorely needs replacing with an efficient hybrid or turbo diesel alternative.

To see all the other categories and cars tested, follow the link to get your comprehensive guide to the Best Value Cars in Australia in 2023.

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Glenn Butler

Glenn Butler is one of Australia's best-known motoring journalists having spent the last 25 years reporting on cars on radio, TV, web and print. He's a former editor of Wheels, Australia's most respected car magazine, and was deputy editor of Drive.com.au before that. Glenn's also worked at an executive level for two of Australia's most prominent car companies, so he understands how much care and consideration goes into designing and developing new cars. As a journalist, he's driven everything from Ferraris to Fiats on all continents except Antarctica (which he one day hopes to achieve) and loves discovering each car's unique personality and strengths. Glenn knows a car's price isn't indicative of its competence, and even the cheapest car can enhance your life and expand your horizons. 

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