What is the most affordable Medium SUV to own in Australia?

Mid-size SUVs are the most popular vehicle class with Australian consumers, but which one is the most affordable to own?

The medium SUV is the most popular vehicle type in Australia, commanding more than 20 per cent of monthly sales. 

The medium SUV class is just one of five different SUV classes, and there are eight passenger-car classes, but more Australians buy a new medium SUV every month than a traditional passenger car (hatch, sedan or wagon) of any kind.  

Typically, the popularity of these vehicles has little to do with their affordable running costs. Instead, it’s because they are right-sized adventure machines that straddle the diverse requirements of a weekly urban runabout and weekend lifestyle machine.

That’s not looking like changing anytime soon... but one thing that is changing is the importance of ongoing running costs in the purchase decision.

As part of our exclusive Best Value Cars 2023 survey, Drive compared Australia's most popular cars across major ongoing ownership costs like servicing, fuel consumption (or recharging costs for electric cars), resale value and insurance and registration.

Interestingly, Drive’s 2023 ownership costs investigation has revealed the three most affordable Medium SUVs to own are electric vehicles. 

In fact – when major running costs like registration, insurance, servicing and refuelling (or recharging) are taken into account – six of the top 10 best-value medium SUVs are EVs .

Here's what you need to know...

1. BYD Atto 3 Standard Range

BYD topped the Medium SUV rankings with the BYD Atto 3 Standard Range ($68.04 per week), just ahead of the Kia EV6 Air ($68.64).

The BYD won because it costs less than $520 a year to keep charged and $250 a year to service, two figures that when combined put it well ahead of its nearest petrol-powered rival, the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid. 

2. Kia EV6 Air

The second-placed Kia EV6 electric crossover is even cheaper than the BYD to service, and almost as efficient with electricity, but its higher purchase price leads to a higher insurance premium that makes it just $31 a year more expensive to own than the BYD Atto 3.

3. BYD Atto 3 Extended Range

Third place is a second BYD Atto 3 variant, the Atto 3 Extended Range.

Its weekly running cost of $70.06 was good enough to keep the bookies’ favourite Toyota RAV4 GX Hybrid off the podium by just $1.08 per week ($71.14). 

4. Toyota RAV4 GX Hybrid

Even though the Toyota RAV4 consumes a very economical 4.7L/100km, its three-year fuel bill of $3509 is more than double what it would cost to recharge the two BYD Atto 3s at home for that same three-year, 45,000km duration ($1544). 

That hefty advantage more than compensates for the BYD’s higher annual insurance bill ($1852 versus the RAV4’s $1348).

5. Tesla Model Y

The Tesla Model Y comes in fifth in the Medium SUV category costing $71.42 per week to run.

It’s worth noting that Tesla does not make servicing costs available to the media.

However, research by noted electric vehicle specialist site EVCentral.com.au suggests that owners can pay around $840 for servicing in the first three years, which is not as cheap as the Toyota RAV4 ($780) or the BYD Atto 3 ($748) but is still commendably affordable. 

And the best of the rest...

Sixth and seventh places go to the Toyota RAV4 GXL Hybrid ($71.99) and the Tesla Model Y Long Range ($72.17) respectively, followed by the Kia EV6 GT-Line in eighth ($72.27), the GWM Haval H6 Lux Hybrid ($74.89) in ninth, and the Toyota RAV4 Cruiser AWD Hybrid in tenth ($75.65).

The first non-electrified Medium SUV is the Toyota RAV4 GX, which has an economical (if underpowered) 2.0-litre petrol engine. It costs $75.74 per week to own, which is an impressively low figure, but is still 10 per cent more than the class-leading BYD Atto 3. 

The first diesel-engined medium SUV is the Hyundai Tucson Elite AWD in 14th. Its 2.0-litre turbo diesel engine has an impressive fuel economy figure compared to petrol-powered SUVs, but even 6.3L/100km is no match for Toyota's frugal hybrids (4.7L/100km), and nor can it challenge the cheap recharging costs of pure electric SUVs.

According to Drive’s 2023 ownership costs comparison, the Hyundai Tucson turbo diesel will cost almost $5200 in fuel over three years, more than triple the three-year home recharging costs of the class-leading BYD Atto 3 ($1544). 

The least affordable medium SUV to own

The least affordable Medium SUV to own with a retail price under $60,000 is the MG HS Essence X wagon, which is held back by a poor fuel consumption rating of 9.5L/100km (twice that of the class-leading hybrid in the Toyota RAV4).

The MG’s relatively heavy kerb weight combines with a powerful 170kW engine that doesn’t work with its transmission to optimise fuel efficiency and a premium unleaded fuel requirement to make it the most expensive Medium SUV to feed. It’s also one of the least affordable to service too.

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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