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Give the people what they want. It sounds simple enough, as long as you know what people are going to want before they want it. Some car companies are very good at predicting this (“soon, everyone will want SUVs”, as one now richly retired executive must have said) while others catch up quickly once the horses have bolted.

But this is the rule carmakers follow more than anything else, because at the end of the day they exist to deliver a product that consumers demand, sometimes just before they even know they’re going to demand it. Which is why the electric small SUV is currently flooding the Australian market, with more than a dozen already available and more on the way.

Technically speaking, high-riding SUVs are less efficient than a lower, sleeker sedan - thanks to scientific issues like the coefficient of drag - but most buyers don’t want a four-door, they want a high-riding SUV - and that’s what they’re getting.

There’s no shortage of compact and medium SUVs that are proving popular as beacons of efficiency, but also practical family cars that buyers want. The Tesla Model Y is perhaps the best example of this, with the American model not only the best-selling EV in Australia but one of the most popular mid-size SUVs in our market.

There are other examples coming up to challenge Tesla’s dominance, however, especially those from China that can undercut Tesla on price, such as the BYD Atto 3 and MG ZS Electric. Not that the more established brand’s are ignoring the market, with the Hyundai Kona Electric, Kia e-Niro and Mini Countryman EV, as well as the upcoming Kia EV5, Ford Puma-E and Audi Q4 e-tron.

Crucially, the introduction of the New Vehicle Emissions Standard (NVES) plus the increase in global production is improving the availability and supply for small electric SUV Australia customers to choose from.

And this will only get better in the coming years, as the small SUV segment is popular in key EV markets such as Europe, which will drive growth in the segment. As will the need for more affordable EV models, which will inevitably lead to more smaller SUVs, as the more traditional hatchback style continues to fall out of favour.

Below is a list of the best small EV SUVs available in Australia today and some key new models coming soon in 2024.

8 most popular small electric SUVs available in Australia

  1. Tesla Model Y
2024 Tesla Model Y
2024 Tesla Model Y

While it’s more mid-size than truly small, you can’t talk about EVs in Australia without mentioning the Model Y. It’s the best selling battery-powered car and sets the bar for all others to try and reach.

Tesla’s simple approach means an uncomplicated line-up of three models - RWD, AWD Long Range and AWD Performance - with a steady supply of production from China and a willingness to keep the price fluid depending on demand, the Model Y is likely to remain a popular electric SUV for years to come.

At the time of publication the range began at $55,900 for the RWD and $69,900 for AWD Long Range, but those prices will almost certainly change based on whatever supply vs demand situation the brand finds itself in - especially as more rivals appear on the scene.

2. BYD Atto 3

2024 BYD Atto 3
2024 BYD Atto 3

Tesla’s closest challenger, at least in terms of sales, is BYD’s slightly smaller Atto 3. Like the Model Y, it’s built in China, but BYD is a Chinese company and has a longer history of building advanced battery technologies.

It has made its presence felt in the Australian market thanks to its competitive pricing and direct-to-consumer approach, which has helped to seed its rapid growth. Its two model range starts at $48,011 for the Standard Range and $51,011 for the Extended Range, which is well below Tesla.

3. MG ZS EV

2024 MG ZS EV
2024 MG ZS EV

Even as pricing for the smallest electric SUV models fluctuates, the ZS has consistently remained one of the most affordable. Which is in keeping with the brand’s value-led sales pitch in Australia, with the MG4 hatchback one of the cheapest EVs you can currently buy.

The popularity of the ZS has been impacted by the arrival of the Atto 3, which is bad for MG but good for buyers looking for an affordable small EV SUV. The ZS highlights the price premium you face, even for small SUVs, because the petrol-powered ZS model starts at just $22,990, while the equivalent electric version costs $39,990, and then stretches to $49,990 for the Long Range option.

4. Hyundai Kona Electric

2024 Hyundai Kona EV (US model)
2024 Hyundai Kona EV (US model)

While the Chinese-made models are the price leaders, Hyundai has been an early entrant into the EV segment with its Ioniq models. While the funky-looking Ioniq 5 grabs most of the attention, the smaller Kona Electric should be on the shopping list for anyone looking for a compact EV as it’s a great, if slightly expensive, car.

Starting at $54,000 and stretching to $62,000 for the latest Extended Range N Line, it's positioned between the BYD/MG duo and the Tesla, as a more established alternative for a slight price premium.

5. Volvo EX30

2024 Volvo EX30
2024 Volvo EX30

Just because you want a small SUV doesn’t mean you have to miss out on luxury. Volvo has made a commitment to go all-electric in Australia by 2026 and the EX30 is its latest model as part of that commitment.

It’s a clear evolution from the existing, and relatively popular, XC40 but with a more modern and EV-centric design language. Priced from $59,990 (plus on-road costs) the EX30 is well-positioned for a premium small EV SUV offering.

6. Renault Megane E-Tech

2024 Renault Megane E-Tech
2024 Renault Megane E-Tech

The French brand may not be the most popular in Australia (indeed, it sometimes appears to be invisible in this country) but it’s a big deal in its native France and Europe, and the Megane small car was its key model for decades.

But the Megane E-Tech is a high-riding hatch/SUV that’s gone electric. At $64,990 (plus on-road costs) it’s far from cheap but if you don’t want something conventional and are willing to take a few risks in life, then the Megance E-Tech may be for you.

7. Kia EV5

2024 Kia EV5
2024 Kia EV5

Kia already had a small EV SUV, the eNiro, but as part of its commitment to offering a diverse range of electric models it’s recently added the EV5 alongside the larger EV6 and the very largest EV9.

Crucially, the EV5 will be manufactured in China, which should allow Kia to be more aggressive on pricing as it attempts to take on the Tesla, BYD and MG competitors. Could this be a game-changing model, not just for Kia but the established car brands that have so far struggled to match the new players? Time will tell…

8. Ford Puma Gen-E

2024 Ford Puma
2024 Ford Puma

Ford has been slowly but steadily reducing its fleet of passenger cars in recent years, with the Fiesta, Focus, Puma and Escape all disappearing. But this has cleared the path to reinvent itself with EVs. The process has already started with the Mustang Mach-E and by late 2024 or early 2025 it will continue with the launch of the all-new Puma Gen-E.

It hasn’t been officially revealed in final production guise at the time of publication, but we do know it’s headed our way from Ford’s European EV centre in Germany, where it will be built alongside the new Explorer.

Stephen Corby
Contributing Journalist
Stephen Corby stumbled into writing about cars after being knocked off the motorcycle he’d been writing about by a mob of angry and malicious kangaroos. Or that’s what he says, anyway. Back in the early 1990s, Stephen was working at The Canberra Times, writing about everything from politics to exciting Canberra night life, but for fun he wrote about motorcycles. After crashing a bike he’d borrowed, he made up a colourful series of excuses, which got the attention of the motoring editor, who went on to encourage him to write about cars instead. The rest, as they say, is his story. Reviewing and occasionally poo-pooing cars has taken him around the world and into such unexpected jobs as editing TopGear Australia magazine and then the very venerable Wheels magazine, albeit briefly. When that mag moved to Melbourne and Stephen refused to leave Sydney he became a freelancer, and has stayed that way ever since, which allows him to contribute, happily, to CarsGuide.
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