Australian car market: Car sales, statistics and figures
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SUVs were once the rarest of automotive species; big and boxy things, usually covered in mud and driven by off-road types with non-ironic. beards that rarely ventured into urban areas.
But then, quite suddenly, all that changed, and SUVs became something else entirely. Or, to be totally honest, they became lots of different things.
Driven by our sudden love of a high seating position, SUVs grew into all sorts of shapes and sizes. Now there are big ones, small ones, fast ones, tall ones, and just about everything in-between.
So what is the best SUV in Australia? Let’s find out.
The Swedish brand is in the midst of a resurgence in Australia, helped massively by the fact that, rather than making weird-looking sedans and wagons, it has poured its talents into a range of very good (and very good-looking) SUVs.
The XC40 is the smallest of this new bunch, but its size makes it no less accomplished than its bigger brothers. Where it really shines, though, is in practicality, offering much more useable space than its compact dimensions might suggest.
Priced from $44,900 and available in three trim levels, all of which are powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine, the XC40 is just the right blend of practical and plush.
Who should buy one: Anyone looking for a small SUV that's not actually that small.
Volkswagen’s Tiguan is a posh-looking and premium-feeling SUV that, happily, isn't priced like one. In fact, the mid-size VW now starts at $43,150 for the 132TSI Comfortline, and you get plenty of niceties thrown in for that money. But what you also get is a one of the segment’s most practical offerings when it comes to moving people or things, and even more impressive, an SUV that drives like a much smaller, sportier car. (Think Golf.)
Who should buy one: Growing families with premium aspirations (even if their bank balances don’t match them).
The real magic of the CX-9 - other than its insanely clever 2.5-litre petrol engine and its ability to carry seven people in something approaching comfort - is that it doesn't drive anywhere near as big as it looks. Shopping-centre carparks won’t cause you to break into a cold sweat, and tight inner-city streets won’t leave have white-knuckle-gripping the steering wheel. And in even more good news, the CX-9 is genuinely nice to look at, with Mazda somehow cramming all that practicality into a swooping design that makes it look sportier than it is.
The CX-9 starts at $45,920 and climbs to around $70,000 for the one that comes with everything. But it’s really hard to go too far wrong anywhere in the CX-9 range.
Who should buy one: Bigger families who don’t want to sacrifice style for space.
Big and tough, but with enough big-city manners to ensure you won’t want to tuck-and-roll from the driver’s seat every time you set off on the school run, Toyota’s LandCruiser 200 is powered by a big diesel engine designed to carry, tow or pull anything you might want to move from point A to point B. It’s overkill in the city, sure, but if your week involves a caravan, a boat or even some heavy-duty off-roading, there are few that do it better, with 3500kgs of braked towing on offer.
Who should buy one: Weekend warriors who like to bring their toys with them.
A seven-seater that doesn't look like one (and doesn’t it look lovely as a result?) the Santa Fe is backed up by strong warranty and ownership credentials, and with a starting price of $43,000, it’s not too hard on the wallet, either.
And with a range of petrol and diesel engines on offer, and four-wheel drive as standard, it’s a Jack of all trades that slots so neatly into family life you’ll want to give it a seat at the dinner table.
Who should buy one: Families big and small will find something to like here.
Audi’s new flagship SUV might look a big and hulking beast, but it is actually designed to carry only five people in luxurious comfort. The obvious standout here is its jaw-dropping (and slightly intimidating) design, but you'll also truly appreciate the cabin; at once pared-back but stuffed with technology, including its own Wi-Fi hot spot. But… at $128,900, it ain’t cheap.
Who should buy one: Anyone who wants to turn the neighbours green with envy.
Chinese-made SUVs were once a place good intentions went to die, but no longer. In fact, the MG ZS is a small but stylish SUV that definitely doesn’t look out of place parked next to far more expensive alternatives. It starts at just $20,990, and that money buys you lots of goodies, including 17-inch alloy wheels, leather-look seats, a sunroof, and that all important Apple CarPlay. Better still, there's a seven-year warranty to help with second-hand prices (and to help you sleep easier at night). Be aware, of course, that you get what you pay for, and you will hear a tinny "ting" when you shut the doors rather than a reassuring "thwack". On the plus side, it looks, from the outside at least, like it cost a lot more than $21K.
Who should buy one: Styling on a budget? Meet your new wheels.
Yes, yes; diesels are usually attached to vehicles with strong towing credentials, or that boast impressive efficiency. But not at Audi, where the SQ7 SUV is a diesel-powered sports car masquerading as an SUV. Don’t believe me? How does 320kW and 900Nm sound? It’s enough to push the 2.5-tonne SUV to 100km/h in a scarcely believable 4.5 seconds. And it will do it with the kids and groceries on board. Impressive, no?
Who should buy one: Those who like their SUVs just a little bit unhinged.
There’s fuel efficient, and then there’s really fuel efficient, and the Jaguar I-Pace falls firmly in the latter camp. Jaguar’s first all-electric SUV - and among the first to arrive in Australia - uses exactly no petrol, and it’s hard to get a more fuel-efficient SUV than that. Instead, you get a big 90kWh battery pack that will delivers a claimed 470km of range. It’s yours from $119,000. It also looks and feels fantastic inside, and absolutely head-turning from outside, too.
Who should buy one: Those who value the idea of eco-friendly motoring. And who don’t often drive long distances.
Yikes. This question is fraught with danger. Even the best brands can have reliability issues, and likewise, those brands with a questionable reputation can produce a diamond or two. And so for this question we will instead lean on what we see on the roads around us. Have you noticed that the further away you get from Australia's major cities - and thus service centres - the fewer brands you see on the roads? Go far enough, and you’ll start seeing mostly Toyotas as far as the eye can see. There must be a reason for that, right?
So has this list revealed the top SUV in Australia. Nope. But we hope it has trimmed the list down far enough for you to pick the one that best suits your needs.