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Access denied! The cool yet economical small SUVs and crossovers Australians need right now, including the Hyundai Bayon, Kia XCeed, Toyota Raize, Honda Fit Cross Star and VW Taigo.

Models like the Kia XCeed and Hyundai Bayon are designed to meet stringent European fuel consumption and emissions standards.

If last year was about reconnection, surely this year should be all about cutting fuel consumption and emissions the best and most affordable way we can… right after achieving everlasting peace, of course.

Australians being who we are, tiny eco runabouts like a Nissan Micra will no longer cut it in today’s world, so the best way to better fuel economy is via the enhanced-efficiency SUV and crossover route. Something contemporary, high riding, lifestyle-orientated and cheap to run.

Europe and Asia are teeming with just such models, but few were deemed viable for Australia. But that was before petrol prices soared past $2.20 per litre and counting.

Now, as the brands and importers are scrambling to make their business cases work, here is our list of exciting yet economical SUVs and crossovers that Australia did not know it needs, and post haste at that.

Kia XCeed

Compact, high-riding SUV coupes are becoming the next big thing in Europe, and Kia of South Korea is obliging with the handsome new XCeed.

Based on the Toyota Corolla-rivalling Ceed small hatchback produced in Slovakia for European consumers, the handsomely proportioned XCeed is the raised crossover version, much like the Subaru XV is an Impreza on stilts.

Along with a roomy interior, sporty chassis and strong turbo petrol engines, the most economical 1.0-litre three-cylinder version can average around 6.0L/100km, while the more powerful 1.5-litre model we have our eye on can sprint from zero to 100km/h in 8.7 seconds yet only consume 0.3L/100km more fuel.

Add vibrant colours and Kia’s generous seven-year warranty, and our money would be on the intriguing XCeed becoming exceedingly popular Downunder.

Daihatsu Rocky/Toyota Raize

Toyota owns Daihatsu, one of Japan’s oldest marques and famous maker of tough off-road 4x4s like the Rocky in Australia.

That model and the brand are long gone in this market, but Daihatsu remains vibrant in Japan, with today’s Rocky now an electrification-ready transverse-engine light SUV of fascinating specification and sizeable cross-demographic appeal.

Shared with Toyota – hence the Raize model – it is a chunky urban-focused vehicle of just under Mazda CX-3 length, but with boxier styling reminiscent of the earlier RAV4s. Motivation comes courtesy of either a 1.0-litre turbo or 1.2-litre naturally-aspirated three-cylinder engine, in either front or all-wheel drive configuration. There’s also a new 1.2L ‘e-smart’ hybrid, that, err, razes consumption from about 6.0/100km to just 3.6L/100km.

We reckon this Toyota would raise the roof with penny-pinching Aussie motorists.

Honda Fit Crosstar Hybrid

Righto. We know it’s actually a jumped-up version of the stylish all-new Jazz we inexplicably don’t get in Australia.

But with a different name that distances it from the worthy but dull old version, we reckon Honda Australia could be on something here.

And why not? Under that stubby bonnet is a 72kW 1.5-litre engine and 80kW/253Nm electric motor combo, capable of reaching 100km/h in 9.6s and almost 900km between refills of its small petrol tank. Around 4.8.L/100km is the combined urban cycle claim.

Away from the motorways, the Fit/Jazz Hybrid can be purely electric, with the engine only recharging the battery as required. In this way it is the next step on from, say, a Toyota Yaris Cross hybrid.

Finally, the airy and coolly-modern interior features the brand’s brilliant rear Magic Seats, ushering in exceptional packaging practicality. Go on Honda Oz, do it.

VW Taigo

A what? Think of the Brazilian-market focused Taigo as a Polo on stilettos, with a bulkier bonnet, elongated rear hatch area and raised ride height, boosting both road presence and the boot capacity. Otherwise, much of the German supermini’s architecture is shared.

The Polo also donates its turbo petrol powertrains, with between 70kW and 110kW of power available depending on market, to drive the front wheels via a dual clutch transmission on some versions sold in Europe, with the most frugal averaging around 5.5L/100km.

More striking than the boxy T-Cross, the suave Taigo is the small and economical SUV coupe that Aussies might really warm to.

Hyundai Bayon

Hyundai has inundated the globe with SUVs and crossovers, from the tiny oddball Venue to the gargantuan Palisade.

But if the Venue is a bit too… twee for some, then be aware that elsewhere, there’s the Bayon – a Hyundai i20 supermini-derived crossover with a unique, angular design that places it just under the Kona.

Leaning on sophisticated mild-hybrid technology, the 1.0-litre 48-volt three-cylinder turbo petrol version with a dual-clutch transmission averages as little as 5.3L/100km, and in 120kW/200Nm guise, sprint to 100km/h in 10.4s. A mix of eye-catching styling, smart packaging and efficient powertrains, the Bayon would show lots of potential in Australia.

Nissan Note Autech e-Power

Looking like a Leaf EV with a beefier stance, the Nissan Note Autech Crossover is small-car/crossover with an imposing technical specification.

The key takeaway is the e-Power electrified powertrain as well as the 25mm of increased ground clearance compared to the Note hatch it’s based on, imbuing the Japanese five-door with a unique appeal for Australian consumers seeking an economical high-riding compact family car.

Nissan’s e-Power system mates a 1.2L three-cylinder petrol engine with an electric motor (or two in the AWD grades), but only the latter drives the wheels, allowing for long spells of EV-only motoring. The engine is mostly a generator designed to keep the battery pack charged, and fuel consumption can often drop well below 3.0L/100km.

The Note Autech e-Power ought to handle well too, since the platform is shared with the latest European Renault Clio hatch. Japanese quality meets French dynamic flair? It’s a win-win situation, we say.

Byron Mathioudakis
Contributing Journalist
Byron started his motoring journalism career when he joined John Mellor in 1997 before becoming a freelance motoring writer two years later. He wrote for several motoring publications and was ABC...
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