Hyundai Palisade N Line incoming! N eruption continues with N and N Line performance models now accounting for one-in-four Hyundais sold in Australia
From cheeky challengers to established favourites in only five years, Hyundai...
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Small and compact SUVs might not be where all the sales are right now - the mid-size SUV segment moves far more metal - but as an entry point to new car ownership, it's the smaller stuff that gives brands their best opportunity to win over new customers, as well as capture those downsizing from larger vehicles.
It's already a crowded segment, with 34 distinct models across the small and compact SUV spectrum - and that's just the mainstream stuff, we're not counting premium product here.
But do we have room for more? Aussies are flocking to high-riders more and more and abandoning the once-popular hatchback and sedan body styles, so you bet! And here's some of the most interesting stuff that we Aussies are currently missing out on.
Did the Holden Trax leave you cold? It continues to live on the USA (and it can stay there), but sitting just above it in Chevy’s portfolio is something with a little more kerb appeal: the Trailblazer. Unlike the anodyne Trax, the Trailblazer actually sports some visual zing in the form of an aggressive face, a contrasting floating roof, and design that’s generally a bit more adventurous than what The General normally churns out. Would it be cheeky to suggest there’s some Camaro DNA in the Trailblazer’s sheetmetal? Absolutely, but if you squint hard enough…
On the inside, it’s a fairly conventional four-plus-one small SUV cabin, however one feature makes the Trailblazer a little more useful than the average small SUV – a forward-folding front passenger backrest that allows the full cabin length to be used to tote cargo. Got a surfboard to tote or have you just purchased a floor lamp from the local antique shop? The Trailblazer will get that stuff home.
Power options include a 102kW 1.2-litre and a 115kW 1.3-litre, with AWD available in the line-up (though it’s paired with a CVT rather than the standard nine-speed auto). Will it come here? Well, it seems highly unlikely that GM Special Vehicles would bother with an expensive conversion program for a low-cost small SUV so… no.
Not related to the hardcore body-on-frame Bronco that’s also sold in the USA (and is actually based on humble T6 Ranger underpinnings), the Bronco Sport is more of a mall crawler than a rock-hopper. Still, its chunky styling has the right aesthetic for the SUV-buying crowd, and its upright tailgate not only looks the part, but features separately-opening glass to pass through light and/or long cargo. With a 135kW 1.5-litre turbo three-cylinder and 183kW 2.0-litre turbo four (both petrol) on offer, it’s also got good power stats for the segment.
A smidge longer and wider than a Mitsubishi ASX, the Bronco Sport is on the upper end of the ‘Small SUV’ size scale, which seems to be where most small SUV shoppers like to be due to the greater metal-for-your-money quotient. Why don’t we see it here? Well, besides Ford only producing it in a single Mexican facility that is absolutely maxed out catering to American demand alone, the Bronco Sport would also step on the toes of the far more sober Ford Escape that we currently get, given both of those vehicles are built on the same platform (the Escape being fractionally bigger).
Were the Escape to exit our market, however, it would leave a hole that the Bronco Sport would very neatly fit into.
As we reported last year, Great Wall Motors’ off-road subsidiary Tank is all but locked-in for Australia, and a model that’s likely to lead the Tank assault will be the Wrangler-esque Tank 300. But while the Tank 300 seems like a dead certainty for us, there’s one variant we arguably won’t get – the Cyber Tank.
Revealed last year as a concept, the Cyber Tank boasts G-Class vibes and an all-white interior that’s probably a royal pain to keep clean, but pops hard in a Tik Tok. Generous lashings of chrome and a linear kilometre of LED strip lighting add some extra glitz, and if the popularity of Benz’s G-Wagen is anything to go by the glam Cyber Tank could find favour as an affordable urban SUV for those that like to turn heads, or need a prop for a rap video.
Yes, this one is pushing the boundary of what you’d consider a ‘small’ SUV, but like the GWM Tank 300 it’s just too intriguing to ignore. China is starting to pump out some genuinely tasty stuff now, and key among its models with international potential is the MG Marvel R. Sold under the Reowe brand in its domestic market, the Marvel R has so far been announced for Europe and has been flagged for a potential Aussie arrival sometime in 2023 – though that could easily slip to 2024.
What is it? Nothing short of an all-electric Tesla Model Y rival with a 403km range, 4.9-second 0-100km/h time and the ability to take power to all four wheels. It looks sleek and futuristic too, which certainly meshes with its tech-forward powertrain, and provided it’s priced right it could give Tesla some worthy competition when it eventually gets here.
People forget that Germany isn’t just about premium motoring. The land that gave us Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi also has the more everyman Opel brand, and while Opel suffered under the stewardship of General Motors, it’s still alive and kicking as part of the Stellantis group. One of its fresher products is the Mokka, and besides being a compact SUV with city-friendly proportions and plenty of euro panache, the Mokka also comes in Mokka-e flavour – an all-electric option with a 50kWh battery and a very useful 323km range.
The regular Mokka seems like a decent enough rig, but it’s the EV that would be a cool rig to have over here – and one that would probably make more economic sense given its higher cost, as European-sourced mainstream product is usually at a competitive disadvantage versus cheaper Asia-sourced rivals at the lower end of the market.
Measuring just under four metres long, the Daihatsu Rocky is a diminutive thing. But who said SUVs had to be big? With high-density living becoming the norm in Australia’s bigger cities, an SUV that’s easy to thread through traffic and squeeze into undersized carparks could be the right kind of SUV to own.
With a 78kW 1.0 litre turbo three-pot or an atmo 1.2-litre hooked up to an electric motor, the Rocky might feel a little hamstrung if you point it toward the great outdoors, but for a city-centric SUV that’s cheap, cheerful and compact, the Rocky (which is also sold in Japan as the Toyota Raize) has plenty of things to recommend it.
Suzuki already has a robust range of small SUVs and crossovers in Australia, ranging from the tiny Ignis through to the Jimny, S-Cross and Vitara. However, in its Japanese homeland the brand has even more choice - among them the charmingly-styled XBee.
Pronounced “cross-bee”, the XBee is built on the same platform as the Suzuki Swift and is powered by a mild hybrid 1.0-litre turbo petrol three-cylinder. A six-speed auto is standard while all-wheel drive can be had as an option, and landing halfway between the S-Cross and the Ignis in the size spectrum it, like the Daihatsu Rocky, could be a good fit for urbanites. Interestingly, Suzuki Australia was at one point interested in bringing the XBee to our market, though the company has been quiet on those plans in recent years.
Speaking of Suzuki, there’s another small SUV it offers internationally that would likely have good fortunes Down Under: the Vitara Hybrid. Already sold in Europe and Japan, the electrified Vitara has a petrol-electric powertrain linked with a lithium-ion battery pack and regenerative braking, and can take power to either the front wheels or all four.
With a claimed average economy of 5.1L/100km it’s not leagues ahead of the regular Vitara 2WD manual’s 5.8L/100km figure, but with Toyota proving that Australian appetite for hybrid product is absolutely huge, now might be a good time for Suzuki’s local operation to capitalise on that demand.