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Mazda CX-5, Toyota RAV4 or Mitsubishi Outlander? Family SUV sales heat up with 2023 best-selling crown up for grabs for multiple contenders

Mazda's CX-5 is currently the most popular mid-size SUV, but Mitsubishi's Outlander and Toyota's RAV4 aren't far behind.

The race to be crowned Australia’s best-selling mid-size SUV in 2023 is heating up with multiple contenders in the mix after Mazda’s decade-long streak was broken by the hot-selling Toyota RAV4 in 2020.

In 2023 however, the race to the top is closer than it has ever been before, with not only the CX-5 and RAV4 vying for share, but also Mitsubishi’s Outlander, Hyundai’s Tucson, Subaru’s Forester and Kia’s Sportage also in contention.

To the end of March this year, Mazda is actually the sales leader with 6706 CX-5 sales to its name, commanding 13.9 per cent of the market share despite being 18.7 per cent down year on year.

Toyota’s RAV4 – which took out the top spot in 2022 by nearly 7800 units – is currently relegated to third on 5851 sales (down a massive 44.2 per cent), due to significant stock shortages that have blown out wait times for some grades (mostly hybrid) to up to two years.

Buyers, it seems, are looking elsewhere for a new set of fuel-sipping wheels, and are landing on the Mitsubishi Outlander that also offers petrol-electric power in the form of its plug-in hybrid, and amassed 6009 new registrations – a sizeable 29.4 per cent jump over the same period last year.

With three-quarters of the year to go, it’s hard to predict exactly where each of these models will land. 

Mazda’s CX-5 could continue to sell steadily throughout the rest of the year as a spotlight is cast on the brand with the launch of its new CX-60 and CX-90 SUVs.

Likewise, Toyota could turn the taps on for RAV4 production and fulfill orders quickly, but it likely won’t happen until a redesign of the popular SUV lands sometime (hopefully) later this year.

And if those long wait times continue to pester the RAV4, Mitsubishi is in prime position to capitalise as one of the only other mainstream, long-established brands serving up a hybrid option in the family-friendly SUV market.

Outside the podium, Subaru’s Forester is selling well with 4960 new registrations (+43.6%) despite getting on in age (the current fifth-generation model launched in 2018 and was facelifted in 2021).

Models like the Sportage have helped boost Kia's fortunes in Australia. Models like the Sportage have helped boost Kia's fortunes in Australia.

Hyundai’s Tucson is still a firm favourite with 4493 new registrations this year (+133.8%), moving up in popularity as freer supply of petrol-engined variants become available after long waits last year.

However, Kia’s Sportage – which finished 2022 in fourth place – is struggling with supply of its top-spec GT-Line grades and has stopped taking orders for the flagship. As such, sales have hit 3348 units this year, down 14.9 per cent compared to last year.

And nipping at Kia’s heels is the ageing Honda CR-V, which is due for a next-generation (and more expensive) refresh imminently, but still capturing 2964 new registrations so far this year with keen drive away pricing.

Another model to keep an eye on is the box-fresh Nissan X-Trail, which is now offered with a hybrid powertrain and is expected to pick up momentum after launching in December. The X-Trail currently sits on 2572 sales (+26.9 per cent) after basically being in runout all last year in previous-generation form.

Keeping the Japanese and Korean brands honest will be the resurgent Chinese brands, including GWM Haval’s H6, MG’s HS and even BYD’s all-electric Atto 3.

The X-Trail currently sits on 2572 sales. The X-Trail currently sits on 2572 sales.

The H6 has amassed 2061 sales so far this year, but combined with the 871 sales of the coupe-like H6 GT, Haval’s share of the mid-size SUV market jumps up to 6.1 per cent – or about the same as the Honda CR-V.

MG’s HS however, is up 55.1 per cent this year to 2255, helping cement the Chinese brand as a top-10 mainstay.

And BYD’s Atto 3 is also selling strongly with 2098 registrations to the end of March as more Aussie buyers decide to make the switch to full electric.

How will the rest of the year shape up? There’s about nine months of supply-chain issues, stock shortages, wait times and new-model activity to sort out before we get to the end of 2023, but as it stands right now, just about anyone could walk away with the mid-size SUV sales crown.