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The next big thing in SUVs | small


Are you tired of being stuck behind an SUV? If can’t beat em, join em. Paris motor show previews the next big thing on four wheels: pint-sized SUVs for the city.

The world’s car makers are rushing to release high-riding hatchbacks that have the commanding view of a family-sized SUV -- but fit in the same size parking space as a Toyota Corolla.

SUVs are second only to small cars when it comes to new vehicle sales, and the big brands are finding new ways to fill every possible niche.

That means we can expect to see a bunch of tiny-tot SUVs designed for the city, even though they will be dressed up with rugged, go-anywhere looks.

Indeed, most city SUVs won’t even have a four-wheel-drive system because they’ll never leave the tarmac.

So why are car makers so desperate to get their small SUVs into showrooms? Because buyers are happy to pay a premium for them even though they cost only a fraction more to build than a regular hatchback.

Japanese car giant Toyota, the world’s biggest automotive brand, will unveil a city-centric SUV inside enemy territory at this week’s Paris motor show.

Even though Toyota is one of the biggest sellers of SUVs on the planet, it has completely missed the march to city-sized softroaders, or “faux-wheel-drives”.

Toyota’s swoopy looking “C-HR” concept car is a rather large clue as to what the showroom version will look like when it arrives next year, although no-one knows what ‘C-HR” stands for. “Compact High Rider” perhaps?

Even the French, which once revolved against the SUV and vandalized them in the street less than a decade ago, has joined the party.

Citroen is poised to unveil the oddly but honestly named “C1 Urban Ride”. It’s a version of its smallest car but with bulging bumpers and slightly taller suspension to give it a macho appearance.

Maybe that’s why they’re becoming so popular: blokes need peer approval to buy small cars. Is a Bear Grylls bumper bar enough to get them over the line?

Then again, Citroen also released a compact SUV called the Cactus, complete with plastic side mouldings so you don’t get door dings in the shopping centre car park.

The Cactus might be made for the urban jungle but it’s not exactly the type of name that would make you want to boast about it.

Australians have been at the forefront of the swing to super-small softroaders.

Already on sale locally are the Suzuki S-Cross, Holden Trax, Ford EcoSport and Nissan Juke, all priced between $20,000 and $30,000 (when the cars on which they are all based start at less than $20,000).

Around the corner are the Honda HR-V and Fiat Panda Cross. Next month Mazda is due to unveil a SUV to slot under the top-selling CX-5.

South Korean car maker Hyundai is also working on a super-small SUV, which should be in showrooms in 2016.

Meanwhile, for those who think motor shows should always be about high performance exotic supercars, fear not, although the definition of supercar has changed slightly.

Lamborghini is preparing to unveil its first ever hybrid sports-car, while Porsche is about to unveil its first ever plug-in hybrid SUV.

Porsche’s two-tonne luxury SUV sips less fuel than a Prius -- providing it has enough charge to travel the first 50km on electric power alone before the petrol engine takes over.

More affordable eye candy, however, will come in the form of the first ever motor show outing for the new Mazda MX-5 (the world’s top-selling two-seater roadster), and Jaguar XE sedan (no relation to the Ford Falcon from the 1980s of the same name).

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