Consumers love SUVs, with sales now skewed toward the adventurous layout than conventional cars. Most are attracted to the high riding position, can-do character, and the range of economical engine options that are usually on offer. It's a very competitive market though, so, to help make your buying decision easier, here are our top 10 best SUVs currently available in Australia.
Kia will soon launch a facelift model later this year, however, the current version is one of the best value vehicles in its class. It presents great overall packaging and equipment, powerful or fuel-efficient petrol or diesel engine options, plenty of interior space, and all within a respectable and attainable price range. Kia has hit a home run with the Sorento, and the facelifted model is expected to be even better. Kia Australia currently offers two-wheel drive and all-wheel drive versions, however the 3.3 V6 petrol is only offered in two-wheel drive form. All variants come with a five-star ANCAP safety rating.
Ford's little Escape was first launched in Australia in 2012 as the Kuga. It was an older model in other parts of the world. Then in 2013, the local arm brought out the significantly updated version, including introducing a range of more efficient engine options. You can get a 1.5-litre EcoBoost turbo-petrol or a 2.0-litre turbo-diesel, offering fuel consumption averages of 7.5L/100km and 5.6L/100km, respectively. Ford also offers the 1.5 in front-wheel drive form, which improves economy from 7.5 to 7.2L/100km. It's a well-packaged product that comes standard with a long list of modern conveniences, such as Bluetooth and voice recognition across the board, and Ford’s latest Sync media interface. Buyers appreciate its fun driving character and high driving position. ANCAP has awarded the full five-star safety rating.
The Outback is a car you can depend on for years. It’s renowned for its exceptional practicality, very decent off-road ruggedness, and smooth and comfortable on-road handling. Subaru offers a range of engine options, spanning from a frugal turbo-diesel, to a mid-level 2.5 petrol, up to a powerful 3.6 six-cylinder. All come with Subaru’s iconic Symmetrical all-wheel drive system, and all come with that perfect blend of high-quality, luxury-inspired appointments with excellent durability and longevity. It’s also a five-star ANCAP car.
Think of it as like a Mazda3 that's been converted for light off-roading and adventurous driving. Could there be a better combination? The Mazda3 is an excellent, award-winning vehicle in its own right, and the CX-5 shares plenty of its quality elements, including a variation of the modular 'SkyActiv' platform. It's available in two- and all-wheel drive, and with petrol and turbo-diesel engine options. All of them are very economical, with consumption figures as low as 6.0L/100km in the case of the diesel. Like many other SUVs, the two-wheel drive is only available with a petrol engine (2.0-litre, 6.4/100km). All come with the peace of mind of five-star ANCAP safety. It’s no wonder it is currently the best-selling family-SUV in Australia.
With the recent model update, the Kluger is now larger than ever with even more interior space. The update brings a sharpened up exterior which is now in line with Toyota's global design language, while a much-needed overhaul has been applied to the touch-screen interface on the dash. In fact, the entire cabin decor feels and looks like it is inspired by products from Toyota's Lexus brand. Being a vehicle originally designed for the US market, a turbo-diesel engine is not available. This means you're left with a rather thirsty 3.5-litre V6 petrol. It is powerful though, rated at 218kW, and has no problem hauling a full family and their luggage to wherever you need to go. Front-wheel drive versions consume 9.1L/100km while the four-wheel drive versions use 9.5L/100km. All have been awarded five-star ANCAP safety.
RANGE ROVER EVOQUE
When the Range Rover Evoque was first unveiled as a concept car, nobody thought it would go into production with even a remotely similar design. To everyone's surprise, the Evoque is remarkably similar to the original concept. It's stunning from every angle. Aside from the glamorous style, the Evoque is a genuine Range Rover inside and out. Underneath is a comprehensive all-wheel drive system with various programs to help it conquer different types of terrain, while inside is a superbly luxurious cabin with high-quality materials and prestige trimmings everywhere you look. The price is also quite reasonable, for a Range Rover so long as you don't go wild with the extensive options list. A downside is that ANCAP has awarded an under-par four stars for safety.
MITSUBISHI OUTLANDER PHEV
The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is currently the only plug-in hybrid SUV on the market, and it's based on one of the most popular SUVs in its segment. It's a nicely executed hybrid with a proper ability to drive on electric power alone for around 54km. If you plug it into the wall every night and recharge (about five hours), it consumes less than $1 in electricity and in return it gives you another 50km-ish of range. The petrol motor can act like a generator to recharge the battery, too. Overall combined economy is rated at just 1.7L/100km. Other than the intelligent drive system, it's a regular Outlander, with good cabin space, a practical infotainment system, plenty of storage spots, and an easy, user-friendly driving character. All new Outanders, including the PHEV, have been awarded a five-star ANCAP safety rating.
BMW calls the X5 a sports activity vehicle (SAV) to try and separate it from the regular market trends. We're not sure what that means, but one thing is certain, the X5 is the best-handling SUV this side of a BMW sedan. It steers wonderfully through a windy country road, yet it presents passengers with that must-have tall seating position. All variants are turbocharged, including the M50d which uses three turbochargers to develop 280kW and an eye-opening 740Nm. Fuel economy ranges from just 5.5L/100km for the rear-wheel drive sDrive25d diesel. Or, there’s a hybrid model called the xDrive40e which offers a fuel consumption average of just 3.4L/100km, yet it can dash from 0-100km/h in 6.8 seconds.
Audi vehicles are renowned for offering very high build quality, executive-class interiors, neat and conservative exterior designs, and super-efficient powertrains. All of these traits are cleverly packaged into the latest Q5, which is the company's best-selling SUV vehicle in Australia at the moment. The range spans from a 2.0 TDI diesel, with an average fuel economy of just 5.3/100km, to a range-topping 185kW 2.0 TFSI turbo four petrol, consuming an average of 7.3L/100km. It's priced reasonably well for the market, however, there are many features that are optional that really should come standard. ANCAP gives it five stars for safety.
Hyundai's Tucson is taking the mid-size market by storm in Australia, presenting a suave exterior design paired with a neatly-organised, roomy and feature-packed interior. Buyers have the option of turbo-petrol and turbo-diesel, with front- and all-wheel drive. You get the best of both worlds in terms of a high-riding seating position with decent ground clearance, along with great on-road dynamics and handling. This has to be one of Hyundai’s hottest vehicles right now, and it’s covered by an extensive factory warranty and capped-price servicing program.
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