Consumers love SUVs. Most are attracted to the high riding position, adventurous character, and the range of economical engine options that are usually on offer. It's a very competitive market though, so, to make your buying decision easier, here are the top 10 best SUVs currently available in Australia.
Kia Sorento - from $38,490-$50,790
Kia is just about to launch the all-new model, however, the current version is the best vehicle in its class. It presents great overall packaging and equipment, powerful and fuel-efficient petrol and 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. The next model will be even better. Kia Australia currently offers two-wheel drive and all-wheel drive versions, but unfortunately only the 3.5 V6 can be had in two-wheel drive. All variants come with a five-star ANCAP safety rating.
Ford Kuga - from $27,990-$47,740
Ford's little Kuga was first launched in Australia in 2012. It was an older model in other parts of the world. Then in 2013, the local arm brought out the significantly updated version, including a range of more efficient engine options. You can get a 1.6-litre EcoBoost turbo-petrol or a 2.0-litre turbo-diesel, offering fuel consumption averages of 8.0L100km and 6.3L/100km, respectively. Ford also offers the 1.6 in front-wheel drive form, which improves economy from 8.0 to 6.7L/100km. It's a well-packaged product that comes standard with a long list of modern conveniences, such as Bluebooth and voice recognition across the board. Buyers appreciate its fun driving character and high driving position. ANCAP has awarded the full five-star safety rating.
Jeep Grand Cherokee - from $44,000-$80,000
Jeep is smashing the large-SUV below-$70,000 segment apart with the latest Grand Cherokee. Aussies love it, with around 1500 buyers flocking to Jeep dealers every month to buy a Grand Cherokee. With its muscular exterior design and dominating road presence, excellent standard features and luxuries, and a very impressive engine lineup - including turbo-diesel and 6.4-litre HEMI V8 options - it's no wonder it is such a success. Two-wheel drive and all-wheel drive models are available, but only the petrol V6 is on offer with two-wheel drive. Unfortunately, all have been given a four-star ANCAP safety rating.
Mazda CX-5 - from $27,880-$49,420
Like a Mazda3 that's been made 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 spanning from as low as 5.7L/100km up to 7.4L/100km for the most powerful 2.5-litre petrol. 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.
Toyota Kluger - from $40,990-$67,520
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 - 201kW - and has no problem hauling a full family and their luggage. Front-wheel drive versions consume 10.4L/100km while the four-wheel drive versions use 10.6L/100km. All have been awarded five-star ANCAP safety.
Range Rover Evoque - from $49,995-$81,470
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, albeit a miniature one, so long as you don't go wild with the extensive options list. Two turbo-diesel engine options are available as well as a 177kW 2.0-litre Ford EcoBoost-derived turbo petrol. All auto models come with a nine-speed transmission. ANCAP has awarded four stars for safety.
Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV - from $47,490-$52,490
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 50km. 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 of range. The petrol motor can act like a generator to recharge the battery. Overall combined economy is rated at just 1.9L/100km. Other than the intelligent drive system, it's a regular Outlander SUV, 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 X5 - from $83,900-$148,400
BMW calls the X5 a sports activity vehicle (SAV) to try and separate it from the regular SUV market trends (sports utility vehicle). We're not sure what it 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 5.9L/100km for the rear-wheel drive sDrive25d diesel, to 8.5L/100km for the twin-turbo petrol xDrive35i 4x4, up to 10.5L/100km for the dashing xDrive50i twin-turbo V8 petrol with 330kW. All variants offer five-star ANCAP safety.
Audi Q5 - from $62,600-$76,100
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 Q5, which is the company's best-selling SUV in Australia at the moment. The range spans from a 2.0 TDI diesel, with an average fuel economy of just 6.1/100km, to a range-topping 200kW 3.0 TFSI supercharged V6 petrol, consuming an average of 8.5L/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 ix35 - from $26,990-$40,990
The ix35 is the best-selling vehicle in the small-SUV under-$40,000 segment in Australia, far exceeding the sales of many of the popular rivals such as the Volkswagen Tiguan, Subaru XV, and even the Mitsubishi ASX. It shines bright with a feature-packed standard equipment list. All variants come with Bluetooth, cruise control, a multifunction touch-screen interface with iPod and USB support, keyless entry, rear parking sensors, and daytime running LEDs. It's nice to drive as well, with great visibility and a good range of engine options, including a 2.0-litre and 2.4-litre petrol and a 2.0-litre turbo-diesel. Front-wheel and all-wheel drive is available. All variants offer five-star ANCAP safety.