Top 5: Medium Family SUVs
SUVs are so hot right now but which ones are best for families? We trawl through the medium segment to find our top 5 family SUVs.
THE SUV SEGMENT, last year, overtook passenger car sales for the first time ever. It was only 51:49% but, given that in 2007 SUVs only made up around a quarter of new car sales, I’d suggest that’s impressive growth.
And it’s not because passenger cars are becoming dull and boring, indeed I often point families considering a 2WD SUV towards a wagon, but that’s a story for another time. We could have rattled off a list of the Top 10 medium/family SUVs and avoided putting ourselves in the firing line. But where’s the fun in that, right.
We covered off small family SUVs recently and we’ll take a similar approach in this run down. The cars on this list have been picked because they appeal in different ways and so, the ranking of 1 to 5 is perhaps a little misleading…We’ve based our selection on things like practicality, technology, safety, warranty, comfort and style. And that’s what makes this segment so competitive because there’s no one car available that offers everything.
So, remember, we’re not trying to say that Number 1 is the best and that you should go out and buy it tomorrow, rather that our Top 5 is, we feel, a great mix of medium/family SUVs you should consider. And this isn’t based on sales performance either, otherwise the Rav4 would be on this list and it would be if this was a Top 10, but I feel the cars below offer those little extra somethings that can make for a better ownership experience. So, here we go.
The new Volkswagen Tiguan iwas launched here last year and is bigger than the previous generation car with VW hoping to take the fight directly to segment top-sellers, like Mazda CX-5 and Hyundai Tucson. This second-generation model, despite being bigger and better equipped, is also cheaper. Indeed, the base model Tiguan Trendline 110TSI, is a solid $2000 cheaper than the equivalent first-generation model that launched here in 2008.
The new Volkswagen Tiguan is shaking off its tiny-tot first-generation image with a more spacious cabin and a wide range of specifications, and an impressive list of active safety features. Indeed, the standard safety features include Front Assist, City Emergency Brake, Lane Assist, driver Fatigue Detection, Active Bonnet, Multi-Collision Brake, Park Assist and Rear View Camera (RVC).
The second-generation Tiguan also offers an extensive range of engine variants, three petrol and two diesel options. And it can be had with either a six-speed manual, six and seven-speed DSG. We think the 132TSI is the pick, and it’s this variant that Volkswagen Australia reckons will be the most popular here, so we’re focusing on that variant here.
Like other Volkswagen models, buyers can choose from three model grades: Trendline; Comfortline and Highline. Pricing starts from $31,990+ORC and extends to more than $48,490+ORC.
There are several cost-optional packs, including the Luxury Package ($5000) which is available on Comfortline models and offers Vienna leather, electric adjustable driver’s seat with three-position memory, heated front seats, keyless entry and a powered tail-gate and a panoramic glass sunroof. There’s also a Driver Assistance package for both Comfortline and Highline models (from $2000) which includes adaptive cruise control, side assist with rear traffic alert, active info display and area view. There’s also an R-Line package for Highline models which costs $4000 and offers an R-Line bodykit and tweaked interior, 20-inch alloys, and adaptive chassis control. Adding the panoramic glass sunroof on its own to the Highline variants costs $2000, while metallic paint costs $700.
The dimension changes have resulted in a lot more room inside the cabin. According to the tape measure there’s an extra 26mm of interior space overall. This doesn’t sound like much, but overall there’s been some big gains with back seat passengers getting an extra 29mm of knee room while the rear seat can be slid 20mm further for a total of 180mm of movement forwards and backwards.
Indeed, it’s the back seat that I think is the standout of the new Tiguan, well, that and the boot. But, if you’re shopping for an SUV and you’ve got a family then it’s the back seat of the Tiguan that’s likely to be one of its most convincing assets.
The back seat is split in a 40:20:40 configuration which makes for a supremely flexible interior storage space. It means that you could easily transport two adults or children in the outboard rear seats and fold the middle back seat for storing longer bits and pieces. There are ISOFIX mounts on the outboard seats only and top tether anchors conveniently located on the seat backs.
The boot, when the back seats are slid forward, and there’s still plenty of legroom in this position for adults, offers 615 litres which grows to 1655 litres with the seats folded down.
Over in the front seats, the driver and passenger get more of a people mover-esque seating position rather than a faux-sports-style seating position. This means you get a good view all around the car despite the shortish glasshouse. Big mirrors and blind spot monitoring mean you can see easily down the sides of the vehicle.
The 132TSI runs a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine that produces 132kW between 3900-6000rpm and 320Nm of torque between 1500-3940rpm. It features stop/start is mated to a seven-speed DSG with 4Motion all-wheel drive and is happy to drink 95RON fuel. Fuel consumption is a claimed 5.9L/100km. The fuel tank holds 60 litres.
Across the Practical Motoring road loop, I found the 132TSI to be a solid performing engine that worked well with the seven-speed transmission in real-world driving situations. My only issue with the transmission came with standing starts being a little ‘clumsy’ feeling but that’s a DSG trait and not necessarily a specific criticism of the Tiguan.
With the family loaded up, the Tiguan flattened hills and overtook easily thanks to a solid and easily accessible band of torque from 1500rpm onwards.
The all-wheel drive system might only be an on-demand system but it works well and in our week of driving we found it quick to respond ensuring sure-footed progression on wet roads. We did the gutter test (my urban version of Robert’s wash-out test) with it and the system is quick to respond with the EDL, or brake traction control, shuffling torque away from the wheel that had lost touch with the ground and started to spin, across to those wheels that had grip. There was no graunching or clunking, just the briefest moment of spin as the wheel became light and then forward progress was maintained.
The ride itself is nice and quiet which means you tend to notice a whisper of wind noise at highway speeds and a little bit of induction whine when hard accelerating. There’s minimal road noise intrusion even across poorer surfaces.
The Tiguan offers good body control with minimal roll in corners and next to no front to rear pitching under brakes or acceleration. You tend to hear the bump in the road rather than feel it, although the damping feels a little firmer than that of some competitors which have gone for a squashy ride, but I like it.
The Tiguan was awarded a five-star ANCAP rating and comes well equipped with a range of standard safety features that are still missing on some competitor products. As standard, the Tiguan offers front assist with city emergency braking, active bonnet and lane assist, as well as reversing camera, seven airbags and a multi-collision system as well as driver fatigue measurement. Pedestrian protection is a feature that more and more cars will focus on going forward, and the active bonnet on the Tiguan reads well… obviously, I didn’t try it out. When contact is made with the bonnet (there’s no speed mentioned, but you can assume it would have to be more than 10km/h, otherwise bumping the front bumper could set the thing off) the rear edge of the bonnet, at the base of the windscreen, will rise by 50mm to cushion a pedestrian’s impact.
Other safety elements, at least as far as I’m concerned, include, rain-sensing wipers, roll-back function on the one-touch up and down windows for the front and the back (not something all cars get, but should), a reversing camera that offers multi-angle views and dynamic guidelines, as well as all-wheel drive with 4Motion Active Control functionality.
The all-new Kia Sportage arrived in Australia early in 2016 and while it boasted a new look that I’ve grown to, if not like, at least accept, it also offered enhanced safety features, clever technology like wireless phone charging and better on-road dynamics than ever.
The previous-generation Sportage arrived here in 2010 and immediately showed that Kia was serious about wooing buyers on more than just being cheap and cheerful. A genuinely good-looking car it’s driving performance proved that it had the trousers to match its mouth.
The Sportage is available in three trim lines – Si, SLi and Platinum, like most other Kia models. There are three engines to choose from and all are mated to a six-speed automatic, and only the Platinum petrol and all diesel variants can be had with on-demand all-wheel drive.
Pricing for the Kia Sportage starts at $28,990+ORC and extends to $45,990+ORC. Kia also offers capped price servicing for seven years or 105,000km, whichever comes first, ranging from (in total) $2942 to $3695. And, of course, Kia offers an industry-leading seven-year warranty.
The boot offers 466 litres of storage space, which is one litre more than the old car. The boot opening is wider than before, by 35mm and the load lip, without compromising ground clearance is 47mm lower at 732mm, thanks to a redesigned rear bumper. The boot space is nice and square and while it’s not exactly cavernous it’s a decent size for a family of four.
The back seats, as mentioned, are only 60:40 split fold; my preference is for 40:20:40 for increased versatility and practicality of the load space. That said, the back seats are comfortable and even the middle seat is comfortable enough for an adult to sit in on a long-ish journey; I’m not sure I’d want to cross the Hay Plain in the middle seat, but on shorter jaunts it would be fine. There are air vents at the back of the centre console for back seat passengers as well as a 12V and USB outlet.
Climb into the front of the car and you’re greeted with a nice-looking interior that’s swathed in soft-touch and fine-grained plastics. What you’ll notice the most about the dash are all the buttons; in fact, it looks a little old-school Mercedes-Benz with the amount of switches and dials inside the thing. The good news is that unlike a Merc, everything is easy to read and use on the fly. There’s a touchscreen (which offers Apple Car Play and Android Auto connectivity) at the top of the dashboard which, thankfully, offers shortcut menu buttons lower down. The dual-zone climate control is easy to use and the front seats are both heated and ventilated. Below these buttons are two 12V outlets, and auxiliary in and USB outlet.
Under the bonnet of our most recent Sportage test car was a 2.0-litre turbocharged diesel engine making 136kW at 4000rpm and 400Nm of torque between 1750-2750rpm. This is more power and torque than the 2.4-litre petrol engine that’s also available in the Platinum variant with GT-Line adornments. All engines for the Sportage are mated to a six-speed automatic with an on-demand all-wheel drive system driving the front-wheels only until slip is detected. The engine is nice and grunty with plenty of off-idle oomph and is well served by the six-speed automatic which does a good job of shifting smoothly up and down. My test loop takes in plenty of up and downhill sections with some tight corners thrown in to give the transmission a workout, and the Sportage didn’t miss a beat, picking up again after a lift of the throttle quickly and cleanly.
The steering is well tuned and while it lacks feel there’s good weight and the action is consistent, meaning there’s no sudden build-up in weight when cornering or a weightlessness in the straight ahead. The brakes too felt solid with a good progressive action.
The Sportage has had its suspension tuned locally, meaning cars sold in Oz have a different suspension set-up to cars sold in, say the UK; our tune offers a good mix of dynamic and road comfort
The Kia Sportage gets a five-star ANCAP rating and was tested back in 2016 realising 34.62 out of 37.
Other safety features include, reverse parking sensors, hill-start assist, reversing camera, front parking sensors, lane departure warning, autonomous emergency braking, smart parking assist, traction and stability controls, anti-theft immobiliser and a burglar alarm.
And, let’s not forget its impressive seven-year warranty.
The Hyundai Tucson replaced the bulbous-looking ix35 and moved Hyundai’s smallest SUV up into the medium-SUV segment, making room for the Kona. The Tucson is available in either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive and received local suspension and steering tuning.
The Tucson was the first Hyundai to have been designed under the watchful eye of Peter Schreyer. Schreyer, for those of you who don’t know, was a design maestro at Audi before being plucked away by Kia to totally reinvent the look of that brand’s cars. And now he’s overseeing design for both Kia and its bigger brother, Hyundai.
Climb inside and the Tucson will feel familiar to anyone who’s sat in a recently-released Hyundai. And that’s no bad thing, see, Hyundai is fast becoming a benchmark in its price range for the quality of its interiors, if not the design which is a little ho-hum.
Feel around the dashboard and there’s very little scratchy plastics, even in out of the way places, with plenty of soft touch stuff and good quality contrasting treatments. The fit and finish is excellent too.
Sat behind the wheel, the Tucson feels comfortable, the seats are supportive enough without being overly bolstered and the vision to the front, sides and rear is good. The rear window isn’t as small as on some SUVs, although a reversing camera helps to ensure you don’t miss something that’s sitting behind the car.
Over in the back seat and I found the door openings to be of a decent size, which is important if you’re loading and unloading children from seats. My kids had no problems clambering into the back by themselves and locating my daughter’s booster seat was a cinch; both had plenty of legroom. When I climbed in and sat behind the front seat which had been adjusted to suit me, I had plenty of leg and knee room and found the shape of the seat itself to be comfortable. The middle seat, though, like in a lot of cars is more of a perch than an actual seat but there’s plenty of foot room to share.
Over in the boot, the Tucson (which can offer an automatic tail gate in Highlander grade) offers 488 litres of storage space – fold down the back seats and this grows to 1478 litres. Under the boot floor is a full-size spare.
Most recently, Practical Motoring tested the Tucson Highlander runs a 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine which is mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission (built in-house by Hyundai). The engine is actually a de-tuned version of the one that runs in the Veloster SR Turbo and offers 130kW at 5500rpm and 265Nm of torque from 1500-4500rpm. Fuel consumption is a claimed 7.7L/100km (combined) and we got very close to that 7.8L/100km with a variety of around town and long highway stints.
The engine doesn’t feel overly muscular, despite the 265Nm of torque across a broad rev range, but that doesn’t mean to say it feels laboured either. The seven-speed transmission is smooth and does a good job of getting the most from the engine, allowing for easy overtaking on the highway and fuss-free hill climbing with four on-board.
The Tucson Highlander comes with an on-demand all-wheel drive system meaning that in usual driving situations the system acts as a front-drive car. Once slip is detected it activate and begin shuffling torque to the rear axle, and can send up to 50% of torque to the rear end. These sorts of systems are never going to be as good as a permanent all-wheel drive system, but on the road, you’ll probably never really notice whether the system is working or not.
The ride and handling of the Tucson can best be described as satisfying if not exciting, but given the target market and its expectation of this vehicle, I’d say it walks the right line feeling both competent, comfortable and easy to drive.
The Mazda Cx-5 first launched in 2012 and became the Japanese car maker’s first model to showcase its new KODO design language and Skyactiv technologies. And it became a staggering sales success, accelerating to become one of the brand’s best-selling models, accounting for 25% of every Mazda sold around the world. Indeed, since 2012, 1.4million CX-5s have found driveways to call home.
The CX-5 has been one of Australia’s best-selling SUVs for a good long while and the latest iteration was “refined” early last year for a stead as she goes refresh. Mazda, more or less, left the mechanicals unchanged from the old model; happy with the car’s dynamics and engine performance. The key mechanical change was the addition of G-Vectoring Control which is designed to make cornering smoother, by reducing the torque load on one wheel and thus dial out the influence of those cornering forces on occupants.
The updated CX-5 carries over the current car’s three engines and two transmission options, although only the entry level Maxx can be had with a six-speed manual, all other variants are mated exclusively to a six-speed automatic transmission. And, like the outgoing model, Touring (a new variant), GT and Akera variants are only available with on-demand all-wheel drive.
On the outgoing model, Mazda admitted at the local launch this week in Brisbane that there’d been a cavernous price gap between Maxx Sport and GT variants. To that end, it added a bridging model, the Touring, which is likely to take over from the Maxx Sport as the most popular CX-5 variant.
As mentioned, the mechanicals are carried over from the old car, but the design of the new CX-5 sets it apart from the outgoing car. It adopts the slimmer head and tail-lights from the CX-9 and, overall, looks (and is) flatter than the outgoing car. Via the tape measure, the new CX-5 is 10mm longer than the old car (4550mm Vs 4540mm), the same width, shorter (1675mm Vs 1705mm) with the same wheelbase of 2700mm.
Pricing for the CX-5 runs from $28,690+ORC for the entry-level Maxx in 2WD and with a manual transmission through to $49,990+ORC for the top-spec diesel-powered Akera.
The boot is bigger on the new CX-5 than the outgoing model which is good, now 442 litres (up from 403 litres). But this is short of the 466 litres of space in the back of a Kia Sportage, and a long way off the 600-plus litres of storage space offered in the Volkswagen Tiguan.
The back seats are standard in 40:20:40 split fold, which is great, but I’d suggest there more like 45:10:45 with the middle seat being quite narrow, and more of a perch than an actual seat. The two outboard seats offer ISOFIX mounts and top tether anchor points.
Climb into the front of the CX-5 and there’s been a noticeable step-up in quality of design and the materials used, but… on both the Maxx Sport and Touring Variants we found there’s still a little bit too much hard plastic in places you’re likely to touch, like on the lower door panels and the centre console.
Mazda’s seven-inch infotainment unit sits at the top of the dashboard making it very easy to glance across at while driving, and it’s not particularly affected by glare. However, it’s not a touchscreen unit (unless stationary) and needs to be controlled by the rotary knob and shortcut buttons down on the centre console, and that does require you to look down from time to time. There’s also no Apple Car Play or Android Auto which is disappointing as the unit in the CX-5 is not overly feature rich.
While the engines were carried over and power and torque is the same across the board, that doesn’t mean the engines are the same. Mazda said it worked on things like making them more responsive to the accelerator and quieter, too. Sundry other tweaks have combined to make the engines smoother.
Mazda is the zoom-zoom brand and is keen, at every turn, to emphasise its car and driver philosophy, even when it comes to high-sided SUVs like the CX-5. But, and I know this will cause a lot of CX-5 owners to howl me down, but the refreshed CX-5, just like the old model, is a competent handler rather than a particularly sporty one. The suspension doesn’t feel quite as well controlled as you get in a Volkswagen Tiguan, or a Kia Sportage or Hyundai Tucson with their locally-tuned set-up. The steering is consistently weighted, but is lacking in feel; then again, this isn’t a sports car and the set-up compares well against its competitors. The brakes proved strong, but the pedal lacks progression, only grabbing at the end of its travel and feeling spongey up until it grabbed.
The CX-5 gets a five-star ANCAP rating and, depending on the grade, radar cruise control with stop & go function, adaptive LED headlights, traffic sign recognition, blind spot monitoring, lane-keeping assist, driver attention alert, and smart city braking which works in both forwards and reverse between 4-80km/h – the system can also detect pedestrians between 10-60km/h.
The Mazda CX-5 continues the march of the previous generation and adds a classier interior and more modern design. All the models are well equipped, but it’s not quite as spacious as some of its competitors, nor as practical, and it’s not quite as dynamic either.
Peugeot’s second-generation 3008 arrived Down Under in late 2017 after receiving widespread applause internationally, with European motoring hacks awarding it their loftiest of honours (2017); naming it the European Car of the Year; there’s even a sticker on the back of the car proclaiming the award.
The second-generation Peugeot 3008 rides on Peugeot’s much applauded modular (meaning it can be tweaked to suit a variety of vehicles) EMP2 platform. This platform also sits under the Peugeot 308 which is a vehicle we very much like for its ride and handling. So, the 3008 has a good starting point.
There are two engines available in the 3008 here in Australia, a 1.6-litre petrol and a 2.0-litre turbo-diesel. And there are four model grades: Active, Allure, GT-linee, and GT which is exclusively available as a diesel. Pricing ranges from $36,990+ORC through to $49,490+ORC.
The 3008 runs Peugeot’s i-Cockpit dash design which is intended to de-clutter the dashboard and it largely does this with two large infotainment screens, the one behind the steering wheel replaces the usual analogue dials. There are piano key shortcuts buttons below the main infotainment screen and there’s both Apple and Android connectivity. The flat-top and bottom steering wheel takes some getting used to and taller drivers might not be able to place it perfectly to keep it from obscuring some elements of the instrument cluster behind the wheel, but there’s no doubting the 3008’s interior looks stunning.
The front seats are well-trimmed and comfortable with good support for longer drives. The driving position is nice and high, which is what you want from an SUV, and afford good vision all the way around the vehicle. Climb into the back and there’s a good amount of room for adults; you’ll fit three across the back seat without too much drama. The seats are comfortable, although the middle seat lacks the shape of the two outboard seats. There are nets on the backs of the front seats, and directional air vents at the back of the centre console.
The boot space is well shaped and the rear seats, which are 60:40 split fold can be folded down completely flat and via handles in the boot, which is handy. The tail-gate is automatic and can be raised or lowered via kicking your foot under the rear bumper. There’s 591-litres of storage space with the back seats up and loaded to the roof, and with the back seats folded flat and the boot loaded to the roof there’s 1670 litres of storage. Beneath the boot floor is a space saver spare.
Practical Motoring has only tested the 3008 Allure which runs a 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine making 121kW at 6000rpm and 240Nm of torque at 1400rpm. This is mated to a six-speed automatic with fuel consumption a claimed combined 7.3L/100km (our car had the cost-optional Grip Control). While this engine doesn’t read like it’s overly endowed with oomph, on the road it’s more than sufficient with a nice easy nature from the get-go and with good in-gear punch once up and running. The engine proved quiet and refined throughout the rev range and noise insulation was good too. It’s a comfortable car if not overly dynamic when pushed but this is a car for family travels, not hard cornering and with a five-year warranty I think families wanting something a little different should definitely take a look.