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The Top 10 Best Small SUVs On-Sale for less than $40K

Sales of SUVs are booming, offering a little bit of extra height and depending on the model even some rough road ability, read our guide for the top 10 best small SUVs on-sale right now.

THE SUV IS KING and in some ways, it makes sense. Often, they have a boxy shape that affords a little more interior space than the small hatch/sedan they’re related to, and they often stand a little taller too. And this added height gives them a higher hip point which is engineering-speak for the seats are a little higher, making them perfect for those of us who aren’t as flexible as we once were or for when you’re fitting a child seat, for instance.

Because many of the most popular small SUVs on the market today are front-wheel drive there are no fuel efficiency trade-offs when compared to a small hatch/sedan. While most buyers look for a two-wheel drive SUV, there are some cracking all-wheel drive SUVs on the market although they’re not all created equal.

Here are the 10 best small SUVs/crossovers currently on-sale:

2018 Subaru XV 2.0i-S Review

Subaru XV

The Subaru XV is one of the more rugged small SUVs on the market, offering permanent all-wheel drive and huge ground clearance (220mm) which would shame many 4x4s. It gets Subaru’s clever X-Mode which makes this tiny-tot SUV capable when the bitumen runs out. Built off Subaru’s new platform, the XV is also a lot of fun on the road and while the engine, on-paper, doesn’t seem overly grunty it never feels like that in the real world with the thing more than capable of keeping up with traffic when loaded down with a family of four and while some gripe about the CVT, you shouldn’t, it does a good job. The interior is roomy enough for four although the boot is on the small side in the segment; a full-size spare sits beneath the floor. The infotainment is easy to use and offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. And then there’s Subaru’s EyeSight active safety system which is standard on all but the entry level XV. Pricing ranges from $27,990 through to $35,240+ORC.

Suzuki Vitara

Suzuki Vitara

The current Vitara was launched here in 2016 and is available in petrol, turbo-diesel and turbo-petrol. The entry-level Vitara RT-S is only available in front-wheel drive while the turbocharged petrol Vitara S Turbo  and turbo-diesel Vitara RT-X are available with Suzuki’s ALLGRIP on-demand all-wheel drive system. But it’s in terms of ‘personalisation’ where the Vitara stands out from its competitors. The Vitara starts out as a two-tone vehicle with colours like Atlantis Turqoise and black roof, through to Horizon Orange Metallic, Savannah Ivory Metallic and Bright Red. But then you get the grille in either white or black, fender garnishes the same, while the instrument panel inside the car can be had in a range of different colours, and the list goes on. The engines have enough oomph for the size of the vehicle, it drives well and there’s decent room inside for a family of four. The boot space is like the XV and offers 375 litres of storage with the rear seats in-use. Pricing runs from $22,990+ORC through to $35,990+ORC.

2017 Hyundai Kona Review by Practical Motoring

Hyundai Kona

The Kona combines funky good looks with suspension and steering tuned for Australian roads. It adds a long warranty and good standard features. The Kona is built off the same platform as the i30 although it’s a little shorter, taller and offers more boot space (although there’s no full-size spare available) the option of on-demand all-wheel drive. The Kona is intended to look and feel a little more rugged inside than the i30 but it’s well screwed together and the styling is attractive. The infotainment system offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. There are two engines available for the Kona, a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol and a 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine with power ranging from 110kW-130kW and torque from 180Nm-265Nm; the transmission choices are a six-speed automatic or seven-speed DCT. On the road, the Kona is fun to drive and is composed and confident on either bitumen or dirt. Pricing runs from $24,500+ORC through to $36,000+ORC.

Nissan Qashqai Vs Mazda CX-3

Mazda CX-3

The darling of the compact SUV set you might expect us to have rated it a little more highly up our list, but it’s in fourth not for any reason other than the fact there are bits and pieces about the other cars that make them more appealing. Still, that doesn’t stop people flocking to the CX-3. The thing looks good and carries a bit of rough-road edge (if not ability) via its contrasting black plastic cladding. On the inside the CX-3 isn’t as roomy as some in the segment as its based off the tiny-tot Mazda2 and the main gripes are limited rear seat legroom and width across the back seat, and the boot at just 264 litres is the smallest in the segment. There are two engines available, one petrol and one diesel, and either one is nippy enough for the size and weight of the thing (but the petrol is our pick); the drive experience is more nimble hatchback than high-riding SUV and that means it offers one of the firmer rides in the segment. The CX-3 can be had in front-drive or on-demand all-wheel drive. Where the CX-3 stands out is in that autonomous emergency braking (AEB) is standard across the range, depending on the variant you get extras like blind spot monitoring, traffic sign recognition and more. Pricing runs from $20,490+ORC through to $37,890+ORC.

2017 Toyota C-HR review by Practical Motoring

Toyota C-HR

The C-HR arrived on the market a couple of years after Toyota had originally planned but the Japanese car maker was waiting for its modular platform to be completed. And that meant vehicles like the Nissan Juke and Hyundai Veloster had stolen the C-HR’s thunder (as far as quirky hatchback design, was concerned). The name stands for Coupe, High Rider. Like the Vitara, personalisation is a big thing for the C-HR and the look can be poked and prodded by buyers to make the thing their own. There’s only one engine available for the C-HR, a 1.2-litre turbocharged four-cylinder making 85kW and 185Nm of torque. The ride is good and the thing offers similar driving dynamics to the CX-3. It can be had in 2WD with a manual transmission or on-demand all-wheel drive with a CVT; the CVT is probably the pick as it does a good job of squeezing every drop from the engine. It’s not ideal as a family compact SUV, the back seat is cramped and the shape at the rear means vision out for kids is poor; and the location of the rear door handle makes it tricky for kids to reach. The boot offers a Corolla-esque 375 litres. The safety package is excellent and includes autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning, front and rear parking sensors, reversing camera, active cruise control and a five-star ANCAP rating. Pricing runs from $26,990+ORC through to $35,290+ORC.

The updated Honda HR-V goes on-sale in August priced from $24,990+ORC boasting more kit for the coin.

Honda HR-V

The current Honda HR-V broke away from its boxy-looking forebear and has recently been updated. Based on the Honda Jazz, the HR-V inherits that car’s bigger on the inside design and practical ‘magic seats’. The dash design is a little more conservative than some of the vehicles in this segment but well-built and easy to use. The driving position is good and the large glasshouse makes the interior feel even bigger than it is, the back seat is roomier than the C-HR or CX-3 and there’s a decent amount of storage space for odds and ends stashed around the cabin. The boot is one of the biggest in the segment with 437 litres of room. There’s only one engine available, a 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol making 105kW and 172Nm of torque. You can only get a CVT. The HR-V is front-drive only but its long-ish wheelbase makes for a comfortable drive but not one that’ll satisfy those who ‘enjoy’ driving. In terms of safety, there’s a five-star ANCAP rating and, going forward, a city-based AEB will become standard (active at up to 30km/h), beyond this the usual culprits of traction and stability controls, reversing camera and rear sensors are present and correct. Pricing runs from $24,990+ORC through to $34,340+ORC.

Ford EcoSport 2018

Ford EcoSport

The updated EcoSport arrived here at the end of the 2017 boasting an improved and more practical interior, new drivetrains and a more contemporary design. While we like the tailgated-mounted spare wheel this will soon be deleted from the Australian line-up and replaced with a puncture-repair kit (and thus no spare at all). On the inside, there’s a decent amount of room in the front and back of the thing with the boot able to hold up to 1178 litres of storage with the second-row seats folded down. Depending on the variant you get either a 6.5-inch or 8.0-inch screen with Ford’s latest-generation SYNC3 and both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. There are two engines, a 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol or a 1.0-litre three-cylinder EcoBoost petrol engine; outputs range from 90kW/150Nm and 92kW/170Nm; this engine is probably the pick of the two – it’s a front-drive only. In terms of the drive, the EcoSport is one of the better drives in the segment with good body control, ride and steering response. So why isn’t the EcoSport higher up our list? Simple, its safety system is a bit lacking, missing out on autonomous emergency braking, lane keep assist, etc – but it retains its 2013 five-star ANCAP rating. Hmmm. Pricing runs from $22,790+ORC through to $28,990+ORC.


Nissan Qashqai

The Qashqai sells up a storm around the world but not so much here in Australia. It was originally launched here as the Dualis in 2014 and has sold 38,000 vehicles since. In late 2017, the refreshed Qashqai arrived Down Under boasting a long list of key changes, like the front and rear design, safety suite, improved interior and more. One of the roomiest compact SUVs there’s no all-wheel drive variant and no diesel engine either but given most people by 2WD SUVs that doesn’t really matter. Built on the Renault-Nissan modular platform, the updated Qashqai is 17mm longer than the old car but retains the same width and height. On the inside, there’s greater use of soft-touch, quality plastics with hard, scratchy plastics pushed out to out of the way areas, like the lower door linings. There’s a new infotainment system but it misses out on Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The front seats are comfortable and there’s good room in the back too, although there are no rear air vents or power outlets. The boot offers 430 litres of storage space which is big for the class but smaller than the smaller HR-V. The only available engine is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol making 106kW and 200Nm of torque, there’s a six-speed manual or CVT, but the Qashqai never feels as grunty as the numbers suggest and while the suspension is comfortable around town it struggles as the speed rises. The Qashqai continues with the five-star ANCAP rating from 2014 but offers autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning and depending on the variant, blind spot monitoring, high beam assist and rear cross traffic alert. Pricing runs from $26,490+ORC through to $37,990+ORC.

refreshed 2018 Mitsubishi ASX

Mitsubishi ASX

One of the best-selling compact SUVs, the ASX is also one of the oldest in the segment but then you could almost say that about Mitsubishi’s entire vehicle range. Both the CX-3 and ASX in any given month will hold down Number One and Two sales spots for compact SUVs. The ASX is reasonably well equipped and roomy, if not overly exciting against newer players and it isn’t exactly cheap as chips either. For instance, against the entry-level CX-3 (2WD; manual) which is priced from $20,490+ORC, the similarly kitted out ASX costs a lot more at $25,000+ORC, and the Mazda gets better safety features as standard too. There are three model grades – LS, LS ADAS, and XLS and both can be had with either a petrol or diesel engine, however, only the diesel comes with the option of on-demand all-wheel drive. And, like the Qashqai and CX-3 you can still get a manual transmission for the ASX. One of the roomier cabins, you’ll fit three adults across the back in a pinch, and the boot is towards the larger end of the scale offering 393 litres of storage space. In terms of the drive, the diesel is the pick of the engines and the on-demand all-wheel drive is activated by pressing a button; meaning it’s front-drive until you tell it you want more than that. In terms of safety, the ASX gets a five-star ANCAP rating but that rating dates to testing in 2010 (although its listed as a 2014 stamp). Late in 2017, Mitsubishi added AEB, lane departure warning and auto high beam as well as rain-sensing wipers but only on the new LS ADAS and top-spec XLS. Pricing runs from $25,000+ORC through to $37,500+ORC.

Suzuki Jimny

Suzuki Jimny

This one’s on here to satisfy those who want a cheap as chips, proper 4×4. Yep, there’s a new one coming here early next year and we could have selected another compact SUV to add to this list but we wanted to show the variety available in the segment. Now, those interested in the Jimny are few and the current machine is an old design; it’s been around since 2008. Suzuki gave the Jimny a new lease on life when it equipped the vehicle with electronic traction control and electronic stability control in 2015, and this was the extent of the update other than a few minor styling tweaks such as new wheels, gauges and steering wheel. The Jimny is powered by a 1.3L four-cylinder petrol engine that makes a modest 62.5kW and 110Nm, but with short gearing and a kerb weight of just 1075kg, performance is not as lacklustre as you might expect. Off the road, the lightweight Jimny is surprisingly capable, thanks largely to its manoeuvrability, short front and rear overhangs, reasonable ground clearance, good wheel travel and aforementioned traction control. The Jimny isn’t the most comfortable of vehicles lacking quite a few creature comforts but it’s easy to drive, cheap to buy and run and is a ‘proper’ 4×4. It’s priced at $22,990+ORC.

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Isaac Bober

Isaac Bober