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TMR Team | Jan 20, 2016

Medium SUVs held onto their momentum in 2015 with over 11,500 sales for the year across 18 nameplates, that’s before adding the nine models and 1824 sales from the premium medium SUV class (as defined by VFACTS).

Even with the Small SUV segment rapidly gaining sales momentum, Medium SUV was the country’s third largest segment, behind small cars, and a scant two vehicles less than 4x4 Light commercial pick-ups in 2015.

As always, there’s good and there’s not-so-good buying on offer - and this year the field got even tougher. Excellent choices available, sharp value, and strong new models and updates made picking the right family-sized SUV a tough task.

Here, presented in no particular order, are TMR’s top five Medium SUV BEST BUYS for 2016


Hyundai Tucson

Price Range: $27,990 (Active FWD manual) - $45,490 (Highlander CRDi AWD Automatic)
Engine: 114kW/192Nm 2.0 petrol 4cyl, 121kW/203Nm 2.0 petrol 4cyl, 130kW/265Nm 1.6 turbo petrol 4cyl, 136kW/400Nm 2.0 turbo diesel 4cyl
Transmission: 6spd manual, 6sd automatic, 7spd automatic, FWD and AWD

Hyundai reintroduced the Tucson badge in 2015 to take the place of the previous ix35, and in doing so introduced new levels of sophistication, comfort, and technology.

At the same time, the Tucson also moved into the Medium SUV class (the ix35 was dubiously classed as a Small SUV).

With four trim levels to choose from, a range of four engines including petrol and diesel, including a punchy turbocharged petrol engine, manual and automatic transmissions, and front or all wheel drive, the Tuscon represents Hyundai’s most comprehensive SUV line-up yet.

It also shows just how focussed the brand is on capturing every sale it can in this crucial market by offering something for every buy and every budget.


Our review verdict

With a range of engines and drivetrains to suit all tastes, Hyundai's new Tucson has buyers covered for choice.

Party tricks aren’t limited to a sharply drawn exterior, and a contemporary and comfortable interior. The Tucson can also claim well sorted dynamics and decent on-road (and mild off-road) verve.

There’s not an out-of-place model in the range. Buyers seeking a medium SUV now have a new option to consider, and it’s a solidly good one at that.


Toyota RAV4

Price Range: $27,990 (GX FWD manual) - $49,490 (Cruiser diesel AWD automatic)
Engine: 107kW/187Nm 2.0 petrol 4cyl, 132kW/233Nm 2.5 petrol 4cyl, 110kW/340Nm 2.2 turbo diesel 4cyl
Transmission: 6spd manual, 6spd automatic, FWD and AWD

Thanks to a successful rhinoplasty-and-bum-lift session late in the year, the Toyota RAV4 became the SUV it always needed to be.

New LED lighting front and rear, and a revised interior allow it to give a better first impression, while under the skin the improved suspension, stiffer body and improved sound insulation thoroughly improved the drive.

Sadly the diesel variant still can’t tow like it ought to, but the 2.5 petrol engine is zesty enough, and as an all-rounder the RAV4 will happily meet the demands of growing families with enough space, comfort, and practicality to get the job done.


Our review verdict

The facelifted Toyota RAV4 is quietly impressive in flagship Cruiser specification. As a side note, we wouldn’t bother spending another $5000 on the underpowered diesel version, particularly now that this petrol engine is so refined.

For a smidge under $45K, the RAV4 Cruiser now offers plenty of features, a full suite of passive and active safety equipment, a responsive powertrain and pleasant driving manners.

It doesn’t quite hit the high notes of its fiercest rivals, but instead delivers newfound consistency.


Mitsubishi Outlander

Price Range: $28,490 (LS FWD manual) - $52,490 (Aspire PHEV AWD automatic)
Engine: 110kW/190Nm 2.0 petrol 4cyl, 124kW/220Nm 2.4 petrol 4cyl, 110kW/360Nm 2.3 turbo diesel, 149kW/195Nm 2.0 petrol 4cyl/plug-in hybrid
Transmission: 5spd manual, CVT automatic, 6spd automatic, single-ratio transaxle, FWD and AWD

Mitsubishi may not be a powerhouse of the likes of Toyota or General Motors, but when it comes to innovation, the Outlander is the surprise package, with a range of drivetrain options, good road manners and, at the top end of the range, Mitsubishi's PHEV plug-in electric powertrain option (TMR's BEST BUY of 2015).

Even at the lower end of the range, the Outlander is well equipped, and is one of the very few medium SUVs to offer seven seats.

A new face for 2015 improved the Outlander’s look (the PHEV update is yet to arrive), but the generous cabin space and relatively low prices remain intact.


Our review verdict

The current Outlander is quite improved on the previous generation and looks and feels the more fully-resolved product.

It continues to be one of the few seven-seat midsize SUVs, and the value-for-money equation is high.

The Outlander can also carry more gear than most other medium SUVs, and its flexible interior can transform from seven-seater family bus to cargo-haulin’ wagon with a minimum of fuss.


Nissan X-Trail

Price Range: $27,990 (ST FWD manual) - $46,580 (TL AWD manual
Engine: 106kW/200Nm 2.0 petrol 4cyl, 126kW/226Nm 2.5 petrol 4cyl, 96kW/320Nm 1.6 4cyl diesel
Transmission: 6spd manual, CVT automatic, FWD and AWD

A change in direction from the previous blocky Nissan X-Trail makes the new model more family-friendly, adding flexible features like a seven-seat option on some models.

There are a few gaps in the range - you can’t have a diesel with an auto, or seven seats, and you can’t have seven seats with all-wheel-drive, but the X-Trail remains one of the better handling and aqppealingly styled SUV's, with one of the better interiors.

Strong value, well-mannered on-road performance, plenty of storage: these are the areas where the X-Trail delivers its best work.


Our review verdict

It’s an X-Trail, but not as we know it. Is that a bad thing? Well, that all depends on whether you have a fondness for the quasi-4x4 styling of the previous model.

But take off that rose-tinted eyewear. The old X-Trail wasn’t all that great. If features and comfort are important, the new X-Trail will have bucketloads of appeal.

The value quotient is particularly strong too. Nowhere else in the medium SUV category will you get as many high-tech toys for your money.


Mazda CX-5

Price Range: $27,190 (Maxx FWD manual) - $50,610 (Akera diesel AWD automatic)
Engine: 114kW/200Nm 2.0 petrol 4cyl, 138kW/250Nm 2.5 petrol 4cyl, 129kW/420Nm 2.2 turbo diesel 4cyl
Transmission: 6spd manual, 6spd automatic, FWD and AWD

Mazda's CX-5 claimed the lion’s share of medium SUV sales in 2015, taking 19.7 percent of the market for the year. More than just a good seller though, the CX-5 is a darn good car.

An update early in 2015 addressed some of the issues with road noise, settled the ride, and introduced the stellar MZD Connect infotainment system.

The Mazda’s great on-road feel, car-like handling and contemporary looks hardly needed adjusting, and for the most part have only scored a light tweak for the better.

From entry level, across the model range, the CX-5 is an impressive package, with a range of powertrain options and an on-road dynamism that feels ‘just right’.


Our review verdict

Mazda hatched a landmark car with the midsized CX-5. In terms of ‘getting it right’, the instant sales success that the CX-5 became suggests that Mazda - back in February 2012 - absolutely nailed the market.

Australian families, younger buyers in the main, love this car. It is the top selling SUV in the land because it answers so many questions for so many buyers.

The more you ponder the CX-5, and the way it has captured its market, it is hard to think of anything it does wrong.

MORE: Medium SUV News and Reviews

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