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TMR Best Buy 2016 - Top 5 Small SUVs: Honda HR-V, Mazda CX-3, Skoda Yeti, Nissan Qashqai, BMW X1 Photo:

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TMR Team | Jan, 25 2016 | 0 Comments

While small cars remain the dominant segment in the Australian new car landscape, guess which is the fastest-growing?

Small SUV sales are 'on the up' in a big way, with segment sales swelling by a huge 27.4 percent in 2015 compared to the year prior. In contrast, small car sales declined by 7.6 percent over the same period.

Why are people gravitating to small SUVs? Well, it’s not for anything to do with off-roading, that's for sure - many vehicles in the segment don’t even come with the option of an AWD drivetrain, and with a monocoque chassis and limited ground clearance their dirt-track credentials are slim.

Rather, taller seating positions, roomier interiors and a rugged image are driving the uptake of these compact crossovers. What’s the best buying in this rapidly expanding segment? Here is our Top 5:



Price range: $49,500 to $59,900
Engines: 141kW/280Nm 2.0 turbo petrol 4cyl, 110kW/330Nm turbo diesel 4cyl, 140kW/400Nm turbo diesel 4cyl, 170kW/350Nm 2.0 turbo petrol 4cyl
Transmission: 8sp automatic, rear-wheel or all-wheel drive

An all-new generation of the BMW X1 launched last year and took BMW’s baby SUV from a longitudinally-engined, rear-drive/AWD platform to a transverse-engined, front-drive/AWD one.

And we’re glad it made the switch.

The previous-gen was cramped in the back and its cabin didn't really do justice to the premium badge or the ticket-price. Its replacement is roomier than rivals the Audi Q3 and Mercedes GLA-Class, and carries a substantially more premium feel inside and out.

With a sliding second row, 40/20/40 split rear seatbacks and a sizable 505 litre boot, it’s got the most versatile interior in the luxury small SUV segment, and that counts for a lot.

Our review verdict:

User friendly for daily use, with a large and versatile interior, and not too pricey, the X1 will feel 'just right' for active younger couples looking for a bit of room and a bit of versatility, in an affordable premium badge.

From commuter duties, to weekends away, to ferrying friends and family around, the X1 can manage it all with easy, comfortable aplomb.

Inside, it feels nicely upmarket with an air of quality that puts it above the common rung; while externally it looks a lot more modern and athletic than the 'grandpa' looks of the first model X1 it replaces.

MORE: BMW X1 News and Reviews
MORE: BMW X1 sDrive20d Review


Honda HR-V

Price: $24,990 to $33,990
Engine: 105kW/172Nm 1.8 petrol 4cyl
Transmission: CVT automatic, front-wheel drive

Honda’s HR-V has become the darling of the Honda line-up since it launched here in early 2015.

Though its single-engine, single-transmission mechanical spec is fairly plain-jane, the Jazz-based HR-V gets several things right. It’s the right size, the right price, and with the right kind of interior for a small SUV, so it’s no surprise Honda sold over ten thousand of them last year.

Our review verdict:

It’s impressively well-finished for an entry-level SUV; you could easily be forgiven for thinking it costs more than it does.

For Honda, the HR-V is the right product at the right time. It’s easily one of the best (if not the best) in the compact SUV segment.

If you’re considering downsizing into a smaller SUV or up-sizing into something a little taller than the average hatchback, put the Honda HR-V at the top of your list.

MORE: Honda HR-V News and Reviews
MORE: Honda HR-V Launch Review


Mazda CX-3

Price Range: $19,990 to $37,690
Engine: 109kW/192Nm 2.0 petrol 4cyl, 77kW/270Nm 1.5 turbo diesel 4cyl
Transmission: 6sp manual/6sp automatic, front-wheel or all-wheel drive

Like the HR-V, the CX-3 has proved a massive hit since its arrival in local showrooms last year - over 12,000 of them found owners in 2015, and sales continue to be strong.

It’s a smaller car internally than the Honda, but it makes up for it with eye-catching interior and exterior design. It also feels brisk on-road with a willing engine and alert handling.

There’s also a more attractive entry price and the availability of not just a diesel engine, but manual transmissions and a choice of front- or all-wheel drive too.

Our review verdict:

You will find an interior that's among the best for style, features and finish, and you will find a car that you will just love to drive.

There is a depth to this car and a feeling of quality that sets a new standard. Take it for a run, and you too will notice it immediately.

MORE: Mazda CX-3 News and Reviews
MORE: Mazda CX-3 Maxx 2WD Review


Skoda Yeti

Price Range: $24,390 to $29,190
Engine: 81kW/175Nm 1.2 turbo petrol 4cyl, 92kW/200Nm 1.4 turbo petrol 4cyl
Transmission: 6sp manual/6sp automatic, front-wheel drive

It’s getting a bit long in the tooth now, but the Yeti soldiers on, and, sadly, is one of the more overlooked options in the small SUV segment.

Does it deserve that fate? Heck no! Its two petrol engines are smooth, torquey and refined (the diesel was recently yanked from the line-up), and it’s got a versatile and spacious interior with plenty of room for four adults and their baggage.

It’s an underrated car, far from abominable, and one that offers some Euro panache for an Asian price. We’ve got a soft spot for the Yeti.

Our review verdict:

While it is starting to show its age, the Skoda Yeti is still a good option for small SUV buyers. Value-packed and spacious, it offers a comfortable and appealing drive.

There’s still some room for improvement - particularly when it comes to transmission refinement at low speed. While VW has effectively solved that issue in DSG-equipped Tiguans, that refinement has yet to trickle down to cousin Skoda.

But the Yeti 90TSI has much to recommend it. Its pricing is especially sharp, and with a sub-$30k retail sticker there’s good value in the Yeti.

MORE: Skoda Yeti News and Reviews
MORE: Skoda Yeti 90TSI DSG Review


Nissan Qashqai

Price: $25,850 to 38,390
Engine: 106kW/200Nm 2.0 petrol 4cyl, 96kW/320Nm 1.6 turbo diesel 4cyl
Transmission: Six-speed manual, CVT automatic, front-wheel drive

Another strong-seller, the UK-built Qashqai is longer, wider and has a greater wheelbase than every other car on this list bar the BMW X1. It’s big, and it feels it.

There’s more boot space than the HR-V, and the interior is well-featured and constructed to a high standard. The diesel is also a peach, and boasts huge torque and great driveability as a result.

It’s more expensive than many of its non-premium rivals, but the fact it manages to keep up with the HR-V in the sales race (and isn’t too far behind the CX-3) speaks volumes about its merit as a compact softroader.

Our review verdict:

With pricing that puts it very close to an up-spec Pulsar, buyers of that car could be very easily swayed into a Qashqai - particularly if practicality is higher on their list.

But also if refinement, roadholding, space or comfort matter more, because, frankly, the Qashqai is the car the Pulsar deserves to be.

With sharp looks, a well-presented interior and reasonable list of equipment, the Qashqai is thoroughly good enough to challenge the best in the small SUV class.

If ever there was a Goldilocks story in the new car market, the Qashqai would be the star - it’s not too small inside, not too thirsty, not to big for the city and not too anonymous to look at.

We think the Qashqai gets it ‘just right’.

MORE: Nissan Qashqai News and Reviews
MORE: Nissan Qashqai ST Petrol Review

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