We all know how important the sports utility vehicle genre is in New Zealand.
It represented a whopping 37 per cent of all new-vehicle sales last month.
The fastest-growing segment within that genre is the baby-SUV: a burgeoning rank of supermini-sized crossovers that combine high ride height with city-friendly dimensions.
With 10 of the most important SUVs vying for your money, off-road ability is optional ... striking style is essential.
Citroen C4 Aircross
There’s a solid base under the C4 Aircross — because it’s borrowed from crossover specialist Mitsubishi.
The Aircross is basically a Mitsubishi ASX, with some different styling elements and a few changes in cabin trim.
Same 110kW/199Nm 2-litre petrol engine and continuously variable transmission across the range.
You can have the Aircross in either front-drive (Seduction or Exclusive models) or all-wheel drive (Exclusive only).
Price range: $36,990-$43,990
Think of the EcoSport as a crossover version of the Fiesta supermini, although it’s not quite as simple as that. The EcoSport employs the Fiesta platform, but it’s actually a new global version of a baby SUV that’s been popular in South America since 2003.
New Zealand’s EcoSport is available in two trim levels, Trend and Titanium.
Both are powered by an 82kW/140Nm 1.5-litre petrol engine, matched to a six-speed PowerShift dual-clutch transmission.
Price range: $29,990-$32,990
Trax came to New Zealand at the start of the latest baby-SUV boom. Launched in 2013 and based on the Barina hatchback, it is a global General Motors model that is also sold as a Chevrolet in other markets.
It’s another baby SUV available only in front-drive configuration. Mainstream versions are powered by a 103kW/175Nm 1.8l petrol engine with six-speed automatic transmission, but the flagship LTZ version also comes with a more high-tech — but smaller — 1.4l direct-injection turbo, making 103kW/200Nm.
Price range: $32,990-$36,990
The ASX is one of the longer-running models in this segment, although it was originally regarded as a compact version of the previous Outlander rather than a baby SUV.
The latest update for ASX brings daytime running lights, new wheel designs, a 20mm-wider track and wheel arch extensions intended to give it more of an SUV look.
There’s a choice of 112kW/200Nm 2-litre petrol or 112kW/366Nm 2.2-litre turbo diesel engines. The petrol models can be specified with front or four-wheel drive.
Price range: $36,690-$45,990
The latest model in Mazda’s new SkyActiv generation, the CX-3 is based on the Mazda2 hatchback, sharing its wheelbase and cabin styling.
The mainstream models are powered by a 109kW/192Nm 2-litre petrol powerplant which can be combined with either front-drive or four-wheel drive. Both powertrains are six-speed automatic.
There’s also a 1.5-litre turbo diesel with 77kW/270Nm. Unlike the petrol engine, the diesel is only available with four-wheel drive.
Price range: $31,195-$42,595
The Juke gained plenty of attention at launch thanks to its wild styling, which counted the classic beach buggy among its design inspirations.
The standard Juke is powered by an 86kW/158Nm 1.6-litre engine with continuously variable transmission and front-drive. However, a more recent addition to the range has been a higher-performance petrol-turbo version, with 140kW/240Nm and a four-wheel drive system that employs torque vectoring to proactively move the power around to the wheel that needs it most.
Price range: $32,190-$41,990
A crossover wagon version of the 208 hatchback, the 2008 comes with an 88kW 1.6-litre petrol powerplant and four-speed automatic gearbox, driving the front wheels.
The 2008 is available in two different models, the Active and higher-specification Allure.
It’s a pure Peugeot model, but it does have a baby-SUV sibling in the form of the 4008. Like the C4 Aircross from Peugeot subsidiary Citroen, the 4008 is a restyled version of the Mitsubishi ASX.
Price range: $31,990-$33,990
SsangYong is known as a specialist maker of hard-core off-road vehicles and utes, but the new Tivoli takes it into baby-SUV territory.
The Sport and Limited models have a 95kW/160Nm 1.6l petrol engine and front-wheel drive.
The Sport can have six-speed manual or automatic gearboxes, but the flagship Limited is automatic-only.
A distinctive two-tone colour pack with contrasting roof is standard on the Limited model.
Price range: $24,990-$30,990
The Skoda Yeti is not directly derived from any conventional passenger car, but its compact exterior dimensions put it right in the middle of the baby-SUV fray.
The Yeti comes with a choice of a 90kW/200Nm 1.4-litre turbo-petrol engine with front drive, or two versions of the 2-litre turbo diesel: a 103kW/320Nm unit in the Ambition model or a 125kW/350Nm version in the flagship Monte Carlo.
The petrol gets a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox, while the diesel runs with a six-speeder.
Price range: $34,200-$43,900
A crossover in the strictest sense of the word, the CrossPolo is simply a Volkswagen Polo hatchback with some off-road-style body addenda and extra ride height. This model has been a feature since the previous generation, always with rugged styling and never in 4WD.
The current CrossPolo does offer some performance benefit to buyers: while the mainstream Polo range is powered by a 1.2-litre petrol engine with 66kW, the CrossPolo steps up to an 81kW version of the same powerplant.