City-friendly SUVs on a $30K budget? Here's what we'd choose
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Such a popular segment, we first visited this theme in August, but with new showings, it deserved another round.
Medium and small SUVs are kicking it hard in car sales over recent years, and despite the year that was, the segments continue to prosper, and literally grow with a number of new additions recently and scraping in just before year’s end. With everything from Suzuki’s Ignis and Kia’s Picanto X being classified as SUVs, along with Haval and Hyundai Kona (though just over our budget), the popular SUVs from Toyota, Nissan, Mazda, Mitsubishi and more really meant we’re spoilt for choice – which makes this selection that much harder.
But we’re true troopers, and the whole point of Expert Car Picks is delving into, anaylysing, choosing and advising which car we’d actually pay for with our own money… and also partly to sometimes win the popular vote. We talk about these selections in our weekly Zooming with DRIVEN vidcast and podcast, so scroll down and vote for you choice – and just to make our job even harder, we like throwing in a few wildcards to see what the public really wants.
Editor, Dean Evans: Kia Seltos
For a relatively small field of choice, it’s surprisingly difficult to pinpoint what I’d spend my money on. The new Toyota Yaris Cross is quite appealing, but we’re yet to drive one, though they are starting to appear in dealerships. Ask me again in January, maybe for part three.
Having just driven the brand new Kia Stonic, that’s also quite impressive for the price starting at $22k, but it’s so new it’ll have to be put into the 2021 ask-me-again basket.
There’s the Haval H2, but I understand people would initially turn up their nose (Sam Wallace, for one), but for its price and tech, all I can say is put it on the long list and take it for a test drive. Same with Mitsubishi’s ASX. And Honda HR-V… see, a lot of choice!
Last time I chose the Suzuki Vitara JLX 2WD auto, at $29,990. I’d still test drive that, but it was a split decision between it, the Vitara Turbo ($4k over budget) and the Kia Seltos, which Andrew chose last time.
So I’ll pick the carry-over champion – with more than half the votes last time - and see if its title can be defended. One of the sales success stories of the year for good reason, the Seltos offers size, space and value, and in LX spec at $27,990, parking sensors and reversing camera, cruise and CarPlay/Android are all good – though the lack of keyless entry, personally might squeeze me into the higher spec LX Plus – which puts me back into the Vitara Turbo conundrum.
With a 2.0 four with 110kW and 180Nm and front-drive, Kia’s CVT is also very good. And on top of all that, it looks good, and with buying decisions based on heart – and eyes – as much as safety and value and spec, it was a winner before, now and let’s see if it’s a winner this time around: come at me, bro’s…
Deputy Editor, David Linklater: Suzuki Ignis
It’d be a bit silly if I didn’t choose the city SUV I actually own: the Suzuki Ignis.
Is it an SUV? According to Motor Industry Association (MIA) registration data it is. It has the ground clearance and elevated driving position of an SUV. It’s not AWD – at least not in New Zealand – but if an SUV has to be AWD then somebody should tell Toyota RAV4, Kia Sportage, Mazda CX-5, Nissan Qashqai and the rest.
Anyway, I love the retro-reboot styling of the Ignis and the fact that it’s basically a Swift underneath, so it’s fun to drive. For the purposes of this exercise, I’ve gone for the top Limited model. That’s partly because I feel compelled to use as much of the budget as possible (it’s a heady $24,990), but also because I really want a colour you can only have in the flagship version: a kind of retro browny concoction called Caravan Ivory Pearl Metallic.
Even more to the point, the Ignis a proper city car. It’s just 3.7m long, can turn around in 4.7m and feels light as a feather. Because it is: kerb weight 905kg (855 if you go for the manual GLX).
Due to all of the above, it also runs on virtually nothing: the official Combined fuel economy figure is 4.9l/100km and even if you thrash it around town, it’s impossible to get out of the fives. Believe me, I know.
Digital Writer, Andrew Sluys: Renault Duster
According to Renault’s website, “life is too short to drive boring vehicles”, and I’m not going to say that David and Dean’s choices are boring, but the Duster wins this category in my eyes.
There’s no question as to whether the Duster is worthy of its name or not, as the rough roader is extremely popular in the Middle East where a vehicle that can handle horrible roads is needed. Despite this rough aesthetic, you can only get it in a front-wheel drive layout here in New Zealand, but don’t let that put you off this quirky character.
Beneath the bonnet sits a 1.6-litre petrol engine that makes 84kW and 156Nm. This is sent to the front wheels via Continuous Variable Transmission (CVT), and will propel the SUV to 100km/h in the region of 12 seconds. So pace isn’t a strong point, but who needs to be fast when you’re tough, right?
Weighing in at 1.2 tonnes, the Duster isn’t massive, but it is quite long at 4.3 metres. But with extra length comes extra interior space so passengers in the second row will never feel cramped. Once you’ve folded those rear seats down, you get 1478L of cargo space which is nothing to sneeze at.
Here in New Zealand, the Duster costs $27,990, which falls well within the $30K budget. I’d probably be getting mine in Atacama Orange like the one pictured here.