Showroom Showdown: battle of the baby SUVs
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It's SUV everything in New Zealand at the moment, and it's a trend that doesn't show any sign of slowing down.
Year to date (to the end of November), SUVs account for a total of 49 per cent of the new-vehicle market. That's right, we're just a per cent or two away from an official takeover.
The most popular size of SUV in NZ is medium (like the Toyota RAV4 or Kia Sportage) at 20 per cent share of the overall market. But small SUVs are where all the action is: they're growing more rapidly than any other segment and in the past year have climbed from around 15 to 19 per cent for 2020. So yes, it's likely they'll be top in 2021.
Seems Kiwis love a compact, high-riding family car at an affordable price. So for this instalment of Showroom Showdown we've set a budget of $30k and lined up the three best-selling compact SUVs with one of the newest: Kia Seltos, Hyundai Kona and Mitsubishi ASX, meet the Toyota Yaris Cross.
As always, this not a traditional comparison test, but rather designed to provide key data, prompt potential purchase ideas and provoke thought on some models you might not have considered.
Ultimately, it’s up to the buyer to choose the vehicle that best fits his or her needs; no one model suits everybody.
The all-new Toyota Yaris has been a small-car star this year, with high style, high technology and a hybrid engine option moving the goalposts in the supermini segment.
The just-launched Yaris Cross SUV version uses exactly the same technology as the hatch underneath, but Toyota has pulled out all the stops to give it a unique identity. It doesn't share any body panels with the hatchback model, for example.
The Cross is a little more expensive than the hatch version, so our $30k budget will only get us into the entry-level GX, with the conventional 1.5l three-cylinder engine - not the hybrid. And we're okay with that, because while the hybrid has exceptional fuel economy (3.8l/100km), the standard powertrain is a lot more fun.
And the regular Yaris Cross is still the most thrifty of our quartet here by far. It's also exceptionally compact by class standards, which is a plus or a minus depending on your point of view.
If we're talking metal for your money, the Kia Seltos has to be in the conversation. It's been a sales star for Kia NZ this year and rightly so: it's a family sized SUV at a bargain price, bringing its own sense of style into the mix.
Again, we're sticking with the entry level version here and we're okay with that. The Seltos LX still looks great, has plenty of standard equipment and rides nicely on its modest 16-inch wheels.
The LX is the only model to miss out on adaptive cruise control, but that's part of the opportunity cost for such a modern SUV at such a sharp price; it's a big jump up to the next Seltos in the range, the $35,990 LX Plus.
Seems there's always a bit of a premium for Hyundai product and that's the case here. You can't actually buy a Kona for under $30k, but we wanted to include it because it's so popular among the compact-SUV crowd. Second only to the Seltos year-to-date, in fact.
There's a bit of a halo around Kona thanks to the high-profile Electric model, but it's a long way from the $31k L petrol featured here to the cheapest Kona Electric at $78,990!
Kona is also surprisingly small. At 4.17m in length it's just a snip shorter than the Yaris Cross, even though it doesn't really look it.
The Hyundai is an undeniably polished package, with distinctive styling and a well laid out cabin. It shares a lot under the bonnet with the Seltos (same engine, same power/torque), although there's a big difference between the Kona's conventional 6-speed automatic and the Seltos's continuously variable transmission (or Intelligent Variable Transmission, IVT, as Kia calls it).
Keen drivers might prefer the Hyundai's automatic, although the Kia has the advantage in fuel economy despite being a larger car.
You can indeed have a Hyundai SUV under $30k - the even smaller Hyundai Venue (just 4m long, $29,990). But it's yet to challenge the Kona on Kiwi sales.
The Mitsubishi ASX is something of an old favourite. It's been around since 2010 in one form or another, but keeps hovering high in the sales charts thanks to a seemingly never-ending series of facelifts... and sheer value for money.
It's still an SUV with plenty of visual presence - especially now that 18-inch wheels are standard across the range. There's more muscle under the bonnet than its rivals here as well, with the most power (just) and torque of our group. But the ASX LS is also the thirstiest.
The Mitsubishi is second only to the Kia for physical size and bootspace - although the more modern packaging of the Seltos shows in its extra bootspace, with an extra 75l over the ASX.