Showroom Showdown: what's the best medium SUV out there?
Search Driven for Toyota for sale
Welcome to the second in our Showroom Showdown series, where we grab key rivals in a specific segment and provide a bit of comparison-shopping assistance by laying out the important data.
It’s not a traditional comparison test, but it is designed to prompt potential purchase ideas and provoke thought on some models you perhaps haven’t considered. Ultimately of course, it’s up to the buyer to choose the vehicle that best fits his or her needs; no one model suits everybody.
This week we’re looking at the single most popular type of passenger vehicle in New Zealand: the medium SUV, which been growing in market share sharply over the past two years and now represents around 20 per cent of new-vehicle sales.
There’s a massive amount of choice here and you could approach it from any number of angles. Indeed, it’s almost certainly a genre we’ll return to in the future.
For now, we’ve unashamedly used what we reckon is the best variant of the best-selling medium SUV in the Kiwi market as the catalyst.
The Toyota RAV4 is all-conquering and what the latest model has brought to the party is hybrid technology for the first time, which works brilliantly in a vehicle of this size.
The petrol-electric powertrain provides great performance and yet the battery assistance also results in surreal fuel economy for a generously sized family SUV.
We’ve opted for the GXL hybrid at $46,490, which offers all of the important technology, safety and convenience features you would want without having to crack the $50k barrier with the dressed-up Limited.
But a hybrid does require a certain style of driving that’s not for everybody. Or maybe you value sportiness more than ultimate fuel efficiency (the RAV4 does have a Continuously Variable Transmission, after all). Or maybe you just don’t see yourself as a "Toyota hybrid" person.
So we’ve looked at what other AWD (because all RAV4 hybrids are E-Four AWD) medium SUVs are in the frame for similar money. Happily, the two other biggest sellers in the segment also get the thumbs-up from the DRIVEN team, so here they are: the Kia Sportage and Mazda CX-5.
The Sportage’s high style and excellent value for money have been key to Kia NZ’s growth in the last few years (the newer, smaller Seltos is giving it an even bigger push right now).
This is an interesting price point for Sportage because models sit either side of that $46k mark. We’ve gone for the $42,990 EX because value is kind of the Kia’s thing, but you could equally upsell yourself into the snazzier-looking GT-Line at $51,990. Same powertrain for both.
It’s decent to drive and has arguably the most broadly appealing styling (check out the Porsche-like running lights). But from our table you’ll also see it has the least power of our trio, yet is also the thirstiest; so there’s opportunity cost to consider while you’re saving purchase price over our rivals here.
The Mazda tips the balance more towards the driver, if that's important to you. It's gruntier than the Kia yet more economical, and the ride and handling are impressive.
Like so many of Mazda's current generation SkyActiv models, the CX-5 is something of quiet achiever. But there's a lot to appreciate when you start to notice the engineering and design detail.