Small SUVs. You might love the idea of a higher-riding hatchback, or you might think they’re a convenient way for car brands to sell ostensibly compact cars at a markup.
Either way, ongoing demand means the market for this type of vehicle remains abuzz with new offerings. Australia is no exception.
The market share of Small SUVs was 13.1 per cent in 2019, while in January this year the newly separated Light and Small SUV segments commanded 15.9 per cent combined share.
The following list details five brand-new nameplates that’ll arrive in local showrooms during the year, listed alphabetically.
As well as this group, we’ll also see the arrival of brand-new generations of existing models such as the Nissan Juke (pictured above) and Renault Captur (both around mid-2020), and Mercedes-Benz GLA (third-quarter).
Ford Puma - second half
Goodbye unloved EcoSport, hello slick new Puma. Ford really failed to capitalise on the small crossover boom with its EcoSport which, despite a running update, never much troubled the proverbial scorer. But the reborn Puma’s design puts the Sport in Sport Utility Vehicle.
Inside, the Puma borrows heavily from the Fiesta and Focus, with a high-set infotainment screen with Ford's latest Sync infotainment system, while the driver is faced with a digital instrument cluster. The boot has a very decent 456L of space, including an 80L waterproof box with a drain plug.
It’ll be powered by a small turbo-petrol engine, and although the European range is currently manual-only, a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic is in the works and looms as the most likely transmission for Australia.
“Puma will appeal to customers looking for a fun-to-drive, stylish SUV that’s loaded with smart tech,” said President and CEO of Ford Australia Kay Hart. “The Puma is a great opportunity for us to connect with Australian customers in a new way, and we’re excited that it will arrive alongside the new-generation Escape in Australian showrooms in 2020.”
MORE: Ford Puma articles
Kia Stonic - late 2020
Kia confirmed the arrival of the 4140mm Stonic from the fourth quarter of 2020, to tackle the similarly compact Mazda CX-3. It’ll augment the company's growing SUV range by slotting in under the recently launched Seltos.
The little crossover actually launched in June 2017, and has been a mainstay of its European range since. While Kia’s local arm wasn’t keen to bring it here then, its booming sales (it was the only top 10 brand not to go backwards last year) might have given it the confidence for a rethink.
Expect power to come from the Rio’s 88kW/172Nm 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol engine, mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic.
"There is an emerging light SUV segment and we see a real opportunity to take a slice of it," said KMC Australia’s product planning head, Roland Rivero. "It shares a platform with Rio, and is dimensionally similar to a Mazda CX-3. Positioning it between Cerato and Seltos, is the sweet spot as we see it."
MORE: Kia Stonic articles
Mercedes-Benz GLB - third quarter
Mercedes-Benz will fill the gap in its range between the (also soon-to-be-replaced) GLA and GLC. As promised by the brash concept, the road-going 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB has a characterful high-roofed, squared-off design language, with deep side windows, short overhangs, and a squat stance.
Underneath the body is a derivative of the company’s MFA platform from which the A-Class, CLA and GLA are derived. But, the stretched wheelbase maximises cabin space over its fellow compact models. The GLB’s real party trick is its clever packaging, with seven seats stuffed in.
Anyone familiar with the other compact Mercedes models mentioned will be familiar with the cabin look. The fascia is dominated by thin freestanding screens mounted side-by-side, one displaying driver instruments and the other MBUX infotainment.
Engine-wise, the base GLB 200 will get a 1.3-litre turbo petrol co-developed with Renault making 120kW of power and 250Nm of torque, while the volume-selling model will be the GLB 250 with a 165kW/350Nm 2.0-litre matched with a 4Matic all-wheel-drive system.
Skoda Kamiq - June/July
It's the smallest member of the Czech brand's SUV family, slotting below the Karoq and Kodiaq. Alongside the new Scala hatch, it'll drive it to new heights in Australia this year.
Dimensionally, the Kamiq measures 4241mm long, 150mm shorter than a Nissan Qashqai. There's 400L of luggage capacity with the rear bench in place.
Buyers can opt for central touchscreens measuring up to 9.2 inches. The 10.25-inch Virtual Cockpit digital driver's display is also available.
Expect the local models to use a 85kW/200Nm 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine with a DSG auto, and potentially a 1.5 TSI four-cylinder making 110kW and 250Nm – similar to that offered in local versions of the larger Karoq.
MORE: Skoda Kamiq articles
Volkswagen T-Cross and T-Roc
VW will broaden its formerly under-indexed SUV range with the Polo-based T-Cross and the larger T-Roc this year, in April and (roughly) August respectively.
The 4.1m long T-Cross (above) is pitched as a European-badged competitor to the likes of Mazda’s CX-3 sTouring and Hyundai’s Kona Elite. It has the same engines as those mentioned re: the Kamiq above.
The 85TSI Life entry grade will cost $27,990 before on-roads, while the 85TSI Style version will command a $3000 premium. Read the full specs here.
“The T-Cross takes Volkswagen into new territory,” claims VW Australia’s director of customer experience and marketing, Jason Bradshaw. "Previously Japanese and Korean brands have had this segment to themselves."
Meanwhile the repeatedly delayed T-Roc will be a premium offering in the segment. The launch line-up comprises the 140TSI Sport priced at $40,490 before on-road costs, and the X Special Edition ($42,990).
That puts the Vee-Dub up against the flagship Mazda CX-30 G25 Astina ($41,490) and Kia Seltos GT-Line ($40,400), and makes it a few grand pricier than a flagship Nissan Qashqai or Subaru XV. It’s also a mere $500 cheaper than a base Audi Q2 35 TFSI.
Counting in the Volkswagen’s favour, it runs a powerful drivetrain for the segment; a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder with 140kW and 320Nm mated with a seven-speed DSG and 4MOTION all-wheel-drive. Read the full specs here.