Saturday 24 February 2018

Small Wonders: Little SUVs are big business

 

Audi Q2
Audi Q2
Geraldine Herbert

Geraldine Herbert

If you are looking for a crossover or small SUV there are plenty to choose from as the sector is booming. We look at some of the best selling stylish and value-for-money models available

Audi Q2

Looking more like a beefier A3 than a full blown SUV, the low-riding sporty coupé styling will appeal to those who value a more understated approach. The engine range includes a choice of petrol engines - a 1-litre 115 bhp or a 1.4-litre 150 bhp, while diesel options include the 1.6-litre 115 bhp or 2-litre with either 150 bhp or 190 bhp output. The 1.4-litre petrol 150 bhp with the dual-clutch S-Tronic transmission has more than enough oomph, so it's a good option for low-mileage motorists, but the 1.6 TDI diesel is likely to prove the more popular and would be the one to go for if you are going to make this car work for its keep. The Q2 was awarded the full five-star rating when tested by Euro NCAP for safety.

Citroen C4 Cactus
Citroen C4 Cactus

The head-turning looks of the Q2 are matched by a high-quality interior but be warned: this premium product comes with a premium price tag.

Price starts from €30,100

Citroen C4 CACTUS

The name may evoke images of a sandy desert but the natural habitat of Citroën's new C4 Cactus is the supermarket car park. The distinctive plastic panels fixed to the doors, known as Airbumps, are to protect from bangs and dents to doors caused by wayward supermarket trolleys, so it makes an ideal small family car. Slip behind the wheel and it is comfortable with beautifully cosseting seats. Look closely at the dash and the lack of a rev counter suggests this is not a car for setting scorching lap times at the Nürburgring but rather a comfortable cruiser that is all about practical family motoring. There is a choice of 1.2 petrol or a 1.6 diesel engine and our pick is the 1.6 that promises an incredibly healthy average of up to 3.1l/100km (91mpg) with CO2 emissions of just 89g/km. The Cactus missed out on a full five-star rating when tested by the EuroNCAP due to the lack of some safety assist features. The styling may not be to everyone's taste but the Cactus is well worth a look, particularly if price is your primary focus.

Price starts from €18,020

Ford EcoSport
Ford EcoSport

Ford EcoSport

Ford's Fiesta-based SUV, the EcoSport, hasn't been the most successful in its line up but it was updated for 2016. New features were added including a Winter Pack that offers a heated windscreen, EATC, heated mirrors and heated front seats, as well as rear-seat ventilation at floor level to improve comfort for rear passengers in cold weather. Quality in the cabin was given a much-needed improvement and it now sports a new high-quality leather finish for the steering wheel with a charcoal black lower instrument panel, centre console and door boards. Powering the range is a choice of three engines: 1.5-litre TDCi, 1.0-litre EcoBoost and a 1.5-litre Ti-VCT. The EcoSport is a good all-round small SUV but its not quite on a par with the rest of the Ford range or indeed many rivals. A new EcoSport will launch in March 2018 and will feature an all-new 1.5-litre Ford EcoBlue diesel engine and Intelligent All Wheel Drive.

Price starts from €22,995

Mazda CX-3

Based on the Mazda 2, the CX-3 combines rugged looks and a high-riding driving position. Featuring Mazda's signature look, the CX-3 is a good-looking car and could easily be mistaken for a CX-5 from a distance. Four trim levels are available: SE, Executive, Executive SE and GT. The range-topping GT adds 18" diamond-cut alloy wheels and a Bose surround-sound system. Inside it is nicely finished and a 7" touchscreen and cruise control are standard but the stylish exterior means a compromise with space, so it's a little cramped and visibility is not great. The CX-3 is available as a 2-litre petrol Skyactiv-G (120ps) in front wheel drive and 1.5-litre diesel Skyactiv-D (105ps) in both front and four-wheeldrive versions. Overall, safety features are good and the CX-3 was awarded four out of five stars by Euro NCAP. With very smart styling and driving dynamics that outclass many rivals, Mazda has packed a lot into such a small package.

Price starts from €20,995

Mazda CX-3
Mazda CX-3

Mitsubishi ASX

In this very competitive sector of the car market, Mitsubishi's Active Sports Crossover ASX has slipped quietly under the radar. Available in just two-wheel-drive, the ASX is aimed at people who want the styling of a car but the space and agility of a crossover. Revamped last year, it's now more stylish and comes with more equipment. Mitsubishi have made the ASX less 'boxy' to keep it from looking like other SUVs, so that it looks more like a hatchback on a heightened platform. The 1.6 diesel is punchy, economical and refined on the road. In terms of safety, the ASX achieved the full five stars when tested but these were completed before the introduction of the Euro NCAP's latest and most stringent assessment criteria.

Mitsubishi's smallest SUV is not going to scoop any style awards but it is well priced and equipped, interior quality is good - but in this competitive market the ASX just doesn't stand out enough.

Price starts from €24,450

Nissan Juke

The Juke's quirky design is still as eye-catching as when it first launched but design alone is not enough to tempt buyers. Inside, two adults can fit in the back, but a third will need to be on good terms with the others as it is quite tight for space. Despite the SUV pretensions, the Juke is a little larger than a Ford Fiesta. On the road it's good to drive thanks to perky engines, taut handling and stiff suspension. Buyers can choose from a 1.2 and 1.6 petrol or a 1.5 diesel and four trims: XE, SV, SV Premium and SVE. The Juke fares well for safety systems and was awarded five stars when Euro NCAP tested it in 2011. When revamped in 2014, safety was also enhanced. Those quirky crossover looks and good driving dynamics make the Juke decent value for money and while it's beginning to look its age, it is still the one to opt for if you want to stand out from the crowd.

Mitsubishi ASX
Mitsubishi ASX

Price starts from €19,995

Opel Mokka X

It may sound like a strong type of coffee but from young families to empty-nesters, the Opel's new supermini-sized SUV is designed to suit a range of lifestyles. Recently facelifted, Opel added an X to the name, a new moniker for all of Opel's crossovers and SUVs.

Inside is where the biggest changes have occurred and the complicated dash with the myriad buttons of old is a distant memory. The sophisticated layout is much less cluttered and the controls are far more intuitive to use and behind the wheel it is sharper to drive, smooth and controlled. Powering the range is a 1.6-litre petrol engine. It is also available in front-wheel-drive, AWD and in manual and automatic form. The new version has not been tested by the Euro NCAP but its predecessor achieved the full five stars. The new model is a big improvement on the old and offers smart styling, decent economy and keen pricing.

Price starts from €21,495

Peugeot 2008

If you are after practical family transport with a go-anywhere appearance outside and a bit more space inside, then this may be the one for you. The Peugeot 2008 is based on the 208 but is higher, longer and wider than its hatchback sibling. Engine options include a 1.2 petrol or 1.4 diesel and two 1.6 diesel units and all come with good economy and low emissions.

Nissan Juke
Nissan Juke

Three versions of the 2008 are offered - Access, Active and Allure - and while the 2008 does not have four-wheel-drive, it does come with an optional grip-control system that can be fitted on Allure models to provide maximum grip on slippery or muddy conditions so it is a very credible alternative to traditional 4WD systems. With a very chic interior and good handling. the 2008 is one of the best compact SUVs on the market - plus it's a safe family car option and received a full five-star crash-test rating from safety experts Euro NCAP.

Price starts from €19,400

Renault CAPTUR

Renault's best-selling vehicle in Ireland and Europe's best-selling urban crossover in 2016 was revamped this year with revised styling, new features and more technology. The Captur continues to be powered by the same set of petrol and diesel engines but gains two new ones: a 120hp version of the 1.2-litre turbo petrol and a 110hp version of the 1.5-litre turbo diesel. Five-speed manual gearboxes are offered on the smaller engines and six speeds on the larger. Whichever you choose, fuel economy is good with particularly impressive figures from the 1.5 dCi that returns a claimed 3.7l/100km. Well-proportioned, practical and brimming with French flair, the Captur is a really a good choice for families. For 2017 Renault have wisely chosen not to radically revamp it but rather with sharper styling, more engines and few nice touches inside they have managed to enhance the appeal of this compact crossover. The Captur is still a stylish car with attitude that delivers economical driving on a budget.

Opel Mokka-X
Opel Mokka-X

Price starts from €19,790

Toyota C-HR

Toyota's C-HR is certainly the one to stand out in at the supermarket car park. C-HR stands for Coupe-High Rider and it sports a sleek coupe-shape roofline, bulging wheel arches and sharp creases. Inside it is surprisingly roomy, even in the back, although kids may find their vision slightly compromised by the upward-sloping rear windows. The CH-R was awarded the full five stars when crash tested by the Euro NCAP this year.

There's no diesel option, just one 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol and a 1.8-litre petrol/electric hybrid. If you're doing your bit for the planet, the hybrid model will save you plenty of trips to the pumps by returning 3.8l/100km (74.33mpg). There are three trim levels - Luna, Luna Sport and Sol - to fit all budgets. Stylish, lively and green, the C-HR will appeal to the young and the young at heart, injecting some real fun into the compact SUV sector.

Price starts from €26,895

Peugeot 2008
Peugeot 2008
Renault Captur
Renault Captur
Toyota CH-R
Toyota CH-R

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