Thursday 23 November 2017

SUPER SUVS GO THE EXTRA MILE

Geraldine Herbert looks at some of the most popular compact SUVs and crossovers on sale this year

The appeal of compact crossovers and SUVs continues to grow - and manufacturers are rushing to get in on the action. Whatever your style or budget, we've looked at some of the industry's leading models, so you don't have to.

Dacia Duster: Dacia has been a real success story in Ireland since its launch and the brand's value for money and no-nonsense approach has struck a particular chord with buyers.

6,500 Dusters have been sold here since it launched in 2012, and its recent refresh sees it now including a new top-of-the-range prestige trim, as well as being available with an automatic six-speed Efficient Dual Clutch (EDC) transmission. Overall, the Dacia Duster is a remarkably good value SUV.

The engine is a Nissan-sourced 1.5 litre diesel, from the X Trail, offering lively performance with good economy, and it is available in a choice of three trim levels and in a front wheel drive or four wheel drive setup.

On the road, the Duster drives well and the light steering is ideal for parking and negotiating busy streets.

Fittings and furnishings are basic and there is lot of plastic - but it's reasonable for the price. Scoring only three stars out of a possible five in the EuroNCAP safety rating may put some buyers off, but the Duster still makes a lot of sense financially.

Prices starting from: €16,690

Trims: Alternative, Signature, Prestige

Engine: Diesel 1.5

FORD KUGA: A new Kuga arrives in showrooms around the country this month and benefits from a revised front end with tweaked grille design and LED headlights.

Overall it is more stylish with real road presence, whether at the school gates or the supermarket car park.

Changes inside are subtle but include a larger central interface screen that allows drivers to control audio and navigation functions, as well as smartphones, using simple, more conversational voice commands, with Ford's new SYNC 3 connectivity system.

For 2017, a 1.5-litre diesel and 1.5-litre EcoBoost petrol will be added to the range, with the Kuga available in two or four-wheel drive options. The Kuga will also be offered in Vignale, Ford's highest and most expensive trim-level. With a smart interior, stylish looks and a new range of efficient engines, the Kuga is a good choice for a family car.

Prices starting from: €33,345

Trims: Titanium, ST-Line, Vignale

Engine: Petrol 1.5 Diesel 1.5, 2.0

HONDA CR-V: If you've swapped city living for a life in the countryside, you'll love the CR-V. It was redesigned last year and gained a new diesel engine, nine speed auto gearbox with a more engaging and refined driving experience.

There is one engine option in the CR-V - a 1.6 i-DTEC - but this is available as 120bhp in the 2WD version and 160bhp in the 4WD and Auto versions.

There is also a choice of a six speed manual or nine speed auto box. The compact SUV market is certainly a crowded one as motorists eagerly embrace these smaller wallet-friendly crossovers.

The 1.6 litre option is super frugal plus the CR-V is extremely spacious and ideal for anyone who covers long motorway kilometres or needs to move the family around with ease and in style.

Prices starting from: €32,575

Trims: SE, ES, ES Sport, EX

Engine: Diesel 1.6

Hyundai Tucson: Since its launch last year, the Tucson has become Ireland's best-selling car. Inside it is well laid out but it is the space that sets it apart.

Passengers can travel in comfort without compromising boot space which is one of the largest in its segment.

Power is from a 1.6 2WD petrol, a 1.7 2WD diesel or a 2.0 litre diesel that is available as a 2WD or 4WD option, and can be chosen with either the manual or automatic gearbox. Designed, built and tested in Europe, the Tucson is relaxing to drive, the steering feels satisfyingly responsive and the suspension absorbs even the worst bumps. It is easy to see why so many Irish buyers have opted for the Tucson as it makes an ideal family car.

Prices starting from: €26,245

Trims: Comfort, Comfort Plus, Executive, Premium, Premium Plus.

Engine: Petrol 1.6 Diesel 1.7, 2.0

KIA SPORTAGE: Accounting for almost 40pc of all Kia sales, the fourth-generation Sportage is a welcome addition to the range and arrived at the beginning of the year.

The exterior has been given a fresher look and inside it is a lot more classy and the increased space is immediately apparent. Passengers will have nothing to grumble about particularly those in the back where space is very generous.

Engine options include a 1.7 litre diesel with 2WD and an A all-wheel-drive (AWD) 2.0 litre diesel. Ride comfort has improved over the previous model and while there is a little body roll, the Sportage handles well and holds the road comfortably.

Well-priced, stylish and economical, the Sportage comes with a seven year warranty which helps give it good residual value.

Prices starting from: €27,995

Trims: LX, EX, GSE

Engine: Diesel 1.7. 2.0

MAZDA CX-5: Mazda's CX-5 has always been the SUV of choice if you wanted something that has the practicality and space of an MPV, but with improved performance and economy.

Revamped last year, it was given a few subtle exterior changes. With rugged styling and smart alloy wheels, changes include new LED headlights; smaller door mirrors, redesigned tail lights and a bolder grille.

The suspension has also been revised and higher levels of sound insulation promise a much more refined cabin.

Engine options include 2.0 Petrol (165ps) and a 2.2 Diesel (150ps and 175ps) in both manual and automatic. The second-generation version of the CX-5 was unveiled recently at the Los Angeles Motor Show and is likely to arrive here in the second half of the year. There may be a new one on the way but the current CX-5 is not only fun to drive but it is a practical car with plenty of room for five adults and a spacious cabin.

Prices starting from: €27,995

Trims: Executive, Executive SE, Platinum Engine: Petrol 2.0 Diesel 2.2

NISSAN JUKE:

It's the quirky, even polarizing design of the Juke that separates this crossover from competitors. Inside it is not nearly as funky, but a recent facelift has seen a number of improvements, including the extension of the boot.

In addition to the 1.5-litre diesel there is a new 1.2-litre turbo petrol alternative. There is also the go-faster Nismo - think of a Nissan GTR squeezed into a Juke body, and you might be somewhere near this impressive offering.

Behind the wheel, the Juke is easy to drive but those quirky looks hamper rear visibility, so the optional rear-view parking camera may come in handy. For 2017, a new grade called Juke SV Premium has been added to the range and includes six speakers; Nissan Connect 2 with the aforementioned rear view camera; Intelligent Key with engine start/stop button, an interior personalisation pack and heated and electric folding door mirrors

With unique styling, punchy engines and competitive price, the Juke has won many fans but it's not nearly as practical as it looks - and family buyers should stick with a Qashqai.

Prices starting from: €19,995

Trims: XE, SV, SV Premium, SVE

Engine: Petrol 1.2, 1.6 Diesel 1.5

Nissan Qashqai: Nissan may not have reinvented the wheel when they launched the Qashqai but they certainly came close and spawned a whole raft of imitators with this clever crossover. The real strength of this car lies in its practicality and versatility - it blends a hatchback and a compact 4x4 with all the flexibility and adaptability of an MPV so it makes an ideal family car.

It is now a lot classier behind the wheel and there is a much more premium feel throughout. It is also a good size with more than enough room for five adults and plenty of room for heads and shoulders. There is a choice of FWD and 4WD, 1.2 litre turbo petrol and 1.5 or 1.6 litre diesel engines. The second generation Qashqai not only has more kerb appeal but under that smart styling lurks a very tempting family car that is hard to beat.

Prices Starting From: €25,620

Trims: XE, SV, SV Premium, SVE

Engine: Petrol 1.2, 1.6 Diesel 1.5, 1.6

Opel MOKKA X: It may sound like a type of coffee but the Mokka is Opel's compact Sports Utility Vehicle and competes with established rivals such as the Skoda Yeti.

New for 2017, it has been revamped and now adds an X to its name and gains a fresh interior and updated exterior design.

From next year all SUVs from Opel will add the letter X to distinguish them from the rest of the range. A new 150bhp 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine is also available for the first time with an automatic gearbox and four-wheel drive for added traction, stability and control.

Connectivity is a key selling point of the Mokka X and it comes equipped with Opel OnStar, Opel's concierge service plus smartphone projection with voice command through Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. From young families to empty nesters, the chunky Mokka supermini-sized SUV should appeal to a broad base of customers.

Rivals may be sharper to drive but the Mokka is surprisingly roomy, comfortable. It is also very stylish, inside and out and functional so for many families it will tick all the right boxes.

Prices Starting From: €21,495

Trims: S, SC, Elite

Engine: Petrol 1.4, 1.6 Diesel 1.6

Peugeot 2008: If you are after practical family transport with a go anywhere appearance outside and a bit more space inside then the 2008 may be the one for you.

The Peugeot 2008 is based on the award-winning 208 and on the road it shows in its hatchback like handling. A face-lifted 2008 arrived in showrooms this summer with refreshed styling and better equipment throughout. Engine options include a 1.2 Petrol with 82, 100 or 130 hp or 1.6 diesel unit with 75, 100 or 120 hp.

The 2008 does not have four-wheel drive but it does however come with an optional grip control system that can be fitted on Allure models and gives you maximum grip on slippery or muddy conditions so it is a very credible alternative to traditional 4WD systems. A new sporty GT Line level was introduced this year which has Grip Control as standard.

With a chic interior, good handling and impressive running costs the 2008 is one to test drive.

Prices Starting From: €19,400

Trims: Access, Active, Allure, GT Line.

Engine: Petrol 1.2 Diesel 1.6

Renault Captur: If the SUV says function, this "crossover " is all about style. Pronounced 'capture' it is essentially a taller version of the Clio with chunkier SUV styling.

Space is good throughout and the boot takes a decent 377 litres but with the rear seats folded it will swallow up to 1,235 litres. The Captur is good around the city, while the spaciousness and high driving position gives the impression of a larger car.

Its compact proportions make it perfect for zipping around town and you can park it just about anywhere. The light steering makes easy work of city manoeuvres.

On the motorway the diesel gets a little noisy and strains when pushed but the noise is never too intrusive and the cabin is impressively quiet. Under the bonnet the Captur has either a 1.4-litre diesel or a tiny 898cc petrol engine.

The Captur is a very tempting proposition if you're looking for a stylish car with attitude that delivers economical driving on a budget.

Prices Starting From: €19,790

Trims: Life, Intense, Signature

Engine: Petrol 0.9 Diesel 1.4

Renault Kadjar: The Kadjar is the bigger brother of the Captur and its main selling point is practicality and versatility; it blends a family hatchback and a compact 4x4, like the Qashqai, but with a unique Renault look. Inside the cabin it's spacious and Kadjar drivers will enjoy the high driving position and stylish, well laid-out interior. The boot can hold 527 litres and if you're carrying something especially large, you can always fold the back seats down. You won't have to fret either about safety, the Kadjar was awarded a five-star rating from Euro NCAP and was commended on its child protection and safety systems.

There are 3 engines available - a 1.2 petrol 130bhp, 1.5 diesel 110bhp and 1.6 diesel 130bhp. The Kadjar is available as both 2 wheel drive and 4 wheel drive and in 4 trim levels.

The Qashqai has been a huge success for Nissan and Renault's version is more spacious and comes with a larger boot so it's ideal for someone who loves the practicality of a family sized crossover combined with a little style and panache.

Prices Starting From: €25, 190

Trims: Expression +, Dynamique Nav, Dynamique S Nav, Signature Nav

Engine: Petrol 1.2 Diesel 1.4, 1.6

Suzuki VITARA: It's more than 25 years since the original Vitara was launched and while Suzuki may have revived an old name, this new version bears no resemblance to the original.

Sleek and very stylish, there is more than a hint of inspiration from the current Land Rover design.

The choice of colours are bold with four very striking two-tone options available. While orange metallic trimmed with a black metallic roof is the colour of choice for standing out at the school gate, there are more subtle options.

Two and four-wheel drive versions are offered with a 1.6Petrol or 1.6 diesel offering 4.0 l/100km or 67.2 mpg and just 106g/km emissions.

The Vitara is competitively priced and well equipped. On the downside the interior is awash with harsh plastics but if you opt for the diesel with Allgrip you get a very capable off-roader.

The new Vitara is the kind of car that Suzuki has built its reputation on and offers up an appealing package for those drivers looking to step away from the pack.

Prices Starting From: €19,995

Trims: GL, GL+, GLX

Engine: Petrol 1.6 Diesel 1.6

Toyota RAV 4: When Toyota first launched their Recreational Activity Vehicle, the Rav4 it was beginning of the new compact SUV segment. Never designed to be a serious off-roader these cars are all about image and lifestyle. An all-new version launched this year. Changes outside include a slimmer front grille and LED daytime running lights while in the rear there is a restyled bumper and LED headlights. Inside there is now a 4.2-inch display screen, with a 7-inch full-colour touch screen housed in the centre console that controls the Toyota Touch 2 multimedia system.

Offered in both front- wheel drive and all-wheel drive versions there is also a hybrid option.

The cabin and the boot are very spacious, with 547 litres of boot space - opt for the Hybrid version and this decreases by 50 litres but is still better than many rivals.

Sporting a new sleek look the RAV4 remains a good choice for families looking for an efficient and spacious option.

Prices Starting From: €31,950

Trims: Luna, Luna Sport

Engine: Diesel 2.0 Hybrid 2.5 Petrol & Electric Motor

Volkswagen Tiguan: Originally launched back in 2007 the VW Tiguan has sold more than 2.8 million in 170 countries worldwide. An all new Tiguan was launched earlier this year.

With 76mm added to the wheelbase there's plenty of leg room in the front and rear and the boot is a decent size that can be extended by folding the rear seatbacks.

Engine options include a 120bhp 1.4 TSI petrol and a 2.0L 150bhp diesel version.

A 115 bhp diesel version will be also be available from early 2017.

If you need to tow anything heavy the Tiguan comes with a towing capacity of 2,500 kg.

All the safety essentials are standard including the first active bonnet on a Volkswagen that reduces the risk of injury to pedestrians and cyclists.

The VW Tiguan should be high on the shortlist for any family that needs an SUV with space, reliability and low running costs

Prices Starting From: €29,085

Trims: Trendline, Comfortline, Highline

Engine: Petrol 1.4, Diesel 2.0

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