Honey I Shrunk the Car: the Coming of the Compact SUV
The ‘crossover’ basically a car with the handling and ride style of a hatchback but the height and brawn of a 4×4, is still steadily increasing in sales in the UK. Their popularity is a no brainer for many – they combine the practicality and feeling of security of the bigger version while remaining economic to buy, cheaper o run and more flexible fro urban driving, which is what most of us use them for. The larger SUV style car has been in vogue amongst celebs and fashionista’s for some time, but given their running costs the disdain with which many urbanites treat these ‘Chelsea tractor’ drivers, it was clear that something new was required.
It’s a competitive market, with virtually every manufacturer giving their take on this new version of the family drive. The Japanese manufacturers were quick on the uptake, and their original model, the Nissan Qashqai, was a trailblazer in the market as a reliable, infinitely driveable family car with beefy looks and plenty of space, and is still well loved by critics and owners alike for its value, reliability and sense. The marmite style of the Juke raised some eyebrows a bit later, it’s rounded face and froggy ‘eyes’ gaining it fans and detractors every where it went.
We also like the Kia Sportage for its handsome good looks and sporty feel, and like all Kia’s, comes with their trademark 7 year warranty as well as being packed to the gills with equipment, including alloys, air con and mobile connectivity. Its also a good bet according to a 5 star NCAP crash test rating. It’s not our favourite in terms of performance, but is an improvement over older models and perfectly adequate for most.
The Dacia Duster has caused a bit of stir recently, based more on 8its entry level price than any astounding entry to the market, but is worth a look for the budget conscious. True, the basic models come with literally no spec at all, not in Diesel, and not even with a radio, so it will cost a bit more if you want to jump to any of those. It’s actually a pleasant enough drive, based on its Renault / Nissan B0 platform, and has enough guts and personality to make up for it’s lack of gadgetry.
We haven’t see the Citroen C4 Cactus in the flesh just yet, but it looks good on paper – Citroen have really upped their game in recent years and this compact SUV is no exception – light, quirky and affordable with some customisable features including the bubble wrap style air bumps on the front, rear and side panels.
The Skoda Yeti will perhaps feel more familiar to hatchback drivers as this is somehow car like but with adaptable space and surprisingly driveable four-wheel drive in the Outdoor spec. As always with the Skoda, you get the VW engine but at considerably less cost.
Renault Captur is based on the ever popular Clio, managing to capture its essence while evolving it into a surprisingly stylish bulkier version. We think the removable and washable covers are particularly family friendly, and its pretty fuel efficient too.
At the upper end of the market, its definitely worth looking at the Audi Q3. This is a beefed up A3, with all the drive quality and specifications you’d expect, plus the chunk and superior drive position of an SUV. Somewhat ironically, Mini also have an offering here, the Countryman, a slightly podgier version of its little brother, but actually, this is a spacious, fun option with the typical Mini drive and high spec interior. Pricey as Mini’s can be, but certainly a head turner.