Australians love mid-sized SUVs.
Where once upon a time keeping up with the Joneses was about which Commodore or Falcon was in the driveway, in 2023 it’s about whether you went for a RAV4, CR-V, or Outlander.
Manufacturers have taken notice, and there’s a wealth of options in Australia in 2022.
We’ve used VFACTS data, compiled by the peak body for carmakers in Australia, to put together the following list of options – with one caveat.
The Tesla Model Y is charging up the sales charts, and we believe it represents a very real alternative to the cars listed below. With that in mind, it’s been added to the list.
More of these stories are coming for other categories and price points, so don’t worry if your preferred car isn’t on this list.
- BYD Atto 3
- Citroen C5 Aircross
- Cupra Formentor
- Ford Escape
- GWM Haval H6
- Honda CR-V
- Honda ZR-V
- Hyundai Tucson
- Kia Sportage
- Mazda CX-5
- MG HS
- Mitsubishi Outlander
- Nissan X-Trail
- Peugeot 3008
- Peugeot 5008
- Renault Koleos
- Skoda Karoq
- SsangYong Korando
- Subaru Forester
- Tesla Model Y
- Toyota RAV4
- Volkswagen Tiguan
Here are our picks.
No wonder mid-sized SUVs make up the biggest selling segment in Australia by a huge margin – there’s so much talent on offer.
At the top of my shopping list are the Cupra Formentor and Honda’s ZR-V e:HEV, with pretty much equal billing.
The Cupra is the decidedly sporty option with head-turning styling, great colours, and sharp handling, especially in value-for-money VZ spec.
But it’s the Honda that gets my money, but only in the top-spec e:HEV LX trim. The extra oomph from the hybrid powertrain eliminates any low-down lag, so it feels peppy around town and wonderfully fuel efficient at the same time.
The chassis is simply outstanding, which translates into excellent ride and handling attributes – and thus it’s still highly ranked on the fun-to-drive metre.
I love the styling, but it’s the quality of the materials, fit and finish inside, as well as clever space packaging that make this SUV such a desirable and complete package to me.
The Volkswagen Tiguan is set to be replaced soon, but it would still be my pick.
The Tiguan Allspace Adventure, with its massive boot, powerful engine, simple interior, and small wheels would suit me perfectly. The fact you get snow chains thrown in for free is a win.
With longer rear doors, more rear legroom, and a bigger boot than the regular model, it ticks a lot of boxes if you’re looking for a family car but don’t need seven seats – or if you want to be able to take your mates to the snow in comfort.
I would buy a Cupra Formentor simply because of its uniqueness.
It has some quirks, like the air-con system controls not lighting up at night but other than that, it’s a really good-looking car (baby Urus?) and drives as good as it looks.
You might get sick of people asking you what it is, though. I had one for a little while and one guy asked me if it was a body kit on an Urus…
There would be a couple of cars I could’ve picked, but I’d get bored of them fairly quickly… whereas the Volkswagen Tiguan R would satisfy me.
It combines performance with practicality, although the price jumps into the luxury car segment.
I had the chance to test drive one last year and it ticked a few boxes that other cars within the segment were not able to.
I am very keen for the new model to come through in the coming 12-24 months to see how Volkswagen can improve an already well-rounded SUV.
The Kia Sportage still stands out to me as a mid-sized SUV I’d actually buy.
I’ve experienced multiple flavours of the current-generation Sportage to date and think I’d opt for either an SX+ or GT-Line with the turbo-diesel engine.
The 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine packs a punch and is extremely smooth, which complements the Sportage’s high-tech interior. It’s worth mentioning there’s more space than ever, thanks in part to the longer wheelbase on the new model.
I’d buy a Tesla Model Y.
It’s arguably one of the most boring cars out of all those listed, but it’s an absolute bargain when you consider what you get for the money at the entry level.
Storage is best in segment, tech is best in segment, and you get electric vehicle technology, which currently demands a significant premium. The other upshot is the level of subsidies available across most states (except Victoria, which has killed its EV subsidy and is currently passing the hat around to help pay its bills).
Some would argue the entry-level model doesn’t have the range they need in comparison to an internal combustion engine vehicle, but for most Australians it’s fine.
We are at a crossroads, though. Despite record levels of renewable energy in the system, electricity prices are skyrocketing – so it may not be the right time to buy an EV if you’re on the grid without solar and are buying solely to save money on fuel.
While the Cupra Formentor would likely be the favourite for my bachelor lifestyle, I feel that many buying in this segment have one or two kids to consider.
Back in the day my parents moved from a Mitsubishi Galant to a 2000 Honda CR-V when my brother was born, which eventually became my first car.
I don’t think the latest CR-V does it for family man JWo in 2023, but the Nissan X-Trail e-Power with e-4orce would – provided I didn’t have to say its full name constantly.
While not quite as efficient as its RAV4 Hybrid equivalent, the X-Trail e-Power with dual e-motors is powerful, refined, and in top-spec Ti-L trim impressively plush for a mainstream vehicle.
Unfortunately we don’t get a seven-seat option in Australia as yet, but the X-Trail has plenty of space for a growing family, with enough luxuries to boot.
Perhaps when the Hyundai Tucson Hybrid and Kia Sportage Hybrid launch in Australia, I may find it a little harder to choose…
The mid-sized SUV segment is often accused of being boring, but there are a few options that appeal to me: the Nissan X-Trail e-Power is parsimonious and refined, while the smaller Mazda CX-5 G35 is punchy and enjoyable to drive.
Seeing as I don’t have kids yet, however, outright space isn’t as important as driving dynamics. Therefore, I feel compelled to pick the mid-sized SUV that feels the least like a mid-sized SUV: the Cupra Formentor.
I actually forgot this was even classified as a mid-sizer by VFACTS because while it’s not cramped, it’s no Haval H6 inside. But where it appeals the most is in its dynamics and its styling, which are more like a Cupra Leon than any other SUV at this end of the market. The interior is stylish too, if not without its share of annoyances.
I’ve only driven the VZx thus far but I loved every minute of it. I could be tempted by the other variants, however.