Hyundai’s Kona is well-suited to the urban crawl. Picture: Supplied.
Hyundai’s Kona is well-suited to the urban crawl. Picture: Supplied.

Which small SUV should I buy?

THE QUESTION

Linda wants to trade in her small but reliable Hyundai i30 hatchback. She'd like to sit a bit higher for easier entry and exit. Apart from gravel roads, no adventuring is planned. Our choices are between the Honda HR-V VTi-S, Hyundai Kona Elite, Hyundai Tucson Active X, Kia Sportage Si, Toyota RAV4 GXL, Ford EcoSport Titanium and Holden Trax LT. I like the Hyundai as the i30's been great. Linda's quite taken with the Honda but there's a query on road noise.

Chris and Linda Hill

 

ANSWER

Your long list reflects how crowded the SUV segment is: great for buyers as there are loads of brands seeking your business. Your list includes medium SUVs, and if it's just the two of you, there's no need to spend more. Stick with small SUVs. They're similar size to your Hyundai i30 but with all-important elevated ride height.

Well-packaged: Honda’s HR-V. Picture: Thomas Wielecki.
Well-packaged: Honda’s HR-V. Picture: Thomas Wielecki.

 

CHOICES

Honda HR-V VTi-S, $31,462 drive-away

Linda's right to be drawn to the HR-V, it's a superb package. Sharp looks with LED headlights, decent safety inclusions, satnav,
17-inch alloys and cabin space and versatility to shame some medium-sized SUVs. Its Magic Seats give endless smart folding options to carry a great variety of tall or long items. Its continuously variable transmission and average engine performance mean driving joy is missing and the infotainment is basic. Some owners report marked road noise and the VTi-S doesn't have extra sound deadening of higher grade
HR-Vs. Test one on the highway to judge. Five-year warranty is good, service intervals are 10,000km but cost just $880 over three years. Consider paying $2000 more for a Luxe version with leather heated seats and metallic paint.

Funky looks and decent cabin space: Hyundai Kona.
Funky looks and decent cabin space: Hyundai Kona.

 

Hyundai Kona Elite, $33,873 drive-away

The Kona's funky looking with decent cabin space for its size and Elite grade is the sweet spot between value and inclusions. Its 2.0-litre engine is no firecracker - if you fancy, a turbo 1.6-litre with all-wheel drive is nearly $4000 more - but the Kona cruises comfortably and handles well, has strong active safety inclusions and the infotainment with smartphone mirroring is excellent. Boot and rear space can't rival the Honda but services are cheaper ($792 for three years) and warranty's five years.

Fun to drive and edgy design: Toyota C-HR. Picture: Supplied.
Fun to drive and edgy design: Toyota C-HR. Picture: Supplied.

 

Toyota C-HR 2WD, $30,990 drive-away

Polarising styling but the C-HR is well equipped, cheap to own and run, and the cabin has a quality feel. Its 1.2-litre turbo and CVT combo don't thrill but Toyota's done a cracking job of mixing ride comfort with cornering balance. Above all, it's really easy to drive but its edgy design creates some blind spots. You get 17-inch alloys, satnav, dual-zone climate control and excellent active safety. Infotainment is behind the Hyundai's and rear seats and boot space are well shy of the Honda's. Warranty is also five years and servicing is a give-away $585 over three years.

Turbo power: Suzuki Vitara. Picture: Supplied.
Turbo power: Suzuki Vitara. Picture: Supplied.

 

WILDCARD

Suzuki Vitara 1.4 Turbo 2WD, $30,990 d/a

If the drive experiences of the above bring yawns, test the turbo Vitara. It uses a more conventional auto gearbox, is the lightest of our options (only 1185kg) and has zesty performance. Its leather and suede cabin looks the business, active safety is strong and you get satnav, Apple CarPlay and LED headlights. Servicing is every six months and comes to a massive $1438 over three years.

 

VERDICT

If your Hyundai i30 has served you well, stay brand loyal and get the Kona. If cabin space is more important, you can't go wrong with the Honda. Ask the dealer for a deal sweetener to sway you. If you can wait another few months, sample the new $29,990 (before on-roads) Ford Focus Active - a 2WD hatchback like your i30 but with loftier ride height.



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