Top 10 Compact SUVs: Test

Top 10 Compact SUVs: Test

We put 10 popular compact SUVs through their paces, both on tarmac and off the beaten track.

All the vehicles tested are the popular petrol automatics, most of them in mid-spec guise. Testing them both on- and off-road, as well as their performance and economy, we drove them with four adults on board to see how they cope with a load.

In rating the vehicles we gave special priority to those with, firstly, a full-size spare and, secondly, a high-mounted engine air intake, as these are both critical parameters if you wish to take these vehicles off-road.

Top 10 Compact SUV's 

1st: Subaru Forester 2.5i-L - Uniquely different!

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The Subaru Forester is unique in a few significant ways. Instead of the class-typical arrangement of an in-line four-cylinder mounted east-west, the Forester has a four-cylinder horizontally opposed (‘boxer’) engine mounted north-south.

In terms of interior space, the Forester’s cabin is comfortable and roomy, although the rear-seat passengers sit lower than seems necessary. Boot space is also a little compromised by the floor, which is raised to accommodate the full-size spare that’s unique to Australian-market models.

Read a review of the 2016 Subaru Forester

Still, it wins in this contest thanks to the fact that it does nothing wrong and just about everything well. It’s a genuine all-rounder and no doubt benefits from the vast experience that Subaru has with this type of vehicle.

Specifications: Subaru Forester 2.5i-L

  • Engine 2.5-litre ‘boxer’ 4-cyl petrol
  • Power/Torque 126kW/235Nm
  • Gearbox/4x4 system CVT/Full-time
  • Tyre/wheel spec 225/60R17 99H 
  • Full-size spare Yes
  • Kerb weight 1479kg
  • GVM/payload 2015kg/536kg
  • Towing 1500kg
  • Fuel tank 60 litres
  • On-test consumption 11.4 litres/100km
  • 80-120km/h 7.0 seconds
  • Price $35,990 (plus on-roads)

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2nd: Mitsubishi Outlander LS - Room to move

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This third-generation Outlander is one of the newest vehicles here, having been released in Japan in mid-2012 and arriving in Australia late that year for the 2013 model year. In March this year it received a facelift that included a suspension rework, tweaks to the CVT, new NVH control measures for the petrol engines and a styling refresh.

Additional practical points include the biggest payload and a 1600kg towing capacity, all of which help make the Outlander a very practical choice as
a family getaway vehicle.

Specifications: Mitsubishi Outlander LS (7-Seat)

  • Engine 2.4-litre 4-cyl petrol
  • Power/Torque 124kW/220Nm
  • Gearbox/4x4 system CVT/On-demand
  • Tyre/wheel spec 225/55R18 98H 
  • Full-size spare Yes
  • Kerb weight 1530kg
  • GVM/payload 2210kg/680kg
  • Towing 1600kg
  • Fuel tank 60 litres
  • On-test consumption 12.6 litres/100km
  • 80-120km/h 7.1 seconds
  • Price $36,490 (plus on-roads)

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3rd: Hyundai ix35 Elite - The all rounder

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For the past 10 years Hyundai has been the fastest-growing car company in the world and it has achieved that thanks to vehicles that are well equipped, nicely finished and offer good value for money. And despite some early glitches, build quality and reliability are now also part of the Hyundai experience.

As part of the Series II upgrade the ix35 received locally tuned suspension (springs, dampers and anti-roll bars) as well as new sub-frame mounts to help reduce cabin NVH. The result is a vehicle with tight, relatively neutral handing
and a ‘sporty’ feel to the way it steersand drives.

Specifications: Hyundai ix35 Elite AWD

  • Engine 2.4-litre 4-cyl petrol
  • Power/Torque 136kW/240Nm
  • Gearbox/4x4 system 6-speed auto/On-demand
  • Tyre/wheel spec 225/60R17 99H
  • Full-size spare Yes
  • Kerb weight 1585kg
  • GVM/payload 2060kg/475kg
  • Towing 1600kg
  • Fuel tank 58 litres
  • On-test consumption 10.4 litres/100km
  • 80-120km/h 7.7 seconds
  • Price $35,990 (plus on-roads)

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4th: Renault Koleos Bose - A golden oldie

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The Renault Koleos is the last of the four vehicles here that satisfies our two critical off-road criteria: it has both a full-size spare and a high-mounted engine air intake. But they are by no means its only virtues.

Inside though, the Koleos feels small, particularly in the rear seat, although luggage space is reasonable. It’s also the only vehicle here with the handy advantage of a split tailgate. Another bonus is the 2000kg towing capacity, the equal best here.

Specifications: Renault Koleos Bose AWD

  • Engine 2.5-litre 4-cyl petrol
  • Power/Torque 126kW/226Nm
  • Gearbox/4x4 system CVT/On-demand
  • Tyre/wheel spec 225/60R17 99H 
  • Full-size spare Yes
  • Kerb weight 1721kg
  • GVM/payload 2200kg/479kg
  • Towing 2000kg
  • Fuel tank 65 litres
  • On-test consumption 13.3 litres/100km
  • 80-120km/h 7.5 seconds
  • Price $38,990 (plus on-roads)

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5th: Toyota RAV4 GXL - Class staple

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The RAV4 is one of the biggest and heaviest vehicles in this test, and offers mid-field performance combined with fuel economy that’s towards the back of the class.

Off-road the RAV4 is a mixed bag. It comes standard with a temporary spare, but a full-size is available for an additional $300. A full-size spare would eat into the available boot space though, which is good without being great. Inside the cabin there’s plenty of space for the rear-seat passengers and comfortable seats for those up front.

Specifications: Toyota RAV4 GXL AWD

  • Engine 2.2-litre 4-cyl petrol
  • Power/Torque 132kW/233Nm
  • Gearbox/4x4 system 6-speed auto/On-demand
  • Tyre/wheel spec 225/65R17 102H 
  • Full-size spare Optional (+ $300)
  • Kerb weight 1618kg
  • GVM/payload 2130kg/512kg
  • Towing 1500kg
  • Fuel tank 60 litres
  • On-test consumption 13.0 litres/100km
  • 80-120km/h 7.1 seconds
  • Price $38,190 (plus on-roads)

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6th: Honda CR-V VTi-L - The surprise packet!

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This Honda CR-V is the fourth generation of a vehicle line that dates back the better part of 20 years. Over that time the various CR-Vs have not rated too highly off-road, but this latest-generation model ticks a number of off-road boxes.

The engine, which likes lots of revs, is a mid-field runner in both economy and performance, although the five-speed auto is one of the better ones in this test.

Specifications: Honda CR-V VTi-L

  • Engine 2.4-litre 4-cyl petrol
  • Power/Torque 140kW/222Nm
  • Gearbox/4x4 system 5-speed auto/On-demand
  • Tyre/wheel spec 225/60R18 100H 
  • Full-size spare Yes
  • Kerb weight 1580kg
  • GVM/payload 2100kg/520kg
  • Towing 1500kg
  • Fuel tank 58 litres
  • On-test consumption 12.0 litres/100km
  • 80-120km/h 7.2 seconds
  • Price $42,290 (plus on-roads)

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7th: Mazda CX-5 Maxx Sport - The people's choice

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Mazda’s CX-5 is Australia’s most popular SUV and even out-sells the likes of Toyota’s ever-popular Prado and Jeep’s new sales star, the Grand Cherokee. As a road car the CX-5 is hard to fault. 

The cabin is about middle-of-class for space, although the boot is relatively shallow. A 1800kg tow rating is a bonus.

Specifications: Mazda CX-5 Maxx Sport

  • Engine 2.5-litre 4-cyl petrol
  • Power/Torque 138kW/250Nm
  • Gearbox/4x4 system 6-speed auto/On-demand
  • Tyre/wheel spec 225/65R17 102V 
  • Full-size spare No
  • Kerb weight 1559kg
  • GVM/payload 2071kg/512kg
  • Towing 1800kg
  • Fuel tank 58 litres
  • On-test consumption 11.1 litres/100km
  • 80-120km/h 6.5 seconds
  • Price $36,620 (plus on-roads)

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 8th: Volkswagen Tiguan 132TSI Pacific - Euro Alternative

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Driving the Tiguan after the other vehicles here feels so different it’s almost like it comes from another planet. It’s easily the quietest and the most refined and has a solid, substantial feel that none of the others come close to matching.

The Tiguan’s on-road dynamics are also first class. However, its small and somewhat drab interior is a disappointment. Worst of all is the tiny boot, the Tiguan’s Achilles heel. Although the Tiguan is ranked behind the CX-5, there’s really nothing in it – it just depends on your priorities.

Specifications: Volkswagen Tiguan 132TSI Pacific

  • Engine 2.0-litre turbo 4-cyl petrol
  • Power/Torque 132kW/280Nm
  • Gearbox/4x4 system 7-speed DSG/On-demand
  • Tyre/wheel spec 215/65R16 98H 
  • Full-size spare No
  • Kerb weight 1626kg
  • GVM/payload N/A
  • Towing 2000kg
  • Fuel tank 64 litres
  • On-test consumption 12.6 litres/100km
  • 80-120km/h 6.1 seconds
  • Price $36,390 (plus on-roads)

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 9th: Nissan X-Trail ST-L - Family focus

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The X-Trail is the newest vehicle in our test, and it’s a significant departure from both its first- and second-generation incarnations. Where the earlier X-Trails were very much at home off-road, this new model prioritises comfort, space and interior packaging, making it arguably now more of a ‘crossover’ vehicle than a compact SUV.

On the road the X-Trail feels big in this company and offers a soft ride that can get unruly when the vehicle is laden and on poor roads. Plenty of bodyroll too, and not the best in terms of steering response and dynamic ability.

Specifications: Nissan X-Trail ST-L

  • Engine 2.5-litre 4-cyl petrol
  • Power/Torque 126kW/226Nm
  • Gearbox/4x4 system CVT/On-demand
  • Tyre/wheel spec 225/65R17 102H 
  • Full-size spare No
  • Kerb weight 1543kg
  • GVM/payload 2080kg/537kg
  • Towing 1500kg
  • Fuel tank 60 litres
  • On-test consumption 11.5 litres/100km
  • 80-120km/h 7.0 seconds
  • Price $36,190 (plus on-roads)

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10th: Ford Kuga Trend EcoBoost - Drivers delight


CB-172In many ways the Ford Kuga doesn’t deserve to finish at the tail of this field. If it weren’t for a number of off-road and practicality shortcomings it would in fact be right up the top of this list.

Off-road the Kuga has the benefit of decent wheel travel and good approach and departure angles, but that’s where the good news stops. One other significant negative is the very modest 1200kg towing capacity.

Specifications: Ford Kuga Trend EcoBoost AWD

  • Engine 1.6-litre turbo 4-cyl petrol
  • Power/Torque 134kW/240Nm
  • Gearbox/4x4 system 6-speed auto/On-demand
  • Tyre/wheel spec 235/50R18 97H 
  • Full-size spare No
  • Kerb weight 1657kg
  • GVM/payload N/A
  • Towing 1200kg
  • Fuel tank 60 litres
  • On-test consumption 11.4 litres/100km
  • 80-120km/h 7.7 seconds
  • Price $36,240 (plus on-roads)

 

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