Driving Ten road-trip-worthy SUVs set to hit Aussie highways this year

Photo of Sam Jeremic

Looking to buy a new car for road trips and off-road adventures this year? Our Motoring Editor surveys some options.

Like it or not, SUVs actually outsold passenger cars in WA for the first time ever last year. And going by the number you see out on the highways these days, travellers are just as enamoured with these high-riders as city bound folk.

So we thought we’d take a look at the new arrivals set to join the crowded Australian SUV scene in 2017.

Toyota C-HR

Given it’s been the hottest segment in the industry for a while now, the biggest car company in the world has been conspicuously absent in the baby SUV market. But that will soon change with the arrival of the C-HR, a brand-new Corolla-based SUV with some rather daring styling. We know there will be two variants, each powered by an 85kW/185Nm 1.2-litre turbo-petrol engine. Pricing is yet to be revealed but Toyota has somewhat surprisingly said it will pitch the C-HR at the premium end of the market, meaning a likely entry point of about $25,000.

Maserati Levante

You’ll be forgiven for feeling like we’ve been waiting for this for ages. The Levante was unveiled at the Geneva motor show back in March, and Maserati Australia held a local launch event revealing full pricing and spec details in July. Yet the company’s first SUV is only arriving, officially, this month. It will be the biggest-selling Maserati ever. 

Mazda CX-5

At a recent media event, a Mazda Australia staffer called the CX-5 “the gift that keeps on giving”. The medium-sized SUV has been an absolute smash since arriving in 2012 and continues to lead its segment despite growing a bit old in the tooth. In fact, Mazda admits it has tried not to mess with the CX-5 too much with this new generation: the styling is a little tweaked, there will be rear air vents, an electric tailgate and better NVH (noise, vibration, harshness) levels, but otherwise Mazda is keeping mum on what other changes there will be.

Audi Q2, Q5, Q7 Etron

A busy year for Audi! First up is a new nameplate, the Q2, which will sit below the Q3 and is aimed at a younger, funkier audience. Later will see the new-generation Q5 mid-sizer which we recently drove in Mexico and expect big things from. And also expected in 2017 is the Q7 e-tron plug-in hybrid, which will add to the very small number of plug-in hybrid SUVs available in Australia.

Skoda Kodiaq

The first seven-seat SUV from the brand, the Kodiaq sits on the same MQB architecture as the Octavia and Superb passenger cars and the VW Tiguan. Skoda’s motto is “simply clever”, and there are a lot of smart tricks in the Kodiaq: the boot light detaches to become a torch which is magnetised to stick on to the car; the doors have protection strips that flip out when you open them so it won’t bash against a wall or another car; the phone tray in the centre console has an inbuilt antenna for better reception; and the rear passenger headrests flip forward to support your head when napping.

Land Rover Discovery

If Land Rover is to be believed, the new Disco is “the best family SUV in the world”. Quite the claim, but there have been a lot of changes to the iconic off-roader. It now has a car-like monocoque body as opposed to a ladder-frame chassis set-up, which has seen it drop a heap of weight and should make it a comfy ride. But Land Rover says the Discovery is as tough as ever, thanks to a 283mm max ground clearance, a massive 900mm wading capability, 34-degree approach angle, 30-degree departure angle and 27.5-degree breakover angle.

Holden Equinox

This will give Holden a better presence in the vital medium SUV category after axing the ancient Captiva last year. If you’re wondering why there’s still a Captiva in showrooms, the bigger Captiva 7 was renamed the Captiva when the original medium-sized Captiva was canned (it’s OK if that sentence made your head hurt). The Equinox will be offered in two and AWD but will not have a seven-seat option. Engine choices are not yet confirmed but if we get the 2.0-litre turbo-petrol it will be paired with a nine-speed auto. The other engines, a 1.5-litre turbo-petrol and 1.6-litre turbo-diesel, both have a six-speed auto.

Peugeot 3008, 5008

The current 3008 has had a tough time in Australia, pitched as some weird small-hatch/SUV/people-mover combo and battling against the more sensible 2008 in the baby SUV segment. The new 3008 has no such identity issues: it’s undoubtedly a SUV and its proportions have grown to now be considered medium-sized. It’s a similar rebirth for the 5008, which in its current guise is a people mover, but will soon become a big seven-seat SUV of the same name.

Jeep Compass

Jeep Australia has made no secret it will be relying heavily on the new Compass (pictured at top) to turn around its flagging sales Down Under. Sized between the medium Cherokee and smaller Renegade, the Compass is designed to deliver a lot of interior space while also being very capable off-road thanks to a full-time all-wheel-drive system able to send up to 100 per cent of torque to any one wheel when needed.

Renault Alaskan

Alright, this is a dual cab – and it may not make it to Australia this year – but many a traveller is opting for a pick-up these days. Renault Australia says it wants the Nissan Navara-based Alaskan in local showrooms, which is no surprise given the pick-up market is so popular in this country. But Renault does have a new arrival coming in 2017: a diesel Koleos, which will offer some diversity to the brand’s medium SUV range.

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