Flavours of the months
Put them on the calendar — the 10 most important models coming our way stick with the compact formula
A WAVE of new compact SUVs and hatchbacks will arrive in showrooms this year, as the bigselling brands do battle in the most hotly contested segments of the market.
Toyota, Hyundai and Kia are after a piece of the small SUV pie and Audi is launching a Q2 for those who want to downsize their high-riding transport.
Australia’s most popular SUV, the Mazda CX-5, enters its second generation with the promise of a quieter cabin and more refined ride and the Land Rover Discovery should roll into dealerships midyear.
Three of the small-hatch heavy hitters — the VW Golf, Hyundai i30 and Kia Rio, will have new or updated models and Honda will launch the more popular hatch version of its well-received Civic.
Here are the 10 most important cars coming our way.
If seeing is believing then the Golf update will be lost on most people. The bumpers and lights have been lightly reshaped and there are new wheel designs. Of more significance is the move to a 110kW 1.5-litre engine for the base versions (up from 92kW in the current 1.4) and a host of software changes augmented by bigger infotainment screens. VW is also likely to include the latest safety tech as standard across the range, which could push prices past the current model’s $23,000 starting point.
HOLDEN ASTRA SEDAN
The European-built hatch will be joined by a Korean-built sedan based on the nextgeneration Cruze. We’re likely to get only the smaller 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder (the hatch gets a 1.6-litre turbo as well). Sedans aren’t as popular as hatches in this segment so expect prices to start below the Astra R hatch’s $21,990 when the cars arrive in the first half of this year.
Mazda’s aiming for a quiet revolution with its SUVs so the new CX-5 — due locally around May — follows on from the CX-9 in suppressing cabin noise. It is one of the few criticisms owners have of the current car, which helps explain why the styling changes are evolutionary to avoid offending the faithful. The engines are carryover but with improved outputs and efficiency. Expect the base variant to be priced below $30,000 before on-roads.
One in seven SUVs sold in Australia has a Toyota badge — and the company doesn’t even compete in the small softroader segment. That will change in February with the arrival of the radical-looking C-HR. The five-door “CoupeHigh Rider” will be sold in just two trim levels and in front and all-wheel drive guises, competing against the likes of the Mazda CX-3 and Mitsubishi ASX. Carsguide predicts a starting price of about $25,000, which is expensive for the class. Toyota is expected to offset the steeper pricing by making adaptive cruise control and autonomous emergency braking standard. It will be a big year for Australia’s most popular brand, as a new Kluger and Camry also will debut.
The five-door Rio hatch launches later this month with a 1.4-litre engine and a bigger, more upmarket interior. Those wanting more performance will have to wait until the 1.0-litre
turbo engine arrives midyear, along with a six-speed automatic in place of the carryover four-cog auto. A fiveinch infotainment screen will be standard but auto-braking is tipped to be an option on lowerspec models. Kia will have a new Picanto baby hatch this year and a baby SUV shortly after the Hyundai twin debuts.
HYUNDAI SMALL SUV
There isn’t even an official name for this baby soft-roader yet but Australian buyers can still expect to see it late in the year. Likely to be revealed at the Geneva motor show in March, it is tipped to be based on the i30 platform, which will give it a size advantage over Mazda’s strongselling CX-3. Hyundai has been late to the small SUV party and is rushing to make amends. Hyundai will also launch an allnew version of its best-selling i30 in the second quarter of 2017 with sharp new styling, more powerful engines and a more complete arsenal of safety technology.
HONDA CIVIC HATCH
The Civic sedan is going gangbusters but hatches are the heart of the small-car segment and Honda has its new one here in April. The hatch has been styled as a sportier proposition to its four-door sibling, complete with a pair of exhausts in the middle of the big rear diffuser and an underbody aero kit. Trim levels and engines will be shared by the two vehicles, meaning an entry level 1.8-litre and a better-performing turbo 1.5-litre.
The EcoSport was shown in Los Angeles in November with a substantially updated interior and exterior and no spare wheel on the sideways-opening rear tailgate. The US outfit opted to ditch the ugly and unwieldy setup in favour of a tyre repair kit and the revised EcoSport looks better for it. The interior overhaul is intended to appeal to younger buyers and includes Ford’s newest Sync3 infotainment software. The car launches late this year and, depending on spec, prices shouldn’t rise much over the $21,000 starting price for the current model.
The last Compass didn’t do Jeep any favours but this one looks as if it’s heading in the right direction. The exterior styling is based on the Grand Cherokee and the interior will look familiar to modern Jeep owners. Jeep hasn’t commented on features, engines or pricing other than to say the Compass will sit between the $26,000 Renegade and $36,000 Cherokee. There are two and all-wheel drive versions and the Trailhawk variant picks up a 20:1 crawl drive. It is due late in the year.
The XV is essentially a highriding Impreza and the new model due midyear will mirror the specification of the impressive new small sedan. The “Eyesight” active driving aids are likely as standard in the top two variants. Pricing: about $28,000. The XV should match the sedan‘s annual services (in place of six-month intervals) and cheaper servicing costs.
FORD ECOSPORT KIA RIO
SUBARU XV HOLDEN ASTRA