Flavours of the months
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. 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