Medium-sized SUVs are all the rage in Australia and it’s easy to see why. SUV stands for Sports Utility Vehicle, which is a fancy way of saying ‘a larger car built for a range of purposes’. More than anything else, medium-sized SUVs are versatile. You can choose between automatic, manual, diesel, petrol, hybrid and a wide range of technologies that make driving safer and more comfortable.
Compared to a hatchback, the best medium SUVs in Australia give you more room – for shopping, pets, camping gear, long-limbed teenagers or anything else you want to bring with you. Fold-down seats can add to existing cargo space. And because they’re so popular, medium SUVs have a healthy resale value.
Even if you don’t plan to bounce up the side of a rugged mountain, a medium size SUV offers better off-road capability than a sedan and can handle tougher road conditions. It’s also great for towing. You get just as much comfort and high-tech safety gear as a sedan while enjoying advantages in size, driver visibility, robustness and flexibility of use.
#1. Mazda CX-5
Family-friendly, technologically advanced, responsive and generously equipped with quality safety gear, the CX-5 is an attractive jack-of-all-trades that continues to compete well against its rivals. It has all the benefits of a solidly-built SUV while still managing to look like ‘a normal car’.
While all the update specifications for the Aussie CX-5 haven’t been finalised for 2020 yet, you’ll definitely get keyless entry, push-button start, four-speaker stereo, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, 17-inch alloys and LED headlights – plus all the electronic safety wizardry, comfort and performance that Mazda is famous for.[i]
- Responsive handling and excellent suspension
- Rated well for safety
- Reliable engine and smooth transmission
- Great-looking SUV with quality interior detailing
- Cargo space lags behind some rivals
- Rear seat area is a bit small
#2. Toyota RAV-4
Although there’s no longer a diesel version, you can now get hybrid power options in the Rav-4. This is one of the best medium size SUVs in Australia if you’re looking for affordability, flexibility and a serious approach to safety features. Visibility for the driver is brilliant and the 2-litre engine does a nice job under a wide range of driving conditions.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto Smartphone integration are standard, along with rear-view camera, adaptive cruise control, blind spot warning and rear cross-traffic alert. The boot is spacious and the RAV-4 is reliable and economical to run.
- Spacious interior and boot
- Top-notch safety tech
- Hybrid power options available
- Plenty of style and personality
- Slow to respond to accelerator inputs
- Infotainment system could be improved
#3. Mitsubishi Outlander
Not too many medium-sized SUVs offer the option of three seat rows but the Outlander is an exception. You can seat up to seven passengers or fold down the second row (60/40 split seats) to maximise cargo space. The third row can be folded down completely or configured for a 50/50 split, making the Outlander super-flexible for growing families.
Buying an Outlander means you get lots of choices: petrol, diesel, hybrid, all-wheel drive and front-wheel drive. Standard features include cruise control, seven airbags, ample USB ports (front and back), dusk-sensing headlights, hill-start assist and power-operated lumbar support for the driver.
- Excellent fuel economy
- Affordable and reliable
- Good safety rating
- Flexible seating arrangements
- Quality Smartphone integration
- Engine noise when accelerating
- Third seat row is really only suitable for children
#4. Subaru Forester
Subaru Australia is launching its first hybrid vehicles in 2020 and the latest-generation Forester is one of the models to sport the new ‘e-Boxer’ hybrid tech, providing lower fuel consumption than petrol-driven versions.[ii]
With more than two decades of proven reliability and safety under its belt in Australia, the all-wheel drive Forester is a solid SUV choice with adaptive radar cruise control, lane keep assist, swiveling LED headlights, blind spot detection and a host of other handy features ready to take you wherever you need to go.[iii]
- Fuel efficiency
- More spacious cabin than previous models
- Improved interior styling
- Comfortable seats with a wide level of adjustment
- Price rises
- Engine is underwhelming
- No manual or turbo versions
#5. Kia Sportage
The ‘sporty’ aspects of the Sportage are quickly evident when you see its Porsche-like mounted light fittings, tailgate striplight and curvaceous edges. This aggressive-looking vehicle is pretty flash on the inside, too – with an asymmetrical dash, three-spoke steering wheel and raised centre console.
The Sportage, like many Korean SUVs, is well-constructed with little touches and comfortable amenities that will put a smile on your face, such as reclining rear seats, cup-holders in each door and seat-back pockets. The Sportage range offers one diesel and two petrol versions, with a choice of all-wheel or front-wheel drive. Its locally tuned suspension makes it a treat to drive.[iv]
- 7-year, unlimited kms warranty
- Spacious, comfy interior with high-quality materials
- Nice range of safety features
- Great base model
- Lower-than-average cargo space
- Standard four-cylinder engine is fairly average
#6. Honda CR-V
The popular Honda CR-V gives you the choice of five or seven seats and has an established reputation for ride comfort and roominess. It has a strong turbocharged engine and its family-friendly cabin includes Bluetooth audio streaming, HDMI and USB inputs and eight speakers controlled from a central touch-screen.
Its safety package focuses on control of the vehicle, fatigue awareness, crash protection and bystander welfare and includes daytime running lights, LaneWatch, a driver attention monitor, reversing camera, tyre pressure monitor, six airbags and more.[v]
- Steering feels precise and natural
- Superb handling – handles bumps with ease
- Tall, wide door openings for easy access
- High-quality internal materials
- Touch-screen interface is a bit clunky and finicky
- Navigation system isn’t super-reliable
#7. Nissan X-Trail
The X-Trail is a dependable, value-for-money SUV that’s has been around for decades, growing a little less boxy and a little more versatile with each upgrade. These days, you’ll see it dropping the kids off at school at least as often as you’ll encounter it in the outback. It’s a solid performer that offers two or four-wheel drive, manual or automatic transmissions and diesel or petrol engines.
The top-of-the-range Ti is a petrol-driven, 4WD five-seater with a great safety rating – a good-looking SUV that has aged well. A panoramic sunroof comes as standard, along with sat-nav, heated and power front seats, auto tailgate, 19-inch alloy wheels and plenty of other amenities.[vi]
- Sizable boot
- One of the safest premium SUVs in its category
- High ground clearance
- Nice balance of good driving dynamics and comfortable ride quality
- In-car tech not keeping up with competitors
- Limited rear headroom
#8. Audi Q5
Any changes to the Audi Q5 for 2020 are likely to be subtle and not seen in Australia until March or so, though you can expect new touch-screen functionality, a wider range of hybrid powertrains and the latest Audi semi-autonomous driver assist system.[vii]
This sharp-looking prestige SUV comes with a long list of safety features. Its efficient all-wheel drive chassis rides beautifully and fuel economy is reasonable in both the diesel and petrol versions. There’s Smartphone mirroring via Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, satellite navigation with voice control, powered adjustments to the front seats, three-zoned climate control and part-leather trim in the cabin.[viii]
- Luxury interior
- Punchy petrol engine
- Abundant safety tech
- Impressive braking system
- Firm ride
- Limited cargo space
#9. BMW X3
A lot of car manufacturers are adding hybrid options these days, and BMW is no exception. They’re set to launch the first plug-in hybrid version of their X3 in mid-2020, with an electric-only range of up to 55 kilometres. BMW considers this version an effective compromise solution while Australia continues to install more charging infrastructure.[ix]
Whether you opt to go hybrid or not, you’ll love the X3. It’s a best-seller in its class, with a hard-to-beat interior, powerful engine, top-notch driver technology and arguably the best infotainment system around: iDrive. This is a great-looking, smooth-driving vehicle with plenty of variants to choose from.
- Better-than-average powertrain
- Superb driver technology
- Spacious and practical
- Prestige fit and finish
- Ride is a bit firm
- Upgrade packages are expensive
#10. Holden Equinox
Holden is looking to revise its Equinox range for 2020, paring down the offerings by axing the two base models (LS and LS+) and manual and diesel versions. Fortunately, that still leaves four excellent models to choose from.
The LT boasts a 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. It’s got oodles of standard features including 17-inch alloy wheels, an 8-inch touch-screen with Smartphone mirroring, automatic headlights and a whole swag of active safety gear.[x]
- Reliable performance
- Plenty of space in the rear seats
- Loads of active safety gear
- Well-suited to Aussie road conditions
- Insipid styling
- Hard cabin plastics
The Australian SUV market is incredibly strong at the moment, with lots of promising vehicles to choose from. Use this handy list as a starting point for finding the best medium SUV for your needs, and then go a bit deeper with more research to create your own shortlist. Buying a medium-sized SUV guarantees plenty of flexibility, no matter where your driving adventures take you.
Looking for something a little bigger? See our list of the top 10 best large SUVs in Australia
Disclaimer: Data on this website was sourced from Canstar in September 2019 from their latest available data. Auto & General Services Pty Ltd does not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the data and accepts no liability whatsoever arising from or connected in any way to the use or reliance upon this data.
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