Looking for a small SUV in 2020? It can be tricky to know where to begin, but this list of the very best small SUVs in Australia should help. Recommendations are based on Canstar’s most recent customer satisfaction survey, which ranks some of our most popular brands according to point of sale service, driving experience, car servicing, value for money, reliability, after-sale service and overall satisfaction.
Small SUVs are flying off Australia’s car lots in droves, thanks to their versatility, cheaper purchase prices and lower running costs. They offer good internal space, a higher driver position for enhanced visibility and a safer, more comfortable ride in off-road or bumpy conditions.
Equally at home in the city, in the bush or out at the beach, smaller SUVs give you ample flexibility. They’re a great practical choice for a family vehicle: safe, technologically advanced, thrifty with fuel and fun to drive.
#1. Mazda CX-3
The CX-3 is an urban-focused SUV that seems to get a bit better each year, managing to combine the best elements of quality steering and suspension with dependable engine performance and a high degree of comfort. It’s a quiet, stylish ride that gives Aussie car buyers a nice range of engine options and variants.
This baby high-rider copes equally well with city duties and epic road trips. It comes with a healthy range of standard features including cruise control, window tinting, reversing camera, AUX and USB inputs, AEB, six airbags and plenty more.
- Ideal size for urban use
- Engaging appearance
- Steering and suspension have a sporty feel
- Easily maneuvers in and out of snug parking spots
- Not really designed for off-road action
- Internal space falls behind some rivals
#2. Toyota CH-R
Fuel-efficient, safe and boasting a roomier interior than many of its competitors, the CH-R is attractive inside and out. Its list of standard features is generous and it drives like a dream with excellent driver visibility, sporty handling and comfortable, supportive seating.
Take your pick between turbocharged petrol or hybrid powertrains and a range of bright colours. Active safety features abound, including hill-start assist, tyre pressure monitor, child protector rear door locks, pedestrian detection, lane departure alert and more. The 1.2-litre turbo version is rated to tow up to 600 kilograms.[i]
- Impressive fuel economy
- Aggressive, edgy external styling
- Exceptional outward visibility
- Non-intrusive driver-assist features
- Reassuring safety rating
- Minimal cargo space – tall suitcases have to lie flat
- Sluggish acceleration
#3. Mitsubishi ASX
The 2020 ASX has been updated with a new look and engine as well as oodles of up-to-the-minute driver technology that keeps its rivals on their toes. This hugely popular SUV is cheap to run, affordable to buy, ever-reliable and offers a practical amount of internal space.
This is one of the trendiest, tech-savvy, forward-thinking crossovers on the market. Standard safety gear includes autonomous emergency braking, automatic high beams, pedestrian recognition and lane-keeping assistance. The 393 litres of boot space expands to 1193 litres in most versions. [ii]
- Low purchase price and maintenance costs
- 4-litre engine performance is enhanced in the 2020 update
- Improved appearance
- Nice infotainment system
- At speed, steering can feel a bit leaden
- Pricing creep
#4. Subaru XV
If you like Subaru’s Impreza hatchback, you’ll love the taller, all-wheel drive XV, which can take you even further off the beaten track. It feels great behind the wheel, with active torque vectoring, poised steering and a jacked-up suspension helping to keep those bumpy sections under control.
The best value option is probably the 2.0i-S, which costs more but gives you heated front seats, leather seat trim, auto wipers and LED headlights plus extra active safety features. The X-Mode system directs drive to the wheels with the most grip, making climbing steep slopes easier. The XV can tow a braked trailer weighing up to 1400 kilos.[iii]
- Decent ground clearance for better off-roading
- User-friendly touch screens and controls
- Good visibility in all directions
- Practical for families – excellent child car seat fixtures
- Classy cabin materials
- Small cargo volume
- Transmission can be a tad noisy
#5. Kia Seltos
In Australia, the Seltos is offered in five variants with two engine choices. The front-wheel drive versions (S, Sport and Sport+) are the most popular, powered by a 2-litre, four-cylinder engine matched with a CVT (continuously variable transmission). Fuel economy comes in at a respectable 6.8L/100kms and the interior is packed with features and upmarket in appearance.
Models above the base spec get a 10.25-inch, high-resolution infotainment screen – one of the clearest and best-designed you’ll see in any car. This vehicle’s power steering and suspension work well on Aussie roads and are a step above many of their rivals. The level of safety features vary with the model but are generous overall.[iv]
- 7-year, unlimited kms warranty
- Spacious, practical interior
- Best in its class for technology and infotainment
- Superior handling
- Most variants have no rear air vents
- More advanced safety features are unavailable in base models
#6. Honda HR-V
This athletic-looking, front-wheel-drive SUV comes with loads of standard features and provides a bit more cargo space than many of its competitors, thank to its ‘magic seats’. These create a taller load area than a conventional backrest design because the seat’s base also folds completely down to lie flat.
The steering wheel adjusts for height and reach and carries buttons for operating Bluetooth, audio and cruise control. To help you get around safely, there’s low-speed autonomous braking. The mid-spec VTi-S offers Lane Watch, a passenger-side blind spot camera that’s activated with the indicator.[v]
- More practical than rival SUVs
- Generous standard equipment across the range
- Plenty of cabin space
- Brilliant fuel economy
- Superb frontal visibility
- Noisy engine
- Narrow front seats
- Sluggish acceleration
#7. Nissan Qashqai
The first thing you need to know about the Qashqai is how to pronounce it (it’s cash-kye). This versatile SUV has broad front seats, an easily accessible touch-screen (5 or 7-inch, depending on the variant), a user-friendly ventilation system and a quiet interior. Light, responsive steering and a strong suspension make it easy to pilot around town.
Active safety features include AEB and warnings for forward collision and lane departure. You also get keyless entry, push-button start, hill-start assist, a reversing camera, LED daytime running lights and six airbags. In April 2019, Nissan extended its standard warranty from three to five years; this applies to all models, including the Qashqai.[vi]
- Versatile, practical family vehicle
- Low running costs
- Adventurous angular appearance
- Compact yet powerful engine
- Poor rear visibility
- Tight legroom in the back
#8. Audi Q2
The Q2 is available in front-wheel or all-wheel drive, depending on your choice of engine. As you’d expect from an Audi, the ride is smooth and controlled with a quality suspension, well-appointed interior and adjustable steering wheel adding to the comfort level. The Q2’s look is youthful and luxurious, with easy-to-use controls, nice textured surfaces and a punchy eight-speaker sound system.
You’ll travel safely and in style with AEB, pedestrian detection, six airbags, sat-nav, long-lasting LED headlights, dual-zone air conditioning, a reversing camera, front/rear parking sensors and windshield wipers that come on automatically when rain starts to fall.[vii]
- Fresh styling and packaging
- Superior interior finish
- Nice range of optional extras
- Minimal wind noise compared to other SUVs
- Middle rear seat is only good for children, especially in all-wheel drive models
- No rear air vents
#9. BMW X1
The biggest selling premium compact SUV on the planet has brought a few changes into 2020, with its entry-level sDrive 18i and 20i models dropping in price while the top-of-the-range xDrive 25i (the sole all-wheel drive variant) costing a couple of thousand more. Also new is the front grille, a one-piece, kidney-shaped number that extends a little further down the bumper. There have been some upgrades to interior materials and technology too.[viii]
Seats are supportive and comfy, which is appreciated on those long Aussie road trips. The rear seats slide backward and forward to create extra room for cargo or rear passengers’ legs, and the backrests have six separate angle adjustments. Connectivity for Smartphones and other devices is excellent.[ix]
- Handles well, including on dirt roads
- Powerful, efficient engine
- Intuitive interior design
- Plenty of modern safety features
- Swift acceleration
- Options are rather expensive
- Road and tyre noise
#10. Holden Trax
This great-looking SUV comes with a 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine (the 1.8-litre manual was dropped from the range in late 2019). We’ll have to wait until the second half of 2020 for the next-generation models to appear but in the meantime, the current Trax is packed with appeal and driver-friendly features.
The steering, handling and Smartphone integration is spot on and there’s plenty of high-grade tech in the safety package. You’ll enjoy cruise control, hill-start assist, rear-view camera, headlights that switch on automatically, electronic stability control and six airbags. There are also roof rails, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and heated exterior mirrors.[x]
- Compact, practical size
- Zippy engine performance
- Tall driving position
- Tech-rich and well-rated for safety
- Great infotainment system
- Relatively thirsty engine
- Could use more advanced safety features in line with mainstream rivals
It’s always incredibly satisfying when you’re able to find just the right vehicle that ticks all your boxes for size, price, flexibility, safety, comfort and practicality. We hope this list of the best small SUVs in Australia will give you some useful ideas about where to start your search in 2020!
Looking for something a little bigger? See our list of the top 10 best medium 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.
This post was brought to you by Budget Direct Car Insurance