When you’re ready to shop for a quality SUV, where should you start? Well, there are hundreds to choose from, so the best first step is to work out which type of SUV suits your requirements and then research the best in their class.
Our recommendations for ‘best Australian SUVs’ are based on Canstar’s most recent SUV customer satisfaction survey, which compares a dozen popular SUV brands according to their reliability, driving experience, point of sale service, value for money, car servicing, after-sale service and overall satisfaction.
SUVs (Sports Utility Vehicles) are extremely versatile, combining many of the best characteristics of a family sedan, pickup truck, minivan and wagon – all rolled into one. They offer more space, a higher sitting position for improved visibility and a safer ride in off-road and flooded conditions. They can tow heavier loads and the newer models are increasingly fuel efficient. And because they’re becoming so popular, prices have become quite reasonable in recent years.
To help you choose the best SUV for your own needs, we’ve broken them down into four basic types:
So let’s dive in and take a look at the best SUVs in Australia for each category:
Best small SUVs in Australia
The popularity of small SUVs in Australia is skyrocketing. They make terrific family cars yet still have that practical, muscular 4×4 look. Being smaller, they come with cheaper running costs and a lower purchase price than bulkier models and are a pleasure to drive, whether you stick to city landscapes or venture off the bitumen.
#1. Mazda CX-3
The ever-popular CX-3 continues to impress, rating consistently well for safety, handling and ride quality. Little tweaks continue to improve its engine performance, noise reduction, suspension and steering.
Truth be told, the CX-3 behaves more like a hatchback than a high-rider SUV. This vehicle makes no macho claims about outback toughness or off-road grit – it’s a city car at heart, and its proven appeal to a wide range of drivers is testament to its reliability, versatility and urban-focused style.
- Perfectly-sized SUV for city motoring
- Stylish and attractive, inside and out
- Keeps improving each year
- Nice range of variants and engine options
- Reversing camera is now standard
- Road noise could be improved
- Compact profile makes for limited boot and rear seat space
- Upper-grade models are pricey
#2. Toyota CH-R
This is a sleek, gorgeous-looking vehicle that’s surprisingly roomy inside. It’s comfortable to spend time in and one of the most fuel-friendly SUVs on the market. Auto cruise control, two-zone air-conditioning, reversing cameras, front and rear parking sensors and auto braking are standard. It boasts quality interior materials, sporty handling, comfy seating and exceptional visibility from the driver’s seat.
Safety-wise, this is one of the best SUV choices with seven airbags, electronic stability control, auto-on and auto-dipping headlights, forward collision monitoring and a healthy range of other useful safety features. It even prods you with a dashboard light and buzzer warning if it detects you drifting outside your lane on the highway.
- Excellent range of safety features
- Comes in a range of bright colours
- Comfortable to drive in all conditions
- Doesn’t use much fuel for an SUV
- Doesn’t offer an all-wheel drive option, unlike many hatchback competitors
- Acceleration could use more grunt
- Cabin insulation could be better to reduce wind noise
#3. Mitsubishi ASX
The 2020 version of the ASX was released in early November 2019 and updated with a fresh look, new engine and spiffy technology that’ll ensure it remains one of the most sought-after small SUVs in the country.
According to Mitsubishi, the main ASX consumers are car rental companies (who make up a massive 40% of ASX sales), younger budget-conscious families, mature-age empty-nesters and young females. Its suite of safety systems includes pedestrian recognition, auto high beams, lane-keeping assistance and rear cross-traffic alert.
- Affordable; economical to run and maintain
- Enhanced 2.4-litre engine performance
- User-friendly infotainment system with large screen
- Attractive new look
- Could be a little more fuel-efficient
- Interior styling looks a bit dated compared to other brands
- Cabin noise could be improved
Best medium SUVs in Australia
Medium-sized SUVs continue to grab their fair share of the Australian car market. They’re ‘the new normal’ because they offer so many features that drivers appreciate. They feel safer to drive because of their size, come with plenty of headroom and internal space and offer a better view of the road thanks to higher sitting positions.
#1. Mazda CX-5
This family favourite has good clearance and great all-wheel drive grip but still looks and feels more like a normal car than a bash-bashing beast.
The CX-5’s standard equipment includes an electronic parking brake, push-button start, six-speaker stereo, rain-sensing wipers and much more. The automatic LED headlights have high-beam assist and there’s also blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise, rear-view camera, lane-departure warning, satellite navigation, dual-zone climate control, rear parking sensors and many other modern tech advances.
- Responsive engine and transmission
- Nimble handling
- Generous standard equipment
- Good-looking vehicle, internally and externally
- Smooth highway performance
- Less cargo space than some of its competitors
- Ride can be a bit firm for its class
#2. Toyota RAV4
The RAV4 has a lot going for it, especially when it comes to safety. Its adaptive cruise control helps maintain the gap between you and the car in front and its rear-view camera, blind-spot warning and rear cross-traffic alert all come in handy for navigating clogged shopping-centre car parks.
The RAV4 now provides hybrid-power options: six of its 11 models are petrol-electric. All models can run on 91 regular unleaded fuel, too – the diesel version has been discontinued. Other new developments include Android Auto Smartphone integration and Apple CarPlay. The 580L boot is roomy, the 2.0L engine is perky enough to do its job and all-round visibility is excellent.
- A cheap SUV to run
- High standard of advanced safety technology
- Plenty of room in the cabin and boot
- Now has the option of hybrid power
- Throttle can lag a bit
- No rear autonomous emergency braking
# 3. Mitsubishi Outlander
The Outlander gives you a choice between front-wheel or all-wheel drive and between petrol, diesel or hybrid powertrains. It’s one of the few mid-sized SUVs offering three rows of seats (that third row is cramped for large adults but works fine for kids). All Outlanders now come with high-quality Smartphone integration.
This robust SUV has electronic stability control, roof rails, a Smartphone-friendly touch screen, seven airbags, cruise control and USB ports on front and rear seats. Other useful goodies include rear parking sensors, power-operated driver lumbar support, a reversing camera, window tinting, dusk-sensing headlights and hill-start assist – which helps you take off from an uphill slope by providing extra brake control.
- Solid, reliable and well-built – and still one of the most affordable SUVs on the market
- Some of the best fuel economy for its class
- Numerous high-tech safety features
- Third row seat option – a rarity in mid-sized SUVs
- Impressive infotainment system and device connectivity
- Noisy engine, especially during fast acceleration
- The third row of seats is small and cramped
Best large SUVs in Australia
Larger SUVs have some distinct advantages over their more diminutive brethren. Their frames are sturdier, meaning greater safety in the event of an accident. They can carry more weight and tow heavier loads than a hatchback. Bigger SUVs tend to have higher driver positioning as well, so you get a better view of the road ahead.
Spacious interiors mean more room for people and cargo: families on major road trips can pack everything they need. And when the going gets rough, full-sized SUVs tend to be more off-road capable than smaller, less robust vehicles. They’re family-friendly, high-tech, versatile and powerful enough to tackle all the hard work you throw at them.
#1. Mazda CX-8
If you’re a fan of sturdy, diesel-powered vehicles, put this SUV on your list. It features a turbocharged SKYACTIV-D diesel engine that’s an alternative to the petrol-only Mazda CX-9 and provides plenty of grunt. The CX-8 is popular in the Aussie bush and just as handy in the city.
The handling is superb for a vehicle this size and the interior is quiet and stylish, ensuring a comfortable ride. It comes with keyless entry and push-button start, reversing camera, sat-nav, rear parking sensors, Bluetooth connectivity, six-speed auto transmission, six airbags, electronic anti-skid stability control and loads more.
- Extremely quiet ride for a large, robust SUV
- Quality diesel engine – well-suited to outback conditions
- Exceptional overall comfort and elegant interior
- A practical, family-friendly seven-seater with plenty of room
- Only comes in a diesel version
- Not much ventilation if you’re sitting in the third row
#2. Toyota Kluger
The Kluger is a good all-rounder that feels big and hefty to drive. It offers a smooth, quiet ride and has oodles of space inside. The engine is a solid performer and the high-quality 360-degree camera will help you get in and out of tight spots.
The Kluger scores well for safety and driving comfort and performs like a champ in off-road conditions. The 201mm ground clearance is a plus and the all-independent suspension absorbs bigger bumps without complaint. This SUV is built tough with all the safety features you’d expect in an SUV of this class.
- Huge amount of usable interior storage space; great for families
- Powerful but quiet engine
- Comfortable steering and smooth ride
- Available in front-wheel drive (GX) and all-wheel drive (Grande) versions
- Excellent safety features and robust structural integrity
- Infotainment system has a dated feel
- Not a lot of personality or character; looks fairly bland
#3. Mitsubishi Pajero Sport
The Pajero Sport is a pleasure to drive in both off-road and urban conditions. Choose between 5-seat and 7-seat versions – both provide impressive fuel economy. All Pajero Sport models come with autonomous emergency braking and seamless Smartphone integration.
These SUVs rate well for safety features, which include a reversing camera, seven airbags, electronic stability control and a whole lot more. If you opt for the Exceed or seven-seater GLS versions, you’ll get side-curtain airbags that extend past the third-row seating.
- Excellent value for money
- Nice selection of safety features
- Auto braking is standard
- A very capable SUV for towing a caravan or trailer
- Head room isn’t great in the third seating row
- The reversing camera is offset, which distorts your view of the tow ball as you’re backing up to it
Best 7-seat SUVs in Australia
7-seater SUVs are becoming more common – and they’re not just used as people-movers for growing young families. Travellers who cart around a lot of luggage, those who like to hit the road with a group of friends and drivers who bring pets along for the ride also appreciate the extra seating and space.
Because the two rows of rear seats are typically fold-down/removable, there’s plenty of versatility in how internal space is used – you can transport babies, strollers, luggage and cargo in whatever configuration suits.
# 1. Mazda CX-9
If you’re looking for a comfortable 7-seater that feels sporty and boasts a powerful but economical engine, the CX-9 is going to be one of the best SUVs in Australia in 2019 for ticking all those boxes. Auto emergency braking is standard and all-wheel drive is available. Back in 2017, the CX-9 was named Car of the Year by Wheels magazine – and it keeps getting better.
There’s a tech-smart infotainment system, sat-nav and Smartphone syncing via Bluetooth or Apple CarPlay/Android Auto. Exterior mirrors fold in automatically when you lock the vehicle. With extensive safety features and an excellent engine, it’s a practical choice for discerning families.
- Impressive petrol engine performance
- Exemplary range of safety features and driver assistance systems across the range
- Insulation has been upgraded for a quieter ride
- Attractive vehicle with a nice finish and plenty of space
- Smartphone integration with MZD Connect is just average
- As with many 7-seater SUVs, the third row is really only comfortable for kids
- Rear-view camera could be sharper
# 2. Toyota Kluger
Toyota calls the Kluger ‘the ultimate family SUV’ – and increasing numbers of Aussie buyers seem to agree. It combines advanced safety tech with a rugged frame and smooth drivability.
Its powerful 3.5L V6 petrol engine and improved fuel efficiency are great selling points, along with solid towing power and some technological help in managing steep slopes: the downhill assist control (on AWD only) and hill-start assist control provide extra acceleration and brake support when required. With a flexible 7-seat configuration, you can tailor the Kluger’s interior space to meet your individual needs.
- One of the best SUVs in Australia for families wanting space and versatility
- Handles well for a vehicle this size
- Solid, well-built chassis and impressive range of standard safety features
- Offers a smooth ride in both all-wheel and front-wheel drive versions
- Third row seating isn’t as roomy as further forward
- Interior has a slightly dated feel
#3. Mitsubishi Pajero Sport
If you want a solid SUV that ‘walks the walk’ when it comes to serious off-roading, the Pajero Sport has all the features you’ll need to go bush in style. There’s proximity key entry and push-button start, a seven-inch touch screen, Bluetooth phone connectivity, autonomous emergency braking (just to be different, Mitsubishi calls this Forward Collision Mitigation), adaptive cruise control and tilt-and-reach adjustment for comfortable steering wheel positioning.
The LED headlights and taillights are super-bright and use less power than non-LED lights and the reversing camera and rear parking sensors help avoid obstacles. There’s even trailer-sway control, which stabilizes the vehicle if your towed trailer starts swaying from side to side. The Sport comes with seven airbags.
- Adaptive cruise control and auto braking across the range
- Built and equipped for tackling serious off-road adventures
- Selectable full-time 4WD ensures a solid grip on slippery roads
- Spare wheel is stored under the car (not in the luggage area), so it doesn’t need unpacking
- Rated to tow up to 3100kg
- The cabin is a little cosier than some of its competitors, particularly toward the rear
- Although the third-row seats fold into the floor, they still eat into the cargo space
Disclaimer: Data on this website was sourced from Canstar in November 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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