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New in 2017: SUVs set to dominate

And there’s more: Mazda’s CX-5 was the top-selling SUV in Australia last year, but Mazda is set to go harder by ramping up the styling and technology in 2017.

More than 30 new or facelifted SUVs to help shape new-vehicle market in 2017

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Outlook logo17 Jan 2017

THE hottest vehicle segment in Australia – SUVs – is unlikely to get any less hot in 2017 as the manufacturers pour on the coal in the form of more than 30 new or significantly upgraded models.

The rise and rise of these high-riding wagons – many little more than elevated passenger cars with little or no off-road ability – are on target to overtake conventional passenger sedans and hatchbacks in the sales stakes on the Australian market where, last year, SUV sales grew by 8.0 per cent compared with a 3.4 per cent decline for passenger vehicles.

Two well-known performers, Ford’s locally made Territory and Holden’s Captiva, are headed for the scrapheap this year as those manufacturers reinvent their ranges for a new era.

While we will have to wait until 2018 for Ford’s imported Territory replacement, the Edge, Holden already has the Captiva replacement, Equinox, in the pipeline for launch in the third quarter of this year.

Dominant SUV players such as Toyota and Mazda are again going to be the ones to watch, with critical models on the launch pad in the first few months of 2017.

First up will be the vehicle that Toyota executives are salivating over, the C-HR compact contender. This is Toyota’s long-awaited first entrant in the small SUV segment, sitting below the well-known RAV4.

This is one of the few market segments that Australia’s long-time number-one motor company has not attacked – until now. From this month, the Japanese giant will go after the likes of Mazda’s segment-leading CX-3, Mitsubishi’s ASX and Honda’s HR-V with all the vigour it is famous for.

For its part, Mazda is set to bolster the dominant position of its top-selling mid-sized entrant, the CX-5, in the second quarter.

Although the CX-5 was the most popular SUV in the land in 2016, Mazda is not resting on its laurels, instead warming up to introduce a major makeover that borders on a new generation, depending on your definition.

When car-makers start doing things such as moving the windscreen back by 35mm – a horrendously expensive engineering and manufacturing exercise – you know they are serious.

Small SUV THE big news in this segment is the arrival in January of Toyota’s first small SUV, the C-HR.

To be offered in two grades, the five-door C-HR is the second model built on Toyota’s new modular global architecture and will be loaded with an all-new 1.2-litre turbocharged engine, meaning it is new from the ground up.

Rivals Holden, Subaru and Ford all have small-SUV activity of their own planned for 2017, with Holden giving its popular Trax a pull-through early in the year, followed by a new Subaru XV mid-year and a Ford EcoSport facelift just before Christmas.

Peugeot also has a 2008 facelift coming in the first half of the year.

Less certain is a new entrant from Chinese debutant MG Motors, which has a baby SUV called ZS coming, with a launch in the fourth quarter anticipated.

WHAT’S COMING Holden Trax facelift – Q1
MG ZS – Q4
Peugeot 2008 facelift – Q1/Q2
Subaru XV – Mid year
Toyota C-HR – Jan Medium SUV THE big news here is the major overhaul for the number-one-selling SUV in Australia, the CX-5.

Revealed at the Los Angeles motor show late last year, the new CX-5 might look similar to the current generation but that belies the extent of changes that range from a more spacious cabin, improved ergonomics and more safety equipment.

However, the reigning sales champ is going to need the extra bling, as other manufacturers are set to up the ante, including Honda which has a long-awaited all-new CR-V coming in the third quarter.

The CR-V was one of the pioneers of the mid-sized ‘soft-roader’ market, but has dragged the chain in recent years with dated technology and dull styling. The new generation aims to put that to rest, with a state-of-the-art 1.6-litre turbo-petrol engine and other goodies. A seven-seat version is also possible.

The other big debutante heading our way is the Holden Equinox, the replacement for the positively ancient Captiva 5. Larger than some of the other mid-sizers, the Equinox – most likely sourced from South Korea – will be big inside, swallowing a decent load of luggage for family holidays.

Jeep has a new Compass coming about mid-year, as has Peugeot with its all-new 3008 that sits on the same platform as the 308 hatch.

MG also has its GS slated for 2017 launch after missing its previous local launch targets last year, while Mitsubishi will weigh in with an update for the Outlander PHEV in April.

WHAT’S COMING Holden Equinox – Q3
Honda CR-V – Q3
Jeep Compass – Mid-year
Mazda CX-5 – Q2
MG GS – Q1
Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV update – Apr
Peugeot 3008 – Mid-year
Volkswagen Tiguan 162TSI – Jan Large SUV SERIOUS SUV fans – those who really take their vehicles to the bush and beyond – know it is a red-letter year when a new-generation Land Rover Discovery draws near.

Like its upmarket mate, the Range Rover, the smoother-looking 2017 Discovery will drop the heavy-but-strong ladder chassis and adopt an aluminium monocoque platform that helps to slice vehicle weight by a whopping 480kg.

Due in Australia about July, the new Discovery will also be cheaper.

Also cheaper will be Ford’s rugged, locally developed Everest which is set to not only gain a five-seat version – in lieu of seven seats – but a base two-wheel-drive Ambiente variant as well, partly to fill the void left by the Australian-built Territory that exits stage left when production remnants run out this year.

Skoda is set to join the large SUV fray with its first big boy, the Kodiaq, around July, while a vastly more experienced hand, Jeep, is set to launch a trail-rated Grand Cherokee Trailhawk in March or April.

Chinese SUV specialist Haval is set to expand its range with the H7 – possibly including a hybrid version – in September.

At the other end of the SUV manufacturer scale, Toyota is set to launch a majorly made-over Kluger late next month, offering a new hi-tech direct-injection 3.5-litre V6 along with an all-new eight-speed automatic transmission.

The upshot will be improvements in both performance and fuel economy.

WHAT’S COMING Ford Everest five-seat – May
Haval H7 – Sep
Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk – Mar/Apr
Land Rover Discovery – Mid-year
Skoda Kodiaq – Mid-year
Toyota Kluger facelift – Feb Prestige and luxury SUV IN THE prestige and luxury SUV segment, the big news mainly centres around Audi which has no fewer than three major moves on the board for 2017.

The first of these is its baby beauty, the Q2, which is already in view and arriving in February.

This is just the entree for the main course, the Q5, which arrives to replace the long-in-the-tooth current model in the third quarter. This time sourced from Mexico, the second-generation Q5 is new from the ground up, delivering what early reports suggest is a vastly improved driving experience.

At about the same time, Audi expects to wheel out its plug-in hybrid Q7, the e-tron.

Sister company Porsche is bracing for a rush of orders for its cheapest new model, the four-cylinder petrol Macan, which arrives in March. The German importer is still trying to catch up with the deluge of orders for its six-cylinder variants.

Volvo’s big SUV news is the XC60 – its traditional top-seller – which gets a ground-up replacement in the final quarter of the year. It will join the acclaimed XC90 that won hearts in 2016. Both vehicles share Volvo’s new modular architecture.

Range Rover has a new Sport variant, SD4, coming in February, followed by some Range Rover Autobiography action in April or May.

Even further up the SUV market, Maserati has its new Levante now entering showrooms, while the mega-rich will skip over that to get to the Bentley Bentayga diesel that touches down in April for a mere $335,000 – a $92,000 saving over the $427K W12 petrol version.

WHAT’S COMING Audi Q2 – Feb
Audi Q5 – Q3
Audi Q7 e-tron – Q3
Bentley Bentayga diesel – Apr
Porsche Macan 4-cyl – Mar
Range Rover SDA Autobiography Dynamic – Q2
Range Rover Sport SD4 – Feb
Volvo XC60 – Q4 Light-commercial vehicles TOYOTA’S HiLux one-tonne utility was the top-selling vehicle in Australia last year, outgunning popular passenger car stalwarts including its Corolla stablemate, and 2017 looks set to be another big year in terms of light-commercial sales – albeit without a lot of all-new sheetmetal arriving.

Renault has just launched an update for its Kangoo compact van, and is set to follow up with revisions to the mid-size Trafic, while Ford is preparing to introduce a significant upgrade to its Transit van later this quarter.

Further down the track, Chinese brands Great Wall and LDV will look to muscle in on more established players in the marketplace, with the former offering a single-cab version of its Steed one-tonne utility while the latter will launch its rival T60 ute range in the second half.

Count on model year changes to a host of other vehicles throughout the year.

WHAT’S COMING Ford Transit – Q1
Great Wall Steed single cab – Q3/Q4
LDV T60 – Q3/Q4
Renault Kangoo – Jan
Renault Trafic – Jan

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