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New in 2018: SUVs hit high gear

Edge of glory: The Ford Endura – dubbed Edge in all other markets – will be offered in five-seat diesel guise only in Australia.

Slow year for smaller crossovers but Holden and Ford to launch large SUVs in 2018

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Outlook logo29 Jan 2018

By TIM NICHOLSON

IN 2017, SUVs finally overtook traditional passenger cars as the most popular vehicles in Australia, according to official VFACTS sales figures.

The popularity of SUVs has been growing at a rapid pace for years now, so it was a matter of time before they became Aussie consumers’ top pick, and last year saw some big players enter the market.

Mazda’s CX-5 retained its title as the top-selling SUV in the country last year on the back of the new-gen model’s arrival in March, while Toyota finally returned to the small SUV segment with its wild-looking C-HR.

The SUV market will be just as busy is 2018 with another bumper crop of high riders hitting local showrooms.

Small SUVs

WHILE there has been a lot of activity in the compact crossover segment in the past few years, 2018 will be a bit quieter.

Citroen has two models lobbing this year, starting with the C3 Aircross that offers a similarly funky exterior and interior design as its C4 Cactus stablemate, but shares much more in common with the new C3 – including the ageing PF1 platform – that went on sale in Australia last year.

The facelifted C4 Cactus will land in the second half, ushering in sharper styling, as well as Citroen’s patented hydraulic suspension system, improved refinement, new driver assistance technologies and higher levels of connectivity.

Lobbing in January is Mitsubishi’s Eclipse Cross that is the last model the company developed on its own before it was swallowed up by the giant Renault-Nissan Alliance.

While it will share a segment with the mechanically related ASX, its size and positioning will see it compete with larger offerings such as the Nissan Qashqai and Jeep’s freshly launched Compass.

What’s coming

Citroen C3 Aircross – June
Citroen C4 Cactus – H2
Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross – January

Mid-size SUVs

SOME big players in one of the biggest market segments get a new lease on life this year, but niche player Mahindra will kick the year off with a petrol-powered version of its XUV500 SUV.

Jeep has toned down the exterior design of its controversially styled Cherokee for its major mid-life refresh that lands in quarter two, ditching the split headlights and tidying up the fussy front end.

Little is known about the refresh of Kia’s popular Sportage that arrives midway through the year, while Volkswagen’s seven-seat version of the Tiguan, dubbed the Allspace, hits showrooms about the same time.

The mechanically related Skoda Karoq – which is the smaller five-seat sibling of the Kodiaq – arrives in the third quarter and provides the Czech brand with one of its best opportunities to grow its market share in Australia – supply permitting. It will take on the likes of Mazda’s CX-5, the Peugeot 3008 and Honda CR-V.

Subaru will introduce an all-new Forester later in the year, but the Japanese car-maker has given little away about what improvements it will get. Expect new or updated powertrains and even more safety kit for its EyeSight active safety suite.

What’s coming

Jeep Cherokee – Q2
Kia Sportage – mid 2018
Mahindra XUV500 petrol – Q1
Skoda Karoq – Q3
Subaru Forester – September
Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace – mid 2018

Large SUVs

WITH Ford’s Territory going the way of the dodo and Holden’s Captiva entering its 12th year on the market, both car-makers will finally have a serious offering in the large SUV segment by the end of 2018.

Ford’s Edge is sold in various global markets, but in Australia it will be dubbed the Endura because of a legal spat with Toyota over the Edge name that was previously used for special-edition versions of the RAV4 and Corolla.

When it arrives in Australia in the fourth quarter it will be a diesel and five-seat-only proposition as Ford Australia has declared it will not import the seven-seat version from China. As a result, the Blue Oval will pitch it as a more niche, premium offering rather than a direct replacement for the Territory.

The facelifted version of the Edge/Endura surfaced at this month’s Detroit motor show, and that is the version we will receive in Australia.

Holden’s US-built Acadia seven-seater is expected to be more of a volume offering than the Endura, and will hit showrooms at about the same time in quarter four.

The Acadia is based on a GMC product of the same name and will take the fight up directly to the heavy hitters in the segment, notably the Toyota Kluger and Mazda CX-9, among others. Holden is expected to tweak some of the ride and handling characteristics for Australian conditions ahead of its launch.

An all-new version of Hyundai’s Santa Fe is also on its way, and while it is yet to be revealed, it will adopt a new design that will keep it in line with other recent Hyundais such as the i30, Tucson and Kona.

Expect a more refined ride and handling experience and improvements to powertrains, as well as a safety upgrade.

Jeep will get a boost this year with the launch of the extreme Grand Cherokee Trackhawk that pumps out 522kW/868Nm from its supercharged 6.2-litre Hemi V8 engine. FCA Australia says all 62 units of the $134,900 (plus on-road costs) vehicle allocated for the Australian market have been snapped up.

The all-new Wrangler will hit dealerships at the end of the year, and while it looks the same as the outgoing version, it features improvements to almost all areas – but will not be offered with the new V6 turbo-diesel engine Down Under.

Peugeot will be hoping its seven-seat 5008 will be able to leverage the success of the impressive 3008 five-seat SUV that launched in 2017 when its hits Australian shores in February.

Meanwhile, Haval has just introduced a refreshed H9 seven-seat SUV with lower prices and more power. The H9 will also receive another update in the third quarter that will usher in autonomous emergency braking and other active safety features.

What’s coming

Ford Endura – Q4
Haval H9 – January
Holden Acadia – Q4
Hyundai Santa Fe – mid 2018
Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk – Q1
Jeep Wrangler – Q4
Peugeot 5008 – February

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