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New in 2019: SUV onslaught continues

No signs of slowing for the rocketing SUV market as more models enter showrooms

29 Jan 2019

IN 2018, the SUV segment topped the market for the second year in a row with 495,300 high-riders finding new homes in Australia, nearly 30,000 more than the previous 12 months and representing 43 per cent of the overall new-car market.

With passenger cars however, sales continued to recede with 2018 recording a 15.9 per cent sales slide to 378,413.


Helping the SUV success story in Australia, and indeed the world, is the fact that the segment covers so many bases from almost city-sized crossovers to seven-seat upper-large off-roaders.

In fact, the segment that experienced the biggest percentage rise in sales was the small SUV class, recording a jump of 18.4 per cent to 139,163 sales compared to 2017, while the upper-large and mid-size SUV markets also grew by a healthy 8.0 and 5.5 per cent respectively.


Large SUVs were the only crossover category to lose ground in 2018 with a 2.9 per cent sales drop compared to 2017.


Last year’s best sellers from each category were all from Japanese manufacturers, and included the long-running Mitsubishi ASX that recorded 19,034 sales, the Mazda CX-5 (26,173), the Toyota LandCruiser Prado (18,553) and the Toyota LandCruiser 200 (13,677) from the small, medium, large and upper-large SUV segments respectively.


There’s a strong list of new metal arriving this year, and naturally, many car-makers have SUV-shaped plans. Here’s what we can expect so far.


Small SUVs


WHILE last year was a bit quiet in the small SUV camp, this year will see the release of some important new models led by the new-generation Suzuki Jimny and a facelifted Vitara before the end of January.


Due to Australian safety laws, Suzuki was restricted to selling just 100 units of the previous generation Jimny, however the all-new Jimny fixes the issues that were holding the nameplate back.


The fourth-generation Jimny is powered by a Euro 6-compliant 1.5-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine, is equipped with a strong list of driver-assistance technologies, and crucially, features six airbags.


Meanwhile, changes for the updated Suzuki Vitara are mild rather than wild, with minor exterior and interior styling tweaks and updated safety technology like autonomous emergency braking (AEB) on higher-spec versions.


The all-new Hyundai Kona Electric (EV) is earmarked for the first half of this year too, which will join the Ioniq mid-size sedan in the brand’s electric vehicle stable.


Hyundai has yet to lock in local specifications and pricing, however it is believed that the vehicle will be powered by a 64kWh battery that delivers 150kW of power and 470km of driving range.


Hyundai’s sister company Kia has also revealed plans to release a small SUV in Q4, which will likely borrow from the Hyundai Kona’s architecture and componentry catalogue.


Furthermore, a new yet-to-be-revealed model, to sit below the Kona in Hyundai’s SUV line-up, will hit showrooms in the second half of this year.


Renault has confirmed that it will release its Kadjar compact SUV in Australia early in the second half of this year, which will fill a gap in its line-up between the Captur crossover and Koleos mid-sizer.


From Czech car-maker Skoda, a high-spec Karoq variant is expected to arrive before year’s end, which will likely be based on the Sportline which was revealed at last year’s Paris motor show.


Although it has yet to be officially confirmed, it is expected that Subaru will debut a new petrol-electric parallel hybrid version of its XV crossover in Q4.


What’s coming

Hyundai Kona Electric – H1
Hyundai sub-Kona small SUV – H2
Kia small SUV – Q4
Renault Kadjar – H2
Skoda Karoq – Q3

Subaru XV hybrid – Q4
Suzuki Jimny – January
Suzuki Vitara – January


Medium SUVs


FOLLOWING last year’s release of the Tivoli small SUV and Rexton large SUV, Ssangyong will fill the gap with its new Korando mid-sizer in Q3, which will play against strong competition like the Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage and Mazda CX-5 in the medium SUV segment.


In Q4, Subaru is expected to release a hybrid version of its new-generation Forester alongside the smaller XV. Neither model will be plug-in types as seen overseas, instead using regenerative braking to charge the batteries.


Toyota revealed its all-new RAV4 medium SUV last year, confirming that the fifth-generation high-rider will get the brand’s new Dynamic Force four-cylinder engine in both conventional petrol and petrol-electric hybrid setups when it hits Australian showrooms in 2019.


MG Motor Australia is expected to launch a second-generation GS model in the fourth quarter, based on the MG X-Motion Concept revealed at last year’s Beijing motor show. The production vehicle has been shown to Chinese journalists, however key details and an official launch confirmation remain up in the air.


What’s coming


MG GS – Q4
Ssangyong Korando – Q3
Toyota RAV4
Subaru Forester hybrid – Q4


Large SUVs


THE Jeep Wrangler has undergone a significant update for 2019, with the new-generation ‘JL’ set to go on sale in April from $48,950 plus on-road costs.


Six variants will be available from launch, with two- and four-door body styles available as well as a new turbo-diesel powertrain for the flagship Rubicon grade.


In May, Volkswagen’s all-new Touareg will replace the ageing second-generation model which has been on sale since 2011, featuring significantly updated styling, technology and equipment.


When the vehicle was revealed in March last year, Volkswagen Australia general manager of corporate communications Paul Pottinger said the new Touareg will be a big step up over the current model.


In Q2, Mahindra is expected to release a new XUV500. While details are scarce, it is possible the new seven-seater will borrow from sister-brand Ssangyong’s now-comprehensive SUV catalogue.

What’s coming


Jeep Wrangler - April
Mahindra XUV500 – Q2
Volkswagen Touareg – May

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