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New in 2014: Bumper year ahead for SUVs

New trail: Nissan's third-generation X-Trail SUV will arrive in the second quarter and will go head-to-head with the Mazda CX-5 and Toyota RAV4.

SUVs of all shapes and sizes ready to roll in another busy year

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Outlook logo3 Feb 2014

By MIKE COSTELLO and TIM NICHOLSON

LIGHT SUVsAMONG the many themes in the Australian new-vehicle market last year, one of the most marked was the continued rise of the so-called light SUV segment.

People continued to flock to high-riding city-oriented car-based hatchbacks in search of something new for the urban jungle.

As such, new arrivals in the form of the Holden Trax, Ford EcoSport, Nissan Juke and Peugeot’s quirky 2008 helped boost sales in the segment by 21 per cent for the year.

The launch calendar won’t be quite so manic this year, but expect sales to continue to be strong this year.

Ford will add new entry-level Ambiente and mid-spec Trend variants to its EcoSport line-up in February, while strong competition will arrive from Renault mid-year with its Clio-based Captur.

Also on the radar, but not yet confirmed, is the Jeep/Fiat sub-compact SUV twins. The baby Jeep is still to be officially named, while the Fiat crossover will reportedly carry the 500X moniker. The latter is likely to be restricted to a 4x2 driveline, leaving the little Jeep to feature 4x4 in keeping with its off-road heritage.

Fiat’s latest addition could arrive by the end of the year or early 2015, while the timing for the baby Jeep remains unclear.

Citroen previewed its funky C4 Cactus crossover with a concept at last year’s Frankfurt motor show and the French brand reckons it will carry a number of quirky features into production, including a front bench seat and soft air bumps on the door panels to help resist scratching.

It has not yet been given the green light for Australia but if it does, expect to see it very late this year or early next year at a pinch.

WHAT’S COMING:
Citroen C4 Cactus - Q4 est
Fiat 500X - Q4 est
Ford EcoSport Ambiente/Trend - Feb
Jeep baby SUV - Q4 est
Renault Captur - Jun/JulCOMPACT SUVsTHE first half of 2014 will see at least four new compact or small SUVs hit local showrooms, including undoubtedly the most unique of the bunch.

Mitsubishi will at last launch the Outlander PHEV plug-in petrol-electric hybrid, which consumes a miniscule 1.9 litres of fuel per 100km on the combined cycle. It will be among Australia’s greenest vehicles, and, like Holden’s smaller Volt, is expected to be priced around $60K.

Meanwhile, Nissan’s third-generation X-Trail arrives in the second quarter to tackle the rampant Mazda CX-5 at the top of the sales charts. It will be joined by its newly named Qashqai sibling (a replacement for the Dualis) in Q3. Both Nissan models feature a curvaceous new styling direction.

Arriving at a similar time to the X-Trail is a facelifted SsangYong Korando, with the Giugiaro-designed Korean contender getting a nose job, a nicer interior and improved NVH.

On the subject of styling, Jeep launches its new Cherokee in June, giving it a proper answer to the CX-5 – as long as buyers warm to the polarising frontal design. Two petrols and one diesel engine will be offered, plus a trail-rated Trailhawk off-road version.

Due mid-year is a facelifted version of Skoda’s offbeat Yeti, which has failed to make much of a dent in its segment but which has won plaudits for its practical cabin and strong road manners.

Fellow European Peugeot also plans to lob a facelifted version of its 3008 soft-roader by year’s end, although this could slip out to 2015.

WHAT’S COMING:
Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV - Apr
Nissan X-Trail - Q2
SsangYong Korando facelift - Q2
Jeep Cherokee - Jun
Skoda Yeti facelift - Jun/Jul
Nissan Qashqai - Q3
Pug 3008 facelift - DecLARGE SUVsTOYOTA launches its vital new Kluger in March, and while it persists with the same tried-and-true – but thirsty – 3.5-litre petrol V6 as the sole engine option, this fact has hardly hurt sales in the past.

The new version is more spacious and refined, and more dynamic, based on our recent first drive in California. It’s also the first Kluger to be sourced for Australia from the US. Toyota no doubt hopes to supplant the Holden Captiva 7, Ford Territory and a booming Jeep Grand Cherokee in the sales race with its new addition.

Following hot on Toyota’s heels is Nissan, which launches a more fuel-efficient version of its new Pathfinder seven-seater: the supercharged hybrid. Like Toyota, Nissan lacks a diesel, but hopes the petrol-electric car will appeal to those who value fuel economy. The drivetrain consists of a battery-powered electric motor matched to a supercharged 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine, a move that will cut its fuel use to around 7.5L/100km.

At the end of the year – November or December – the final iteration of the Australian-made Ford Territory will arrive, with similar cosmetic and cabin tweaks as the ‘FH’ Falcon on which it is based. Like Falcon, this is the final model ahead of the company’s factory closures in 2016.

Finally, resurgent Jeep, which experienced sales growth of 23 per cent last year on the back of the Grand Cherokee’s stellar success, will launch two special editions of its venerable Wrangler off-roader – Freedom and Polar – by the second quarter.

WHAT’S COMING:
Jeep Wrangler Freedom - Feb
Toyota Kluger - Mar
Jeep Wrangler Polar - Q2
Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid - Q2
Ford Territory facelift - NovLUXURY SUVsA HOST of key luxury players will launch new or facelifted SUVs onto the Australian market in 2014, capitalising on continued strong segment growth last year.

The list kicks off with Audi’s first RS-badged SUV, the pint-sized RS Q3 crossover due in March. Priced from $82K, the 228kW/465Nm five-cylinder turbocharged high-rider can dash from 0-100km/h in 5.5 seconds, and will stand alone as the hottest offering at the small end of SUV town.

That is, until an even faster 265kW/450Nm AMG version of Mercedes’ new A-Class-based GLA crossover touches down here by the end of 2014.

Before that model launches, regular versions of the slinky new GLA will arrive in April, growing Benz’s local SUV staple to four members (the G, ML and GL being the others). Mercedes has told us that it expects huge demand leading to long waiting lists.

Porsche will also wade into the small SUV fray in June when the new Macan arrives, joining its wildly successful Cayenne big brother. Porsche has already announced an $85K starting price, making it the most attainable model in its fleet by some margin.

Around the same time, BMW will stage a concurrent launch of its new niche X4 – basically a shrunken version of the polarising X6 – and a facelifted version of its mid-sized X3.

Lexus, meantime, will at some point this year officially reveal the road-going version of its new NX, a much-need rival to the X3 and Audi Q5, complete with the brand’s first turbo engine. The car could sneak here by the end of 2014 if Lexus reveals the car at the Geneva motor show in March – recent leaked images suggest it just might.

Land Rover will also introduce a late-life facelifted version of its well-regarded Discovery large SUV in March, as premiered at the Frankfurt motor show last September, while hybrid versions of the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport arrive in August.

WHAT’S COMING
Audi RS Q3 - Feb
Land Rover Discovery facelift - Mar
Land Rover Range Rover Evoque with 9-speed ZF auto - March
Mercedes GLA - Apr
Land Rover Range Rover Sport diesel V8 - May
Land Rover Range Rover LWB - May
Porsche Macan - Jun
BMW X3 facelift - Jun/Jul
BMW X4 - Jun/Jul
Land Rover Range Rover Sport hybrid - August
Land Rover Range Rover hybrid - August
Mercedes GLA45 AMG - Q4
Lexus NX - Q4 est

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