Australia's best small and compact SUVs of 2022

A red Mazda CX-30 small SUV on the road.

Craig Duff

Posted April 22, 2022


RACV casts an eye over the pick of the hugely popular small SUV fleet looking for the best buys for a variety of owners, from the MG ZS to the Volvo XC40.

There are more than 30 players in the compact SUV market vying for the attention of new car buyers.

The segment trails only utes and medium SUVs in popularity, making it a key battleground for car makers.

This is where buyers are typically finding their first fresh-off-the-showroom-floor vehicle.

If the small SUV makes a good enough impression, both initially and over the course of ownership, there’s a good chance that buyers will go for the same brand when they’re due for their next new vehicle.

So, the pressure is on manufacturers and prospective owners to do their research and find a compact SUV that resonates.

Of course, not everyone will come to this class at the same price point or wanting the same features, which is why the vehicles below are a subjective mix of value and competence, rather than just the top-selling cars in the class.

If you purely want the top-selling small SUVs in the past month, look here

Australia's best small and compact SUVs for 2022

A driveaway price from $22,490 makes the MG ZS/ZST small SUV solid value for money.
The MG ZS is powered by a 1.5-litre engine paired to a four-speed automatic.
The interior styling of the ZS/ZST is modern and easy to operate.

Best value small SUV: MG ZS/ZST

The MG-badged compact SUV is the cheapest way to secure a new small SUV. With a starting price of just $22,490 driveaway, it’s no coincidence the ZS/ZST range are the most popular cars in the small SUV segment.

The ZS uses an 84kW/150Nm 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine paired with a four-speed automatic transmission for a claimed combined fuel use of 7.1 litres every 100km.

While fundamentally the same vehicles, the ZST range pack a heap more creature comforts and safety gear into the vehicle compared to the entry level ZS Prices for a ZST-badged version start at $25,990 on the road and climb to $33.490.

The ZST Core and Vibe versions rely on the same 1.5-litre engine, this time paired with a continuously variable transmission, which trims fuel use to 6.9 litres/100km.

The higher-spec Excite and Essence variants adopt a 1.3-litre three-cylinder turbocharged engine good for 115kW/230Nm. It is matched to a six-speed automatic and fuel consumption is rated at 7.3 litres/100km, though it is recommended to run on the more expensive 95 RON petrol.

Notable inclusions include a bigger infotainment screen (10.1 inches against 8.0-inches), and a more extensive list of safety assist software, including adaptive cruise control, blind-spot  monitoring and rear cross-traffic assist.

The ZS scored a four-star ANCAP rating when it was tested in 2017; ZST variants haven’t been officially tested.

Helping potential owners make the leap into the Chinese-built vehicles are the likes of a seven-year, unlimited kilometre warranty and relatively cheap servicing costs (ranging from $1,407 for five years with the ZS to $1566 on the ZST Essence). Service intervals are every 12 months or 10,000km, which reflects the anticipated use of the ZS as an urban commuter.

Pros: price, standard equipment, interior space

Cons: ride, technology interfaces, front-wheel-drive only

Cross shop against: Mitsubishi ASX (24,490-$33,990 plus on-road costs)

RACV review

 

Mazda's CX-30 is competing with the MG to be the most popular small SUV of 2022.
Styling is one of the Mazda CX-30's strong suits.
Interior refinement, from the materials to how well it is put together, is a highlight.

Best mainstream small SUV: Mazda CX-30

Premium looks inside and out are the Mazda CX-30 small SUV's selling points. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, though, so some may prefer the squarer-edged look of rivals.

What they can’t overlook is the attention to detail in the CX-30.

The ergonomic interior and minimalist design make the Mazda a stand-out in the small SUV segment.

You pay for the privilege of looking good, with prices starting at $29,390 plus on-roads for the front-wheel-drive Pure with a manual gearbox. That works out to be $33,961 driveway in the Melbourne 3000 postcode.

Opt for the top-spec all-wheel-drive Astina mild hybrid and the price extends to $47,490 plus on-roads, or $53,172 in your garage.

Servicing costs range from $1,732 over five years/50,000km for the Pure to $1,855 for the X20 Astina.

Standard equipment across the range includes a head-up display, speed-sign recognition, lane-departure warning, blind-spot monitoring, autonomous emergency braking, a driver-alert detection system, smartphone integration, satellite navigation and an 8.8-inch infotainment system.

Pros: Interior refinement, ride, fuel consumption

Cons: Expensive, compact rear space, small boot

Shop against: Subaru XV ($29,690-$40,790 plus on-road costs)

RACV review

 

Buyers looking for a premium small SUV gravitate to the Volvo XC40.
The well-contoured body of the Volvo is draped over a responsive chassis and engine.
The minimalist interior design means the infotainment system operates most functions in the car.

Best luxury small SUV: Volvo XC40

The Volvo XC40 reigns in this space. The Swedish-designed (Chinese-owned and built) crossover is a good thing, which is why it dominates the luxury small SUV segment.

Prices start at $47,490 plus on-roads, or $54,537 driveaway for Melbourne buyers. That’s not been an issue for those who want the sophistication of a prestige brand and Volvo’s reputation for reliability and safety.

Owners have the option of choosing front or all-wheel drive of the luxury compact SUV and there are a pair of electric models, though the price then blows out to more than $85,000 for the twin-motor version.

More than 1200 Volvo XC40s have been sold in the first quarter of this year, making it the standout model in the luxury small SUV ranks.

It may be a Volvo, but the most recent crop of cars has defied the traditional staid exterior styling for a more visually dynamic approach. That hasn’t hurt sales, either.

Servicing intervals are 12 months or 15,000km and a pre-paid plan covering the first five years of ownership costs $3000.

Pros: Fit-and-finish, drive, interior space

Cons: Servicing costs, limited dealer network, fuel use

Shop against: Audi Q2 ($45,200-$66,900 plus on-roads)

RACV review

 

Eye-catching looks ensures the Peugeot 2008 stands out from the small SUV crowd.
On-the-road pricing starts in the low $40,000s, making the Peugeot an expensive mainstream model, or cheap premium pick, depending on your perspective.
The high-mounted driver's display means the small steering wheel needs to be set low for most drivers to avoid obstructing the view..

Best “look at me” alternative small SUV: Peugeot 2008

If you want to walk into the supermarket carpark and instantly identify your car from the crowd, the Peugeot 2008 compact SUV is a smart choice.

Ironically, meagre Australian sales don’t measure up to the overseas experience: the 2008 was Europe’s top-selling small SUV last year. Go figure.

The French brand has a reputation for flair, and it shows through in this small SUV, from the distinctive lights front and rear, to the go-kart-sized steering wheel and the driver’s display sitting atop the dash.

Peugeot argues this set-up obviates the need for a head-up display. I’d still prefer a conventional layout and a windscreen projection, but you do adjust to it.

Interior quality is approaching premium levels, there’s a decent-sized boot and the rear seats are comfortable.

Pricing kicks off at $36,740 and winds out to $48,290 plus on-road costs.

Servicing costs over the course of the five-year warranty amounts to $2,435.

Pros: Looks, interior space, engine sound

Cons: No rear air vents

Shop against: Volkswagen T-Roc ($35,550-$42,700 plus on-roads)

RACV review

 

A 5.5-second sprint time to 100km/h sees the Hyundai Kona N run away from the small SUV field.
Take the Hyundai Kona N to a track day event and it is more than happy to kick up its performance heels.
The interior is one of the few areas where the Hyundai Kona N doesn't stand out.

Best performance small SUV: Hyundai Kona N

The Hyundai Kona N has no natural front-wheel-drive rivals in the small SUV ranks, at least until the August arrival of the Volkswagen T-Roc R. Even then, the VW will still cost around $10,000 more.

Enthusiasts who still demand a relatively high driving position will love how the Hyundai Kona N drives and handles.

They may be less enamoured of the fact the interior largely looks like a regular Hyundai Kona; despite the fact they’ve spent nearly double the money than an entry-level version.

Pricing starts at $47,500 plus on-road costs for the Hyundai Kona N and rises to $50,500 for the N Premium, with the latter adding a head-up display, classier seat trim with heating and ventilation up front, front parking sensors and a sunroof.

Driveaway pricing for Melbourne-postcode buyers is $52,631/$55,757.

Servicing costs over the course of the five-year warranty (and Hyundai won’t invalidate that warranty if you occasionally take your car to a track day) run to $1675. Note the performance small SUV needs servicing every year or 10,000km, rather than the 15,000km intervals that apply to regular versions.

Pros: steering, performance, entertainment value

Cons: small boot, tyre roar, bland interior

Shop against: VW T-Roc R ($59,300 plus on-roads)

RACV review (see bottom of story)

 

The information provided is general advice only. Before making any decisions please consider your own circumstances and the Product Disclosure Statement and Target Market Determinations. For copies, visit racv.com.au. As distributor, RACV Insurance Services Pty Ltd AFS Licence No. 230039 receives commission for each policy sold or renewed. Product(s) issued by Insurance Manufacturers of Australia ABN 93 004 208 084 AFS Licence No. 227678.


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