Car buyers guide: Is now the time to buy a medium SUV?

By Jez Spinks, 08 Sep 2016 Car Advice

Hyundai Tucson

In a new WhichCar series, we reveal upcoming updates or major changes for Australia’s most popular vehicles.

Medium SUVs are the most popular in Australia of all the variously sized sports utility vehicles on sale.

They’re also the second-biggest vehicle segment overall, after small cars.

Renowned nameplates include models more than 20 years old (Toyota RAV4), more than 15 years old (Nissan X-Trail), more than 10 years old (Hyundai Tucson), as well as relatively young models less than five years old (Mazda CX-5).

They’re currently the four biggest-selling medium-sized SUVs locally, so here’s a guide to any changes planned or expected for them during the next 18 months – to help you pick the perfect timing for buying one. 

HYUNDAI TUCSON

It’s only about a year since the Tucson nameplate returned to the mid-size SUV segment, replacing the relatively short-lived ix35. Therefore, even the usual mid-life-cycle is a fair while away.

Some product enhancements might materialise in the second half of 2017, though, just to help keep the Hyundai as competitive as possible in this fiercely contested segment. 

MAZDA CX-5

The CX-5 has been a runaway success for Mazda since the Japanese brand swapped it for the CX-7 in 2012. It’s currently the most popular SUV in Australia and doesn’t look set to be overtaken any time soon.

Mazda CX-5

The model has already had its facelift, in early 2015, so attention now moves to the second-generation CX-5 that is anticipated to arrive as early as late next year.

Dimensions are not expected to change much from the size that Mazda has described as a “sweet spot”, and the design is likely to be evolutionary rather than revolutionary.

Next-generation Skyactiv engines could feature Homogenous Charge Compression Ignition (HCCI), which Mazda engineers have been working on to give its petrol engines the same spark-less, high-compression ignition characteristics as diesel engines.

It wouldn’t be a surprise, either, to see a higher trim grade of the next CX-5 featuring the 2.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder that debuted in 2016 in the seven-seater CX-9. Engineering improvements will also focus on reducing road noise. 

NISSAN X-TRAIL

Nissan X-Trail has been a constant presence on Australia’s list of Most Popular SUVs since it emerged at the start of the century.

Nissan X-Trail

The latest-generation model went on sale in April 2014 and is expected to receive its first notable update in the first half of 2017. No details are available yet, though styling tweaks and equipment enhancements can both be anticipated as part of the round of upgrades. 

TOYOTA RAV4

Another generation of the Toyota SUV that dates back to 1994 isn’t due until at least 2018.

Toyota RAV4

The current version was released in 2013, had extra features added a year later, and in December 2015 the vehicle was given its mid-cycle upgrade.

The model refresh included the addition of a rear-view camera across all models, revised suspension to improve ride quality, and the introduction of available safety technology including autonomous emergency braking, blind spot monitoring, lane departure alert, active cruise control, forward collision warning, and auto high beam.

It’s all standard on the range-topping Cruiser and part of an option pack on the mid-range GXL, though don’t be surprised to see the option pack, which costs $2500, become available sometime soon on the base GX.