Choice means competition and competition is great for the customer, and never more has that rule applied than in the small SUV market.
With so many competitors fighting for attention in the dinky high-rider segment, the plethora of brands are forced to be hyper-competitive in terms of features, equipment and price. And that's good news for you.
There are more than 15 models vying for your money in the small SUV class, but we’re going to look at the group that’s most affordable, starting with the least expensive.
Suzuki Ignis – $16,690
The Suzuki Ignis is officially the most affordable small SUV in Australia, if you can call it that. While it might appear as a larger-than-usual hatchback, the Ignis is a boxy, retro look at a ‘light SUV’ and prices begin at $16,690 (before on-road costs).
Available as a front-wheel drive only, it may not have much in the way of off-road ability, but the Ignis is a handy city-dweller and offers more head and leg room than you might imagine.
Haval H2 – $19,990
Read next: New Havals not here until 2021
China’s entry to the small SUV space is actually the cheapest small SUV with turbocharged power and prices begin at just under $20k.
The Haval H2 first entered the Australian market with the brand’s launch in late 2015.
For such an inexpensive option, there's a respectable amount of standard kit but the quality isn’t quite up to its Japanese rivals’ standard, nor is the way it drives and handles.
Hyundai Venue – $20,190
In a weird way the Venue small SUV replaced the Accent in Hyundai’s local line-up, taking the place as the brand’s least expensive car. Weird, because the Accent was a small sedan and nothing like the South Korean's newest model.
The Hyundai Venue starts at $20,190 before on-road costs and, while there are foibles, notably the breathless non-turbo engine, there is much to like about the Venue. Cheap and cheerful? You bet.
Mazda CX-3 – $22,710
It may be a little long in the tooth, but the Mazda CX-3 can still carve it up with the best of them. It’s consistently one of the most popular small cars on the market and even placed well in our small SUV Megatest – especially impressive considering its age.
Read next: 2020 Mazda CX-3 Maxx Sport review
Prices start at $22,710 before on-roads.
Suzuki Vitara – $22,990
The Suzuki Vitara is a familiar nameplate going back more than 30 years, and now it represents a good, honest SUV that majors on practicality and comfort without falling into the trap of trying to be too sporty.
But while it's roomy and well equipped, it does feel like it's built to its $22,990 (before ORCs) price and the absence of advanced driver assistance technology is an archaism in this 2020 model.
Read next: 2020 Suzuki Vitara 1.6L Auto review
MG ZS – $23,490
As China’s auto industry matures, the quality – and quantity – of product from the country has also grown.
MG - a brand that used to be as British as bulldogs and warm beer - has been transformed into a subsidiary of Chinese mega-corp SAIC Automotive, and its most promising product since its Chinese-funded revival began is the MG ZS compact crossover.
Mitsubishi ASX – $23,990
If we gave you the impression the Mazda CX-3 was old – sorry – the Mitsubishi ASX is on another level. But ever since its introduction ten years ago it has sold consistently well thanks to its spaciousness, reliability and low price.
The ASX range begins at $23,990 (before ORCs) today and was recently updated for the umpteenth time, but under its facelifted exterior it's essentially still the same decade-old car.
Hyundai Kona – $24,300
Hyundai’s second entrant into the small SUV segment is the $24,300 (before ORCs) Kona which is a step up in size, specification and drivetrain when compared with the Venue small SUV.
WhichCar likes the Kona for its bold exterior styling and level of standard kit, though that good first impression is tarnished when you get inside to find a rental-car interior.
Read next: Hyundai Kona Range Review
Honda HR-V – $24,990
There are a raft of reasons behind the HR-V’s success in Australia including brand trust, elegant design, unique packaging, sharp pricing and driving ease.
The range starts at $24,990 (before on-road costs) and is recommended by WhichCar for its value-packed features, family-focused space, comfort and cargo flexibility. It’s also good fun to drive.
That's just the tip of the small SUV iceberg and there's a lot more choice if you have the budget. Keep an eye out for our next installment when we explore the more premium brands.