WhichCar should I buy instead of a large SUV?

Looking for a happy medium between big SUV and little hatchback? There are a few options

SUV alternatives 2019

 Hi WhichCar, I’m at my wit’s end about what our next car will be. My wife INSISTS we must have an SUV, though I don’t think we need one at all. Her reason is that she feels more secure in traffic sitting up higher, while I think that a smaller wagon or hatchback will be easier to park, cheaper to run and probably cheaper to buy.

We have had a Toyota Kluger for the last six or seven years, but we’ve also raised two children and lugged around a lot of sports gear during that time. Now the kids are older, we have access to a company car and we don’t cart the same stuff over the same distances we used to.

Help me! I get why the missus wants an SUV, but I think they’re stupid! What do I do?

Aaron, Mordialloc, Victoria

Hi mate,

Isn’t that funny… I’ve recently had EXACTLY the same conversation recently with my other half! She likes the fact that she has a commanding view in traffic as well, but she can’t give me one other single reason as to why we need a large SUV.

Similarly, our mob has grown and all but gone, and we just don’t need a hulking big car that burns more fuel, eats big expensive tyres and is tough to park in ever-shrinking parking spaces in our increasingly crowded cities. What to do?

Well, there are a couple of cars I’m leaning heavily towards as a bit of an SUV addiction breaker, with the (probably vain) hope that we can eventually downsize into something suitably tiny next time.

The Subaru XV brings the size of the SUV right down to a much more manageable level than the Kluger, but it still offers a higher seating position than, say, an Impreza from the same brand.

2018 Subaru XV 2.0i-S

It also has a decent amount of boot room, and its plastic overfenders and chunky bumpers give it an SUV’s attitude. The non-turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine will feel lacking after the Kluger, though.

Likewise, the Hyundai Kona is based on an i30 but has a bit more ground clearance and a taller hip point (seat height in car industry speak) than the i30. 

It’s also quite small in its footprint without giving up interior room (up front, at least; the rear is a little cosy).

Probably the poster child for an industry that’s looking to future-proof itself against any sort of SUV backtrack, though, is the Ford Focus Active.

Ford Focus gets dirty with Active crossover news

Described by the company itself as a ‘passenger car with increased capabilities’, it’s nothing more than a stock Focus with a 30mm ride height lift and a bit more plastic around the wheels.

However, it does tick the SUV box in terms of being taller, and it even offers a couple of quasi-offroad modes should you want to head to a beach spot.

A tiny three-cylinder engine and a front-wheel-drive layout keep things frugal and simple, multilink rear suspension gives it real character in the corners and the interior is… well, from a Ford Focus, so it’s comfortable and well-equipped.

All three cars can be had for around the $30,000 mark, as well, making them pretty accessible.


If I was to bring one home, I’d have to pick the Subaru because it comes in bright colours (yes, that’s a stipulation from the Ministry of Finance), but I reckon the Focus is a great choice for a family who can’t quite shake the SUV bug.

WhichCar recommends – Ford Focus Active


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