Hallelujah! Motor manufacturers the world over seem to have finally cottoned onto the idea that reliability and engineering alone do not a car make. It’s 2017, for goodness’ sake. Your mother’s on Instagram, your dad now sheriffs the family WhatsApp group like a Reichsmarschall and your office needn’t resort to 21st-century snail-mail – email – anymore, now that we have Slack (you should really get on that if you haven’t already). Things aren’t changing: They’ve already changed, as have family cars. South African families are increasingly turning to high-riding compact SUVs for salvation from the traditional hatchback. And why wouldn’t they? Just look at the surplus of cool new metal on offer.
Toyota C-HR 1.2T CVT Plus
While late to the party, admittedly, you can think of Toyota’s ‘Coupé High Rider’
as the whole kit and caboodle: all that the Nissan Juke and Honda H-RV wereshooting for to bring crossovers into the mainstream market. For one, it’s the most radically styled of all these anime-inspired high hatches, and that’s a good thing. And because it’s a Toyota and this is South Africa, every auntie in a RAV4, every oupa in a Hilux and every tenderpreneur in a Prado pulls over to have their say. One khaki-wearing gentleman was quite taken with it, commenting it looked ‘so radical …it must be some sort of hybrid.’ ’Fraid not, Sir, just a downsized turbo petrol (the firstfor a series-production Toyota in SA) in manual or easy-driving CVT; there is no all-wheel drive or diesel derivative in the pipeline. An elderly housewife approached soon after to enquire about the price – she wants to downsize from her RAV4.‘R356k? Oh, that’s nothing,’ she remarks, as if she was hoping to take delivery right there and then. This is where the new C-HR should prove to be unstoppable. As trailblazing as the Nissan Juke was,
the C-HR turns heads just that little bit easier, the drive is better defined, and
it’s a reliable, soundly built Toyota. Calls for the C-HR factory in Sakarya, Turkey
to double production have already been eagerly dispatched.
Radical looks and a sweet engine; expect demand to outstrip supply
It’s a Toyota that’s not just about reliability; attractively priced, too
Not so sure
Lack of boot space and none of the 18-inch rims you’d get overseas
Mini Cooper Countryman
First off, let’s all move on from the ‘Minis not being so mini anymore’ issue, please. Every year since the turn of the century, Minis have been getting larger, to the point where we’ve achieved ‘Peak Mini’, if you like – the maxi-est Mini ever. Longer by 20 cm, now with a 450ℓ boot (still 55ℓ shy of the BMW X1), you can argue the Countryman has graduated to full SUV status, even though we don’t get the All4 derivative locally. The drive, as it is in all Minis, in fact, is exceptional. The 1.5-litre 3-cylinder Cooper with 100 kW/220 Nm is such a peach of an engine; it feels as eager as a spinning top and still returns superb fuel economy. If it’s added potency you’re after, you can opt for the 141 kW 2.0-litre turbo Cooper S for nearly R500k, but we’d rather suggest using your money to customise the base car with one of the cool exterior packs and add-ons, such as the Mini Picnic Bench and badass 19-inch rims. Yessir!
A Mini you can use every day, in every way
Added practicality and quality, but no lack of dynamic talent on the road
Not so sure
As with the others, the All4 would’ve been a worthy range-topper
Audi Q2 1.4 TFSI Sport S-tronic
Ingolstadt may also be fashionably late to the compact-SUV party with the Q2, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t come prepared. The new baby Q is a brilliant car, perfectly of its time and immensely desirable. Its engines, ranging from a punchy 1.0-litre triple to the four-cylinder TFSI with cylinder-on-demand tech to the 2.0-litre TDI arriving later in the year, each endow it with a level of Vorsprung that’s fit for purpose. On top of that, this is one of the coolest Audis of recent years – no more cookie-cutter design, thank you very much – and one that drives, crucially, with all the premium Technik of a bigger Q-series. The only reason punters will choose a Q3 over it is the 45ℓ of additional boot space; as for the rest, the new Q2 hits the nail on the SUV-downsizing head. The only issue is the price, which is a bit steep, as are the multitude of options for packages you’ll be loath to ignore. Then again, this really is a proper Audi, so expect to spend Audi money for the privilege.
Looks the part, but doesn’t skimp on quality – premium all the way
An Audi with a pulse; you can almost feel the brand’s rejuvenation
Not so sure
Your bank manager may want to have a word
Hyundai Creta 1.6 CRDi auto
In among these weird crossover shapes rendered in bold, vivid colours, the new Indian-sourced Creta (named, partly, after the island of Crete – quite bizarre) is a most pragmatic choice. Sadly, it’s only available in a dour range of paint colours and with a little wow factor to the interior, so it’s more fit for its purpose than for looking fit for your Instagram feed. Note, however, that it boasts a sizable 190 mm of front ground clearance, so you might actually take this one kerbing at the mall – and there’s more than 400ℓ of boot space for the shopping you acquire while there. 1 600 cc petrol and turbodiesels are on offer; we found the (94 kW/260 Nm) oil-burning automatic particularly relaxed and quite pleasant to drive, while the base (90 kW/150 Nm) petrol will satisfy those keeping an eye on their cash flow. There’s quite a lot of torque on offer in the diesel, so the traction-control system will be left fighting front-wheel spin at most turns, but the car feels tough and soundly built and rides nicely over rough surfaces –
all traits that are very quickly ingratiating Indian-built cars to the SA market.
More clearance than a Tucson, so the countryside is your playground
Small turbodiesel owns some exclusive space in this segment right now
Not so sure
That name. Even ix25 (that’s what it’s called in India) has a better ring to it
Mazda CX-3 2.0 Individual Plus Auto
Among a plethora of turbo triples and the odd turbodiesel, the pint-sized Mazda has a not-so-little secret lurking beneath its snout: a potent 2.0-litre petrol motor that’s good for not only 115 kW/204 Nm, but also for hustling ahead of the opposition as far as bang-for-buck goes. However, as much fun as it is to drive, it’s a little less full-pants in the practicality department than you might hope. Based on Mazda2 underpinnings, it’s too narrow – Oh, hello, shoulder belonging to guy in passenger seat – and only has 264 litres of stowage space in the boot, so you’re better off driving around in a thimble, frankly. But the cabin is nice, clean and simple, much like the overall drive. Thing is, while this is undoubtedly an excellent compact crossover, there are manufacturers offering bona fide mini-SUVs now, and with more kerbside appeal, too.
Robot-to-robot blasting; that big NA motor loves to hustle
Simple cabin and clean-cut exterior styling, quality is excellent
Not so sure
Lack of interior practicality blots its copy book
The allure of the latest brigade of mini-SUVs surely lies in their unique chemistry between drivability, livability and kerbside appeal. The Mazda offers a drive that’ll win it many friends, but its compact packaging lets it down. The bulletproof Hyundai makes a pragmatic argument, with a solid drive and appealing warranty and service plan, but lacks the fun factor that’s quick becoming a hallmark of the segment. The Q2 has what it takes to win the segment, define it even, but at that price, you’d kind of expect as much. Then there’s the Mini, ironically, which offers the most practicality here, to go with an exemplary drive. But if we’re talking about mini-SUVs going mainstream, it has to be the Toyota. It’s the ultimate winner, because its lines look like they came straight out on a graphic novel and it makes the most sense to buy. Best order now to avoid disappointment.