Like wildebeest sweeping majestically across the plain, so the mighty SUV and its compact crossover siblings have taken the car world by storm. There was a time when all we had to rely on in more extreme conditions was the humble Land Rover Series. Over time these morphed into more prestigious cars like Range Rovers or mighty motors from European brands like BMW; still as versatile, much more passenger friendly but sometimes at prices that would make even the more wealthy car buyer hyperventilate into a paper bag. Then one day, way back in 1971, the first Datsun Cherry rolled off a ship and the affordable mainstream Japanese revolution had begun.
Now almost everyone has one of these high-riding favorites. These days not all of them have four-wheel drive, because modern motoring doesn’t require it; but UK motorists still like the style. That’s why the crossover was born as a kind of junior relative to the SUV. Although we like to think that the origins of motor vehicles emanated in Europe, it is the Japanese manufacturers that have shown us the way forward. So here’s Bailey’s New Cars Direct comparative for some great compact SUV choices.
The Nissan Juke has been around for a good while now yet remains very popular thanks to the eye-catching looks. Well, the good news is that there’s a new version out (see the image) and Nissan have stuck with the quirky design and made it even more striking. One of the most appealing aspects of this car and something that is important to most who are considering a compact SUV, is the high-set driving position. Not only does it allow the driver to feel as though they are lording it over other traffic, it aids forward visibility too. It can also can make it easier, thanks to a high hip point on the supportive seats, to get into and out of the car. With a variety of engines there are models to suit most requirements.
The attractive and recently refreshed Honda CR-V is a five or seven-seat compact SUV that has been in production since 1995 and has proven incredibly popular for the Far Eastern manufacturer. This medium-sized vehicle offers a blend of practicality, reliability and efficiency that has stood it in good stead, with Honda making sure the model is regularly updated to maintain its share of the market. The Honda CR-V is offered with both two or four-wheel drive and a choice of six-speed manual or automatic gearboxes with a variety of diesel, petrol and hybrid power-plants. Five million CR-V owners globally presumably can’t be wrong.
This new offering from Toyota truly plays the style card. The C-HR is a futuristic-looking small SUV, with sharp lines and slashes in the body, that’s a practical choice for four adults. No diesel offering here; the brand has stuck with just two engine choices. There’s a turbocharged 1.2L petrol or a hybrid power plant, the latter being all about low running costs. The interior is innovative too and for the driver Toyota have made a point of delivering a much more satisfying driving experience than might be expected routinely. The hybrid combines a 1.8L petrol engine with an electric motor (borrowed from the Prius). Reviewers have found it to be an impressive system. A great small family choice.
Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross
Mitsubishi is not perhaps a name that rolls of the tongue of car buyers like the three other brands above but that doesn’t mean their vehicles are any less competent and practical. The Eclipse Cross is relatively new to the market. Mitsubishi’s core USP is reliability and with variable four-wheel drive this is a car that will survive difficult winter conditions. The design is distinctive with attractive detailing like the split rear-screen. It stands out. Power comes from a 1.5L direct-injection turbo-petrol motor with a choice of six-speed manual (front-wheel drive) or a CVT gearbox that feels like a regular eight-speed automatic. No diesel at present as seems to be the modern thinking. An interesting alternative.