Small SUVs have become one of the most popular segments here in recent times, and that also means tough competition. CarBuyer.com.sg helps you pick the cream of the small SUV crop here
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Cars here have been tested and voted on by CarBuyer’s editorial team. We have a combined experience of more than 70 years in the industry and have tested thousands of cars. In short, you can rely on us to tell you what’s worth your time and dollars – and what’s not.
Welcome back to another installment of CarBuyer.com.sg’s Best Of, a guide series that will be updated regularly, and where we help you pick the best cars in each segment here in Singapore.
Our next category looks at small sport utility vehicles (SUVs), one of the fastest growing segments in the automotive market in recent years, and one which is expected to grow even further in the years ahead.
It’s easy to see why small SUVs appeal to a significant proportion of the car-buying population. They offer the same qualities as larger SUVs, namely a raised seating height that offers easier cabin ingress and egress, rugged looks, all-round practicality and good use of space.
At the same time, their small dimensions mean that they are easy to drive and pilot in an urban environment like Singapore. Most of these small SUVs offer a footprint that’s no bigger than a regular family hatchback, which means you get the benefits of an SUV without the drawbacks of poor manoeuvrability and being difficult to park.
In Singapore, this segment is dominated by the Japanese brands, but in markets like Europe nearly every mainstream carmaker has a small SUV offering, or has plans to introduce one, further underlining how important this segment is in the global automotive sphere.
And importantly here, small SUVs are very affordable too – unlike mid-sized SUVs (we’ve ranked the best of them here) which typically cost more than S$120k with COE, small SUVs can often be had for as little as S$90k with COE.
As usual, CarBuyer.com.sg is aiming to make it easy for you to zero in on the best you can get in SIngapore, and we have chosen the top three small SUVs currently on sale here in Singapore in 2020, as well as a couple more contenders you may want to consider putting on your shortlist as well.
Our pick: Mazda CX-30 2.0 Elegance from S$87,888 without COE (May 2020)
Read our review of the Mazda CX-30 here
The Mazda CX-30 is the newest entrant on the small SUV block, having been launched here in January 2020 at the Singapore Motor Show. But the fact that it has gone straight to the top as one of the best contenders in this segment highlights just how high Mazda has raised the bar in terms of expectations in this market.
The CX-30 may be Mazda’s small SUV offering, but, badge notwithstanding, one could easily mistake it for a much more upmarket car from a luxury manufacturer. It boasts a plethora of safety features, a premium quality interior, and an entertaining drive to boot.
Its sleek styling, with a lower roofline than most ordinary SUVs, should appeal to the younger set who want a more stylish-looking car. But it also comes with the benefit of a lower centre of gravity, translating into more planted driving manners for the enthusiastic driver.
The sole engine variant available is a 2.0-litre 164hp naturally aspirated petrol, which puts it at a disadvantage against some of its smaller-engined rivals tax-wise. But the unit itself is smooth and efficient, and offers decent performance.
The entry-level Classic trim (S$80,888 without COE) offers great value, with an 8.8-inch infotainment system that comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The mid-spec Elegance trim (S$87,888 without COE) is our choice, as it adds safety systems like blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert, but if you plump for the top-of-the-line Luxury trim (S$95,888 without COE), you get adaptive cruise control and autonomous braking as well, but that brings the price well into the S$100k territory, which may be out of the park for small SUV budgets.
Our pick: Kia Stonic 1.0T EX from S$82,999 with COE (May 2020)
Read our review of the Kia Stonic here
The Kia Stonic is further evidence that the Koreans are not just catching up with the Japanese carmakers, but have the Europeans firmly in their sights too. In a small affordable package, the Stonic offers a turbocharged engine, a twin-clutch gearbox, and some pretty decent premium features.
The key to the Stonic’s appeal though is really its youthful vibe. Kia offers no less than 29 different colour combinations for the Stonic, including the option of two-tone paint, and you can have your Stonic in bright yellow or flashy red, with the roof finished in Tan Orange or Electric Green. There’s also the usual silver and black tones if you’re more conservative-inclined.
Keep in mind that the Stonic is actually a compact SUV – it’s a size down from the other cars in this class, but because competition is basically non-existent in the compact SUV segment, we’ve categorised it as a small SUV for now. Kia has launched a ‘proper’ small SUV, the Seltos, but we haven’t tested it yet and will update once we have.
The Stonic is powered by a 1.0-litre turbocharged three-cylinder petrol engine that produces 120hp, and it offers a gutsy drive, especially when paired with the quick-shifting seven-speed twin-clutch gearbox. It’s not fast by any means, but it is zippy, and allows you to dart in and out of traffic with entertaining vigour.
Prices for the Stonic start at SS$82,999 with COE for the base EX variant, and for that money you get stuff like a 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, keyless entry and engine push start button, as well as a reverse camera.
The SX trim is five grand extra at SS$87,999 with COE, and that gets you a sunroof, 17-inch alloy wheels, a roof rack, automatic climate control, cruise control and automatic wipers. If you want two-tone paint, that’s an additional grand on top of the SX’s price (S$88,999 with COE).
Our pick: Honda HR-V 1.5 LX from S$99,999 with COE (May 2020)
Read our review of the Honda HR-V here
By now a very familiar sight on Singapore’s roads, the Honda HR-V has been an extremely popular choice among drivers here for half a decade now.
An attractive price tag is certainly one factor behind its popularity, but the HR-V also had the benefit of first-mover advantage, being one of the first of its kind in the market when the small SUV boom was just taking off here. Consumers (and private hire drivers) flocked towards it in droves, and it certainly went a long way towards helping Honda top the sales charts locally for a couple of years.
But there’s more to the HR-V’s appeal than simply affordability. Its sleek, coupe-inspired styling certainly turns heads, and features interesting design touches such as the hidden rear door handle. But at the same time, there’s plenty of space and practicality to accommodate a family of five and their barang barang comfortably. The boot has a capacity of 437-litres, which is outstanding not only in the class, but comparable to larger cars too.
Powering the HR-V is a 1.6-litre naturally-aspirated petrol engine that produces 120hp, and while it’s no great shakes, it does the job adequately for the urban driver who simply uses his car for his daily activities, like going to work, and for family outings on the weekends. It’s a generally inoffensive car to drive, but its small footprint means that it’s a doddle to manoeuvre around town.
For the money, you get a relatively well-equipped car. The base DX trim (S$93,999 with COE) gets keyless entry and engine push start button, LED headlights, and a reverse camera. The top-spec LX model (S$99,999 with COE) would be our choice however, as it adds a 7.0-inch touchscreen display, paddle shifters and six airbags.
If there’s an award for the wildest looking SUV in this segment, the Toyota C-HR will arguably win it hands down. Looking more like a concept car than a family runabout, the C-HR is all bold swoops and strokes, and if not for its raised ride height could easily pass off as a sporty two-door coupe.
Under the skin though, the C-HR is as mundane as you can get. Power comes from a 1.2-litre turbocharged engine that produces 116hp, and is mostly tuned for efficiency, although it is peppy given its boosted nature. The drive is fairly ordinary too, nothing spectacular but not terrible either.
By all accounts, the C-HR passes off reasonably well as a family crossover SUV, with enough room for five passengers. But its bold styling does result in a few compromises. In particular, the swooping window line means that rear occupants can get claustrophobic. And the boot space is relatively smaller as compared to its rivals.
The C-HR is also a touch more pricey than some of its competitors, with the entry-level Active model starting at S$115,888 with COE. For that money though you get climate control, automatic wipers, blind spot monitoring and radar cruise control. The Luxury model (S$130,888 with COE) adds leather upholstery, keyless entry and electric front seats. Like the Kia Stonic, a two-tone paint job is an additional S$1,000 option.
If you’re looking for a sport utility vehicle that truly emphasises the ‘utility’ part, then look no further than Suzuki, who are somewhat of a specialist when it comes to small off-roaders. They’ve been building these things far longer than anyone else, dating all the way back to the Jimny of the 80s.
Unlike the Vitaras of old, which were properly capable of offroading, this current model is a road-biased, family-friendly SUV that eschews its predecessors’ macho looks and gung-ho attitude, in exchange for easier everyday usability. There was an all-wheel drive model, but it’s no longer available – that makes perfect sense here since it brings the price down, and there’s not much use for four-wheel-drive here anyway.
The interior is mostly utilitarian in nature, with hardy plastics all around, but there’s appreciably more space than many of its segment rivals. An update last year put the 1.4-litre 140hp turbocharged engine from the Swift Sport under the Vitara’s bonnet, offering a boost to performance. That version is now the sole variant available to buy in Singapore, retailing at S$92,900 with COE.
Read our review of the Nissan Qashqai here
Nissan’s best-seller in Singapore is the small SUV, the Qashqai, and it’s been very popular here for a number of reasons – a 1.2-litre turbo engine, lots of space, and it’s good-looking to boot. However, it was last facelifted in 2017 (we test drove this model above) and that also means it’s the oldest car in the segment right now. The new Qashqai is expected soon and was previewed as the Ariya concept at last year’s Tokyo Motor Show, although COVID-19 could throw a spanner in the time frame.
It’s still a good car, but the interior is starting to look quite old and bare compared to the cars here, and the level of tech is a notch lower than the competitors. Our recommendation? If you can get one on a good discount, it’s still a solid buy.