2017 Drive Car of the Year: Best City SUV

The idea of a city-based SUV is quite an odd – even ironic – one if you view it through the prism of conventional SUVs and what they stood for. But these days, people want the high seating position and the look of an SUV as much as they ever craved all-wheel-drive in the old days. And that’s where these cars have taken the market; they’re funky to look at and they offer a commanding view of the urban jungle. And they’re selling like crazy. 2017 Best City SUV of the Year: Suzuki Vitara Turbo 2WD Looking at some of the entrants in this category, you could be forgiven for thinking that a sense of urban-chic style rules the roost. And had the Suzuki Vitara been knocked from its two-times-champion perch this year, maybe that theory would have held true. But the Vitara again came up trumps, showcasing that, often, the proven formula is best. In this case, the formula for a successful city SUV includes keeping the tougher, more squared-off appearance rather than going for the trendy wings and trinkets treatment. So, the Suzuki looks a bit taller than the others here, a bit simpler in its presentation and, crucially, still sits its passengers in a traditional SUV way with a high point of view and upright seating to make the most of the interior space. 2017 Drive Car of the Year: Best City SUV finalists. Photo: Mark Bean That means a commanding driving position which is great for the urban shuffle, while the luggage area has thoughtful touches like a wet-gear storage area under the floor and deep side pockets. The biggest omission in the Vitara is autonomous emergency braking which is a major oversight on a vehicle like this. Beyond that, the safety angle is covered and there’s a decent amount of standard equipment including sat-nav. Our judges had no problems with the interior layout of the Suzuki (including that big, central clock) but did note that the plastics from which the interior is moulded seemed a bit cold and hard. The other thing the Suzuki does well is remembering that it’s also a car, and offering a driving experience to match. In fact, despite that jacked-up ride height, the Vitara remains an entertaining car to drive with sharp, accurate steering and a ride quality that really only shows up the vehicle’s small footprint on smaller, jiggly bumps. The engine and gearbox, too, are highlights with the 1.4-litre four-cylinder turbo producing its power right where you need it and even offering a bit of character into the bargain. With an official combined fuel consumption figure of just 5.9 litres per 100km, the Vitara should be cheap to run. But it’s worth noting that the service intervals of six months or 10,000km are the shortest of this group and need to be factored in to any cost-of-ownership calculations. Verbatim: “It maintains what attracted people to SUVs in the first place.” – Stephen Ottley  What we liked: Packaging and looks are spot on. Entertaining driveline. Sharp handling and steering. What we didn’t: Interior plastics feel cheap. No autonomous braking. Short service intervals. 2017 Susuki Vitara S-Turbo Price and specification Price: $30,240 as tested Engine: 1.4-litre 4-cyl turbo Power: 103kW at 5500rpm Torque: 220Nm at 5500rpm Transmission: Six-speed automatic, AWD Fuel use: 5.9 litres per 100km (combined) Finalist: Hyundai Kona Elite Hyundai is a brand that’s really making waves right now, and the plan is for models like the all-new Kona to continue that trend. Although it’s based on the i30 hatchback, it’s a completely different looking animal. In fact, it’s one of the busiest looking cars around right now, regardless of category and market segment, so you definitely won’t miss it in the mirrors. Inside, the points of difference continue with body-coloured seat-belts and some green anodised trim pieces that aren’t overdone, but give the interior a real visual lift. Plenty of thought has gone into the design, too, and despite the higher ride height, the loading lip of the luggage compartment is commendably low and there’s a cargo net and a wet-storage area under the floor. But the rear-seat accommodation is a bit tighter than its competitors, and you miss out on convenience touches like rear-seat air-vents. Safety is well taken care of, however, with autonomous braking and pedestrian-avoidance built into…


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