JOHANNESBURG - While the compact SUV segment is set to boom in South Africa this year with the introduction of affordable new models like the Nissan Magnite, Suzuki Vitara Brezza and Toyota Urban Cruiser, there is also plenty to look forward to in the more affluent segment above, with a bold offering from Hyundai, a new entrant from Mazda as well as classy updates to familiar models from Audi, Mitsubishi and Peugeot.
Here’s what you can look forward to in 2021:
Audi Q5 - Facelift
Expected: 3rd quarter, 2021
Audi’s midsize SUV is getting its midlife nip and tuck later this year, and the upgrade not only brings a sharper appearance, but upgraded cabin tech too and a more powerful diesel engine.
While the South African engine line-up has yet to be confirmed, Europeans get to enjoy an updated 2-litre TDI turbodiesel, now producing 150kW (a 10kW improvement) as well as the usual TFSI petrol options.
As for the cabin, the new Q5 undergoes similar electronic surgery to the latest A4 and A5 models, with the old rotary-controlled MMI interface making way for a new cloud-connected touchscreen infotainment system with 10 times more computing power than the previous system and an advanced voice control system.
But if you’re looking for something with a bit more fizz than Audi’s mainstream Q5, the company is also planning to launch the rip-snorting RS Q3 and RS Q8 models in early 2021.
Hyundai Tucson - All new
Expected: 2nd half, 2021
Hyundai has gone for bold with the exterior design of its all-new Tucson, which is expected to reach local shores during the second half of the year. It’s also brand new underneath, slotting onto a new platform and growing by 20mm in length and 15mm in width.
The cabin is just as big a departure, with a layered design featuring an upper ridge that flows seamlessly into the doors. The traditional instrument binnacle makes way for a slim digital screen, while the central infotainment screen promises “best-in-class” digital experiences that even allow you to operate your home appliances, such as air conditioning, remotely from the car.
The SA engine line-up will be confirmed closer to launch, but international options include a 1.6-litre turbopetrol with up to 132kW and a plug-in hybrid that boasts 195kW. Some models also offer an upgraded all-wheel drive system, with new modes such as Mud, Sand and Snow.
Mazda CX-30 - All new
Expected: February 2021
Set to launch at the end of January, the Mazda CX-30 will plug the gap between the CX-3 and CX-5, and it fits neatly between them in size terms, meaning it has a similar footprint to the Nissan Qashqai and Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross.
In design terms it’s a close relative of the latest Mazda3, and the same goes for the cabin, where you’ll find an iDrive-like ‘commander control’ that features a more intuitive guidance system.
As for practicality, the CX-30 offers 430 litres of boot space with all seats in place and it can be ordered with a powered tailgate.
The local engine line-up had not been confirmed at the time of writing, but it’s likely that most local models will be fitted with Mazda’s normally aspirated 2-litre petrol unit.
Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross - Facelift
Expected: 2021 (TBC)
Although Mitsubishi South Africa can’t confirm timing as yet, the importer is aiming to bring the upgraded Eclipse Cross to local shores this year as well as the new Outlander.
So what set the new Eclipse Cross apart? For starters, the vehicle’s front end has been sharpened up, but the biggest visual changes are at the back end, where the current model’s controversial two-tier glass work makes way for a more conventional design that’s easier on the eye.
The changes are less apparent inside, but we do see a new 20.3cm touchscreen infotainment system, which is now positioned closer to the driver.
While the local engine line-up has yet to be announced, the current options are likely to carry over as they have overseas, with Mitsubishi offering a 110kW/198Nm 2-litre normally aspirated petrol option and a 1.5-litre direct injection turbopetrol unit that’s good for 110kW and 250Nm.
Mitsubishi Outlander - All-new
Expected: Later in 2021 (TBC)
Also on Mitsubishi SA’s radar, but not officially confirmed, is the new Outlander. The new midsize SUV has yet to be officially revealed, but this darkened teaser sketch does succeed in showing us that it will have a far bolder design than the current model.
Mitsubishi Motors design head Seiji Watanabe describes the new SUV as the frontrunner of the company’s new design strategy, but there are also some radical changes beneath the skin.
As the first new model to be developed since Mitsubishi became part of the Nissan-Renault alliance, the 2021 Outlander will share its underpinnings with the Nissan X-Trail, according to multiple media sources abroad. It’s also widely reported that Nissan’s normally aspirated 2.5-litre petrol engine, with 140kW, will be the mainstay of the range in most markets.
Peugeot 3008 - Facelift
Expected: 2nd quarter, 2021
Peugeot’s 3008 often gets overlooked in the midsize SUV market and it’s a pity because this is an interesting and quirky alternative that has what’s arguably the classiest cabin in the segment.
Although it doesn’t appear dated, Peugeot has freshened the 3008 up for 2021 and the new range is looking set to hit our shores during the second quarter.
Design highlights include slimmer headlights, a new frameless grille and black air intakes, as well as three-claw taillights at the back, while the cabin has been perked up with a new 25cm high definition capacitive touchscreen, available from Allure models upwards. It’s packed with tech too, including a Night Vision system that allows drivers to spot pedestrians and animals up to 200 metres ahead on the 31.2cm digital instrument cluster.
The only engine option available in South Africa at the moment is Peugeot’s 1.6-litre turbopetrol unit with 120kW, and this motor is likely to carry over into the facelifted range.
Peugeot 5008 - Facelift
Expected: 2nd quarter, 2021
The Peugeot 5008 is, in essence, a more grown-up version of the 3008 with three-row seating that accommodates up to seven occupants. It’s not quite as chic, but what it loses in style it makes up for with its practicality.
Given that it’s a close relative of the aforementioned 3008, the 5008 receives a similar round of visual and technological updates for 2021.
Expect the current 1.6 turbopetrol and 2.0 turbodiesel engine options to carry over from the previous range.