JOHANNESBURG - Vehicle buyers in South Africa and around the world have spoken. They want SUVs. More and more SUVs. Big ones, small ones, and everything in between.
Yet while those seeking medium and large SUVs have been well catered for in recent years, most car manufacturers, with a few exceptions, have neglected the more affordable end of the market.
But that is changing rapidly, and in 2021 it’s literally going to be raining small, affordable SUVs, with at least eight new entrants confirmed for South African launch during the year, and perhaps a few others set to follow too.
We don’t know how much these new entrants will cost, but we strongly suspect that many of them will have starting prices of below R300 000.
Let’s take a look at what’s coming up in 2021:
Hailing from Kia’s new plant in Anantpur, India, this is effectively a cousin to the Hyundai Venue that was launched in South Africa in early 2020.
Although local pricing and specifications have yet to be announced, the most likely engine candidate is the familiar 1-litre turbo triple with 88kW on tap. The Indian-market Sonet is also offered with a 1.5-litre turbodiesel and 1.2-litre normally aspirated petrol, and either of these could also be on the cards for local buyers.
The Sonet’s cabin boasts a 26cm infotainment screen that houses Kia’s UVO ‘connected car’ technology. This includes an advanced voice-activated assistance system that responds to “Hello Kia”.
Mitsubishi XPander Cross
Likely to hit our shores early in the year, the XPander Cross is a compact seven-seat MPV with SUV inspired styling - think Honda BR-V, but with Mitsubishi flavour and a class-leading 225mm of ground clearance.
Although the importer has not made the local details available as yet, our cars are likely to follow overseas versions in offering a 1.5-litre normally aspirated petrol engine that produces 77kW.
Also set to hit South African shores early in 2021 is Nissan’s Magnite compact SUV, and the carmaker has already revealed some of the local details ahead of launch.
The Magnite will be powered by Nissan’s 1-litre, three-cylinder turbopetrol engine, which produces 74kW, and buyers will get to choose between five-speed manual and CVT gearboxes. Nissan claims fuel consumption figures of five litres per 100km for the manual model and 5.6 l/100km for the CVT.
The little Nissan measures 3994mm in length and rides on a 2500mm wheelbase, making it similar in size to the Hyundai Venue and Ford EcoSport. The vehicle also boasts a generous ground clearance of 210mm and a boot volume of 336 litres.
While it’s still too early to talk about SA pricing, it is encouraging to note that in India the new Magnite undercuts its compact SUV rivals.
Opel Crossland facelift
The facelifted Opel Crossland is set to be one of the first Opels to receive the German brand’s new ‘Visor’ face, as introduced on the new Mokka.
But while the redesigned Mokka has yet to be mentioned for local introduction, the updated Crossland is due to hit our shores in the second quarter of 2021, hot on the heels of its Opel Corsa hatch cousin.
But the changes are not just skin deep. The suspension and steering systems have been upgraded and Opel is also offering a wide range of driver assistance features, including Head-Up Display, Forward Collision Alert, 180-degree Panorama Rear Camera and Automatic Park Assist. Engines carry over from the current line-up.
Just like the new Peugeot 208 hatch that’s also due in 2021, the 2008 SUV has taken a more dramatic and distinctive design direction that’s sure to make it stand out on the streets.
The 2008 shares its equally dramatic cabin with the aforementioned hatch, which means it receives the latest ‘3D i-Cockpit’ command centre and latest-generation head-up display. There’s also room for personalisation, with a choice of eight RGB LED colours.
Expect to see this French contender in local showrooms early in the New Year, with local prices, specs and engine options to be confirmed shortly.
Although the Renault Kiger has yet to be revealed in showroom guise, the concept car that you see here gives a really good idea of what to expect from the upcoming budget SUV.
A product of Renault’s Indian division, and related to the aforementioned Nissan Magnite, the Kiger will measure just under four metres in length in order to comply with India’s tax break for shorter vehicles.
Renault hasn’t mentioned any engines, but it’s inevitable that the Kiger will share its 1-litre turbocharged three-cylinder petrol engine with the Magnite, driving the front wheels only - because this is very much the era of the urban SUV.
Renault SA says the Kiger will hit local shores around the third quarter of 2021, but it’s not the only compact SUV that the French importer has up its sleeve for next year, with an all-new Captur and enhanced Duster also set to hit the scene.
Suzuki Vitara Brezza
Set to slot beneath the current Hungarian-built Suzuki Vitara, the Brezza is an Indian-market version of the Vitara that’s been shortened to just under four metres to comply with the aforementioned tax break.
The Vitara Brezza also has a number of design features that set it apart from its global sibling, and power comes from Suzuki’s 1.5-litre normally aspirated engine, as found in the Ciaz, with outputs of 77kW and 138Nm.
That’s as much as we can tell you about it for now, but watch this space early in the year for updates.
Toyota Urban Cruiser
Remember what Suzuki and Toyota did with the Baleno/Starlet?
That’s essentially what has happened here, with the Toyota Urban Cruiser being heavily based on the aforementioned Vitara Brezza. But thankfully Toyota has at least done a bit more to distinguish the styling, with the Urban Cruiser receiving a Fortuner-inspired face.
Most of the rest is as per the Vitara Brezza, including the normally aspirated 1.5-litre petrol engine with 77kW.
But it will be interesting to see how the two will differ when it comes to local pricing. Dare we suggest that Toyota waved a red flag in front of its fellow Japanese carmaker with the Starlet pricing. And dare we speculate that Suzuki might have an appropriate response...