SUVs for all seasons and reasons
By Stuart Johnston
The fastest-growing sales segment in personalised transport is the Compact SUV category—cars with a sports utility profile, but shrunk to slot into garages and parking bays of more modest dimensions.
The fact that this segment has come of age as a replacement for the three-box sedan or hatchback was illustrated by the ultimate expression of the SUV compact to date–Range Rover’s new Evoque Convertible.
That’s right. Just when we thought that Range Rover had pushed the SUV style envelope as far as it could with the low roof line Evoque hard-top, they’ve come out guns-a-blazing with a vehicle that has even less obvious “utility” and even more focus on high-style.
The new Evoque convertible broke cover at the recent South African Festival of Motoring at Kyalami, and will add lustre to South African sun tans in October when it will be launched here at a (starting) price of R1 002 400.
That’s serious money for a car that has a fabric roof and boot space measuring just 251 litres. But rest assured, it will be a quality offering. The car will be launched with Land Rover’s all-aluminium 177kW turbo petrol engine, and all-wheel drive. The hard-top Evoque has been a serious seller for Range Rover, so expect this extremely niche vehicle to twang similar heart-strings with the stylin’ generation.
Forecasts for the global SUV market see it growing by 20 per cent over the next five years, and much of that growth will come from compacts like the Mazda CX-3. This car has spearheaded Mazda’s revival in this country, featuring exceptional build quality in a typically Mazda no-nonsense fashion. The styling is pleasing, eye-catching in respect of its very affordable pricing, which starts at just R277 800 for the basic 2,0 Active Manual. The car uses a powerful 115kW two-litre petrol engine with a six-speed manual gearbox driving the front wheels, and offers loads of passenger and luggage space.
Another company that has enjoyed a marked resurgence in popularity in South Africa is Renault, and its attractive Captur has, err, captured a healthy chunk of the compact SUV market in the all-important entry-level category. Just two months back Renault introduced its diesel derivative of the Captur, with an engine that provides a seemingly modest 66kW of power but very usable torque of 220Nm for strong pulling power. Good Taste’s scribe achieved an amazing 4,6 litres/100km on the launch drive, making full use of the five-speed gearbox to slot into the highest gear possible for any given situation.
Renault launched the new diesel line-up for the Captur with a limited-edition model called the Sunset Dynamique. Just 100 of these were on offer featuring some rather zany colour highlights on the exterior and interior. By the way, you can refresh the Captur’s interior any time you like by ordering new seat covers, as these are zip-removable, and Renault has stocks in various shades and designs. Pricing starts at a realistic R289 900 for the new diesel Captur.
If style, practicality and good looks are on your checklist, but topped off by a desire to own the meanest compact SUV on the block, you’ll love the latest rendition of the excellent Porsche Macan. This hopped up supercar for the family man is the Macan Turbo with Performance Package, although it obviously won’t be badged with such a clumsy bit of nomenclature.
The new Performance Package for the Macan effectively tips off the range—for now—adding 30kW to the V6 petrol turbo to bring the total output to 324kW.
This means that you can load up the fam and luggage for a holiday and take on lower-level Ferraris and Lambos at the stop-lights, as this practical beastie accelerates to 100km/h from standstill in just 4,4 seconds.
It also achieves a top speed of 272km/h on the autobahn. So you might want to load it up in the luggage hold the next time you are planning a trans-continental holiday in “the Old Country”.
Why would anyone want such a device? The answer is because it’s fun. Just like the Evoque convertible, but much faster. And practical. Just like the Mazda CX-3 and the Renault Captur Diesel. If you have the readies, you can have your cake and eat it in terms of performance, space, luxury, style and sheer one-upmanship. All for just R1 540 000.