New car, new you: 3 of the most fun SUVs on the market
The holidays may be over, but that doesn’t mean it needs to feel like they are. Culturemaker Noelle Faulkner rounds up three of the brightest new SUVs to add a little adventure to your daily grind.
Not so long ago, I was sitting in traffic, surrounded by a wall of SUVs, each as indistinguishable from the next - probably total clichéd Sydney school run queue that I managed to hit on the way home. As a former Toyota RAV4 P-Plater, I found myself wondering "when did sports utility vehicles lose their sportiness? In the '90s it was all about Barbie and Cher in Clueless cruising around in their Jeep Wranglers and then early 2000s Zoolander brought us the "Orange! Mocha! Frappuccino!" scene in the raddest top-down, doorless 1967 Ford Bronco. Sure, the SUV market may be exploding, particularly the small SUV market, but still, once pushed as a car you get when you wanted to match your *lifestyle*, how did rock hoppers get so....boring?
Thankfully, some makers are bringing the fun back into 4WDs (some aren't even 4WD, actually). Jeep just announced the iconic Wrangler's return, complete with a soft top roof option, removable doors, a fold-down windscreen and round headlights (how it all should be, to be honest), so there's that. And in the last year, a swag of super-fun new non-city mum-looking SUVs have dropped in the market, each promising to brighten up your weekdays, and on the weekend, pile your mates in, hit the road and not look back.
The Korean brand has been doing some pretty major millennial-led research of late, looking into exactly what gets the so-called most apathetic generation (are we though? Gen x-ers are worse....) excited about a car. The Kona, named after an island in Hawaii (natch), has lots of bells and whistles that appeal to youth: there are 150 combinations at your disposal - which includes five different models, automatic and DCT transmission, two different engines (a 2.0L MPi engine with 6 speed transmission or a 1.6L T-GDi engine with a 7 speed DCT), both AWD and FWD drivetrains, a range of colours so vibrant you have to applaud Hyundai for taking the risk. And at the top, trim packs that include red or yellow seatbelts and piping just to make your ride a little sportier and your roadtrip/in-car selfies way more interesting.
It also has Apple CarPlay / Android Auto (instead of a navigation system), power windows, roof rails and cruise control all as standard, and for a few K more the Active model throws in a rear-view camera, rear parking sensors, tyre-pressure monitoring, hill-start assist and downhill brake control. Hyundai's Safety Pack adds the pretty helpful blind-spot monitoring, AEB with pedestrian detection, forward collision warning, driver-attention warning, rear cross-traffic alert and lane-keeping assist. PHEW. Throw in the impressive five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty all for around $30k or a bit more and you're not only sitting pretty damn pretty, but you're kinda laughing....
From $24,500 (plus on-road costs), 2.0L 4cl, 110kW, 180Nm, 7.2L/100km
The CHR or "Coupe High Rider" has this odd way of snapping heads, particularly in its electric teal, hornet yellow or exquisite tidal blue incarnation. Look at it. It's the most exciting thing Toyota has done in...well..... a very long time. To be totally fair, this car isn't really designed for a family- the back window sits far too high for little eyes, but that's what I love about it - the polarisation that comes from the sheer aggression and risk taken in the design lab. It's a bit of a smug side-eye to its snoozier competitors and I suspect baby boomers will HATE on this at first (which makes me love it even more). When I referred to SUVs made for a certain lifestyle, this is it: sporty and space-y and sexy-tech in a way that leans towards that Nike Flyknit school of design.
The base model, a 6-speed manual FWD or 7-speed CTV comes with sat nav, alloy wheels, dual-zone air con (so you don't have to battle it out), rain sensing wipers, reverse camera and a safety pack that includes a pre-collision safety system with pedestrian detection, active cruise control (all speed on automatic variants; over 40km/h on manual variants), lane departure alert, automatic high beam, blind spot monitor and rear-cros traffic alert. Toyota also has a huge range of accessories that you can opt if you so wish, from alloy wheel designs to colour garnishes, aerodynamic add-ons and more. Still, even at it's 2WD base, it's still a pretty rad little thing to fang around.
From $26,990 (plus on-road costs), 1.2L 4cl, 84kW, 185Nm, 6.4L/100km
Range Rover Evoque Convertible
I'm going to preface this with an anecdotal warning of what it's like to drive this thing: men will hate it, they will hate getting inside it (until they do, you open it up, and their smiles grow) and you WILL get people yelling shit at you like "You look f*cking ridiculous" (this actually happened to me, believe it or not), you will get hate, people will cut you off in traffic and be prepared for death stares. Why? Because it is a bit ridiculous, and a lot of smug. It's the automotive incarnation of a fifth round of breakfast mimosas, nobody actually asked for it, but goddamn, who cares? It's so much fun and so different from any other car on the market and so summery and sophisticated and actually drives really well and did I mention so much fun? Hailed as the first "luxury convertible SUV", you can expect everything the all-enclosed Evoque has to offer: including safety and tech features, off-road capabilities including Land Rover's Terrain Response System and Hill Descent Control as-standard, comfort for four fully-grown adults (!!), refined cabin detailing, an awesome soundsystem and infotainment package, a wicked 2.0L turbocharged engine (with a petrol or Diesel choice too)... and if you think it looks weird and Barbie-car like, give it a few minutes, as it's a grower. Did I mention the fun factor?
From $84,948 (plus on-road costs), 2.0L 4cyl, 177kW, 340Nm, 9.2L/100km
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