DIETER LOSSKARN has selected a couple of crossovers and mid-size SUVs that are particularly popular with women. Practical or sexy, comfortable or agile, conservative or funky – which is your favourite?
The trend is clear: hatchbacks and sedans are on their way out. Crossovers and mid-size SUVs with raised ride height are the most popular vehicles in South Africa right now. And with each facelift they are getting bigger, bolder and more muscular, resulting in mighty grilles and extended wheel arches.
Twelve of them have been randomly selected for this feature. From Korean to Japanese, from French to Italian and yes, a couple of Germans as well. Let’s go from most affordable to most expensive.
We begin with the Hyundai Creta, starting at R428 900 for the Premium Manual, but in this category of vehicles, you definitely don’t want to shift gears yourself. The Creta Executive for R489 900 has an auto box, and with the revised grille and headlights it doesn’t look too bad. It will take you reliably from A to B, with enough power for the daily commute.
For R20000 less, however, you can get the Toyota Corolla Cross, one of the most popular compact SUVs on the market and so affordable because it is produced in South Africa. With its aggressive gloss-black front grille and bold black 18-inch wheels, the GR-S is the most attractive version. A couple of other design elements, including the red GR-S badges, add to its appeal and the interior looks cool too, with black leather seats embossed with GR-S badges and red stitching everywhere. But the modifications to the standard model are not just cosmetic. The suspension provides more stability during extreme cornering, and new shock absorbers and revised coil springs, as well as a recalibrated power steering set-up, make the GR-S feel more solid on the road.
The motor is untouched though; Toyota’s naturally aspirated 1.8-l four-cylinder petrol engine is still in place. At the beginning of 2023 a GR-Sport Hybrid was added to the line-up. The continuously variable transmission (CVT) has seven pre-programmed steps, simulating the feel of a manual shifting box. I don’t really like those whining CVT auto boxes, but this one was in fact much less annoying than others. The GR-S comes in three colours: Arizona Red, Chromium Silver and Glacier White. Conclusion: when my neighbour saw the test unit in my driveway, she immediately decided to buy one.
From Korea and Japan we go straight to Italy. The Fiat 500 X Sport is the coolest car in this line-up. It successfully transports the cuteness and character of the iconic Fiat 500 into a larger, more ‘practical’ ride – as much a fashion as a passion statement, especially with the huge fabric sunroof that opens electronically at speeds of up to 100km/h to let the sunshine in. The ‘500’ celebrates the pure joy of living, which may be why ‘500’ badges have replaced the Fiat ones. This hip ride comes equipped with 19-inch alloy wheels, dual chrome exhaust tips and a titatium-style dash. Even before you drive the car, just looking at its perfect proportions makes you happy. And once it’s in motion you’re impressed by its great driving ability.
Let’s go French next. The Renault Koleos is an economical long-distance family car with all-wheel drive and a comfortable leather interior. You don’t often see this great SUV in traffic, so inconspicuously does it move in the background. And yet it looks larger than it actually is. It too has a bold grille, with impressive LED lights and some chrome elements. Having borrowed engine, drive train and suspension from Nissan’s X-Trail, there is a lot of sushi in this baguette.
Talking about Nissan, its third-generation Qashqai has moved distinctly upmarket. As already mentioned, the manual option is a no-go in cars like this. But with an auto box and a striking new exterior design, including crisp lines and 19-inch diamond-cut alloy wheels, this quiet and refined ride is quite the looker.
And so we come to the first Germans in the line-up. And not just any German. For many years the Golf has been Germany’s best-selling car, but the Tiguan and the T-Roc are close behind. In global terms, the Tiguan has even outsold the Golf. Both VWs come with various engine options and either two- or all-wheel drive. In Europe you can even buy the T-Roc as a convertible, which makes it the only topless SUV since the open Range Rover Evoque was discontinued a while ago. The Tiguan comes as a seven-seater as well, when it is known as the All-Space. But the most exciting version in the line-up is the Tiguan R, featuring the same engine as the ballistic Golf R. This makes it the most powerful family car in our line-up, and the most ‘affordable’. It’s the car of choice for soccer mums who are always running late – 235kW will make all the difference.
The only hybrid in our list is the RAV4 – and it is Toyota’s best plug-in ever. The large, rugged SUV looks really attractive, and the fourth-generation hybrid system definitely takes boring out of this dual-motor set-up with all-wheel drive. Surprisingly brisk, this one really goes.
The second French car in our selection is the Tiguan-sized Citroën C5 Aircross. When Citroën came back to South Africa in 2019 under the umbrella of the Stellantis group, it already had the C5 Aircross in its portfolio. The latest edition gets a fresh front and rear styling, with 18-inch diamond-cut alloys and a redesigned cockpit that has an expensive, high-quality feel. But the most notable detail is the new-generation, advanced comfort seats. And that’s what Citroën is all about: supreme comfort. It’s not about performance, which is why it is not as dynamic as its competition. If you try to throw this one around bends, you will be disappointed.
To beat the bends, you have to go German again. Now in its third generation, the BMW X1 i18s Drive has become bigger and better and is now much closer in size to the X3 than to its X1 predecessor. And yes, even with its three-cylinder ‘motorcycle’ engine, it is a ‘joy to drive’ (Freude am Fahren) around curves. Although it’s an X1, it has a distinct high-end feel and doesn’t feel entry-level at all. And the no-cost colour option Utah Orange suits it very well. This premium family car is availa- ble as a petrol or diesel variant, as well as the fully electric iX1 with all-wheel drive.
The SUV with class-leading agility (although not quite as powerful as the Tiguan R) hails from Italy. Thanks to a perfect 50/50 weight distribution, the second-generation Alfa Romeo Stelvio feels like a sports car in heels. The design takes a sculptural approach and with the three-light pattern in front and the three-element grille, this pret- ty car pays homage to Alfa’s long heritage. The brand’s slogan – ‘Beauty is driven by technology’ – is truly appropriate. And you get a lot of car for your money. The price is actually the same as for the previous mod- el and includes almost everything; the only optional extra is a sunroof for R25 000.
All this makes the Alfa the closest competitor to the brand-new Mercedes GLC. It might come down to personal preference: eisbein and bratwurst or pizza and pasta? Locally the GLC is only available in two diesel variants: 220d and the more powerful (and more recommendable) 300d. You can’t get it here as a coupé yet, but this sexiest version of the GLC will follow later this year.
The new-look GLC has a more muscular appearance than its predecessor and features a 2cm longer wheelbase. There’s more space for the rear passengers and the boot is 10% larger. Air suspension and bet- ter sound proofing add to the comfort, as does rear-axle steering to the manageability of this Benz. And because Mercedes takes the ‘G’ in ‘GLC’ seriously, it does off-road surprisingly well. New is the optional ‘transparent hood’, a 360° camera view under- neath your ride to identify objects before they can scratch the bodywork. No wonder the shooting star GLC is the bestselling product of the Swabian manufacturer.
Are you crossing over now? And which raised ride do you like best?
ALFA ROMEO STELVIO
Engine: 2.0-l, turbo petrol, paired with a ZF 8-speed auto and all-wheel drive Power: 206kW and 400Nm Top. Speed: 230km/h 0-100 Km/H: 5.7 seconds Ground clearance: 190mm Weight: 1660kg Price: R1 205 500
BMW X1 S DRIVE 18i Engine: 1.5-l, 3-cylinder, turbo petrol, paired with a 7-speed auto Power: 115kW and 230Nm Top Speed: 215km/h 00100 Km/H: 9 seconds Ground Clearance: 205mm Price: from R760 000 to R900 617 (for the 18d)
CITROËN C5 AIRCROSS
Engine: 1.6-l, 4-cylinder, turbo petrol, paired with a 6-speed auto
Power: 121kW and 240Nm
Top Speed: 189km/h
0 to 100Km/H: 10.5 seconds
Price: from R683 900
Engine: 1.5-l, 4-cylinder, naturally aspirated petrol, paired with a 6-speed manual or CVT auto POWER: 84kW and 144Nm Top Speed: 170km/h 0-100 Km/H: 11.8 seconds Price: from R428900 (Premium Manual) to R489900 (Executive)
MERCEDES-BENZ GLC 300D Engine: 2.0-l, 4-cylinder, turbo diesel, paired with a 9-speed auto and all-wheel drive Power: 198kW and 550Nm Top Speed: 230km/h 0 TO 100KM/H: 6.3 seconds Ground Clearance: 201mm Weight: 1 863kg Price: R1323894
NISSAN QASHQAI VISIA/ACENTA Engine: 1.3-l, 4-cylinder, turbo petrol, paired with a 6-speed manual or CVT Power: 96/110kW and 240/250Nm Top Speed: 206km/h 0-100 Km/H: 8.5 seconds Price: from R568200 (Visia) to R670600 (Acenta PLUS Xtronic CVT)
RENAULT KOLEOS Engine: 2.5-l, 4-cylinder, naturally aspirated petrol, paired with a CVT auto and 2-wheel or 4-wheel drive Power:126kW and 233Nm Top Speed: 165km/h 0 TO 100KM/H: 9.5 (9.8) seconds (AWD) Price: from R584999 (Dynamique 2.5) to R634999 (Dynamique 2.5 AWD)
TOYOTA COROLLA CROSS GR-SPORT Engine: 1.8-l, 4-cylinder, naturally aspirated petrol, paired with a CVT box driving the front axle Power: 103kW and 172Nm Top Speed: 160km/h Price: R466 800 (GR-S Hybrid R495 200)
TOYOTA RAV4 GX-R, VX & GX-R & VX HYBRID Engine: 2.0/2.5-l, 4-cylinder, naturally aspirated petrol and two petrol/ electric hybrids, all paired with a CVT Power: 127/ 131/ 163/ 163kW and 203/ 221/ 323/ 323Nm Top Speed: 180–190km/h Ground Clearance: 195mm Price: from R678 300 (2.0-l GX-R AWD) to R809 000 (2.5-l Hybrid VX E-Four)
VOLKSWAGEN T-ROC 1.4 TSI/2.0 TSI 4MOTION Engine: 1.4-l/2.0-l, 4-cylinder, turbo petrol, paired with a 7-speed DSG auto and AWD (4Motion) Power: 110/140kW and 250/320Nm TOP SPEED: 205/216km/h 0-100Km/H: 8.4/7.2 seconds GROUND Clearance: 158mm Price: from R568 600 (1.4TSI Design) to R687 100 (2.0TSI 4Motion R-Line)
Engine: from 1.4-l to 2.0-l, 4-cylinder, turbo petrol/turbo diesel, paired with a 7-speed DSG and AWD (4Motion) Power: 110/ 130/ 235kW and 250/380/400Nm Top Speed: 198/193/250km/h 0-100 Km/H: 9.2/8.3/5.1 seconds Price: from R606700 (Tiguan 1.4TSI), R818 600 (2.0TDi) to R1045 300 (Tiguan R)