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IF it seems like Sports Utility Vehicles or crossover cars have taken over the road, sales numbers provide an explanation: one out of every three cars sold in Singapore last year was an SUV or crossover. That's no anomaly. In the United States, SUVs and trucks made up 63 per cent of new car sales last year. And in February this year, SUV sales in Australia overtook those of cars for the first time ever.
Ironically, these high-riding vehicles have encroached on car sales precisely by becoming more car-like. Instead of being fitted with rugged but bouncy suspension and fuel-hungry 4x4 transmissions, modern SUVs are more commonly engineered to handle and drive like cars - hence the term "crossover", which describes a car that looks like an SUV but has little of the off-roading ability.
The growing popularity of the breed means that carmakers can ill afford to ignore the SUV market. As these recently launched (or soon-to-be-launched) cars show, the next big thing in cars might not be a traditional car at all.
Kia Sorento GT Line
From S$156,999 with COE
Kia's product strategy is simple: put as many features as possible into a car, charge as little as you can, and make it look good. It's an approach that is neatly embodied by the Sorento GT Line, which is a roomy, seven-seat SUV with sleek looks. The "GT Line" bit refers to an equipment package that bundles the car with, among other things, racy red brake calipers, scarlet upholstery and 19-inch wheels. Presumably, they've been added because even in an SUV, sporty looks sell.
From S$238,700 with COE
If there's one SUV that bucks the "big, tall and ugly" idea, it's the second-generation Audi Q5. It's a mid-sized SUV, so it's smaller than seven-seat behemoths like Audi's own Q7, but it's packed with luxury car tech: a space-age cabin with active instruments, and a navigation system that learns what kinds of road you like and suggests routes accordingly. While it's larger than before, it's up to 90kg lighter thanks to various weight-saving measures. The fewer the kilos, the more agile the car.
DS 7 Crossback
Available early 2018
Some SUVs on this page are familiar names and possibly, familiar faces. But DS Automobiles, which is Citroen's lifestyle-inflected luxury brand, aims to shake things up with its DS 7 Crossback. While it's being put forth as a competitor to the likes of the Audi Q5 and BMW X3, it's also likely to cost significantly less, which might spell for extra appeal to those looking for Euro-flair without the flared wallet.
It looks thoroughly convincing, design-wise, and is also promising lots of upmarket tech such as advanced LED lights, dual-screen infotainment and adaptive suspension. People who doubt that crossovers can look elegant should apply.
Available July 14
Mazda has evolved into the most Euro-influenced of Japan's carmakers, and that's reflected in the new CX-5, which has just received a major set of improvements. The previous CX-5 was already one of the more fun-to-drive and efficient SUVs around, thanks to Mazda's Skyactiv range of technologies, including weight-saving materials and start-stop engines, and the new model should build on those strengths. It will be sold here with a choice of 2.0 and 2.5-litre engines.
From S$150,988 with COE
The Toyota Harrier is already a common sight here, even though it's not sold through official distributor Borneo Motors. But on July 20, Borneo will be launching its own version of the Harrier with a 227hp, 2.0-litre turbocharged engine. The car will come with "Safety Sense P" - an advanced package of safety and driver aids such as adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and pre-collision warning - which is a first for Toyota here.
The high-equipment levels have give the Harreri a boost; Borneo says the first shipment of them is sold out.
The next version of Honda's CR-V packs a 1.5-litre turbocharged engine that should make close to 200 horsepower while using relatively little fuel.
That explodes the myth that SUVs are guzzlers, while a comprehensive redesign for the Honda means increased interior room; that allows a seven-seat configuration, reflecting the fact that SUVs are also tempting buyers from minivans or Multi-Purpose Vehicles (MPVs).