The latest SUVs still offer a tempting mix of possibility and practicality

New SUVs continue to sprout like gibbers on the Birdsville Track. Although they’re more likely to tackle adventures in the school drop-off zone than the outback, the latest SUVs still offer a tempting mix of possibility and practicality.

The most significant arrival is Toyota’s RAV4, the newest descendant of the light-duty, all-wheel drive wagon that pioneered the SUV type almost 20 years ago. In keeping with rivals, the RAV4 range now starts with a two-wheel drive model. It features a diesel engine option for the first time, but the petrol line-up has changed with a 2.0 litre four-cylinder added, a 2.5 four replacing the 2.4 and the 3.5 litre V6 discontinued. Prices start at $28,490 for the 2.0 litre 2WD, $31,990 for the 2.5 4WDs and $35,490 for the diesel 4WDs. Transmission is a six-speed automatic.

Also new in SUVs, and from a seemingly unlikely source, is the Citroen C4 Aircross. In fact it’s not quite new – Citroen recently changed importers and the predecessor sold just a handful before relinquishing the franchise. With its distinctive front grille and a wedgy profile, this handsome traveller is nothing less than we expect from Citroen, but the greater surprise is that the company has an SUV at all. Let’s just say they had some help from Japan and a poke around underneath will reveal more than a few components common to Mitsubishi. Since Citroen hasn’t a great record of building off-roaders, this is actually a good thing. The Aircross is available at introductory driveaway prices of $31,990 for a two-wheel drive model and $33,990 for a 4WD, both powered by a 110 kiloWatt, four-cylinder petrol engine.

The Mazda CX-5 has expanded its already popular range with a 2.5 litre petrol engine for all-wheel drive models. This 138kW unit, shared with the Mazda6 sedan, answers complaints the previous 2.0 litre motor was underpowered.
Variants with the new engine are priced from $32,880 plus on-roads. Minor running changes have been made across the range and there’s a new luxury model, called the Akera.

Another SUV stalwart, the Subaru Forester, also gets a performance boost with the introduction of a turbocharged version of its characterful 2.0 litre “boxer” motor. Priced at $43,490, the Forest XT delivers 177kW and 350Nm, the biggest outputs in the world of volume-selling SUVs.

Prices quoted do not include statutory and dealer on-road charges unless otherwise stated. Prices correct at time of writing.