What car should I buy? The best urban SUVs tested.


Dean Ellis and his wife want to replace his 2012 Mazda2 with an SUV for easier access and a higher driving position. She wants something similar in size to the Mazda2 between $25 and $35,000, either new or recent used.

Their shortlist includes Skoda Kamiq, Hyundai Venue, Toyota Yaris Cross, Ford Puma or a used Ford Focus Cross.

They say the Kamiq has the most appeal for its class and bold four-cylinder engine to drive around their Adelaide Hills home. But they are wary of three-cylinder CVT cars. The manuals are fine, but they don’t want a Chinese car. Luxury and advanced security are more important than economy. The rear seats will only be used very occasionally.

I reviewed the options and picked out a few likely suspects.

Dean must be prepared for long wait times for most people on their list. I’ve ruled out Hyundai’s Venue as it will work on their local hills and if you’re looking for a bit of luxury the Toyota can’t really offer at that budget – the Ford Puma feels classier.

Unfortunately, everything seems expensive in this desirable SUV segment.



When the Kamiq won our 2020 Car of the Year, it cost $29,990 drive with auto. Today, the entry-level costs $37,990 – which is beyond your budget – and it only has an 85kW three-cylinder engine.

Instead, MY22 Kamiq 110TSI Ambition four-cylinder dealer demo manuals are rare but available — they’d be my go-to at just over $35,000. It’s a bright and spunky turbo engine with excellent economy; the handling and ride are impressive for an SUV and it’s a spacious, quality cabin.

A digital dash, LED lights, lane-keep assist, radar cruise control, wireless phone charging, and power tailgate are included, but you miss out on the leather-trimmed power heated seats and advanced assist. to driving. Five-year warranty and an inexpensive $1400 service pack.


Smaller than the Skoda, but being based on the Mazda2, the dimensions of the CX-3 SUV will feel very familiar. The rear seat and trunk space are techy, but it’s fine up front and the build and styling are top-notch.

The Maxx Sport LE features white Maztex (leatherette) and tan suede seats and trim for a true luxury feel, as well as driver assistance, climate control, navigation satellite and an 8-inch touch screen.

The 110kW/195Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder isn’t exciting but should handle hills well; it handles with finesse and is very playful and easy to park in town. A five-year warranty, but $2,175 for five years of maintenance is expensive.


Just a three-cylinder but its turbo brings a reasonable 92kW and 170Nm of power, and mated to its seven-speed automatic I think it will handle the Adelaide Hills roads.

This ST-Line’s sporty suspension adds to a small SUV that’s already fun to drive and handle – perfect for your location.

The driving experience is the Puma’s strong point as a safety kit and the features are unremarkable. The cabin has lots of soft plastics but only cloth seats, while the wins are sat nav, wireless charging, digital dash, 8-inch touchscreen and a bigger trunk than the rest .

The warranty is five years, and services cost a cheap $1516 during that time.



Criminally overlooked by Australian buyers, this hatchback SUV took an excellent car – the Ford Focus – and raised the suspension by 34mm to make entry and exit easier.

Low-mileage 2020 models cost less than $30,000 and still have three years of warranty.

There’s plenty of thrust from the 134kW/240Nm three-cylinder; reasonable driving aids and more room for grandchildren.

A brilliant mix of a comfortable ride and pleasant handling thanks to an advanced independent rear suspension, but my main complaint is that the cabin finish feels cheap in places, especially the seat fabric.

The next five services will cost $1738 in total.


With the significant luxury and the little-used rear seats, I’d choose the Mazda CX-3.

Thousands cheaper than other new cars, the sleekest cabin and room for your size preference.


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