Australians love SUVs – and none more so than the mid-size variety. But which model is best? We’ve short-listed 15 of the most popular medium SUVs to find out…
- Making the cut
- The judging process
- More on mid-size SUV safety here
- More on mid-size SUV technology here
- Comfort and convenience
- More on mid-size SUV comfort and convenience here
- Driving performance
- More on mid-size SUV driving performance here
- Ownership costs
- More on mid-size SUV ownership costs here
- Read the carsales Best Mid-Size SUV 2022 verdict here
The Australian auto market segment that hands-down attracts more private buyers than any other is Medium SUV. Growing from humble origins almost 30 years ago with now-familiar nameplates such as the Toyota RAV4, Subaru Forester and Honda CR-V, there are 18 brands today – not including premium marques – vying for your attention and, ultimately, your investment. That’s an overwhelming choice, so we’ve done the hard yards for you – assessing the top contenders to find carsales’ Best Mid-Size SUV for 2022.
If you’re looking for the best medium SUV to buy in 2022, you’re in the right place.
Welcome to carsales’ Best Mid-Size SUV 2022 mega-test, where 14 of the top models from mainstream car brands in Australia are in contention.
This mid-size segment is really the heart of the SUV revolution in this country. It’s a revolution that witnessed the decline of the family sedan starting in the 1990s, and a brief burst of ultimate popularity for the small hatchback in the early 2000s, to finally settle on this SUV type as the one that most individual Australian car buyers choose today.
It’s hard to believe it’s almost 30 years since we first saw this type of vehicle capture the imagination of car buyers, but the 1995 Toyota RAV4 five-door, followed by the 1997 Honda CR-V and Subaru Forester, introduced what were then known as the ‘soft-roader’ to Australian families.
This small-to-medium ‘4WD-lite’ wagon took the baton from the family sedan, by then the mainstay of the Australian automotive landscape for more than 50 years, and ran with it.
These relatively small but practical wagons grew bigger with each successive decade, their waistlines growing enough for them to become the mid-size SUVs we know today.
This generational growth provided car-makers the opportunity to fill the void; smaller SUV categories began to spring up, such as the now extremely popular small SUV and light SUV segments.
Making the cut
As electrification continues to evolve in the new-car market, so too will the parameters for model variants assessed in carsales’ Best Mid-Size SUV mega-test.
For now, with only a handful of petrol-electric hybrids (or diesels, for that matter) offered in this category, we have chosen the powertrain and driveline that all 14 manufacturers here offer – that is, an all-wheel drive, petrol-engined automatic.
We then selected the highest luxury model grade from each brand with a recommended retail price of less than $55,000.
This rules out premium offerings from luxury car-makers such as Audi, BMW, Land Rover, Lexus and Porsche, allowing us to concentrate on popular, more affordable mainstream brands, not the more expensive, exotic ones.
While the SUVs compared here differ in price by up to about $10,000, almost all of them are the top-shelf variant in their respective model ranges.
Where given a choice, we chose a luxury variant over a sports model. However, the only realistic option in the Skoda Karoq range was the sports-oriented Karoq Sportline, given its much higher specification over the entry-level Style – the only other model in the range.
These are brand-new mid-size SUVs, but just how ‘new’ they are in terms of when they were developed and released in the market for the first time is another question.
With rapidly evolving vehicle technology, it is becoming harder for car-makers to easily incorporate such technology into models they conceived years ago.
Yet even the most dated model here has been refreshed since first launched to keep it relevant in a hotly-contested market.
Last year was a big one for new mid-size SUV arrivals. The most recent are the Kia Sportage and Mitsubishi Outlander, two new-generation models released in November 2021.
They joined last year’s winner of carsales’ Best Mid-Size SUV, the all-new Hyundai Tucson that shares its platform with the new Kia Sportage and was launched in April 2021, while the new-generation Haval H6 arrived a month later.
Other models to move through a generational change in 2018 or 2019 include the Ford Escape, MG HS, Toyota RAV4, Skoda Karoq and Subaru Forester.
Going further back, the Mazda CX-5 and Honda CR-V both arrived as new-gen models in 2017, and both have been revised since. The Renault Koleos and Volkswagen Tiguan both first arrived in 2016, with the Tiguan given a refresh last year.
The X-TRAIL harks back to 2014, with this generation’s latest – and last – minor revision coming in 2021. An all-new X-TRAIL model is due late this year.
The judging process
As with all carsales Best awards, we’ve assessed each of our contenders against more than 100 individual criteria across five key areas.
These are: safety, technology, comfort and convenience features, driving performance and ownership costs.
Active and passive safety features in a new car – those that help avoid a crash occurring, and those that reduce the severity of an impact – have improved dramatically in recent years and are now widespread across mainstream brands.
What’s more, Australian buyers today place a high value on safety and there are few (if any) valid excuses car-makers can proffer when safety level do not meet expectations – particularly when the price is around $50,000.
You can thank safety legislation as a driver of change, but also much-improved technology.
Car-makers have also seen that a comprehensive suite of safety features can make a sale, where some years back their emphasis was perhaps more about a flashy set of wheels.
Safety sells, and the more you have the better chance of a sale.
If you look at mid-size SUVs of even 10 years ago, there has been phenomenal growth in sophisticated active and passive safety features, all designed to keep you safe.
Yet this mega-test reveals that while some of the SUV contenders offer the very latest in safety innovation, others seemed to have stagnated with a less comprehensive safety suite.
More on mid-size SUV safety here
Improved computing power has resulted in all sorts of technology wonders appearing in the automotive industry in recent decades.
Who knew you could have a phone conversation in a car without once touching the phone, listen to any music you wanted on demand or could ask a car to find a location – and it would then show you how to get there?
While much of this is now a given in most car market segments, a high-end infotainment system with an array of sophisticated multimedia functionality isn’t out of place among premium models in carsales’ Best Mid-Size SUV 2022.
Indeed, there are features like digital radio, native sat-nav and USB-C charging ports – better still, wireless phone charging – that you would hope to see for your considerable investment in any of these vehicles.
Yet that bundle of gear is not by any means a given in this category, even at this end of each respective model range.
Some SUVs on test here lack elements of technology that you would expect to see fitted, while others cover all bases – and even add hi-fi audio as further icing on the cake.
More on mid-size SUV technology here
Comfort and convenience
A ‘premium’ feel is desirable even in the most affordable car segments of the market today, so it’s no wonder these $50K SUVs go big on comfort and convenience features.
What were once expensive options or simply unavailable features in this category are now expected in the top-of-the-range mid-size SUVs as tested here.
The particular model grades represented are the very best on offer – or close to it – so buyers have every right to expect them to come highly equipped.
If you’re about to spend big on a mid-size SUV, you won’t want to miss out on the latest comfort and convenience gear.
Happily, manufacturers for the better part have thrown a huge amount of equipment into these SUVs, but there are a few exceptions that seem more basic than boutique in some regards.
More on mid-size SUV comfort and convenience here
Today’s mid-size SUVs are built to get you and yours around in a wide range of situations, from the school or shopping runs to the annual holiday road trips, all loaded up with people and luggage.
As it’s a vehicle you’ll likely be driving for several years over thousands of kilometres in a bunch of varied circumstances, you’ll want to go into the purchase knowing that model you’ve chosen will not be a chore to drive.
The overall performance of a vehicle and its key attributes in this department can determine how relaxing, comfortable, enjoyable and safe it is to drive.
Things like a smooth and supple ride quality, confident and predictable handling, strong overtaking and hill-climbing performance – these are important for everyone.
And, as you might expect, some of the mid-size SUV contenders here hit the sweet spot for driving performance much better than others.
More on mid-size SUV driving performance here
With cost pressures rising for everybody, knowing what a new mid-size SUV will cost to own after you’ve driven away from the dealership is important.
No-one wants to make the unpleasant discovery down the track that their new car is eating into the family budget far more than they expected.
Cost of ownership is something that has become far more transparent in the car industry, so you can work out what you’ll be up for before the bills start to roll in for your new SUV – or even before you sign up for one.
Car companies publish routine maintenance costs so you can calculate with some assurance what you’ll be charged when it comes time for servicing.
Resale values are also available online thanks to the experts at RedBook, so you can estimate your mid-size SUV’s depreciation at the time you want to sell.
The basics of service costs, depreciation and warranty distance/time and inclusions are far from consistent across these 14 models – and that will add up in the long run.
More on mid-size SUV ownership costs here
Now it’s time to name our Best Mid-Size SUV for 2022…
Best Mid-Size SUV 2022 contenders:Ford Escape Vignale AWDHaval H6 Ultra AWDHonda CR-V VTi LXHyundai Tucson Highlander AWDKia Sportage GT-LineMazda CX-5 AkeraMG HS Essence XMitsubishi Outlander Exceed TourerNissan X-TRAIL TiRenault Koleos Intens AWDSkoda Karoq 140TSI SportlineSubaru Forester 2.5i-SToyota RAV4 Edge
Volkswagen Tiguan 162TSI Elegance