Go on, take a wild guess at what type of car we’re currently all buying in droves. No, not V8-engined two-seater sports cars, unfortunately, but supermini-based SUVs, and new ones are arriving at such at rate we’ve barely got space for them. This month? Just the four…
And yet for all our cynicism, they’re a diverse bunch. As SUVs get smaller, the customer gets younger and funkier, or so says marketing research, so the design needs to reflect that. Take the new C3 Aircross. Citroen says it “brings a breath of fresh air to the compact SUV segment”, and that it “invites fans of style, well-being and adventure to live a whole new automotive experience”.
We say if it’s even half as good as the PR fluff, Citroen is surely on to a winner. About 200mm longer and 20mm higher than the C3 it shares a platform with, it’s ruggedised with skid-plates and wheelarch extensions. And, of course, personalisation is a thing, so there are 90 possible exterior colour combinations and various themes for the interior, which Citroen says is class-leadingly spacious.
There’s even some proper SUV tech in the form of Grip Control, which can be toggled between sand and snow modes among others. Hill descent control is available too, but why you’d need it in a car that isn’t available with AWD, we’re not entirely sure. If your taste is more smart casual than French eccentric, then the new Seat Arona could be your bag. Based on the same MQB A0 platform as the new Ibiza, the Arona is 79mm longer and 99mm taller than that car.
You sit higher, the windscreen is steeper of rake and the suspension has been raised by 15mm. Because SUV. Engines are shared with the Ibiza too – that means petrol engines with three or four cylinders, and four-cylinder diesels. Manual and DSG auto gearboxes are variously available, although there’s no mention of all-wheel drive.
No figures yet, but quickest (until the possible Cupra, fingers crossed) will be the 150bhp four-cylinder petrol, which comes with cylinder-deactivation technology and will only be paired with sporty FR trim. It should be quite quick among its very sensible rivals, Nismo Juke excluded.
But wait, the Koreans want in too, and the results are predictably well-rounded. The Hyundai Kona looks genuinely rugged, with proper rubber wheelarches (Hyundai calls it “protective armour”), and there’s actually optional 4WD. Split running lights and headlights appear to be nods to both the benchmark Nissan Juke and the C3 Aircross, while there’s Hyundai’s new Audi-esque grille and all manner of other flourishes.
The bonnet vent and rear pillars are particularly interesting. As is a 174bhp 1.6-litre petrol, too, which should make the Kona unnecessarily quick; 7.7sec 0–62mph quick, in fact. Which leaves us with the new gin-inspired Kia Stonic, essentially a Kia Rio on tiptoes.
Like the Kona, the Stonic wears its rough ’n’ tumble kickplate-style bumpers well, but the signature detail is that colour-contrast roof, which Kia confusingly refers to as a “Targa-style roof”. Hmm. We can confirm that the Kia Stonic’s roof does not lift out, à la Honda NSX or mid- Eighties Porsche 911, so it shouldn’t be called Targa.
It should be called colour-contrast roof. You can have 20 different body paint finishes and five colours for said roof, since you ask. Inside, well, it’s a Kia Rio, but with a higher roof, and orange bits in this one to match the orange not-a-Targa roof.
Standard equipment includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and optional packs add so much anti-crash and pedestrian-saving tech we suspect the Stonic might be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Yes, it’s another me-too crossover that’ll cost around £14,000. But Kia’s clearly done some serious homework for its first B-SUV; in fact, all these manufacturers have.
It’s a sector that currently tots up 1.1 million European sales and will soar past two million by 2020, overtaking C-segment SUVs like the Kia Sportage and Nissan Qashqai in the process. So, you’ll be seeing one or two of these about, then.