The first half of 2016 has flown by and while the South African new vehicle market is clearly under considerable pressure, our love for SUVs (of all sizes) remains apparent. These are the 10 SUVs South Africans bought more than any other during the past 6 months...
Whether you're looking for a simple city runabout, or hoping to head off-road in search of some adventure, it is very likely that an SUV of some sort is on your shopping list. And, while a major reason for the success of this type of vehicle is as superficial as "because it's trendy to own one/keep up with the Joneses", SUVs do offer some practical advantages, such as higher ground clearance, better outward visibility and, generally speaking, more space. They're simply more flexible than other vehicle body shapes and can, therefore, be used for the daily school run as well as occasional long-distance journeys (with the entire family and its luggage on board) over a wide variety of road surfaces. No wonder South Africans have fallen in love with SUVs...
But which SUVs do we love most? Using sales figures for the first six months of 2016 (provided by Lightstone), we've drawn up the top 10 list based on sales (excluding rentals/fleets). And there are a couple of surprises!
Please note that the sales data includes estimates based on aggregate volumes reported and financial data for the GWM, AAD and AMH group brands, including potential volume sellers Hyundai and Kia. We had to therefore exclude vehicles such as the new (and strong-selling Hyundai Tucson) and Kia Sportage/Sorento.
1. Ford EcoSport
Ford's EcoSport continues to find favour in South Africa, and is the top seller of 2016, thus far.
The Ford EcoSport has been a strong seller for the Blue Oval ever since its introduction. It is not hard to fathom why: it offers great manoeuvrability due to its compact size, good fuel efficiency, a spacious and practical cabin and... all of that wrapped in a package that has just enough SUV machismo in its design.
- Consider the EcoSport if: you are looking for a compact, well-equipped daily driver that offers enough space for weekend escapes with the family.
Priced from R239 900 (for the entry-level 1.5 Ambiente) to R299 900 (for the 1.5 Titanium Automatic), there is an EcoSport for everyone. The entry-level derivative is the range's top seller, but we'd nominate the 1.5 TDCi Titanium as arguably offering the best mix of driveability, economy and features. It is powered by a punchy 1.5-litre turbodiesel and has a claimed consumption figure of only 4.6 L/100 km.
Titanium specification includes 16-inch alloy wheels, electronic stability control, climate- and cruise control, radio/CD player with Bluetooth and USB support, 6 airbags and rear park-distance control, among other items.
2. Toyota Fortuner
The entry-level version of the Fortuner represents outstanding value.
As we had always expected, the new Fortuner has hit the ground running and Toyota can't keep up with demand. The newcomer is a big step forward from its popular predecessor in terms of refinement, interior design and boasts a number of excellent new engines as well.
- Consider the Fortuner if: you are going to head off the beaten track quite often, and need 7 seats. It remains a superb off-road vehicle.
The Fortuner line-up starts at R439 000 for the 2.7-litre petrol auto, but that is a very thirsty vehicle, so the 2.4GD-6 looks like a far better bet and is offered with manual or automatic transmission. An unfortunate specification issue is that Toyota offers this derivative with only 3 airbags (all in the front of the vehicle). If you want a more comprehensive safety package, you'll have to stretch your budget to one of the excellent 2.8GD-6 derivatives – available in 4x2 or 4x4, as well as automatic or manual guises. A 4.0-litre petrol version is also offered, but only for diehard petrolheads.
3. Toyota RAV4
Following its recent facelift, the Toyota RAV4 is arguably a more rounded product than ever before, and it shows in the sales charts. The RAV4 was one of the original "soft" off-roaders and its enduring appeal is arguably unmatched by any competitor. What is the secret behind its success? Well, it's not really a secret... The RAV4 is an excellent all-rounder backed by the largest dealership network in South Africa. After all, Toyota is our current Brand of the Year.
- Consider the RAV4 if: quality, practicality and fuss-free motoring are high priorities.
The Toyota RAV4 line-up starts with the 2.0 GX at R354 500, but the automatic version (R366 500) is equally popular and gets our vote as the pick of the range, all things considered. That said, the higher-priced 2.2-litre turbodiesel variants are superb too (starting at R443 400) and both offer all-wheel drive. There is also a 2.5-litre all-wheel drive derivative (R494 300), but it has proven relatively unpopular.
4. Mazda CX-5
Though hardly new anymore, the CX-5 appears to be growing more popular with age!
First introduced in 2013, the Mazda CX-5 appears to be similar to a good red wine (insofar as it improves with age). The recent facelift has certainly made it a more attractive offering, but at its core, the CX-5 has always been a solid offering, with a classy, upmarket cabin, good space utilisation and excellent ride comfort. Now that Mazda is being marketed and distributed independently of the Ford brand, it appears to be on a very strong footing.
- Consider the CX-5 if: you want value and quality, but don't want to compromise on style and comfort.
The CX-5 line-up begins with the 2.0-litre Active (R350 500), which is a solid value offering. In fact, the automatic version (R361 800) was a Family Car finalist in our inaugural Cars.co.za Consumer Awards and is the top seller in the range. Further up the range, we rate the 2.2DE AWD Akera derivative very highly for its combination of power/efficiency and luxury. But no matter which model is being considered, the CX-5 is eminently recommendable.
5. Nissan X-Trail
The Nissan X-Trail can also be specified with optional third-row seating.
The Nissan X-Trail is a firm Cars.co.za favourite – it was a finalist in both the Family and Leisure Car categories of the first annual Cars.co.za Consumer Awards. Exceptionally versatile, well-made and with solid Nissan backing, it's no wonder that South Africans agree.
- Consider the X-Trail if: you are looking for one car to do everything – a relatively compact SUV/crossover with 7 seats.
The most affordable X-Trail is the 2.0 XE petrol-engined derivative (R354 900). This is also the best-selling X-Trail and the version we nominated as a finalist for the Cars.co.za Consumer Awards, in the Family Car category. Nissan also offers the frugal 1.6dCi derivatives (with 4x4 being available), as well as the flagship 2.5-litre petrol SE 4x4 derivative. The latter is equipped with a CVT (continuously variable transmission), which, according to the sales figures provided by Lightstone, has found favour in South Africa. Note that for less than R10 000 extra, the third-row seating is a great optional extra on the X-Trail.
The X-Trail is also one of South Africa's most frugal SUVs... read more here
6. Mazda CX-3
The second Mazda to make the list is somewhat of a surprise. The CX-3 is a stylish compact SUV that trades heavily on its design appeal and luxury car features, rather than usual SUV staples such as practicality and rough-road ability. And... it is working. We recently spent a month with the CX-3 to discover its charms, which you can hear about them the video above.
- Consider a CX-3 if: you're looking for a compact city slicker that looks the part (you don't want a conventional hatchback) and if style and a plethora of features are more important to you than ultimate spaciousness and boot size.
You can step into the bottom-of-the-range CX-3 2.0 Active for R274 400. Based on the Lightstone sales figures, however, it is clear that when it comes to the CX-3, South Africans want all the goodies and, as a result, the top seller is the flagship Individual Automatic (R351 000). All CX-3s use the same 2.0-litre petrol engine, and as we've found it, you have to adjust your driving style slightly to make full use of its efficiency-boosting technologies.
7. Ford Kuga
Superb cabin comfort, spaciousness, value for money and ride quality are Kuga hallmarks.
The second Ford SUV to make the Top 10 is the evergreen Kuga, the Blue Oval's mid-size offering that competes with the likes of the Hyundai Tucson, Toyota RAV4 and Volkswagen Tiguan. The Kuga is a very spacious vehicle with excellent utility space (once those rear seats are folded down). As is to be expected from Ford, the standard features list is generous, which is why the Kuga offers such excellent value for money – and consequently, sells so well.
- Consider the Kuga if: you want maximum value for money, with a long list of standard features in a very practical, comfortable vehicle.
There are no fewer than 8 Kuga models to choose from and the range starts with the 1.5T Ambiente (R366 900), which is also the top seller in the line-up. We recently had the 1.5T Trend Automatic (R422 900) on an extended test, so watch out for a full report and video coming soon. This model proved to be exceptionally comfortable and adept at making the daily slog in traffic a pleasant affair. We did, however, struggle to match Ford's fuel economy claims on this model, so if it is efficiency you're after, then perhaps consider the pricier 2.0 TDCi turbodiesel derivatives (from R488 900).
8. Volkswagen Tiguan
A replacement for the Tiguan is imminent, but the current version remains popular.
Even in the face of imminent replacement, the current Tiguan still sells in droves. Originally introduced as long ago as 2007, the Tiguan has shown remarkable longevity, with its design remaining up to date courtesy of frequent small updates. Though a bit small inside by modern standards, it still offers superb drive comfort as well as, of course, the desirability that comes from having the Volkswagen badge on the nose. They're popular on the used market, too, so selling after a few years shouldn't be a problem.
- Consider the (current) Tiguan if: you can twist your VW dealer's arm for a great deal. After all, a new model is imminent.
The current Tiguan line-up starts at R367 000 for the entry-level 1.4 (90 kW) TSI Trend&Fun and peaks with the 2.0 TSI 4Motion Sport&Style (R530 300). There are 8 models in total, and the most popular variant in South Africa is the base model, with the 2.0 TDI Trend&Fun also proving a sales success. In fact, given the economy and driveability of the 2.0 turbodiesel model, we'd recommend the latter as our pick of the (current) range.
9. Renault Duster
If value for money is your highest priority, then you've come to the right place if you're looking at the Renault Duster. Unlike most compact SUVs these days, the Duster is designed for some rougher use. The materials used inside may not be as glitzy as on some rivals, but is hard-wearing, and the spaciousness of the Renault's cabin also promotes a wider variety of lifestyle applications. In short, consider the Duster the automotive equivalent of a duffel bag.
- Consider the Duster if: the budget is tight and you need a spacious, practical all-rounder that doesn't mind getting its boots dirty.
The Duster 1.6 Expression (R232 900) is the entry-level model and also one of the most popular, along with the 1.5dCI Dynamique (R276 900). A limited-edition 1.6 Explore derivative was recently added for R258 900. The flagship is the 1.5dCi Dynamique 4WD that sells for R296 900. We think the two-wheel drive 1.5dCI Dynamique represents the sweetspot in the line-up.
10. Ford Everest
The only brand with 3 vehicles in this Top 10 list is Ford, courtesy of a strong performance by its Everest. Given the relatively limited model offering at present (no cheaper 2.2-litre offerings, yet), the Everest looks well positioned for massive jumps up the sales ladder once the range expands. Like its arch-rival, the Toyota Fortuner, the Everest is targeted at families that want to head off the beaten track every now and again. It is very impressive off-road, and offers greater on-road comfort than the Toyota.
- Consider the Everest if: you intend going off-road, towing heavy trailers/caravans, need 7 seats and don't want to compromise on daily driving comfort.
At present there are only two models on offer, and both are powered by the company's brawny 3.2-litre turbodiesel engine. The pricier Ltd model (R698 900) is the top seller, but the more affordable XLT (R634 900) is also worth considering.