EDITOR'S PICKS - Compact Luxury SUVs (and below $200K)

clifford chow
25 Apr 2018

While cars like BMW’s X3 have grown up in size over the generations, these (no longer) small Executive SUVs have inevitably left quite a white space in their wake. Buyers too have been increasingly hungry for a piece of luxury, especially with the growing popularity of these versatile vehicles.

Versatility is just part of the appeal, but in recent times, a car which stands out from the crowd has become the larger piece of the buyer satisfaction puzzle.

Here are 4 compact luxury SUVs which blend practicality with superb styling!

MINI Cooper S Countryman

A MINI is always unmistakable; all their cars have the important duty of carrying over the design elements, which made the original so endearing.

With plenty of chrome accenting in the front, the new car does come across as more upmarket than the previous model. Styling tweaks around the car presents a more business-like appearance, but without the loss of play. There are large plastic wheel guards covering the wheel arches, while the two-tone paint job highlights the dropped roofline at the rear. Gone too is the large MINI logo in the middle of the boot lid, and there is too an even stronger visual resemblance to the original MINI.

The “S” badge on this car indicates their higher performing 192bhp 2.0 turbocharged engine under the hood, propelling the Countryman to 100km/h in a spritely 7.4 seconds. Cog-swopping duties are taken care of by a new 8-speed close ratio automatic transmission, which delivers improvements in fuel efficiency.

Based on their parent company’s BMW X1 platform, the Countryman is MINI’s largest car ever. With a wheelbase of 2,670mm, 75mm more than the car it replaces, MINI has capitalised on the added space, by offering more legroom for occupants. One of the cool features is the five fully-fledged seats, and yes, the rear ones are individually adjustable; and can be shifted by up to 13 centimetres forward and back.

Quality is also top-notch, with the air-conditioning vent knobs feeling about as precise as turning the crown on a Swiss watch.

Cargo room is a respectable 450 litres, and with the flexible rear seats in 40:20:40 folding format, there is plenty of flexibility, and the Countryman can offer up to 1,390 litres. Adding to the fun, MINI had included a rear folding picnic bench which seats two at the boot.

But where it shines is even though the Countryman is also the tallest MINI in the range, the Cooper S model is still able to deliver the promise of “Go-Kart” handling.

The Cooper S Countryman now retails for $184,088*.

BMW X2 sDrive20i M Sport X

The X2 is one of the boldest designs to grace our roads this year. From the upturned front grille, a first for BMW, which aids in creating a wider and lower stance, to the BMW roundel on its “C” pillar, paying homage to coupes like the beautiful 2000 CS and 3.0 CSL, to which we feel is central to the design of the car.

As far as crossovers go, the BMW might have successfully found the best way to incorporate SUV, coupe and even hatch elements into one car. A little hint that the guys at Munich have done this was with the rear tail lamps, featuring “L” shaped elements which are representative of its coupes, and “T” shaped lighting contour, which is taken from the “X” range of BMWs.

There are squared-off wheel arches, which apes the rest of the cars in their SUV range, and a subtle pinch in the sheet metal along the side, creating added visual girth, and greater road presence. Large 19-rims fill the wheel arches just perfectly, and making the car pop, BMW included snazzy Frozen Grey trim which surrounds the lower half of the car.

The X2 is powered by a 2.0 turbocharged engine, with a quick-shifting 7-speed dual-clutch transmission powering the front wheels.

While the car may be a looker on  the outside, the X2’s interior features new Aluminium Hexagon Anthracite trim, located on the dash and door panels, and with ambient lighting which not only emphasises the overall interior appearance, and makes locating all-important door handles easier.

In-place of leather which is rather common in this day and age, the X2’s Alcantara seats are pleasant to the touch, and have side bolsters to keep passengers in-place, while the contrasting seams adds to… well the contrast in the seats and dash panels.

For those who love to update their friends on their whereabouts or even time of arrival, the X2’s infotainment also allows users to share their live trips with selected contacts.

With 2,670mm of wheelbase, there is good legroom even for occupants at the rear. The boot features foot sensors for ease of operation, and provides users with 470 litres of cargo space, and with the dropping of the rear seats, the X2’s cargo room increases to 1,355 litres.

The X2 sDrive20i M Sport X now retails for $193,888*.

Jaguar E-Pace 2.0 S

Jaguar’s baby SUV marries the styling of its larger F-Pace sibling, with elements from their sublime F-Type coupe. While the compact SUV carries its rugged styling well, it does certainly look chic in the city.

Under the hood, the new 2.0 turbocharged engine delivers its drive through a close-ratio 9-speed automatic, and for optimum handling characteristics, all-wheel drive is standard. And the E-Pace also features some nifty tricks up its hat, with torque vectoring technologies for a more balanced driving experience.

Under all that sporty-yet-rugged styling, the E-Pace is really quite practical. With 2,681mm of wheelbase, the compact seats five, with up to 892mm of legroom at the rear. Luggage space is a respectable 478 litres, all thanks to an accommodating Integral Link rear suspension architecture.

The E-Pace benefits from a sporty forward-sloping dash, clear instrumentation, and stowage for all, while configurable interior lighting adds to a customisable ambiance.

Other goodies like the waterproof, wrist-worn Activity Key, which is also available on the larger F-Pace, allows owners to enjoy outdoor activities with peace-of-mind, while the conventional keys are locked safely inside the car.

The E-Pace 2.0 S now retails for $190,999*.

Volvo XC40 T5 R-Design

Volvo’s un-Volvo-like SUV not only turns eyes, perhaps it raises eyebrows little… Attractive styling elements, like a glossy-blackened grille, two-toned paint job and its signature “Thor’s Hammer” LED daytime running lights, makes the compact SUV unmistakable for another car.

Built on their smaller Compact Modular Architecture (CMA), the XC40’s cheeky short frontal overhangs, and its distinctive kicked-up side-rear profile, with rims which can go as large as a 21” option, puts a playful spin on an SUV built by makers of traditionally serious cars.

Its 2.0 turbocharged engine dishes out 250bhp and 350Nm of torque, propelling the sweet Swede to 100km/h in 6.5 seconds; with drive to the wheels coming from an 8-speed automatic.

The R-Design trim features very unique orange coloured carpet in its interior. So cool, that designers went almost the whole-hog to dress even the door cards with the same orange stuff. Pretty nifty we might say. Quality of the dash is seriously tops in this segment, with some very good ergonomics.

Goodies include a charging pad for QI compatible mobile devices, a large portrait-style 9” infotainment screen with Apple and Android device compatibility. New to the Volvo too is the Harman/Kardon sound system, with a world-first Air Woofer Technology, with the innovative bass unit parked right behind the dashboard delivering better sound (with directional bass… really…) and space savings.

Practical it is too, with 460 litres of cargo room, coming from an innovative and partitioned boot which also features a double floor, offering discreet storage space. Cubby holes, including carriers in the doors which are large enough to store bottles adds to its versatility.

The XC40 R-Design now retails for $198,000*.

We Recommend

Jaguar E-Pace 2.0 S

With AWD, and excellent handling too, the baby Jaguar checks all the right boxes as quite the driver’s car. With its tiny footprint, we love how poised it is around tight bends. Jaguar/Land Rover’s new 2.0 turbocharged engine delivers a healthy dab of torque from a low 1,200rpm, while its new ZF 9-speed transmission ensures optimum fuel economy and smooth operation.

The simple touch of having their waterproof activity key available, adds to the already versatile nature of the E-Pace, allowing peace-of-mind “outdoor-ing”.

BMW X2 sDrive20i M Sport X

The inverted front grille is a first for the Bavarian brand, and together with the rest of the frontal design cues, places emphasis on girth. Additionally we absolutely love how the BMW roundel plays so well into the car’s “C” pillar, and how the X2 manages to look combine coupe and SUV looks, all without causing any visual confusion.

But design and tech aside, the X2 also delivers sensibility, with ample space for all occupants including those in the rear, even with its compact dimensions. Cargo space is also practical with 470 litres, while the rear seats are collapsible in 40:20:40 fashion, offering 1,355 litres in-all.

*prices correct at time of publication

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