AA DRIVEN NZ COTY 2023 finalists: the best Small SUVs of the year

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It’s AA DRIVEN Car Guide New Zealand Car of the Year time again! We’ll be awarding wins in 11 different categories, acknowledging the overwhelming preference for all things SUV but also with a focus on eco-cars and technology.

There are Small SUV, Medium SUV, Large SUV, Passenger, LCV, Clean Car HEV/PHEV/BEV, Sports and Performance, Luxury and Safety categories, not to mention the outright AA DRIVEN Car Guide NZ COTY – which will of course be one of the top three cars chosen from those categories.

We’re kicking off this week by announcing the finalists in the Small SUV category.

Top three small SUVs of 2023

Small SUVs are still a really big deal in NZ, accounting for 21 per cent of new-vehicle sales and providing Kiwi buyers with a near-ideal blend of high style and city-friendly dimensions. Not just limited to the cheap and cheerful, either: premium makers have embraced this compact segment big-time.

So it’s a diverse trio of finalists this year, comprising mainstream and luxury makers, with ICE, HEV, PHEV and BEV options all covered.

BMW X1 brings tech from larger BMW models into a compact SUV.

The new BMW X1 might be the brand’s smallest and least expensive SUV, but it offers a similar level of quality and technology to its larger models.

It’s a truly high-tech compact SUV, and with prices starting at just over $72k it presents great value for money when you consider it’s a premium product.

In some respects this is a miniature version of BMW’s very upmarket iX luxury BEV – especially when you consider that the fizzy three-cylinder petrol model (still very clean) has now been joined by a pure-electric model, the iX1.

Kia Niro is electrified-only: hybrid, PHEV or BEV.

The Kia Niro flew the flag for electrified powertrains when it was launched back in 2016, and that’s still true for the latest model.

It’s a compact SUV that covers all the battery-focused bases: full hybrid, plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) and battery electric vehicle (BEV). It all just works.

But where the previous model was low-key in the extreme, the new version also brings striking design and vastly improved quality into the mix.

The BEV version is based on a slightly older platform than Kia’s EV6, but the payoff is a sharp price ($75,990 for the top-specification Water model) and you still get an excellent 460km range.

Toyota Yaris Cross still impresses despite two years on the market.

The Toyota Yaris Cross has been a standout small SUV since it was launched back in 2021 – and remains so, making the cut as a finalist this year again.

That’s on the strength of a model that hasn’t changed all that much in three years: there’s still an entry version with a 1.5-litre petrol engine (although you can’t take delivery of that until 2024), then a full range of petrol-electric hybrids.

One addition is a GR Sport model, with sportier looks, stiffer suspension and some interior enhancements.

Yaris Cross prices range from $33,290 to $45,690.

Keen to discover the top three Medium SUVs of 2023? See them here.

After you have shared your opinion on small SUVs why not vote in our AA DRIVEN Car Guide NZ Car of the Year Peoples Choice award to go into the draw to win $5000 of fuel/charge credit below.

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