Best buys: Compact crossovers
The well-built Suzuki Vitara trumps its rivals, offering comfort and plenty of space
Suzuki Vitara: behind the fashionable facade, it’s a proper car
The best one: Suzuki Vitara
To be honest, being the best of the small crossover bunch is a bit like being the best footballer on the Faroe Islands. You’re not exactly cream of the crop in the grand scheme of things, and really, you’d be better off with a conventional hatchback than one of these.
Still, fashion is fashion and that’s mostly why we like the current Vitara as much as we do – because behind the fashionable facade, it’s a proper car. Suzuki (net of that brake issue from a couple of years ago) builds its cars properly, and to last and the Vitara shows that. Is the cabin a bit plain, a touch cheap? Yup, but it’s also comfy and roomy and there’s more space in the boot than is the norm in this class.
Plus, spec an AllGrip model and it will genuinely tackle the rough stuff, which is impressive.
Best model: Vitara S BoosterJet AllGrip for €27,995
Price range: €21,995 to €29,245. Finance - price on application
Co2 emissions: 106 to 128g/km
Sum up: Simple and solid.
Worthy Contender: Peugeot 2008
The 2008 received an update with some more aggressive styling in 2016, and the option of a sporty (well, sporty-ish) GT-Line version which seems a touch pointless for a small, family crossover.
Still, it’s a good-looking thing, and has a bright, roomy cabin which is far nicer for those sitting in the back than is the norm in this class. The interior lifts much from the smaller 208 hatchback, so if you’re not keen on the small-wheel, high-dials layout, you’re not going to be happy here.
Default 1.6 HDI diesel is fine, but the real star of the show is the excellent 1.2 PureTech turbo petrol. Handling is fine, but not exactly invigorating. It’s notably good value for money.
Best model: Allure 1.2 PureTech 110hp for €23,495
Price range: €19,400 to €27,280. Finance from €191 per month
Co2 emissions: 90 to 114g/km
Sum up: Decent, not daring.
Worthy Contender: Audi Q2
The first thing you need to know about the Audi Q2 is that it’s not cheap. In fact, the cheapest possible one you can buy crests €30,000 and for that you could have a seven-seat Skoda Kodiaq on your driveway.
It’s also a little too tight in the back seats for its own good, especially considering that it’s supposed to be a practical family-friendly crossover. It does have a few assets on its side though, not least its looks which are, frankly, gorgeous.
From the lantern jaw and that low, wide grille to the lovely style (and quality) of the cabin, it’s got some serious bone structure.
Allied to that is the 1.0-litre three-cylinder TFSI petrol engine which is a joy to drive, has just enough power and is reasonably frugal. Who wants to ruin their stylish Q2 with unsightly diesel stains under the fuel filler, after all? It’s good to drive as well, but the price is almost enough to have it off this list.
Best model: 1.0 TFSI SE for €30,800
Price range: €30,800 to €44,270. Finance from €309 per month.
Co2 emissions: 114 to 131g/km
Sum up: Much style, some substance.
Wild Card: Jeep Renegade
The smallest Jeep yet has certainly polarised opinion (we’ve heard its styling compared, unfavourably, to the cast of Finding Nemo) and for whatever reason, it has singularly failed to capture the Irish car buyers’ imagination, in sharp contrast to its strong sales in the UK and Europe.
We like it though – that upright, square styling is refreshing among a sea of soap-bar designs from rivals, and it’s roomy and reasonably practical inside.
It’s also not half bad to drive, and if you go for the (expensive) Trailhawk version, then you have a proper, capable off-roader that lives up to the Jeep legend. Avoid the basic 1.6 petrol, though and spec the cabin carefully to avoid it looking too dark and unwelcoming.
Best model: 1.4 MultiAir Nighteagle for €27,471
Price range: €25,700 to €40,900. Finance from €309 per month.
Co2 emissions: 115 to 150g/km
Sum up: Little Jeep, big heart.