Drive Car of the Year 2024 – Best Medium SUV Under $50K FINALISTS

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Car Of The Year

Finalists announced for the Drive Car of the Year 2024 – Best Medium SUV Under $50K category


Over the next few weeks, we’ll be explaining all the categories and contenders for Drive Car of the Year 2024. Testing is currently underway, with the final winners to be announced early next year.

Drive Car of the Year 2024

Now in its 18th year, the annual Drive Car of the Year awards program continues to be the Australian new car buyer’s most trusted advisor. 

At Drive, we test drive more than 200 new cars every year, evaluating each against its innate promise to sort the best from the rest. We divide the 400-plus new passenger cars, SUVs, 4WDs and utes into 19 price-banded categories focused on the end-user, then analyse the strengths and weaknesses of every car to find the cream of the automotive crop.

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Drive Car of the Year 2024 is a go!

Drive Car of the Year Overview

Drive Car of the Year 2023 winners

Drive Car of the Year 2024: Best Medium SUV Under $50K

*Updated 12 pm, December 13, 2023

FINALISTS CONFIRMED

The first round of voting has concluded and the judges have selected the finalists that will challenge last year’s winner, the Nissan X-Trail, for the title of the Drive Car of the Year 2024 Best Medium SUV under $50K. This year, a $50K before on-road costs price cap applies to this category, so the winning vehicle will need to deliver fuss-free family motoring through fuel efficiency, features, space and safety at a competitive price. Challenging the X-Trail is a pair of mid-size Hondas, the CR-V and ZR-V.

The Honda CR-V has been one of Australia’s favourite family SUVs since it arrived in 1997, so the all-new 2024 model has big shoes to fill. Blurring the lines between a mid-size and a large SUV, the new CR-V, launched in September 2023, is bigger inside and out than its predecessor. A new generation means new technology, an up-to-date advanced safety suite across all models to better compete with its rivals, and confident driving dynamics for the class. 

The new CR-V is more expensive than its predecessor – the base price up $8600 – but it is now available with hybrid power for the first time. However, hybrid technology is only available on the flagship model which, at $59,900 drive-away, is too expensive to compete for this award. 

Three model grades fall under our $50K price ceiling: the $44,500 VTi X five-seat front-wheel drive, $46,800 VTi X7 seven-seat front-wheel drive, and $48,800 VTi L five-seat front-wheel drive. All models share a 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine, and as with all new Honda cars sold in Australia, the prices are drive-away and can’t be haggled on in the dealership.

Read more about the Honda CR-V here.

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The Honda ZR-V is a brand-new nameplate for the Japanese car maker, and slots between the small HR-V and the aforementioned CR-V with dimensions within millimetres of a Mazda CX-5. It shares its bones, technology and turbo-petrol power with the CR-V, but in a smaller package better suited to buyers who frequent tight city streets, or don’t need the passenger or boot space room – or seven-seat capability – offered by its larger sibling. 

Prices start from $40,200 drive-away for the VTi X, up to $43,200 drive-away for the VTi L, and $48,500 for the VTi LX, all front-wheel-drive five-seaters powered by a 1.5-litre turbo-petrol engine delivering fuel use of 7.0 to 7.2L/100km. A hybrid e:HEV LX model is available – with the same features as the VTi LX but a lower 5.0L/100km fuel use claim – but at $54,900 drive-away it is too expensive to compete for this award.

Click here to read Drive’s most recent coverage on the Honda ZR-V.

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The defending champion is the Nissan X-Trail, which was all-new for last year’s awards and won over judges with its blend of space, value, technology and safety features. Since we judged the Drive Car of the Year 2023 awards, Nissan has expanded the model line-up with three hybrid models – including one, the $49,990 plus on-road costs ST-L e-Power, which is affordable enough to qualify for the Drive Car of the Year Best Medium SUV award in 2024. 

Nissan’s e-Power system operates differently to most other hybrids, promising the instant response of an electric car – as its wheels are driven solely by electric motors – but with a 1.5-litre turbo petrol engine on board as a generator, claiming fuel efficiency of 6.1L/100km. Judges will decide whether it is worth the price premium over regular, non-hybrid petrol models.

To read more about the Nissan X-Trail and its e-Power variants, click here – and to read about its 2023 Drive Car of the Year Best Medium SUV victory, click here.

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The Drive Car of the Year Best Medium SUV Under $50K will be announced on February 19, 2024.

The below was first published November 15, 2023

More Australians shop for their next new vehicle in the medium SUV market: it’s where more than 223,000 new cars have found homes so far this year, well above any other vehicle segment. This is why the 2024 Drive Car of the Year Best Medium SUV Under $50K is important, and the balance of affordability, value, space and practicality is crucial. 

To satisfy the 2024 Drive Car of the Year Best Medium SUV Under $50K award, the winning SUV must deliver the best mix of equipment, safety and efficiency at a sharp price, all in a versatile and practical wagon body. 

Like many other segments, this is about new car buyers wanting fuss-free family motoring with a balance of features for the price. It’s a tall order, and the pressure is on as the winner is the one that will stand tall in Australia’s biggest car segment.

This category was hotly contested last year, the Nissan X-Trail dethroning 2022’s champion, the Kia Sportage, which in turn dethroned our 2021 champ, the Toyota RAV4 the year before. 

The appealing Mitsubishi Outlander pushed the X-Trail all the way last year but fell achingly short of victory. Since then it has not changed, so it won’t be back just yet. 

One of the few giving a seven-seat option here, the current king of this group, the Nissan X-Trail, cemented its position last year with comprehensive safety, a thoughtful, stylish cabin and decent fuel economy and driving dynamics. Is that enough for the Nissan to win again?

There are two new arrivals from Honda in this bracket, with the CR-V and the ZR-V sure to make a splash in this year’s awards. 

The new CR-V is another contender with a seven-seater option, and its increased size, high-quality interior and improved safety tech will build a strong case for this new medium SUV player.

Positioned just below the CR-V is Honda’s new ZR-V. Quiet, refined, agile and easy to drive, this new Honda is competitively priced and very fuel-efficient.

Chinese brand Chery is making a return to this segment after a long break with the Chery Tiggo 7 Pro, while from a well-established Indian brand comes the value-orientated new Mahindra XUV700.

The new Tiggo Pro promises much in standard hardware at a low price to tempt those looking for great value, while the Mahindra XUV700, trades heavily on its value proposition as the most affordable seven-seat SUV in the country.

Then there’s the first fully electric model to be considered in this segment – the BYD Atto 3. The BYD Atto 3 won the Best EV Under $70K class in 2023 but was not given the chance to contest the more mainstream Medium SUV segment. This year, because we’re normalising EVs, it gets that chance.  

It’ll be interesting to see if the BYD’s blend of price, comfort, roominess and performance will be enough to make it a winner over more traditional powertrain competitors.

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Which cars are eligible for this category?

Drive’s rules require that, for a car to be eligible, it must:

  1. Be all-new or significantly updated,  
  2. Be on sale by December 31, 2023, and 
  3. Retail examples be made available for Drive to road test before that cut-off date. 

From launch timing information we have been given, the upcoming SsangYong Torres is not going to make it in time but will have its chance next year. 

We also ruled out the GWM Haval H6 Lux hybrid variant that was added to the range early in 2023 because it’s just a cheaper and less well-equipped mechanical mirror of the Jolion that already contested Drive Car of the Year in 2022. Here is the list of eligible cars, drawn from the FCAI’s Medium SUV category. It’s worth noting that in some cases, the vehicle’s price range extends beyond the category ceiling. In these cases, only the models priced below the cap are eligible. 

Eligible Ineligible
Cars that are all-new or significantly updated since they last contested Drive Car of the Year.
– New categories are open to all cars that fit category requirements.
– Last year’s winner is an automatic inclusion.
– These cars meet category requirements but have not changed since they previously contested Drive Car of the Year and are not a carry-over winner.
BYD Atto 3
Chery Tiggo 7 Pro
Honda CR-V
Honda ZR-V
Mahindra XUV700
Nissan X-Trail
Unchanged:
Ford Escape
GWM Haval H6
Hyundai Tucson
Kia Niro
Kia Sportage
Mazda CX-5
MG HS
MG HS +EV
Mitsubishi Outlander
Renault Koleos
Skoda Karoq
Ssangyong Korando
Subaru Forester
Toyota RAV4
Volkswagen Tiguan

Not here in time:
SsangYong Torres

What are the next steps?

The winner of the 2024 Drive Car of the Year Best Medium SUV Under $50K will be announced in February 2024.

Before then, we will announce the finalists, all of which deliver fuss-free mid-size motoring for young families and active urbanites with an eye on value.  One thing is certain: this category promises to be one of the toughest confronting our 11 experienced judges.

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