Drive Car of the Year 2024 – Best Medium SUV Under $80K FINALISTS

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Car Of The Year

Finalists announced for the Drive Car of the Year 2024 – Best Medium SUV Under $80K 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.

Read more: 

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 $80K

*Updated 1 pm, December 13, 2023


The first round of votes has been cast in this brand new Drive Car of the Year category, Best Medium SUV Under $80k, and we’ve narrowed the field down to three worthy finalists. With no prior champion to topple, it’s anyone’s game, leaving the title wide open for our three finalists: the Nissan X-Trail, Lexus NX and Tesla Model Y. 

This category shines a spotlight on the many premium-leaning medium SUVs available in Australia under the $80,000 price ceiling. The target market is young families and active urbanites seeking practicality with a premium touch.  

The all-new Nissan X-Trail landed in 2022 to great fanfare, nabbing the Best Medium SUV title in last year’s Drive Car of the Year awards. Its refined yet punchy powertrain, plus a broad price spread and a flexible, practical cabin with an upmarket feel meant the X-Trail shone against extremely stiff competition.

In 2023, the X-Trail range gained three e-Power hybrid variants to rival the popular Toyota RAV4, sharpening the line-up even further. One year on from its medium SUV victory, can the X-Trail still hold its own in an increasingly premium category?

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The new-generation Lexus NX landed in Australian showrooms in early 2022, offering a powertrain and specification grade for almost every buyer. From full–petrol to closed-loop hybrid and plug-in hybrid, plus the choice of all-wheel drive or front-wheel drive, the new NX also saw major improvements in infotainment, equipment levels, and styling. 

Despite the brand’s luxury positioning, the pricing of several variants – including a few hybrid options – means the NX sneaks under our price ceiling to compete with some more mass-market offerings. But can shopping with a reasonable budget in a luxury range deliver enough bang for your buck?

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While its rivals offer the choice of petrol or hybrid power, the Tesla Model Y, is offered only as an all-electric vehicle. The Drive Car of the Year 2024 awards marks the first time we are incorporating electric and internal combustion-engined vehicles into the same categories, to speak to an increasing number of buyers cross-shopping powertrains. With solid efficiency, an impressively long range, a massive charging network, loads of interior room and strong sales, the Model Y poses stiff competition for its more conventional counterparts.

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The Drive Car of the Year Best Medium SUV Under $80K will be announced on February 19, 2024.

The below was first published November 15, 2023

The Drive Car of the Year Best Medium SUV Under $80K category examines some of the most popular vehicles sold in this country with this simple premise: is this really the best you can get? 

This is a new award segment that sits above the Best Medium SUV Under $80K and below the Best Luxury SUV Under $150K awards that shines the spotlight on the many premium Medium SUV models available in the price band under $80K. 

Here we are considering the premium model lines of some very popular brands against the entry models of the well-heeled premium nameplates. 

There are even some examples of what might be considered outlier brands, that suit up with the best they’ve got to play in this category.

Because this is a brand-new category, there are many alternatives to consider in the list of eligible vehicles. Among them are some wildcard possibilities, but also several that may struggle to meet the requirement of doing everything for most people, and meeting the values and needs of the contemporary family.

It’s fair to say that the old Nissan X-Trail was seemingly very outdated when retired and replaced in 2022. The stunning new model was the Medium SUV winner last year, as a standout in almost all key areas against rivals that can more than hold their own in the Medium SUV class. With added hybrid variants, will Nissan’s fresh range of top-tier variants see the X-Trail hold its ground as the top dog in the Medium SUV fight?

The all-new Honda CR-V begs to differ. This much-needed new model has just arrived and is Honda’s most compelling attempt to date to grab the best Medium SUV Under $80K crown. When you’re looking at the upper-spec CR-Vs in this price band, not only are there more luxurious appointments, but you also get to choose hybrid as well as the option for all-wheel drive.

The Lexus NX is the introductory model to the aspirational Japanese luxury brand for some, and what an introduction it is. The new-and-improved Lexus NX adds more space and refinement to the brand’s best-seller in Australia, with the brand-new infotainment system making a huge difference, and a long standard features list adding considerably to Lexus’s value equation.

The new Mazda CX-60 is a real step-change for the brand, being a new flagship Medium SUV charged with lifting Mazda upmarket. The Mazda CX-60 offers European-inspired technologies like a fully digital instrument cluster and wireless smartphone connectivity in a premium cabin to entice buyers in what is a very competitive marketplace.

The long-awaited Mitsubishi Outlander arrived in 2022 with the promise of a far higher degree of luxury and safety than could ever occur in the old model. It presents well and exudes a quality beyond its price. It also has cutting-edge technology in what is a brilliantly functional family car.

The Tesla Model Y is an interesting and enticing option, It’s up for consideration in this category for the first time and is a real threat to more conventional vehicles on offer. The Model Y has the advantages of strong efficiency and state-of-the-art technology and is an incredibly spacious and practical proposition.

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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. 

We won’t see the intriguing new Subaru Solterra or Toyota BZ4X EV twins this time around, as they won’t be here in time for consideration – but there’s always next year.

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.
Alfa Romeo Stelvio
Audi Q5
BYD Atto 3
Citroen C5 Aircross
Cupra Ateca
Cupra Formentor
Ford Escape
Genesis GV70
Honda CR-V
Honda ZR-V
Hyundai Ioniq 5
Hyundai Tucson
Kia EV6
Kia Sportage
Lexus NX
Mazda CX-5
Mazda CX-60
Mercedes-Benz GLB-Class
Mitsubishi Outlander
Nissan X-Trail
Peugeot 3008
Peugeot 5008
Renault Koleos
Skoda Karoq
Tesla Model Y
Toyota RAV4
Volkswagen Tiguan
Volvo XC60
Not here in time:
Subaru Solterra 
Toyota BZ4X 

What are the next steps?

The winner of the 2024 Drive Car of the Year Best Medium SUV Under $80K will be announced in February 2024.

Before then, we will announce the finalists, all of which deliver on the buyer’s expectations for cost-effective urban motoring. One thing is certain: this category promises to be one of the toughest confronting our 11 experienced judges.

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The Drive Team brings you trusted, expert reviews of your next new car and is home to the best new car awards program in Australia.

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