These were the top compact SUVs launched in 2021

SA's SUV/crossover wars intensified this year with a crop of new contenders

22 December 2021 - 16:17
By Denis Droppa
Suzuki Vitara Brezza.
Image: Denis Droppa Suzuki Vitara Brezza.

Pandemic notwithstanding, it was a busy year for the motor industry, with a raft of new cars launched in SA.

The big action was in the compact SUV and crossover segment, with consumers continuing to migrate to these higher-riding vehicles for their perceived practicality and that all-important “command” seating position. Compact SUVs have grown from 3% to 27% of local new-car sales in the past decade, mostly at the cost of C-segment sedans and hatchbacks (for example VW Golf), which have declined from 16% to 3% in market share over the same period.

The SUV/crossover turf wars intensified in 2021 with a crop of new contenders arriving to take on popular offerings like the Volkswagen T-Cross, Hyundai Venue and Ford EcoSport:


This budget crossover is an eye-catching value package that slots between the Ignis and Vitara.

It offers great bang for buck, with prices that undercut most rivals, without obvious quality or specification shortcuts, and it’s surprisingly roomy for a car that’s just under 4m long. The 77kW 1.5l petrol engine is an honest and frugal performer, paired with a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission.

Price range: R248,900-R313,900

Warranty: Five years/200,000km

Service plan: Four years/60,000km

Toyota Urban Cruiser.
Image: Supplied Toyota Urban Cruiser.


A rebadged Vitara Brezza, the Urban Cruiser was launched shortly after the Suzuki and immediately outsold its twin, demonstrating the power of the Toyota badge.

The two cars are basically identical, except for a restyled front end and small specification differences.

Available in three grades, the Urban Cruiser costs slightly more than the Suzuki due to all its models being equipped with the Toyota Connect telematics system, which includes an in-car Wi-Fi hotspot and complimentary 15Gb data.

Price range: R259,100-R326,800

Warranty: Three years/100,000km

Service plan: Three services/45,000km

Kia Sonet.
Image: Supplied Kia Sonet.


The Sonet (pronounced “sonnet”, in the Shakespearean way) is a pleasant little charmer that will appeal to first-time buyers and empty-nesters, with slick styling, keen pricing and a generous list of features. It also has one of the market’s best warranties, with no mileage limit.

All versions are powered by a capable 85kW 1.5l petrol unit which does not confine the little car to the slow lane.

Price range: R275,995-R316,995

Warranty: Five years/unlimited km

Service plan: Four years/60,000km

Nissan Magnite.
Image: Supplied Nissan Magnite.


The Magnite is right on point with the latest technology and connectivity, and has plenty of spec for the price.

The snappy styling will lure youthful buyers and both Magnite grades strut 16” dual-tone alloy wheels, LED daytime running lights, a boot spoiler, and front and rear skid plates.

The little 1.0l turbo petrol three-cylinder engine translates its 74kW into reasonable perkiness and the two transmission options are a five-speed manual and a CVT automatic.

Price range: R269,800-R321,300

Warranty: Six years/150,000km

Service plan: Three years/30,000km

Renault Kiger.
Image: Supplied Renault Kiger.


Replacing the Sandero, the Kiger’s youthful styling turns heads and the pricing is very keen, but it has a rather cheap and flimsy feel. The car earns kudos for its well-stocked spec sheet, however, which includes a great infotainment system with an eight-inch touchscreen.

There’s a choice of two 1.0l engines, paired with a five-speed manual or CVT auto. The normally aspirated 52kW unit feels underpowered, so for those who can stretch the budget, the 74kW turbo version is much perkier.

Price range: R199,900-R294,900

Warranty: Five years/150,000km

Service plan: Two years/30,000km (normally aspirated engine), three years/45,000km (turbo engine)

Peugeot 2008.
Image: Denis Droppa Peugeot 2008.


SA buyers have yet to embrace the French brand in big numbers, but the 2008 is an impressive effort.

This premium compact crossover blends utility and charisma with a fun-to-drive nature, which earned it SA’s 2021 Car of the Year title from the Guild of Mobility Journalists.

It has extrovert good looks, with fairly spirited performance from its 1.2l turbocharged three-cylinder petrol engine (available in 74kW and 96kW versions), and has one of the smartest interiors in the segment, with appealing colours and textures.

Price range: R372,900-R499,900

Warranty: Five years/100,000km

Service plan: Three years/60,000km

Toyota Corolla Cross.
Image: Supplied Toyota Corolla Cross.


A Toyota Corolla on stilts; how can you go wrong? And so it has proven: the Corolla Cross shot into first place as the country’s most popular passenger car in its first month on sale.

Locally built in KwaZulu-Natal, the range is competitively priced and offers 103kW 1.8l petrol and 90kW petrol-electric versions, the latter SA’s cheapest hybrid at R413,000.

It stands out as one of the largest cars in its segment. In terms of practicality, safety and comfort, the Corolla Cross ticks the boxes and it throws a comfortable ride and some styling pizazz into the bargain.

Price range: R349,900-R448,300

Warranty: Three years/100,000km

Service plan: Six services/90,000km

Haval Jolion.
Image: Supplied Haval Jolion.


Chinese cars are coming of age and the new Jolion has the most premium cabin we’ve yet experienced from that country, with a look and feel that matches or exceeds any rival in the segment.

With a step-up in build quality comes a higher price, but the Jolion is still very competitively pitched and very well stocked with features. Its strong sales prove that South Africans are ready to embrace Chinese vehicles if the build quality is up to scratch.

It is sold in five variants, all powered by a 105kW 1.5l petrol turbo engine, available in a choice of six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch automatic.

Price range: R299,900-R398,900

Warranty: Five years/100,000km

Maintenance plan: Five years/60,000km

Chery Tiggo 4 Pro.
Image: Supplied Chery Tiggo 4 Pro.


Like Haval, Chery has made big strides in quality and the new Tiggo 4 Pro is worlds away from the cheap-feeling Tiggo of old. The rags-to-riches tale is evident in the new 4 Pro’s high-class cabin and improved refinement.

The technology is right on trend with a touchscreen infotainment system and digital instrument cluster.

Engine choices are a normally aspirated 83kW 1.5l petrol or a 108kW 1.5l petrol turbo, in manual and automatic guises.

It’s very competitively priced and the clincher is the market-leading 10-year/1-million kilometre engine warranty.

Price range: R269,900-R359,900

Warranty: Five years/150,000km vehicle; Ten years/1-million km engine

Service plan: Five years/60,000km