Competition Stiffens Even More in the Compact CUV/SUV Segment

What the auto industry calls “light trucks” includes pickups, SUVs, crossovers and minivans.  Last year, light trucks made up a record high U.S. market share of just over 77 percent. U.S. manufacturers report more than 90 percent of their sales in this segment.

Forbes reported that last years’ five top-selling vehicles include three pickup trucks and two compact crossovers.  The Equinox supports this trend as Chevrolet’s second best-selling vehicle, second only to the Silverado half-ton pick-up.  The 2022 Equinox got a refreshed look with new LED headlights, new front grille and redesigned front and rear bumpers.  With a 1.5-liter, turbocharged engine coupled to a six-speed automatic transmission, performance is a little lackluster compared to some, but the ride is smooth and stable.  Even with the AWD option, our RS trim level tester earned a 27 MPG EPA-estimated fuel economy rating. The RS added even more sports flavor, with black wheels and trim. Its standard vehicle price was listed at $31,700.  Adding leather, Bose premium sound, infotainment extras, and an advanced safety package with HD Surround Vision and Adaptive Cruise Control, the all-in price was a tidy $35,970.

Critics are calling Lexus’ first plug-in hybrid, NX-450h+, the most technologically advanced and quickest, yet most expensive NX model to date.  The MSRP on our Luxury trim tester was $55,650, with a final tag of $62,960 including options, but Lexus is doing well in quashing its luxury competition in the EV range. The Texas Auto Writers Association concurred, naming the NX 450h+ “Luxury CUV of Texas” at its recent Auto Roundup event.   With standard all-wheel drive, its EV range is estimated at 37 miles with the gas engine kicking in to take you a few hundred miles beyond.  Those looking for quicker acceleration will like it, too. Based on Toyota’s RAV4 Prime 2.5-liter inline-four engine and hybrid system, it gets 302 hp taking it from zero to 60 in six seconds.

With Genesis known for its ability to offer well-appointed, nicely-finished vehicles at a more affordable price point, it’s not surprising that the all-new GV70 positions Genesis squarely among the compact-luxury SUV competition.   Those who love the G70 sports sedan will find it similar, with the benefits of a higher seating position and extra cargo room.  Ours had the turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder V-6 with standard AWD and eight-speed automatic transmission good for 300 hp and 24 MPG combined; a twin turbocharged 3.5-liter V-6 is also available, getting 375 hp with 22 MPG combined.  Our tester had a $41,000 MSRP.  Its Advanced package added leather upholstery, interior ambient lighting, a heated steering wheel, a host of driver-assistance features including a remote self-parking feature for $4,150. A panoramic sunroof, 16-speaker Lexicon stereo system and 19-inch wheels were added with a $4,000 Select package, putting the total price tag at $50,695.

THIS COLUMN APPEARING AS “WHAT DRIVES US?” IN  ESTATE LIFE MAGAZINES
IS BROUGHT TO YOU BY EUROPEAN SERVICE CENTER

Mazda’s 2023 CX-50 is another all-new small SUV, the first Mazda to come out of the new Huntsville, Alabama plant, a joint venture with Toyota.  The CX-50 is doing well out of the gate, winning the regular CUV category at the recent Texas Auto Writers Association Auto Roundup.  Sitting alongside Mazda’s other compact, the CX-5, CX-50 is 6.7 inches longer and 3.1 inches wider with a 2.2 inches lower roofline, giving it the look of a tall wagon versus a more upright SUV.  The new vehicle has the same engine options as CX-5, both paired with a six-speed automatic transmission.  A 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine (187 horsepower, 186 lb-ft of torque) is standard. Our tester sported the turbocharged option, getting 227 hp, 310 lb-ft on 87 octane (even more on 93 octane).  All-wheel drive is standard.  Acceleration and handling are highly rated like most Mazdas. The surprise with CX-50 is its capability for light off-roading and 8.3 inches of ground clearance (8.6 with the Turbo).  Mazda estimates the turbocharged engine will get 25 mpg combined and the base engine will return a little higher at 27 mpg combined. MSRP was $41,550.  With the Turbo Premium Plus package and delivery, our tester was $43,170.

Every industry has its struggles, but it is especially true in the automotive industry to say that complacency is the biggest killer of a vehicle, a brand and a company.  The saturation and competition in the small light truck market means no rest is in sight for the auto design and engineering teams.