Top 10 best SUVs coming to Australia in 2021

SUVs are the most popular vehicle style at the moment. During 2019, Australian new car buyers bought 483,388 of them according to VFACTS figures. That’s almost half of all 1,062,867 vehicles sold in that year, or 45.47 per cent to be precise. To give you a bit of a heads-up on what’s around the corner, we’ve put together our list of the top 10 best SUVs that are expected to arrive in Australia in 2021.

There are lots of interesting and highly-anticipated SUVs on the way, so it was difficult to come up with a list for our top 10. We decided to include not only what we think are the most important ones, but we’ve also tried to provide a broad market spectrum and cover as many brands as we can. Some models are yet to be revealed which makes it difficult to pinpoint their local arrival date, so we’ve provided our best calculated guess using industry research and our years of digging around and writing about cars. Some have actually been confirmed by the local divisions and we’ve highlighted if that’s the case.

More information on each model can be found via links embedded in each title below as well as via links within each section, where available. We’ve tried to organise the top 10 in order of their expected or confirmed release date as well.

New Land Rover Defender 90 – confirmed for December 2020

The Land Rover Defender is one of the most iconic SUVs – ‘4WDs’ – ever. And soon Land Rover will be introducing an all-new, cleverer and more powerful one. We’ve already seen plenty of images and videos, and some overseas markets have begun test drives and reviews. Initial reactions seem great, although there are always going to be the really fanatical fans that might be upset that the new model is not as rough and rugged as the original model, but there’s no denying the credentials of the new one.

In Australia the new Defender will come in 90 and 110 forms. These are essentially two-door and four-door, respectively. A huge range of engine options will be available, from a 147kW turbo-diesel called the D200, up to a whopping 294kW 3.0-litre turbo-petrol inline-six called the P400. The 110 will arrive in Australia first, scheduled for August 2020, followed by the 90 in December. A special 90 First Edition will also roll out in October for a limited time.

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Fourth-generation Nissan X-Trail – expected by first quarter of 2021

Like many Nissan models on sale at the moment the current X-Trail is getting long in the tooth. It has been on sale in its current third-generation form since 2013, with only minor updates applied along the way. However, there is an all-new model on the horizon. In fact, at the time of writing, some images have just leaked online (above) revealing the new design inside and out.

Aside from looking much more modern and featuring more advanced technology inside, including (finally) a nice big touch-screen with modern apps, the 2021 X-Trail is set to be underpinned by a brand new platform. The platform is apparently being developed under the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance. And with this we can expect a range of benefits, such as optimised weight, interior space efficiency, chassis rigidity and driving dynamics, and some new engine options. At this stage we don’t have any confirmed powertrain specs, but reports indicate a 2.5-litre petrol with a slight power bump to around 135kW, while a new variable-compression 2.0-litre turbo-petrol could be on the cards.

Fourth-generation Hyundai Tuscon – expected by first quarter of 2021

This is going to be a big one. Hyundai, aside from Nissan, is snapping at the heels of the Mazda CX-5 and Toyota RAV4 for a crack at becoming the best-selling SUV in the country. During 2019, Hyundai Australia sold 18,251 examples of the current Tucson. This was enough to make it the sixth best-selling SUV outright. Not bad for a model generation that’s about to celebrate its fifth birthday this year.

For the next-gen model, codenamed the NX4, there are going to be many changes and new things coming in. For one, it’ll be offered with a hybrid option for the first time. Secondly, it is strongly believed it will eventually spawn a high-performance N version later down the track, and it’s even set to be the basis for the upcoming Hyundai ‘Santa Cruz’ ute/pickup. As for the design, it’ll be inspired by the Vision T concept car (pictured above) that was unveiled late last year. In this department we can expect things like slimmer headlights, chiselled and more sophisticate panel contours, and slightly larger overall dimensions. Technology is also set to step more than a level or two inside and regarding safety. We should know more about the new model in the coming months. According to a leaked production schedule, Hyundai is planning to begin manufacturing the new model in August (not accounting for any potential delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic).

As a side note, Hyundai is also preparing the next-gen Santa Fe which is slated to arrive some time in 2021 as well, while the giant Palisade is also one to look forward to over the next 12 months.

Fourth-generation Toyota Kluger – confirmed for first half of 2021

The Kluger is one of the most popular SUVs outright in Australia. And usually crosses the line as the second most popular 7-seat SUV in the country, in terms of sales, behind the Toyota Prado. In its current form it is lagging behind some rivals in the technology and efficiency department, but that will change with the all-new model.

Toyota Australia has confirmed the new model will be offered with both a 3.5-litre V6 producing around 218kW, as well as a 2.5-litre petrol hybrid producing around 179kW. Yep, it’ll be the first Kluger hybrid. And if the latest RAV4 hybrid is anything to go by, the new Kluger should be a highly-appealing proposition in its segment. Prices and final trim specs will be announced closer to its local launch, scheduled for the first half of 2021.

Kia e-Niro – expected by first half of 2021

This one has been a long time in the making. It’s essentially Kia’s answer to the Hyundai Kona Electric, featuring Kia’s distinct design and in-car practicality. Kia launched the e-Niro in Europe back in 2018, and it has been earmarked for Australia for a while. However, as far as we understand there has been some delays to its local arrival mainly due to big demand in Europe. PerformanceDrive has spotted an example testing in Australia but Kia is yet to officially confirm when it will finally hit the local showroom.

Overseas the e-Niro is available with two different battery capacities. A 39kWh system supplies the electric motor, which outputs 100kW and 395Nm. There’s also a 64kWh version, like what is featured in the Kona Electric, producing 150kW. On a full charge these offer a range of 288km and 455km, respectively. Compared with the Kona, the e-Niro offers a larger boot, at 451L up from 334L, while carrying over the same independent multi-link rear suspension setup.

Tesla Model Y – first half of 2021

This is the SUV version of the very popular Tesla Model 3, and will soon enter the competitive premium mid-size SUV market in Australia. It’s been available overseas for a little bit now, and aside from some initial quality control concerns that have popped up for Tesla, it is being well received. At the top of the range it’ll do 0-100km/h in a segment-shattering 3.7 seconds, while the Long Range variant offers a range of 505km.

Like the Model 3, the Model Y showcases a distinct design on the outside and a very clean and clutter-free layout on the inside. There’s a massive central touch-screen inside which is fully connected with internet and Google maps, while seating for up to seven passengers is also impressive for its class. Being fully electric there is no engine under the bonnet which means more cargo space than your average mid-size SUV, too. Prices in Australia are expected to start from around $90,000, or about $20,000 more than the Model 3.

BMW iX3 – second half of 2021

This will be one of BMW’s first fully electric models, along with the 4-Series-based i4. BMW has already confirmed a 74kWh battery system and a new-generation eDrive electric motor. Peak power will be around 210kW with around 400Nm of torque, and BMW has confirmed it will be rear-wheel drive. No 0-100km/h acceleration times have been confirmed yet but the electric SUV will offer a full-charge range of more than 440km, BMW says.

Some leaked images have hit the web recently (above) revealing the bespoke design of the X3-based model. You can clearly see it is an X3 but there are a number of details that are unique to the iX3. At the front there is no need for a big grille to cool a combustion engine. So, this area is all covered up and aerodynamically shaped for optimum efficiency. There’s also some blue highlights for the side skirts, with matching elements for the rear diffuser area. BMW is also going to be launching some special aero wheels for the model which promise to increase the driving range by up to 10km.

WL Jeep Grand Cherokee – likely second half of 2021

The all-new WL Jeep Grand Cherokee was set to debut during the middle of 2020, but due to the coronavirus pandemic the debut has been pushed back. However, it is expected to take place within the next 12 months, with an Australian arrival likely before the end of 2021. So far we know the new model will showcase a much more modern interior, with some of the upper variants introducing a 10.1-inch touch-screen media interface. A 10.5-inch digital screen for the instrument cluster is also on the way for the upper variants. Judging by leaked interior images the 2021 GC looks like it will be pitched as a more up-market SUV, with luxurious trim options and less chrome and more matte finishes inside.

Underneath it all the WL Grand Cherokee will switch to a new platform, based on FCA’s Giorgio layout. This currently finds use in the Alfa Romeo Giulia and Stelvio, but it is set to be modified and stretched to suit the stature and off-road capabilities that the GC is known for. Leaked interior images reveal a new drive mode select system too, which will offer a range of driving modes to suit various terrains.

Second-generation Lexus NX – expected by late 2021

The first-generation Lexus NX has been a great success for the luxury Toyota-owned brand, especially in Australia. During 2019 the local arm sold 3471 of them, making it the most popular Lexus on the market. It has been around now in pretty much the same form since 2014. Even though it does present quite a striking design which arguably still holds up well by today’s standards, it is in need of a major update to help keep it fresh.

For the second-generation model Lexus is set to utilise the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) – at the moment the NX is based on the old RAV4. As well as using the same platform, the new NX is expected to borrow some of the key innovations and proportions as the fantastic new, TNGA-based RAV4. Some trade mark applications were recently found potentially revealing some interesting new variants that could be in store. Chief among which is a ‘NX450h+’. According to reports this badge could be reserved for a flagship variant, borrowing the powerful new hybrid powertrain that recently debuted for the overseas RAV4 Prime. In that the 2.5-litre four-cylinder hybrid system develops around 225kW, translating to an impressive 0-100km/h time of just 5.8. If this were transferred to the next NX, it’d become the most powerful version ever. Bring it on.

2022 Toyota LandCruiser 300 Series – likely late 2021

This is probably one of the highest-anticipated SUVs of them all. It has big shoes to fill, and we’re sure there are many fans out there that will be eager to see what Toyota comes up with. There are no official details released as yet but there are some reports which cite Toyota references, and there are loads and loads of rumours and calculated speculation that we can use as a guide. Firstly, the 300 Series is expected to carry over a live-axle rear suspension setup with an independent front end, like the 200 Series. However, there are some reports that say the chassis will be based on the (TNGA). Considering this platform underpins everything from the Corolla and Camry, to the big Lexus LS limousine, we’re guessing engineers will hack away and modify it quite a big to ensure it can accommodate the necessary off-road and heavy-duty credentials the LandCruiser is known for.

Powertrain options are set to change drastically from the current offering. Toyota announced in 2017 that all of its showroom models will be available with electrified powertrains by 2025, at least as an option. Electrified covers hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and fully electric, but doesn’t necessarily mean all three will be available for all models. The most likely avenue that Toyota will take is a 3.5-litre V6 hybrid, similar to what is seen in the Lexus LS 500h. In that the system produces a combined output of 264kW.

There’s also talk of Toyota dropping the 4.5-litre twin-turbo V8 diesel and instead replacing it with a 3.5-litre petrol V6, and perhaps Lexus’s 3.5-litre twin-turbo V6 petrol which develops 310kW and 600Nm. Given the current 4.5 offers 200kW and 650Nm, we’re sure many are hoping the 600Nm twin-turbo V6 will be implemented. For some markets – probably not Australia – a 2.8-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder could be offered as well. It’s believed the engine will soon be updated and could include a power and torque boost for the HiLux and Prado and so on. In its current state the 2.8 produces 130kW and 450Nm.

Brett is the editor and founder of Performance Drive. He's obsessed with driving, having played with Matchbox cars until he was tall enough to drive a real one. After initially working as a mechanic, Brett earned a degree in journalism and entered media as an editorial assistant at Top Gear Australia magazine. He then worked at CarAdvice.com.au. His dream is to live next door to the Nurburgring in Germany.