Here come the compact SUVs

According to AutoCar, Alfa Romeo has confirmed it will start building a compact SUV to take on premium manufacturers such as BMW and Audi from 2012.

The move would mean a step away from, the traditional, racing-inspired smaller cars associated with the manufacturer but for many, it is an essential step.

Alfa, under the watch of Fiat chief Sergio Marchionne, is hoping to expand into the US and consolidate its position in Europe.

This has started with two impressive new models in the form of the MiTo supermini and Giulietta hatchback, and the new range will be further extended with the forthcoming Giulia saloon in 2011.

However, Alfa must compete in other areas as well, and its link up with Jeep means a compact SUV is inevitable.

Luckily for Alfa, it can offer something different in the SUV market. At the moment, traditionally attractive Alfa Romeo styling can only be found on sports cars or smaller models.

For those looking for the iconic Alfa Romeo design on a larger, more practical car, the expected Alfa SUV could be just the thing.

However, it will have to compete against this hat-trick of lookers in one of the quickest growing segments in the UK. The car market is about to get much more attractive.

Range Rover Evoque

Everything points to the fact a new Alfa Romeo SUV would be aimed at the more premium side of the market. It would be distinctive, attractive and generously equipped.

Which puts it up against the Evoque; the smallest, lightest, greenest and most dramatically styled Land Rover ever built. The Evoque will be out this summer, and the low coupe-like roofline, plush interior and low-CO2 engines are expected to open up a whole new market for the brand best known for its rugged off-roaders.

Even better; it brings down the entry-level price of Land Rover’s premium Range Rover sub-brand to just £30,000.

Mazda Minagi

Mazda excels at making small cars such as the Mazda2 supermini, sportier models like the MX-5 and big people carriers in the form of the Mazda5.

So it will be no surprise if they release a genuine contender in the compact SUV category when the curvy, sporty Minagi concept makes it into production as early as 2012 – possibly as the CX-5.

It will boast new designs based on Mazda’s ‘soul of design’ philosophy and will use Mazda’s soon-to-be-released SKYACTIV technology – groundbreakingly efficient engines and lightweight materials to boost fuel economy and bring down CO2 emissions.

Kia Sportage

The Kia Sportage is already here. Released in 2010, the Sportage looks great – a testament to the new designs from the pen of ex-Audi designer Peter Schreyer.

The chunky, muscular stance and now familiar ‘Tiger face’ grille have impressed media and customers alike, and starting prices vastly undercut ‘premium’ rivals.

The Sportage is fast becoming the car to beat in the compact SUV segment, alongside the Nissan Qashqai – the car that started the ‘crossover’ craze.