Here come the mini-SUVs

Over the past thirty years, small cars have grown. Not just in terms of sales, but also literally.

Take, for example, the new Ford Fiesta, the UK’s best-selling hatchback in 2011 and one of the most popular cars to ever go on sale on these shores.

The Ford Fiesta has grown in length by half a metre over the past thirty years and its width has bulged by 20cm in the same time.

In fact, the original Ford Fiesta was shorter and thinner than the Ford Ka, a car introduced to sit below the Ford Fiesta in the line-up and considered to be a ‘city car’ to the Fiesta’s ‘supermini’ in the range.

The increasing size of cars is about to take a big leap forward once again, however, because a new range of small-car based designs are on their way.

The success of the Nissan Juke, a supermini-size ‘crossover’ car designed to look like a mini-SUV, has led several car makers to produce their own versions.

It makes sense for popular supermini manufacturers such as Ford and Vauxhall, whose Fiesta and Corsa models are some of the most popular in the UK.

According to some, the new SUV-shaped hatchbacks are replacing compact estate cars in terms of popularity and the prospect of the raised driving position associated with SUVs, chunky designs and low running costs has caught the imagination of the UK market.

The first manufacturers to make a move have been Ford and Vauxhall. Ford was the first to announce a compact SUV model based on the Fiesta in the shape of the Ford Ecosport, a concept car revealed earlier this year at the Geneva Motor Show.

However, Vauxhall will be the first to bring one to market. The car maker has transplanted the popular new Vauxhall Corsa styling into a jacked-up SUV shape in the form of the Vauxhall Mokka, which will go on sale in the UK late in 2012.

Both the Ford and Vauxhall models are expected to offer ultra-low running costs and diesel versions are expected to be free from road tax in their most frugal form.

However, they will face an increasing amount of competition from rivals.

Only today What Car? has revealed the eye-catching Peugeot HR1 concept car will be turned into a compact SUV based on the impressive new Peugeot 208 hatchback, the car widely regarded as Peugeot’s best chance to regain its status as the maker of the best small cars in the UK.

Designed using Peugeot’s new face and expected to feature an upmarket interior and low running costs (a hybrid version could be in the pipeline), the ‘2008’ will be tough competition for the Mokka.

These three will lead the way, but do not rule out future models from Kia, whose larger Sportage crossover lends itself to a smaller model, perhaps based on the excellent new Kia Rio.

Then there is Renault, whose new Clio will be launched this year and has demonstrated its desire to build crossover cars before with the likes of the Captur concept – although this was much bigger than a Clio and distinctly a design study.

Personally, we’d like to see an SUV-shaped Citroen DS3, the premium, customisable supermini which has wowed visitors to Perrys Citroen dealerships over the past 18 months.

While this has not been mentioned by the Citroen team yet, it seems compact SUVs are here to stay – bringing a new generation of ‘big’ small cars to car dealerships in the UK.

Would you buy a compact SUV instead of a hatchback? If so, which one has caught your attention? Leave a comment below and begin the discussion!