Drive Car Of The Year

Best Light SUV 2023

The Finalists:

Best Light SUV

Light SUVs are the entry point to car ownership for many Australians, which means they need to be affordable, reliable and safe to drive. In 2022, the Ford Puma beat all comers despite unprecedented market activity. In 2022, no new models turned up to challenge it.

Sometimes, Drive Car of the Year throws up titanic battles between impressive new-generation heavyweights all at the peak of their game. And sometimes, there is no battle because only last year’s winner bothers to turn up.

Australia’s Light SUV marketplace has epitomised both of those scenarios in the last two years.

Flashback to the year 2021 and Light SUVs enjoyed a phenomenal 80 per cent year-on-year sales growth driven firstly by then-recent arrivals like the Kia Stonic, Toyota Yaris Cross and Volkswagen T-Cross.

That new model activity brought more shoppers to Light SUV Alley that in turn saw existing offerings like the Suzuki Jimny, Nissan Juke, Hyundai Venue and Ford Puma all enjoy double-digit sales growth. 

2022 was the exact opposite, and from the outside looked like the Australian new car industry had nothing left to fire after an exhausting 2021. Very little new model activity happened in the Light SUV world beyond a couple of minor updates.

That means the reigning Best Light SUV, the Ford Puma, has another 12 months of wearing the crown. Why? Because nothing better has arrived to take its title.

The Drive Car of the Year rules are simple: the reigning champion is always invited back to defend its title against significantly changed or all-new newcomers. But if there are no cars for it to battle, then the champion wins by default becoming a carryover champion.

Winner: Ford Puma


Ford Puma

Ford Puma

3 variants available

$ 30,840 - $ 36,390* MRLP

What we love

  • -Engaging driving character
  • -Well-equipped from base grade up
  • -Quiet and insulated cabin

What we don't

  • -Tight second row for taller occupants
  • -Demands more expensive 95-octane fuel
  • -Entry price is higher than many rivals

This is the Ford Puma’s third Best Light SUV title in a row; an impressive feat when you realise what it beat the previous two years.

Here is the link if you’d like a refresher on how the Ford Puma beat the Hyundai Venue and Volkswagen T-Cross in 2021 and the Toyota Yaris Cross and Kia Stonic in 2022.

In essence, the Ford Puma’s combination of class-leading refinement and driving dynamics, high levels of safety equipment and creature comforts makes it a compelling choice and a worthy winner.

It’s true, the Ford Puma is not as cheap as some rivals – the range starts at $30,340 and stretches to $35,890 plus on-road costs – but the value is there when you compare it against similarly priced rivals.

Last year we said: “All in all, the Ford Puma is a standout performer in the increasingly competitive light SUV field”.

In 2022, the competition may have softened, but the Ford Puma’s credentials remain as persuasive as ever.

The Ford Puma continues to set the benchmark in the light SUV class.

You can read about all the other 2023 Drive Car of the Year categories and winners here:
Drive Car of the Year categories and winners

Other Award Categories

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