If you’re in the market for a family-sized SUV you’re spoilt for choice these days. The range of models on offer is huge and growing, making choosing the best SUV for your needs all the more difficult.
Even if we limit the search to SUVs that are big enough to serve as family cars, with space for at least four adults and large boots for luggage, you’ve still got to consider whether to choose mainstream or premium SUV models with 5 or 7 seats and make your pick between petrol, diesel, hybrid or electric powertrains. Many SUVs now also come in standard or ‘coupe SUV’ bodystyles, in economy-focused or sporty guises and you’ll need to think about what level of off-road ability you want. Are you looking for a hardcore mud-plugging 4×4 vehicle or do you just want to traverse the occassional speed bump or raised kerb without scraping your alloy wheels?
All things considered, finding a new SUV that perfectly suits your family’s needs, and getting a great deal on it, has never been tougher but we’re here to help. The Auto Express team has tested every SUV model on the market exhaustively and to save you from getting lost in a labyrinth of boot and towing capacities, legroom measurements and infotainment specs, we’ve created a list of the top 10 best SUVs on sale. We’ve focused on family-sized models here but if you’re after something smaller, our top 10 best small SUVs list has those more compact models covered…
Top 10 best SUVs on sale
- 1. Land Rover Discovery
- 2. Skoda Kodiaq
- 3. Jaguar I-Pace
- 4. Peugeot 5008
- 5. Porsche Macan
- 6. Jaguar F-Pace
- 7. BMW X3
- 8. Volvo XC90
- 9. Range Rover
- 10. Volvo XC60
1. Land Rover Discovery
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The Land Rover Discovery has made a name for itself as one of the best family cars you can buy, and it’s even better in its latest guise. With a smoother look and just as much upmarket appeal as its more expensive Range Rover cousins, the Discovery delivers the kind of upmarket motoring that you’d expect from an executive saloon, combined with the seven-seat practicality of an MPV and the off-road ability of a dedicated 4×4.
There’s plenty of space inside, and the rearmost seats are roomy enough for adults to use, while the quality and fit and finish of the cabin gives it a classy feel. There’s plenty of tech on board, from the latest infotainment to advanced electronics that keep the Discovery on the straight and narrow, whether on tarmac or in the rough.
Aluminium construction means that while the Discovery is big, it’s not as heavy as you would expect, so running costs are reasonable, especially with 2.0 Ingenium diesel power.
With such a combination of talents, it’s no surprise that the Discovery walked away with the Car of the Year title back at the 2017 Auto Express New Car Awards. Oh, and we made it our 2018 Large Premium SUV of the Year for the same reasons.
2. Skoda Kodiaq
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Skoda has strong form when it comes to 4x4s and SUVs. The Yeti blazed a trail for the company and proved to be a hit for the firm, while Skoda’s second SUV model, the Kodiaq, offers space, luxury and practicality in a great value package.
Under the skin, the advanced lightweight platform delivers decent handling for such a large SUV, while the performance from the range of turbocharged petrol and diesel engines makes the Kodiaq ideal for towing.
Inside, the cabin looks smart, taking inspiration from the Superb family car, while there’s space inside for a third row of seats in the back. Wherever you’re sitting, you can revel in the Kodiaq’s comfortable ride, and there’s plenty of advanced kit available to keep occupants entertained on the move.
With models like the Land Rover Discovery and Volvo XC90 moving upmarket, there’s space for the Kodiaq to thrive as a great-value seven-seat SUV.
3. Jaguar I-Pace
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The Jaguar I-Pace is an all-electric premium SUV that arrived to define a new segment in the market, claiming the Auto Express 2018 Car of the Year award in the process. The I-Pace is a hugely important car for Jaguar, showcasing new technology, both in terms of the pure-electric powertrain itself and the new platform that houses it.
The I-Pace uses a 90kWh battery with an 8-year/100,000-mile warranty, which drives an electric motor on each axle to give four-wheel drive. This is a 2.2-tonne car but the 396bhp and 696Nm of torque are enough for 0-62mph in 4.8 seconds and you get a range of 298 miles on the WLTP tests.
Impressive though they are, the numbers don’t do the Jaguar I-Pace justice because this is a big SUV with a real sense of occasion. From the bold exterior styling to the leather-lined cabin with its dual-screen Touch Pro Duo infotainment system, it feels special. With plenty of rear legroom and a 656-litre boot, its ticks the practicality boxes too. If your lifestyle can fit with an electric SUV, the I-Pace is still the one to have.
4. Peugeot 5008
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The latest 5008 is worlds apart from its dowdy forefather, with its fantastic interior and composed driving experience helping it shine amongst a packed market sector. With similar styling to the smaller 3008, the 5008 comes with an upright grille, sharp headlights and a long bonnet.
Despite the fact the 5008 is no longer an MPV and is now an SUV, it isn’t available as a 4×4. That said, it is likely that we will see a hybrid model which will have an electric motor powering the rear wheels in the not too distant future. For the time being, motorists can opt for Grip Control – which is basically an advanced traction control system – to help with loose surfaces.
The interior of the 5008 is one of the best in class, it wraps around the driver with Peugeot’s 8.0-inch infotainment system taking centre stage. The small steering wheel and high-mounted instrument cluster are also present. Overall, if you can cope without a full-blown 4×4 the 5008 is an excellent choice.
5. Porsche Macan
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The smaller sibling to the Porsche Cayenne, the Macan brings its manufacturer’s performance DNA to the mid-size SUV market. It’s a different proposition to many of the cars featured here with less focus on practicality than some of the larger choices but if you want a mid-sized SUV that drives with the verve of a hot hatch there’s nothing better.
The Macan range is based around a line-up 4-cylinder engines, all mated to Porsche’s PDK 7-speed gearbox. It can be very relaxing car to drive as a result but the balance and composure that Porsche has engineered into the chassis means that the Macan is remarkably adept on twisting roads too. Huge amounts of grip and an almost spooky lack of body roll considering the elevated ride height give the compact Porsche a hugely entertaining side.
Elsewhere you get a respectable 500-litre boot but rear seat passengers will struggle a little for headroom as a result of the curving roofline. Models fitted with air suspension can rise by 40mm to increase ground clearance for off-road driving.
6. Jaguar F-Pace
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The Jaguar F-Pace combines great looks with super family-friendly practicality. And just for good measure it throws in a fine handling chassis, an array of safety tech, and frugal engine options. In fact the F-Pace is such a good all-rounder, that we awarded it the highly prized Auto Express Car of The Year title in 2016.
In spite of our appreciation of its many finer points, it’s actually good-old value for money that makes the F-Pace such an appealing prospect. The big Jaguar has all the presence and desirability of premium SUV rivals like the Porsche Macan, but for less money.
And if you go for the entry-level 178bhp 2.0-litre Ingenium diesel, your running costs should be no more than for a pretty mundane family saloon. The smaller engine comes with two- or four-wheel-drive and a six-speed manual or eight-speed auto gearbox, so appeals to a range of budgets and driving styles.
Other engine options include 3.0-litre petrol and diesel V6 engines that offer plenty of punch and performance, while the standard spec-sheet is groaning with goodies like 18-inch alloy wheels, Jaguar’s InControl touchscreen sat-nav and multi-adjustable luxurious leather seats. If you’re in the SUV market at the Jaguar F-Pace price point, we think it’s a car that you just can’t ignore.
7. BMW X3
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The BMW X3 offers a lot of potential for motorists looking into the hotly contested SUV class. Originally, back in 2003, BMW claimed that the mk1 X3 was the world’s first mid-size premium SUV, but since then the market has erupted. Now facing direct competition from the Mercedes GLC, Audi Q5 and Volvo XC60, the X3 does enough to trump all of the competition.
Inside, drivers are greeted by a cabin that is top quality, encasing them with a fine blend of comfort and practicality. Underneath the bonnet there is a choice of 2- and 3-litre petrol and diesels in various power outputs.
Prices for the X3 start from around £40k, which gets you an X3 in xDrive 20i SE guise, if you want the M40i spec car, prices can rise to over £51k. While the X3 is by no means the cheapest SUV here, it does offer a great mix of luxury, practicality, and performance.
8. Volvo XC90
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Sharp exterior styling with the distinctive ‘Thor’s Hammer’ headlight treatment helps great an air of opulence about the car and inside that impression is built upon by fresh, modern cabin design. Equipment levels are high compared to the luxury SUV alternatives and there’s space for seven adults to sit comfortably.
All the XC90’s engines are 2.0-litre units but there are petrol and diesel models to consider as well as the range-topping T8 plug-in hybrid. On the road, the big SUV serves-up relaxed and effortless progress with a particularly cushy ride. The icing on the cake is the usual plethora of safety systems we’ve come to expect from Volvo.
9. Range Rover
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The Range Rover manages to be just as comfortable on long-distance journeys than it is crawling along a muddy track. Despite this and its imposing presence, the Range Rover still feels surprisingly nimble to drive.
Kicking off the range is the Vogue, followed by the Vogue SE, Autobiography and range-topping SV Autobiography. The engines, in keeping with the body, are large in capacity, with only the P400e hybrid coming with anything less than 6 cylinders. Drivers wanting the highest performance Range Rover have the option of a 5.0-litre supercharged V8 producing 543bhp.
Thanks to the additional height the Range Rover has over a lot of the SUV competition, it has acres of space in the back – made even better if you opt for it in long wheelbase guise. However, all this space and luxury comes at a price, £80,000 is the minimum buyers will need.
10. Volvo XC60
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Most buyers will be happy with the generous safety tally and upmarket kit you get on entry-level Momentum cars, although Inscription or the sportier R-Design trims will tempt you with even more clever stuff. There’s a whole heap of standard kit too, with climate control, leather, sat-nav and LED headlamps all thrown in.
However, key to the XC60’s appeal is its spacious, upmarket interior and the comfort and refinement on offer – this is a relaxing car to drive due to the plush ride and near silence. Being a Volvo, the seats are incredibly comfortable with a great level of adjustment and support.
On top of a range of traditional diesel and petrol models, there is a T8 Twin Engine hybrid. It uses the T5 petrol engine, but the addition of an electric motor and battery pack pushes power to 385bhp and brings the 0-62mph time down to a ridiculous 4.9 seconds – the T8 is so impressive in fact, it won Best Premium Hybrid Car of the Year at the 2018 Auto Express New Car Awards.
How to choose the best SUV for you
The good news for SUV buyers is that because there are so many options, irrespective of whether you want to buy or lease your SUV, you need not settle for anything less than perfect. The growth in this sector has largely been fuelled by motorists desiring a commanding driving position, chunky looks and extra grip from 4×4 systems. But there’s more to the SUV package.
The large body of a 4×4 means there’s potential for great practicality, so much so that some SUVs can rival MPVs for family-friendly space and versatility. If you’re looking for a 7-seater car then a large SUV could be a perfect fit, they tend to be more desirable than MPVs as well as matching them for space. With their huge boot space, roof racks and towing capacity they make great cars for going on holiday, too.
Towing a caravan or trailer is a common use for these cars – and if that’s your plan, the high torque of a large diesel engine is the best choice for load-lugging. Check out our top 10 best tow cars to find out more.
As more and more people are opting for an SUV, carmakers have become embroiled in a fierce competition to offer the best ride, refinement, and comfort. What is perhaps most impressive, is that a select few of these new SUVs even exceed the performance and driving dynamics of the more conventional family cars with a genuinely engaging experience.
Some will have concerns about the ethics of driving a big and potentially inefficient SUV of course, but even those concerns can often be put to rest as many of the models on offer are not much thirstier or more polluting than similarly-sized saloons or family hatchbacks. Efficient hybrid models are becoming increasingly popular too, with great mpg figures from their high-tech drivetrains. Just be warned that you may struggle to replicate official figures in the real world.
Despite being known as 4x4s, many SUVs cars are only two-wheel-drive. So, while in the past choosing an SUV probably meant you needed an off-road capable workhorse or wanted to go trail bashing for fun, the picture is very different now.
Four-wheel drive boosts their capability when the weather turns, too, although models with 2WD will deliver the kind of running costs you’d get with a conventional car if you’re looking at the financial bottom line. At the other end of the spectrum, the latest range of powerful performance models mean you can get an SUV that can put a smile on your face on twisty roads.
Style is an important factor with many new SUVs and 4x4s, and plenty of models are available with a range of personalisation options to make the car you choose stand out. And at the top end of the SUV spectrum, the most luxurious SUVs have the quality and refinement to match the best limousines for comfort.
Tell us your favourite current SUV in the comments section below…