Best SUVs to buy in 2018

Lots of space, luxury touches and a lofty view: the best SUVs have every feature a family might need at an affordable price

James Mills
May 23, 2018

You might not know what SUV stands for but you’ll have seen them wherever you go. From the school run to the supermarket, the office car park to kids’ weekend clubs, the Sport Utility Vehicle is becoming Britain’s most popular type of family car; so much so, one in five new cars sold was an SUV, last year.  

Drivers have fallen head over heels in love with the SUV’s high and mighty stance, practicality and (in some cases) affordable prices. They might not be any safer but significantly, they feel safer to the millions of mums and dads who have bought one.  

Yet these are not tank-like 4x4s designed to haul trailer-loads of pigs across fields. Instead, they attempt to offer a car-like driving experience and broadly comparable fuel economy and servicing costs.

The best should be as skilled as Nanny McPhee at taking the strain out of driving with all the family aboard. They will come with individual seats and carry between five and seven people, Isofix child-seat mounts, charging points for the kids’ gadgets (you’ll have remembered to charge yours, right?), smartphone integration and more technology to reduce accidents than a health and safety convention.

Yet although the boom in popularity brings great choice for drivers, it can appear daunting trying to identify the best SUV for your needs. Click below for our guides to specific types of SUV or scroll down for our top ten covering all sizes and budgets.

The ten best SUVs on sale now

Volvo XC40

Best SUV for all-round excellence

Our pick Volvo XC40 T3 R-Design   
Acceleration (0-62mph) 7.8sec  Official fuel economy 45.6mpg  CO2 144g/km

Hands up who remembers the days when Volvos were seen as square cars for square people, and children would plead with their parents to buy anything other than a Volvo?

How times have changed. The new XC40 manages to capture the Scandinavian hygge feelgood vibe, with a funky look all of its own and beautifully crafted interior that’s brimming with practical touches. It also happens to be seriously good to drive, especially the smooth and willing petrol-powered models – which make a pleasant change from grumbly diesel motors. Give it a try and be prepared to change your view of Volvos.
Volvo XC40 buying guide


Land Rover Discovery Sport

Best SUV for busy families with more than three children

Our pick Land Rover Discovery Sport SE TD4 180 4WD   
Acceleration (0-62mph) 9.9sec  Official fuel economy 53.3mpg  CO2 139g/km

Do you have three children or more? Then you’ll most likely need an SUV with seven seats. For around £33,000 when new, not much can top Land Rover’s Discovery Sport. It can juggle all manner of seating combinations and comes with up to six USB charging points for everyones’ gadgets, making it as prized as an attention-holding children’s entertainer at birthday parties.

You’ll need the more powerful TD4 180 engine to have seven seats, but that’s a wise move, given how heavy a fully-laden seven-seat SUV can be. Pick the four-wheel drive version and it should keep going no matter what the conditions.


Peugeot 3008

Best SUV for affordable luxury

Our pick Peugeot 3008 Allure 1.2 PureTech 130 EAT6  
Acceleration (0-62mph) 10.5sec  Official fuel economy 54.3mpg  CO2 120g/km

The 3008 will transform your idea of what a Peugeot is like. With Volkswagen-standard quality; a high-tech interior that wouldn't be out of place in a Mercedes; and Audi-like comfort, this is a polished family-size SUV without the premium price of top German manufacturers.

Owner satisfaction is sky-high, to the extent that it was voted the best car to own earlier this year in the Auto Express Driver Power customer satisfaction survey. As well as good reliability, running costs are also low, thanks to efficient petrol and diesel engine options.
Peugeot 3008 buying guide


Mazda CX-5

Best SUV for an impressive driving experience

Our pick Mazda CX-5 SE-L Nav 2.2D AWD  
Acceleration (0-62mph) 9.6sec  Official fuel economy 52.3mpg  CO2 142g/km

Is this the world’s toughest SUV? After driving one across the frozen surface of Lake Baikal, in the depths of a Siberian winter, and subjecting the all-wheel drive CX-5 to eight hours of traversing brutal terrain, we can report there wasn’t so much as a hiccup from one of its cylinders or grumble from its driveshafts. Yet to look at, you’d think this was just another SUV that’s built to tackle nothing tougher than a kerbstone or two during the school run.

It’s equally excellent to drive on the road, the interior is minimal-chic and there’s all the space you need from this type of family car. Mazda might not be on the radar of all SUV drivers, but those that give its CX-5 a try won’t be disappointed.


Mini Countryman

Best SUV for low company car tax

Our pick Mini Countryman Cooper S E ALL4  
Acceleration (0-62mph) 6.8sec  Official fuel economy 134.5mpg  CO2 49g/km

Company car drivers pay attention: the Mini Countryman S E ALL4 is a better car than the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. Both are plug-in hybrid cars, a little like the lovechild of a petrol car and an electric car. And both attract substantially less in benefit-in-kind company car tax than a comparably priced, diesel or petrol-powered SUV.

They can be driven for nearly 30 miles on battery power alone and there’s a petrol engine for long journeys. The difference is, the cheaper Countryman is a genuinely good car, whereas in places the Outlander feels like one from the last century.
Mini Countryman buying guide


Audi Q2

Best SUV for style at affordable prices

Our pick Audi Q2 1.4 TFSI Sport
Acceleration (0-62mph) 8.5sec  Official fuel economy 51.4mpg  CO2 124g/km

You could be forgiven for losing count of the number of SUVs in Audi showrooms. The German manufacturer offers its ‘Q’ models in four sizes, giving it a menu to rival McDonalds. And like a Happy Meal, the smallest – and most affordable – Q2 won’t leave you feeling short-changed.

It successfully distils the essence of Audi into a compact package. There’s a head-turning body, classy interior and a seriously impressive drive. In fact, by being smaller and lighter, this is easily the most fun SUV in the Audi range. The pick of the engine range is the 1.4-litre petrol, as the 1-litre can feel short of breath at times.

There are larger, more spacious SUVs in abundance, including from Audi, but they won’t capture the feel-good factor of this car’s interior, or come with the posh badge on the bonnet. For style at sensible prices, look no further.
Audi Q2 buying guide


Nissan Qashqai

Best SUV for value for money

Our pick Nissan Qashqai N-Connecta 1.6 dCi 130
Acceleration (0-62mph) 9.9sec  Official fuel economy 64.2mpg  CO2 116g/km

It’s not an exaggeration to say Britain’s drivers are hooked on SUVs. Last year, the Nissan Qashqai was the fourth best-selling car in the UK – almost elbowing the Ford Focus aside - and with good reason. Pound for pound, it’s probably the best value-for-money SUV that will carry five people in comfort.

Nissan learned a lot about what drivers wanted from this type of car, with the first generation Qashqai. The second version shifted up a gear, with a more upmarket interior, masses of space, seats designed with the help of NASA (yes, really), better roadholding and a supple ride that does a great job of suppressing pothole-plagued roads.
Nissan Qashqai buying guide


Volvo XC90

Best SUV for seven-seat comfort

Our pick Volvo XC90 Momentum D5 PowerPulse AWD   
Acceleration (0-62mph) 7.8sec  Official fuel economy 47.1mpg  CO2 158g/km

Do you need a large SUV but cringe when you see an Audi Q7, BMW X5 or Mercedes GLS? Then the Volvo XC90 is for you. It’s undeniably big but appears to tread more delicately, and once inside you’ll discover a haven of calm.

There is a plug-in hybrid version of the acclaimed Volvo XC90, but it costs over £12,000 more than the most affordable diesel model and £9,000 more than the cheapest petrol, so unless you want to reduce your company car tax bill, save the money for fuel bills, servicing, insurance and a family holiday or two.
Volvo XC90 buying guide


Range Rover

Best SUV for luxury

Our pick Rnage Rover Vogue SE 4.4 SDV8   
Acceleration (0-62mph) 6.9sec  Official fuel economy 33.6mpg  CO2 219g/km

There has been no end of contenders that have attempted to steal its crown yet the Range Rover remains the king of the hill. There’s little it can’t cope with; from surveying one’s estate from the comfort of its lofty perch, to driving into town for a fine-dining experience, it takes everything in its stride. And don’t worry about parking such a large SUV – the Range Rover will park itself at the touch of a button.

To our mind, the ideal engine choice is the 4.4-litre V8 diesel. It provides the effortless performance (especially when towing) and vaguely sensible fuel economy that you’d expect from the world’s plushest SUV, in vitual silence.
Range Rover buying guide


Suzuki Ignis

The best SUV for economical motoring

Our pick Suzuki Ignis 1.2 SZ3
Acceleration (0-62mph) 12.2sec  Official fuel economy 61.4mpg  CO2 104g/km

For proof that not every SUV need be too big to fit in the average parking space, take a look at the pint-size Suzuki Ignis. Even James May agrees that it is small but (almost) perfectly formed, saying it’s packed with character and “incredibly good humoured”.

It’s also packed with features. You can opt for a mild hybrid system or four-wheel drive, but the engine choice is simple: a 1.2-litre petrol that’s enthusiastic and economical.

Now take a look at the prices. It's a used car bargain and affordable new as well, thanks to discounts of £1,500 to £2,000 on every model in the range. That’s a serious saving on what was already an affordable car, and means you can pick one up for less than £10,000.


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