In Depth

Best SUVs 2017: new Porsche Cayenne joins the lineup

A host of new models went on sale this year. Here are some of the best on offer

Best SUVs 2016: Top 4x4 on the market

12 October

SUVs are more popular than ever thanks to new models being built with the road firmly in mind, making them useable family cars but at a price. 

Consequently, cheaper, so-called "crossovers" have become flavour of the month in the sector, offering the large, chunky bodies of 4x4s but with hatchback prices and running costs. So popular are they that most manufacturers are scrambling to market with new cars. 

Full-sized SUVs with real off-road ability are still popular, though, and can be stylish, premium, fun-to-drive alternatives to seven-seat MPVs. 

Here are some of the best models on the market right now, as picked out by the critics. 

Jaguar F-Pace

One of this year's best new SUV's is Jaguar's first attempt at making one – the F-Pace. The car, which has a long waiting list, has been a big hit with the critics since it came out earlier this year. 

The F-Pace is one of the best looking SUVs on the market thanks to its sporty, distinctly Jaguar design, but it's also a practical family car with a large 650-litre boot. 

Auto Express named the F-Pace its car of the year for 2016. The magazine says that "Jaguar has hit the bullseye with its first SUV", and that the car's stylish design and family-friendly practicality come with excellent driving characteristics. It's "great to drive and proves that you needn't sacrifice excitement when choosing a family-friendly crossover". 

The standard F-Pace is a rear-wheel-drive car. If you want a four-wheel-drive version you'll have to pay extra and opt for one of Jaguar's range-topping models. A modest, efficient 2.0-litre diesel props up the engine range, which is topped by a supercharged 3.0-litre V6 with 375bhp – it's the same engine that's in the firm's F-Type sports car. Prices start at £35,020. 

Volvo XC90

The new XC90 is also becoming a favourite with the motoring press. It's a large, full-sized, seven-seater SUV starting from £46,850 and has won the critics over with its quiet, comfortable and refined nature.

In terms of looks, the latest model moves things on considerably, doing its part to usher in Volvo's latest design language with its minimalist shape. The cabin follows suit and the plush, highly spacious, high-quality interior is one of the car's biggest selling points.

Three engines are available - an entry-level diesel, which should prove popular, and more powerful petrol and petrol hybrid powertrains.

Kia Sorento

Value for money is on offer with Kia's full-size SUV. The Sorento is a big 4x4 boasting seven seats, a comfortable and spacious cabin and a large loading area.

There are four versions available, all using a 2.2-litre diesel engine with 197bhp and a decent 422Nm of torque, making the Sorento a brilliant choice as a tow car. With no need to agonise over engine choice, all potential owners have to do is discern between the four trim levels.

The Sorento is priced from just £28,795, which will get you the entry-level KX-1, with 17ins alloy wheels, air conditioning, cruise control and reversing sensors. Bump things up to KX-2, from £31,200, and you gain leather upholstery, 18ins alloys, a reversing camera system, seven-inch touchscreen infotainment display with sat nav and heated seats. The KX-3 and 4 cars add even more toys as standard.

What Car? says the Sorento is brilliant if you definitely need seven seats and plenty of kit, but there are much better five-seaters around at this price tag so it's one for those with big carrying commitments.

Dacia Duster

The Dacia Duster is smaller than many on this list, but with prices starting from £9,495, it's easily the cheapest and offers a neat and simple package.

While a tiny asking price and low running costs may lead you to think the Duster isn't a match for the other SUVs out there, it's more than capable underneath the skin. In its cheapest spec, it's a front-wheel drive, but from £11,485, it can be bought with a Nissan-developed all-wheel system, complete with a switch for locking the central differential.

There are two engine choices: a 1.6-litre petrol and a 1.5-litre diesel. Petrol-powered cars with front-wheel drive get a five-speed manual gearbox, while all diesels and four-wheel drive petrol Dusters get a six-speed box.

The interior is where you'll notice the tiny price tag, CarBuyer says. Entry-level Access trim does away with a radio, while the materials used are thick, hard plastics.

Ambience level cars are also sparsely equipped so if creature comforts are a key concern, only Laureate trim and up will do, coming with air-con, Bluetooth and USB connectivity.

Land Rover Discovery Sport

Land Rover's Freelander-replacing Discovery Sport moves the game on significantly, bringing more luxury appeal to the marque's compact SUV line-up.

One of the big selling points is the seven-seat layout, which comes thanks to two small seats in the boot to carry as many people as some of Land Rover's bigger offerings. It's also good-looking and introduces some Range Rover-inspired design cues into the Discovery stable.

On the road, says Auto Express, the Discovery Sport is a "little firm at low speed" but overall feels composed and agile, with fast and precise steering. Standard equipment is decent and there are four different trim levels to choose from, it adds. 

Engine wise, there's only one powerplant available – one of Jaguar Land Rover's Ingenium diesel engines, a 2.0-litre four-cylinder available with either 148bhp or 178bhp.

Prices start at £31,095.

Porsche Macan

Porsche's second and smaller SUV has a starting price of £43,556, placing it at the more expensive end of the scale. However, it could be worth it if you want excellent dynamics.

The Macan serves up one of the best - if not the best - driving experiences within the SUV class, say critics. Evo reports it is sharper than all of its rivals: it "isn’t a proper sports car, but it’s the closest we’ve ever seen an SUV come to one", it says.

"Porsche has worked hard to mask the Macan's mass and height, with the car exhibiting decent roll control and a steering setup that brings proper interaction" continues the mag, adding that while it shares its MQB platform with the Audi Q5, Porsche's car focuses on driving enjoyment over practicality and comfort.

There are five engines to choose from: one diesel and four petrol.

Diesel power comes in a 3.0-litre V6 and delivering a claimed 45mpg and CO2 figures of 161g/km, it's the most efficient cheapest version to run.

Petrols begin with the standard 2.0-litre, making use of a turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 249bhp. Two different 3.0-litre V6 petrol engines rated at 335bhp and 355bhp sit above it, with the range-topping Macan Turbo with a 395bhp turbocharged 3.6-litre coming in at £62,540.

Audi Q7

The Q7 is the largest car in Audi's Q stable of crossovers and SUVs - a full-sized seven-seater built to compete with the likes of the Volvo XC90 and Porsche Cayenne.

What could tip the scales in its favour is the cabin – the quality is up to par and as you'd expect from Audi. What Car? says it is a well-designed "smorgasbord of soft-touch materials and well-damped switches", with a solid fit and finish giving a car that feels "incredibly well screwed together".

Laced into the quality interior is an excellent infotainment package. An 8.3ins screen pops out of the top of the dashboard for sat nav and smartphone interface apps such as Apple CarPlay. A SIM card slot is also present for in-car 4G wi-fi. If the standard screen isn't enough, the Virtual Cockpit – a 12.3ins screen replacing the instrument binnacle – can be placed behind the steering wheel.

The Q7 on the road is refined and quiet, with the optional air suspension recommended to make the ride as smooth as possible. Prices start at £48,445.

Range Rover Sport

The Range Rover Sport is another premium option and despite being a smaller and cheaper car than the full-sized Range Rover, it's still a true SUV, with the option of seven seats and all the on and off-road qualities befitting of the brand.

"On the one hand, it's luxurious and cossetting, on the other it's quick and surprisingly entertaining", says Evo.

Compared to the Porsche Macan, the German SUV is a more entertaining car to drive – not entirely surprising considering the Range Rover Sport is a heavier car – but the Sport is a "hugely cosseting thing to pilot, and long journeys are dispatched with ease thanks to its smooth ride", adds the site. It's hugely capable off-road, too.

There's a fairly large engine choice when it comes to the Sport. Kicking things off is a 3.0-litre twin-turbo diesel with 288bhp, while a hybrid and a 4.4-litre V8 are also available.

Petrol power comes in the form of a 5.0-litre supercharged V8, either with 503bhp or 542bhp if you go for the range-topping SVR spec. The interior is plush and as quality as you'd expect.

Prices start at £61,225.

Hyundai Santa Fe

The Santa Fe is recommended by Auto Express, as it's a quality SUV that has moved the Korean car maker into premium territory. Priced from £31,850, it's noticeably more expensive than rivals like the Kia Sorento, but it's a step up in quality. 

It's a bold design, with a large chrome grille at the front, angular headlights, a sporty window line that flicks upwards towards the rear of the car, and tough looking black plastic cladding around the bumpers, sills, and wheel arches. 

Inside, the interior is "sharply designed" and packed with standard equipment. Choose one of the range-topping models, and sat nav, climate control, leather fittings, automatic lights and wipers, plus a reversing camera will come as standard. 

It’s a five seat SUV but an optional third row of seats can be added, transforming the Santa Fe into a seven seater. Auto Express doesn't recommend this – the two extra seats are only suitable for children and will eat into the car's 585-litre boot space. 

In five seat format, the SUV is a practical car, and its intelligent four-wheel-drive system with hill descent control and locking differentials makes it a solid all-round package. 

Seat Ateca

In its most basic guise, the Ateca is a front-wheel drive crossover, but it's still one of the best small SUVs out there and comes with all-wheel drive should you need it. 

The Volkswagen group's rival to the UK's favourite crossover/SUV, the Nissan Qashqai, pairs the VW Tiguan's platform with the sharp styling of the Spanish marque and while it's Seat's first SUV, CarBuyer says it's such an impressive 4x4, "you'd think it had been building them for years". 

Prices start from £17,990, making the Ateca a cheaper option than many of its competitors.

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