The sheer variety of mid-size SUVs on sale means buyers are spoiled for choice. These are our favourites
Gone are the days when a large saloon, estate or people carrier was the dream choice for those with a family, now mid-size SUVs have taken over thanks to a high driving position, plentiful interior space and that fashionable image.
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Thanks to the growing popularity of mid-size SUVs, competition is fierce, and each new model entering the sector has to have genuine ability to succeed. And there are an awful lot of different cars to choose from in this class.
But which model should you buy? To help you decide we’ve picked out the top 10 best mid-size SUVs on sale right now, focusing on what to look for and which engine and trim combinations are the best picks.
Top 10 best mid-size SUVs
- Hyundai Tucson
- Nissan Ariya
- Kia Sportage
- Kia EV6
- Land Rover Defender
- Skoda Enyaq iV
- BMW X3
- Jaguar F-Pace
- Nissan Qashqai
- Ford Kuga
1. Hyundai Tucson
The Tucson scored back-to-back wins in our annual New Car Awards this year, proving that its initial success was no flash in the pan. Our favourite mid-size SUV is one of the most distinctive on the road, thanks to its eye-catching lines and bold details. It also boasts an interior that combines class-leading space and a cavernous 620-litre boot with a list of standard equipment that would shame an upmarket executive saloon.
Robust build quality and cutting-edge tech only add to the car’s considerable appeal. On the move, the Hyundai feels composed and comfortable, while the range of engines runs from a punchy turbo petrol to a refined plug-in hybrid that can manage 38 miles of electric running. Factor in an excellent five-year warranty and the availability of confidence-inspiring four-wheel drive, and the Tucson has all the family SUV bases covered.
2. Nissan Ariya
Nissan was a successful EV pioneer with the big-selling Leaf, so it was surprising that the Japanese brand took so long to deliver a follow-up.
Its all-new Ariya EV was worth the wait. The sleek Nissan looks great, combining fashionable SUV kerb appeal with a dash of coupé sophistication. Inside, it’s beautifully finished, with clever Japanese-inspired detailing, while the intuitive tech gives it a cutting-edge feel.
This is backed up by a driving experience that mixes surprising agility with strong performance from the flagship 302bhp twin-motor e-4ORCE set-up. Yet it also delivers the comfort and refinement you’d expect from a much pricier luxury car.
Range anxiety isn’t a problem, with the entry-level 63kWh model claiming 223 miles and the 87kWh managing 310 miles. Style, substance and stamina – no wonder the Ariya is our reigning Car of the Year.
3. Kia Sportage
The previous-generation Sportage was a big hit for Kia, so you’d think the manufacturer would play it safe with its replacement. But it’s a sign of the firm’s confidence that this latest version looks so bold, with its distinctive lines and head-turning LED daytime running lights.
Yet Kia hasn’t forgotten its roots, because this Sportage still has a roomy and versatile interior, lots of standard kit and easy-to-use infotainment. Rivals such as the Ford Kuga are more fun to drive, but the Korean machine has a strong range of engines, including mild and plug-in hybrid models. Then there’s that seven-year warranty.
4. Kia EV6
Further proof that the Korean brands are on top when it comes to SUVs, the Kia EV6 comes in third here as it offers solid real-world battery range, practicality, a sporty drive, and plenty of standard equipment.
Two setups are available for the core EV6 range; a 226bhp rear-wheel-drive configuration, or a 321bhp dual-motor setup with all-wheel drive. Both cars are capable of over 300 miles of range per charge, thanks to the 77.4kWh battery pack. This means that the EV6 should be very easy to live with on a daily basis, even if you need to head further afield.
It’s not short of luxurious touches, especially if you opt for the GT-Line S version. This comes with 20-inch alloys, a tilt/slide sunroof, a head-up display, heated rear seats and an upgraded 14-speaker Meridian audio system. One of the most unique features is Kia’s Premium Relaxation Seats, which automatically recline when the vehicle is charging to provide the driver with a more comfortable position; you can even take a nap if you desire.
5. Land Rover Defender
There will still be people who prefer the old car, but Land Rover couldn’t continue producing a car with a decades-old interior, compromised road manners and agricultural engineering indefinitely.
The new one is right up to date in terms of technology, and offers a much more luxurious and spacious cabin. Prices have risen as a result, but most people who actually buy Defenders are used to premium materials and decent refinement. It took a few years for Land Rover to produce a worthy successor to the classic Defender, which isn’t surprising given the gruelling testing regime that spanned every terrain the world has to offer and even a stint around the Nurburgring. And the result is that the new Defender is just as adept off-road as its predecessor, while being vastly improved on tarmac.
The Defender is still a brilliantly characterful car, and it manages to feel different from the Discovery on which it’s heavily based. Fuel economy is still pretty low down on the priority list, but now there’s a plug-in hybrid that offers the opportunity for zero-emission town driving. The Defender is quick, too, if you want, thanks to the ultimate 518bhp V8 petrol model.
6. Skoda Enyaq iV
If you need proof that less can sometimes be more, then check out the Enyaq iV. The Czech brand’s first bespoke electric vehicle is built on the same MEB platform as the Audi Q4 e-tron and Volkswagen ID.4, but despite costing thousands less to buy, the Skoda is actually the best model of the lot.
As you’d expect from the brand, it offers more space and versatility. More surprising is the fact it feels more upmarket, while it’s also more comfortable and engaging to drive. There’s a choice of 58kWh or 77kWh battery packs, with the latter offering up to 335 miles of range, plus a twin-motor four-wheel- drive option and a sleek vRS Coupé, too.
7. BMW X3
If driving satisfaction is at the top of your shopping list, then look no further than the X3. Despite its high stance, it handles with as much engagement and accuracy as some sports saloons, with meaty steering, tenacious grip and good body control. Yet it also soaks up bumps and is refined on a long run.
A facelift last year added enhanced tech to a spacious and upmarket interior, plus 48-volt mild-hybrid assistance for the engines. There’s a choice of four and six-cylinder motors, plus a 503bhp X3 M that’ll do 0-62mph in 3.8 seconds, while the all-electric iX3 promises 285 miles between charges.
8. Jaguar F-Pace
The Jaguar F-Pace continues to be one of the best mid-size SUVs you can buy. After a refresh in 2020, the F-Pace featured smarter exterior styling and a new infotainment system. Now running JLR’s latest Pivi Pro system, the F-Pace’s screen is much more pleasant to use than before.
There are plenty of engines to choose from, starting with a reasonably efficient if not particularly brisk diesel engine, and ending with a 543bhp V8-engined SVR model. We’d pick something between the two, while now there’s a plug-in hybrid with lower running costs and decent performance.
Whichever F-Pace you pick, you’re guaranteed a great driving experience as the Jaguar handles better than nearly all its main rivals. It shares a platform with the XE and XF, so feels very car-like to drive and it remains composed over bumpy surfaces.
9. Nissan Qashqai
If there’s one car that can be credited with the sheer number of SUVs on sale now, it’s the Qashqai. Now in its third generation, the SUV’s blend of style, technology and practicality makes it one of the most desirable family cars on sale, if no longer one of the most ground-breaking.
It’s clearly related to previous Qashqais, but the latest one looks a lot sharper, while inside its well designed dashboard features plenty of soft-touch materials. There’s a decent amount of space and a generous 504-litre boot, while all but the cheapest cars get an eight-inch touchscreen, plus a reversing camera and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto compatibility.
It’s not as entertaining to drive as a SEAT Ateca, but the Qashqai is composed and comfortable. There’s only one engine for now – a mildly electrified 1.3-litre petrol engine that saw duty in the last Qashqai too – but an interesting e-Power hybrid is joining the line-up this year. This promises the fuel efficiency of a diesel engine and the driving experience of an electric car.
10. Ford Kuga
t’s taken a while, but finally Ford is riding the crest of a crossover wave. For years its SUVs struggled to impress, but with the arrival of the perky Puma and capable Kuga, the firm has a pair of contenders to take on, and beat, the best.
Underlining the Kuga’s credentials as a class leader is its range of electrified engines, which includes the option of mild, full and plug-in hybrid technology. The latter has had some trouble, but is in the process of being rectified free of charge to owners, with compensation from Ford, too. The PHEV can travel up to 35 miles on electricity and emits just 32g/km of CO2.
Whichever engine you pick, you’ll benefit from Ford’s trademark quick steering and agile handling that’ll make you relish the thought of tackling a favourite back road. Yet the supple suspension and hushed refinement keep you relaxed on long-haul journeys and during the daily grind.
Inside, the Kuga combines impressive space and tech, while the slick infotainment is a doddle to use. Factor in the attractive pricing and low running costs, and it’s easy to see why the Kuga is our top choice.
Best mid-size SUVs for a family
If you’re buying any car that will most likely be used as family transport, such as with one of these mid-size SUVs, the obvious thing is to take your family along when you have a test drive.
Check they’ll fit, and find out if you can easily install any child seats you might be using at the time. This is often made easier with SUVs because they sit higher up from the road, so you don’t have to bend down as far to install them, and the doors tend to open wide for better access. Every car in our list features Isofix mountings, and it’s also worth checking that any items you might need on a family day out will fit in the boot.
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Whether you buy with cash or on finance, if you’re committing to spending a significant chunk of cash on your new family SUV then you’re well within your rights to test it out. Any dealership that wants your business should oblige by giving you some time to do exactly this. Check that you and your family like the comfort on offer, too, and that everyone feels comfortable in it.
One more thing worth doing, as with any new-car purchase, is to check the spec and options fitted to the car that you test, and make a note of any features or extras that you like and feel might be a help in everyday life.
Looking for something smaller? Click here for our list of the best small SUVs and crossovers…
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