One in three cars bought in the UK in 2018 will be an SUV, with the market awash with high-riders that are spacious yet decent to drive when the occasion arises. Find out which make our top 10 list
26 January 2018

In 2018, around one in three registrations in the UK and Europe will be SUVs. It's a segment that has been growing steadily for years but has only now started to pick up real pace, prompting manufacturers to build entire ranges of high-riders.

These are just below average on the size chart but are the most popular, with the segment housing several brands' best-selling SUVs. Customers expect Tardis-like space on the inside and a commanding driving position, combined with the compactness of an average family hatchback to keep palms unsweaty in town and on narrow lanes.

1. Volkswagen Tiguan

The Tiguan is Volkswagen's third-best-selling model after the Golf and Polo hatchbacks. It's flexible, spacious, solidly built, comfortable and refined. With just a little more driver engagement, it would be a formidable package.

It's still the best in this class, though, despite coming second to the Ford Kuga in terms of driver engagement. It's a pricey option and its interior isn't a particularly interesting, but what it lacks in visual drama it more than makes up for in solidity, and that's money well spent over trinkets and colours.

A premium offering? Perhaps not, but it's a cut above the more ordinary cars atop the compact SUV pile.

2. Mazda CX-5

This is arguably the best-looking SUV on the market and objectively more refined than its predecessor, with respectable fuel economy and an unusual level of handling verve for the class.

The CX-5 interior is both solid and stylish, although louder and a little less comfortable than the Tiguan, bumping it into second place. CO2 emissions are a little on the high side, while the engine pumping it out is good but no better than before. Prices start a little higher than for the Tiguan, but equipment is more generous.

The CX-5 offers a healthy mix of fun, frugality and family-friendly space.

3. Ford Kuga

Ford's reputation for decent handling isn't sullied by the prospect of an SUV; the Kuga is the keen driver's choice in this segment.

It's cheaper than key rivals such as the CX-5 and Tiguan, it rides well and it's respectably refined.

The drawbacks? The automatic gearbox isn't much cop, and you can get more room for your money elsewhere. Since its facelift, standard equipment has taken a boost, too, bringing it into a close third, rather than an also-ran. The one to get if you're a keener driver.

4. BMW X1

BMW's SUV range is growing all the time, but its smallest such model is one of our top picks. Of the premium SUVs, it's practical, it handles well and it's plush inside.

It's far cheaper than the Range Rover Evoque, although it's still several thousand up on the more mass-market offerings in this list.

It's among the firmer-riding SUVs in this bracket and, rather disappointingly, is one of the less fuel efficient. It's more practical than the pricier Audi Q3, though, and feels more premium inside than the Mercedes-Benz GLA.

5. Range Rover Evoque

Range Rover's baby has been a sales phenomenon, but anything with that badge commands a heavy premium.

That's the case here: the Evoque is one of the most expensive cars in the class. However, it has got buckets of desirability, it handles well and it looks as good as it did the day it was revealed. You'll pay more in price, fuel and tax, though, because it's a little thirstier than its rivals. A slightly softer suspension set-up would make a notable difference in ride quality, too.

The Evoque isn't a class leader, but it's a compelling choice, and buyers are clearly willing to overlook its flaws.

6. Honda CR-V

The CR-V has been around longer than most others on this list, yet it remains something of a safe choice, thanks to its fantastic reliability.

It's not the most exciting compact SUV, but it has a flexible interior and is well built and frugal. That said, the dashboard could benefit from being simplified and automatic models are thirstier than their manual counterparts.

The C-RV is a little long in the tooth compared with the rest of the segment, so when its replacement arrives at the end of summer, it'll have some catching up to do. 

7. Peugeot 3008

In the hotly contested SUV market, the 3008's sharp looks help it to stand out from the crowd, even if its engine, handling and interior space don't. What it lacks in handling verve, though, it makes up for with generous standard equipment and a smattering of high-quality materials inside.

It'll take many some time to get over 'that' tiny steering wheel, and while Peugeot's i-Cockpit layout is eye-catching, it's also flawed.

The 3008 isn't at the high end of the market, but its pricing feels optimistic considering the shortage of space it provides inside.

8. Audi Q3

The Q3 is a car of two halves. It's expensive but feels finely crafted inside. Its engines are respectable, but the steering is disappointingly numb. And while refinement is a strength, the ride is sensitive, transmitting every imperfection in the road right to the driver.

Like many, the Q3 could be seen as more of a raised hatchback than a small SUV, meaning that rear head room isn't adult-friendly. The way the Q3 drives is its biggest sin, though - the sterile handling is becoming increasingly less forgivable with ever more exciting-to-drive SUVs arriving.

9. Mercedes-Benz GLA

Mercedes' smallest SUV is little more than a slightly raised A-Class, which isn't the best place to start first off. Many will struggle to pick it out from the A-Class, while the handling and way the car rides are unspectacular.

Combine these with small rear quarters - a deadly sin in the space-conscious compact SUV class - and you have a model that can't compete with the class best. It's trendy, sure, and its interior is a nice place to be, but others do it better and cheaper.

Its replacement in 2019 will have its work cut out. 

10. Toyota RAV4

'RAV4' is the oldest nameplate in this top ten, pre-dating 'CR-V' by two years. This model is also the only one in our top ten to offer a hybrid powertrain. Being one of the tougher-styled SUVs on this list suggests a level of capability unmatched in the class, but in reality, the RAV4 is no better or worse than anything above it.

It feels like a tall, soft off-roader, so it's worse on-road than the cars above. But it's well-built and has reliability running through its veins, and with that traditional 4x4 feel, it has an air of dependability that will soothe buyers.

Our Verdict

Volkswagen Tiguan

Volkswagen’s compact SUV bulks up for a bigger slice of segment sales

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