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Best family SUVs to buy in 2021

Motoring Research logo Motoring Research 21-01-2021 Motoring Research team
a passenger seat of a car: Best family SUVs © Provided by Motoring Research Best family SUVs

Visit a new car showroom in 2021 and you’ll almost certainly find an SUV of some size of description. Who’d have thought the likes of Lamborghini, Maserati and Rolls-Royce would launch a high-riding SUV?

Family SUVs are popular for a number of reasons. Buyers like them for the high driving position, the practical and spacious interior, and the running costs that should be on a par with a family hatchback. Whatever your budget, you should be able to find a family SUV that suits you needs.

We’ve pulled together a list of the best family SUVs to buy in 2021. You’ll find everything from a premium SUV with the latest technology to a budget SUV that puts price and practicality before poshness and presence. Our choices are presented in alphabetical order.

Audi Q5

a car parked in a parking lot: Audi Q5 © Provided by Motoring Research Audi Q5

The Audi Q5 isn’t the cheapest family SUV you can buy, but it’s probably the best all-rounder. A facelift in 2020 means the Q5 is better than ever, with new LED headlights and trim-specific tweaks across the range. There are three core models: the standard Q5, a sporty SQ5 and a TFSI e plug-in hybrid with an electric range of up to 26 miles.

Few family SUVs offer such a compelling blend of quality and technology. Even the entry-level Q5 Sport features those LED headlights, 18-inch alloy wheels, a 10.1-inch touchscreen infotainment system with sat-nav, a 12.3-inch digital instrument panel, three-zone climate control, front and rear parking sensors, cruise control and a reversing camera.

We said: ‘The Audi Q5 is one the UK’s best-loved SUVs, cementing a reputation for a high-quality interior, the latest tech and a strong image. Even the SQ5 lacks much sense of driver engagement, but as a comfortable and refined cruiser, the Audi Q5 is hard to beat.’

Read our Audi Q5 review.

BMW X3

a car parked on the side of a road: BMW X3 © Provided by Motoring Research BMW X3

The BMW X3 sits in the middle of an SUV range bookended by the X1 and the X7. In some ways, it’s the best of the crop, offering the usability and low running costs of the X1, but the quality and comfort of the X5 and X7. Prices are roughly in line with the Audi Q5, so the choice comes down to badge and driver appeal. If you enjoy driving, there’s a clear winner: the X3.

On the move, the X3 feels like a high-riding BMW 3 Series, with performance and handling that send it to the top of the class. Petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid versions are available, with the latter offering up to 29 miles of electric range. The entry-level SE model features 18-inch alloy wheels, BMW Navigation with traffic information, leather upholstery, adaptive LED headlights, electric tailgate, three-zone climate control and a reversing camera.

We said: ‘The BMW X3 stands out in a crowded sector by the way it drives. Handling is class-leading, while all engines offer strong pace and economy.’

Read our BMW X3 review.

Dacia Duster

a blue car parked in a parking lot: Dacia Duster © Provided by Motoring Research Dacia Duster

An entry-level Dacia Duster costs around a quarter of the price of an Audi Q5 or BMW X3. For that reason alone, it’s worthy of your attention. In many ways, it makes a mockery of the high prices charged by other manufacturers, as the Duster is practical, spacious, cheap to run and, in four-wheel-drive guise, surprisingly brilliant off-road.

What’s the catch? Well, the interior quality is a little low-rent, the middling three-star Euro NCAP safety rating is disappointing and the entry-level Access trim is about as appetising as dried pasta. It’s also a shame the Access model isn’t available as a 4×4, as there was something appealing about the old ‘UN-spec’ 4×4.

We said: ‘Whichever way you look at it, under £12k is ridiculously cheap for a brand new SUV. The Dacia Duster is the best value SUV you can buy. A lowly three-star safety rating is a black mark, but the Duster scores highly for its honesty and practicality.’

Read our Dacia Duster review.

Hyundai Tucson

a car parked in a parking lot with Holden Arboretum in the background: Hyundai Tucson © Provided by Motoring Research Hyundai Tucson

The Hyundai Tucson is one of the newest family SUVs to hit the market, stealing a march on the Kia Sportage and Nissan Qashqai. You might not like the bold styling, but you can’t accuse Hyundai of playing it safe. Make no mistake, your neighbours will know you’ve bought a new car.

It’s not the bargain family SUV of before, but it comes with a five-year unlimited mileage warranty and a generous level of standard equipment. The SE Connect features 17-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control, rear parking sensors, a reversing camera, a 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment system with sat-nav, a 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster and front and rear parking sensors.

The Premium trim adds more kit, while the Ultimate nudges the new Tucson into premium territory. A 1.6-litre petrol engine is available in a choice of outputs, and with mild-hybrid and hybrid technology. You can expect to achieve up to 50mpg by opting for the 1.6 TGDI Hybrid.

Read our review of the old Hyundai Tucson.

Land Rover Discovery Sport

a car parked in front of a lake: Land Rover Discovery Sport © Provided by Motoring Research Land Rover Discovery Sport

Few family SUVs venture off-road, but the Land Rover Discovery Sport is the best choice for getting your boots dirty. It also comes with seven seats as standard, so you have the option of a cavernous boot or a pair of occasional seats that are ideal for children. The entry-level Sport lacks some desirable equipment, but a front-wheel-drive version is available if you’re prepared to trade off-road ability for lower running costs.

The new Discovery Sport PHEV combines a 1.5-litre petrol engine with an electric motor to deliver a total output of 309hp. Crucially, it provides up to 34 miles of electric range and 135mpg. You just have to remember the plug it in when you go to bed. Standard petrol engines offer around 30mpg, while the diesel engines should achieve 42.4mpg.

We said: ‘No wonder Land Rover’s ebullience at this variant’s arrival seems tinged with a slight sense of relief. Finally, it’s as it should have been from the start. All the good things – pleasing design, clever interior, decent quality, great practicality, off-road brilliance and on-road competence – are now backed up by an engine that turns it into a genuine premium car experience.’

Read our Land Rover Discovery Sport review from 2015.

Mercedes-Benz GLB

a car parked in front of a house: 2020 Mercedes GLB 220d © Provided by Motoring Research 2020 Mercedes GLB 220d

No other car manufacturer offers as many SUVs as Mercedes-Benz, so it might be tricky to choose the right one. We’ll cut to the chase: the GLB is one of the most practical and family-friendly SUVs in the range. In fact, it offers better value for money than the more expensive Mercedes-Benz GLC.

Squint and it looks a little like the chunky Mercedes-Benz G-Class, which gives the GLB standout qualities in a crowded market. It’s actually shorter and narrower than the GLC, but its lofty stance creates an interior that’s spacious enough for five adults. You even get a pair of extra seats in the third row. Quality isn’t quite up to the high standards of the GLC, but the price reflects this.

Upgrade from the base model and you’re treated to a pair of 10.25-inch screens, which blend together to create one seamless display across the dashboard. Take into account the fact that the entry-level version undercuts the basic GLC by around £5,500, and you’ll see why we consider it excellent value.

Peugeot 3008

a car driving on a road: Peugeot 3008 © Provided by Motoring Research Peugeot 3008

The Peugeot 3008 is proof that you don’t need to pay a premium price to get a premium experience. This is one of the most individual SUVs you can buy, with its bold exterior styling matched by an interior that oozes quality and sophistication. A facelift announced at the end of 2020 means the 3008 is better than ever.

Petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid versions are offered, with the latter available with a choice of powertrains. The front-wheel-drive Hybrid 225 delivers 32 to 39 miles of electric range, while the four-wheel-drive Hybrid4 300 could achieve up to 40 miles from a full charge. A range of trim levels are available, including lavish GT models.

We said: ‘The multi-award-winning Peugeot 3008 is one of the best family SUVs on sale. Only an underwhelming driving experience, cramped rear seats and high prices at the top of the range prevent the Peugeot 3008 from getting a full five stars.’

Read our review of the Peugeot 3008.

Skoda Kodiaq

a blue car parked in front of a mountain: Skoda Kodiaq © Provided by Motoring Research Skoda Kodiaq

We could mount a strong case for the Skoda Kodiaq being the best family SUV you can buy. Most versions come with seven seats, although the entry-level SE gives you the option of five or seven seats. It costs around £1,300 for the third row, but a seven-seat Kodiaq is likely to be worth more on the used car market.

It shares a platform with the Volkswagen Tiguan, and although the level of finish isn’t up to the standards of the VW, you’ll get more equipment for your money. Prices start from less than £30,000, while even the lavish L&K model costs a premium-car-troubling £40,000.

We said: ‘The roomy and practical Skoda Kodiaq is refreshingly simple to drive and likely to offer a stress-free ownership experience.’

Read our view of the Skoda Kodiaq.

Volkswagen Tiguan

a car parked on the side of a road: VW Tiguan © Provided by Motoring Research VW Tiguan

The Volkswagen Tiguan is one of the most popular family SUVs in Europe, with many buyers prepared to pay a small premium for the badge and a noticeable uplift in quality. It feels a class above its mainstream rivals, but can’t quite reach the high standards set by the Audi Q5 and BMW X3.

Don’t be fooled by the attractive price of the entry-level Tiguan as it lacks the kind of creature comforts you’ll want over a three-year PCP deal. The Life trim is more appealing, while the Elegance adds more luxury to the mix. There’s also a Tiguan R-Line, which features more aggressive styling and lowered suspension. For seven seats, you’ll need to upgrade to the spacious Tiguan Allspace.

We said: ‘The Tiguan has one of the nicest cabins in its class and a huge range of efficient and punchy engines. Little wonder it’s so popular.’

Read our review of the Volkswagen Tiguan.

Volvo XC40

a car parked on the side of a road: Volvo XC40 © Provided by Motoring Research Volvo XC40

Few family SUVs are as appealing as the Volvo XC40. It might be the smallest SUV in the Volvo range, but it’s arguably the most charming and attractive of the three. Its chunky styling sets it apart from premium rivals, while the interior exudes sophisticated Swedish cool.

Diesel versions were axed in 2020, so you’re left with a choice of petrol, plug-in hybrid and all-electric powertrains. The XC40 Recharge P8 can deliver up to 258 miles of electric range from a full charge, while the Recharge T4 and T5 plug-in hybrids can achieve 28 miles of range.

We said: ‘The Volvo XC40 has deservedly won a string of awards and a legion of admirers. It looks blockier than most compact SUVs, with hardly a line out of place.’

Read our review of the Volvo XC40.

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