Whether you’re looking for the height of luxury, space for your whole crew or just a comfortable vehicle for day-to-day life, this list of SUVs will have something for you.
You have a wide range of options available to suit your lifestyle and driving habits.
Dominated by premium offerings, this chart is populated by some of the best family cars on the road – vehicles that can cope with the school run as well as tackling wintery conditions, mildly rugged terrain, trips to the tip, towing duties and long-distance motorway cruising.
It’s a hotly contested and strategically important segment where style, safety and space rank at the top of the agenda for buyers and, often, room for seven occupants is required.
That importance is underestimated by manufacturers at their peril, given that the segment is slowly obliterating the MPV market. And, despite a lack of variety in the styling and approach taken by many, it’s a fairly diverse segment that has attracted many brands into the fold of SUV make.
There are car-based and truck-based SUVs. But that distinction is much less relevant today because most models have converged into a design that has more in common with cars than traditional trucks.
Modern SUVs, sometimes called crossovers or CUVs, are built with unibody construction where the frame and body are unified, just as they are in today’s cars.
These SUVs have a fully independent suspension, which helps provide better handling and ride comfort than truck-based models.
Often, they offer all-wheel drive and can handle moderate off-road situations, but they aren’t designed for more challenging off-road conditions, such as rocks, deep water, loose sand, or steep inclines. Most car-based SUVs have a modest towing capacity.
There are some truck-based SUVs left. Those use a body-on-frame platform (often sharing components with the automaker’s pickup trucks).
They typically can carry and tow more than a similar-sized car-based model, and when fitted with four-wheel drive, they’re better equipped to tackle serious off-road terrain.
But their handling is usually cumbersome, and the ride can be bouncy and unsettled. Most body-on-frame SUVs use a solid rear axle, as pickup trucks do, but some have an independent rear suspension, which gives those a more comfortable ride and more responsive handling characteristics. We group SUVs by size in our comparisons and ratings.
One of the fastest-growing categories, subcompact SUVs such as the Ford EcoSport, Hyundai Kona, and Mazda CX-3, share a platform with similarly sized cars.
These are alternatives to a traditional hatchback car, with elevated ride height, upright seating, and available all-wheel drive. Their small footprint makes them easy to park and maneuver. Buyers shouldn’t expect huge cargo volume or serious off-road capability.
Although technically not subcompacts, there is a growing niche of tiny SUVs from luxury brands such as Audi, BMW, Infiniti, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, and Mini that offer upscale interiors and strong performance. Still, these models cost as much as a midsized SUV.
What You’ll Spend: A few basic subcompact SUVs start at less than $20,000 but most climb well into the $20s with popular features, such as all-wheel drive and key advanced safety systems.
These are well-suited for drivers who are looking for more room than a small sedan can provide. Small SUVs offer a higher driving position than cars and flexible cargo space. Fuel economy is typically 25-28 mpg overall, although there are some thirstier models.
Most have limited off-road abilities but are sufficient for the occasional dirt road, muddy trail, or beach sand.
Compact luxury SUVs typically offer sportier handling, quieter cabins, nicer fit and finish, and more amenities than regular small SUVs, though buyers will pay more and get reduced fuel economy. Many luxury SUVs at this size offer much more thrilling performance than shoppers can get from mainstream brands.
What You’ll Spend: Compact SUVs start in the low 20s and many pass $30,000 in their top trims, which are now more feature-rich than ever. Luxury models hover around $50,000.
For many families, midsized SUVs provide the best balance of power, interior space, cargo room, and safety.
Midsized models come in two- and three-row models, although the third row is usually meant for kids to ride it; they’re typically cramped and difficult for adults to get into.
Models from mainstream brands typically are equipped with premium features that can rival some luxury vehicles.
Fuel economy hovers around 18-22 mpg, and tow capacity is typically 3,500 to 5,000 lbs. Some models must have a trailering package to get that maximum towing capacity. Luxury midsized SUVs tend to rachet up the comfort, performance, and refinement.
What You’ll Spend: Midsized SUVs span from the mid-$30,000s to more than $50,000 for three-row models.
There is plenty of power, interior space, and towing capacity with large SUV, but they’re very often big, bulky, clumsy, and thirsty.
They may be just the thing for drivers who need to haul a trailer. However, a midsized model can be better for passenger comfort and daily driving.
Buyers who need more seating capacity, rather than workability, should consider a minivan. It may not have an SUV’s adventurous image, but a minivan should get much better fuel economy, be more comfortable, and have more flexibility switching between people and cargo.
What You’ll Spend: Large SUV prices now range up to $80,000 or more for top trims. Luxury-branded models for all sizes add considerably to the bottom line, essentially pricing them into the next larger size.
Crossovers and SUVs are among the most popular new cars on the market today, and automakers are supplying that demand with models of all shapes and sizes. To make the shopping process less daunting and easier to navigate, we’ve compiled a list of the best crossovers and SUVs of 2020.
It’s hard to pick faults with such a classy and consummate all-rounder as the Audi Q5, although slightly anodyne handling is what will prevent the car from really appealing to keener drivers.
This shortcoming should be nowhere near serious enough to prevent the Q5 from emulating the sales success of its predecessor, though, which became the bestseller in its segment in nearly every country in which it was offered.
Although a pricey option with a long options list, the Q5 is quiet, practical and desirable, with outstanding driving refinement and material finish. Keeping in step with the times, there’s now plug-in hybrid versions available as well. The 55 TFSIe is a particularly smooth operator, with its electric motor and 2.0-litre turbo petrol four-pot combining to produce a compelling 362bhp and 369lb ft. Keep its battery topped up, and you’ll be able to make the most of its potential 26-mile range – and see your fuel bills drop in the process.
What’s this: a decent-handling mid-range SUV? Before BMW set about making SUVs, the idea would have been borderline laughable – but the BMW X3 has handling appeal down, and then some.
The X3 has powertrains with top-drawer driver appeal, even if it is slightly unrefined when being pushed. But in all other areas, the X3 is a winner and a close-run second to the Audi Q5.
Standard equipment is a touch under-provided on some trim levels, but the car’s perceived quality is above that of almost all others, and its on-road manners are hard to fault, even on run-flat tyres.
Jaguar’s first SUV is a doozy, with remarkable handling, plenty of cabin space and looks that rocketed it to the top of Jag’s range as its best-selling model until the smaller E-Pace overtook it.
There are one or two details that detract a little from the overall driving experience: among them some undistinguished four-cylinder diesel engines, a hesitant automatic gearbox and a slightly jittery, noisy ride in certain specifications.
There’s room for improvement, too, in the car’s steering. But for a first-generation Jaguar SUV, the F-Pace is a fine-handling car and a very creditable achievement, and that nestles it impressively into third place, above even its Land Rover Discovery Sport, cousin.
Land Rover Discovery Sport
The Discovery Sport might be the entry-level Land Rover in the showroom range, but it isn’t short on trademark Land Rover capability, comfort or charm.
Face-lifted for 2019, the Discovery Sport now sits on the same PTA platform as the Range Rover Evoque but hasn’t lost out on any of the characteristics we liked about the original.
It’s still higher-riding than many of its opponents, affords better visibility and 4×4 capability than many, and feels more like a traditional SUV to drive than some while still handling in an impressively tidy fashion.
It has a practical interior – a huge selling point in this segment – that has now been given a much-needed lift in premium appeal.
Its petrol and diesel engines are now supplemented by 48V mild-hybrid architecture in a bid to improve fuel economy, and a plug-in hybrid version is in-bound, too.
Those engines might still want slightly for refinement and outright performance. Still, if you want a family SUV with more offroad ruggedness than the class average, the Discovery Sport delivers that with very few associated compromises.
The Toyota Highlander continues to be one of the strongest competitors in the three-row SUV segment. Toyota gave it a more stylish exterior and better fuel economy, along with more tech features and better cargo capacity. The Highlander keeps its comfort, refinement, and dependable reputation.
There are more rivals than ever, but with its steady improvements, the Toyota Highlander stays near the front of the pack.
The Toyota Highlander is a 7-seater vehicle that comes in 9 trim levels. The most popular style is the XLE AWD, which starts at $42,375 and comes with a 3.5L V6 engine and All Wheel Drive. This Highlander is estimated to deliver 36 MPG in the city and 35 MPG on the highway.
Kia expands its fleet with the introduction of the 2020 Telluride. Able to seat up to eight passengers, this all-new model holds the distinction of being the biggest crossover SUV in Kia’s lineup.
The Telluride offers the roominess you expect from a three-row midsize SUV, and it impresses with its stylish, handsomely appointed cabin. It provides a generous amount of cargo capacity, and it’s available with an up-to-date selection of active safety features.
The Kia Telluride comes in 4 trim levels. The most popular style is the S AWD, which starts at $37,460 and comes with a 3.8L V6 engine and All Wheel Drive. This Telluride is estimated to deliver 20 MPG in the city and 26 MPG on the highway.
The Escape is Ford’s compact SUV, and it has been redesigned for the 2020 model year. Relative to the outgoing model, the 2020 Escape offers improved power and fresh design cues. Also, the hybrid variant returns after a hiatus and a plug-in hybrid join the lineup.
The Escape boasts a sleek aesthetic both inside and out, and it’s spacious enough to serve as practical family transportation.
The Ford Escape is a 5-seater vehicle that comes in 6 trim levels. The most popular style is the SE FWD, which starts at $28,350 and comes with a 1.5L I3 Turbo engine and Front Wheel Drive. This Escape is estimated to deliver 44 MPG in the city and 37 MPG on the highway.
The Kodiaq is our top family SUV not to come from a premium manufacturer, and it undercuts even the cheapest of the plusher offerings on this list by more than £9000.
So what are you sacrificing? A chunk of premium-feel materials for a start, although everything feels well screwed together. The top four SUVs in this list all have better-balanced handling and ride quality than the Kodiaq, but not all of them offer a third row of seats.
Aside from the slightly over-firm and remote way in which the Kodiaq drives, though, there’s little room for improvement. An oily-bits facelift could easily rectify its main problems.
The Ford Explorer is a name synonymous with SUVs. First introduced when sport utilities were just catching on, the Explorer won over drivers with its rugged looks and raised ride height.
Thirty years later, the Explorer has remained relevant thanks to midsize proportions, compliant ride, and an assortment of available features.
The six-generation of the Explorer launched with the 2020 model year and continues to evolve. The Ford Explorer is a 6-seater vehicle that comes in 5 trim levels.
The most popular style is the XLT RWD, which starts at $38,170 and comes with a 2.3L I4 Turbo engine and Rear Wheel Drive. This Explorer is estimated to deliver 21 MPG in the city and 28 MPG on the highway.
With all-wheel drive and up to 8.7 inches of ground clearance, the Subaru Outback is a natural fit for outdoor adventures.
This capable station wagon also impresses with its stylish, spacious cabin and standard driver safety aids. The Subaru Outback is a 5-seater vehicle that comes in 7 trim levels.
The most popular style is the 2.5i Limited, which starts at $34,455 and comes with a 2.5L H4 engine and All Wheel Drive. This Outback is estimated to deliver 23 MPG in the city and 30 MPG on the highway.
Refined and comfortable to live with, the Toyota RAV4 is one of the top compact sport-utilities on the market.
The compact SUV has been around since the 1990s, building a loyal fanbase with its great balance between everyday comfort and versatile utility. While not exactly meant for off-road duty, the RAV4’s available all-wheel-drive makes it a decent choice for dirt roads and bad weather.
Fuel economy is excellent, especially with the hybrid. The Toyota RAV4 is a 5-seater vehicle that comes in 10 trim levels.
The most popular style is the LE FWD, which starts at $27,125 and comes with a 2.5L I4 engine and Front Wheel Drive. This RAV4 is estimated to deliver 41 MPG in the city and 38 MPG on the highway.
What Suv Buyers Should Consider
Almost all SUVs carry at least five people. Some midsized and full-sized models include a third-row seat that increases passenger capacity to six, seven, or eight. But many three-row SUVs have limited cargo space when the third-row seats are upright. Most third-row seats can fold flat when not in use, or nearly so, opening up additional luggage space.
The SUV’s versatile seating configurations mean that all the space behind the front seats is available for cargo when the second- and third-row seats fold flat. The most convenient type of third-row seat is one with a split design, so one part can be folded for cargo while still allowing someone to sit in the other part.
SUVs usually have a higher cargo floor than minivans do, which can make loading heavy objects difficult. Some luxury models come with air suspensions so that drivers can lower the vehicle for easier loading.
On the other hand, truck-based models typically have higher maximum payload capacities so that drivers can carry more weight. Some even offer power-operated, hands-free liftgates, making it easier to access the cargo bay.
Safety And Advanced Driver-assist Systems Technologies
Consumer Reports’ safety ratings include assessments of crash-avoidance capabilities and crash-test results, based on tests performed by the federal government and insurance industry. Further, our road tests detail issues regarding child seat installation and headlight performance.
Forward collision warning (FCW), automatic emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian detection, and blind-spot warnings (BSW) are crash avoidance technologies that CR believes should be standard on all vehicles. And these should be on the next new or used model you buy.
FCW technology provides a visual, audible, and tactile alert to warn the driver of an impending collision with a car or an object directly in its path.
AEB responds to an imminent collision, braking if the driver doesn’t react in time. BSW monitors a vehicle’s flanks, warning drivers that another vehicle is alongside, where it may be difficult to see.
Other modern safety advances include telematics systems that can alert emergency personnel if an airbag deploys, such as GM’s OnStar service; lane departure warning systems that sound an alert if drivers change lanes without signalling; lane-keeping assist to centre the vehicle in the lane if drivers start to drift; and rear cross-traffic alert that monitors the sides of the vehicle when drivers are backing out of a parking spot, and can even apply the brakes if needed. (Learn more about car safety.)
Buyers should be wary of SUVs that have been heavily upgraded for off-roading. Modifications such as oversized wheels and tires, and steering and suspension changes can affect how an SUV will handle in a panic maneuver, such as an emergency lane change to dodge an unexpected road hazard. Improper equipment and installation can cause accelerated wear, leading to expensive repairs.
Mud and dirt in crevices, under the hood, or in hard-to-reach places, as well as dents and scrapes underneath the vehicle, can be an indicator of severe off-road use.
Focus on reliability when selecting a good new or used SUV, even if its original factory warranty still covers the vehicle. Check with Consumer Reports to find ones that have top-notch reliability scores. (See our guide to car reliability.)
Whether buying new or used, it is important to do a little homework to choose a good model and to follow that up with effective negotiation.