Best 4x4s and SUVs

Last updated: Jul 29, 2016

If there was a single type of car that defines the car industry in 2016, it’s the SUV – or 4x4 as they’re often called. 

The best SUVs in 2016 blend a huge range of talents. They’re safe, spacious, comfortable, reasonably fuel efficient and offer the desirable high driving position so many buyers are looking for. 

SUVs are also cars that can provide genuine off-road prowess. But because they’re often bought by those seeking the off-road look, rather than ability, plenty are available with two-wheel drive – and are cheaper to run as a result. 

As a car for the family SUVs are hard to beat. They usually provide a big boot, and with large doors and raised seats they’re great if you have kids that travel in child seats. 

Thanks to the popularity of SUVs, pretty much every car manufacturer offers at least one, meaning there’s an SUV for every budget. ‘Crossovers’ like the Citroen C4 Cactus provide that all-important 4x4 look while delivering some of the lowest fuel bills you’ll find anywhere.

The Nissan Qashqai is pretty much the perfect family car, while big SUVs like the Range Rover are bona fide luxury choices.

So if you’re looking for the UK’s best SUVs, read on for our guide, and don’t forget to check out our top 10 rundowns of the best small, medium and large SUVs too. 

Renault Kadjar SUV

The Renault Kadjar might be very closely related to the hugely popular Nissan Qashqai, but we regard it to be the better of the two. That’s for three main reasons: it has a slightly bigger boot, it’s a little bit cheaper when you consider the two cars’ specifications, and its four-year warranty is a full 12 months longer than you get with the Nissan. Engines range from a 1.2-litre petrol – great for round-town use – to 1.5- and 1.6-litre diesels. You can also choose automatic or manual gearboxes, and four-wheel drive can be had – for a price. When it comes to practicality, it does everything brilliantly with space for five adults, a 472-litre boot and loads of interior storage. Read more.

Key points

4.8 / 5
Price 
£18,495 - £28,195

SEAT Ateca SUV

It might be SEAT’s first ever SUV, but the SEAT Ateca has already made a huge impact. It owes its existence to the Volkswagen Tiguan, but is more appealing in a number of regards. Buyers can choose between two petrol and two diesel engines, with two- or four-wheel drive and manual or automatic gearboxes. By comparison, the Tiguan is a 2.0-litre TDI only affair. The SEAT is also cheaper, thanks in part to the smaller engine, although you’re better off skipping straight to the Ateca SE, as the entry-level model lacks a few features you might want. As you go up the range, the Ateca’s standard equipment is about on par with the Tiguan, but in most respects, the SEAT remains the better value choice. Read more.

Key points

4.7 / 5
Price 
£17,990 - £29,990

Nissan Qashqai SUV

Don’t be put off by the Kadjar trumping the Qashqai. The Nissan is still a hugely capable car, and is still one of the most popular new cars on sale in the UK. It’s a great all-rounder – the petrol and diesel engines are efficient and smooth, while there’s plenty of space for the family inside. Like the Kadjar, four-wheel drive is reserved for versions with the larger 1.6-litre dCi diesel engine. There’s some clever electronics to ensure the Qashqai remains stable at speed too. And like most of the other cars on this list, the fact that the Qashqai is no bigger than the regular family hatchback means it’s easy to park and fit in your garage. Read more.

Key points

4.7 / 5
Price 
£18,545 - £28,990

Citroen C4 Cactus SUV

The Citroen C4 Cactus has redefined Citroen’s image. Those huge plastic panels on the side aren’t just for show; they help to shrug off damage. But rather than knocks caused by mud and rocks, they’re designed to protect against other drivers’ poor parking or from runaway shopping trolleys. Because while the Cactus might be styled like a rugged off-roader, it’s natural habitat is the urban jungle. It’s small on the outside, but boasts plenty of space inside thanks to some clever design. It’s also remarkably light, which means that the engines are small and very efficient – drive the 1.2-litre petrol and you’d swear it’s a 1.6. Drive the diesels and you’ll enjoy up to 83mpg. Read more.

Key points

4.7 / 5
Price 
£12,990 - £20,135

Dacia Duster compact SUV

The Dacia Duster certainly isn’t the last word in luxury, but for motorists looking for a tough, no-nonsense go-anywhere SUV, the Dacia Duster is impossible to ignore. Incredibly, the Duster’s price starts at less than £9,500, although we recommend choosing the mid-spec Ambiance model as the most basic Duster is rather sparse inside. Engine-wise, there’s a 1.6-litre petrol, a more powerful 1.2-litre petrol and a 1.5-litre diesel capable of more than 64mpg. In keeping with Dacia’s budget pricing, the Duster’s option list is affordable too. A disappointing crash test score prevents it from climbing higher in our list. Read more.

Key points

4.6 / 5
Price 
£9,495 - £16,495

Jaguar F-Pace SUV

Such is the Jaguar F-Pace’s depth of ability, you’d think Jaguar had been building SUVs for years. It hasn’t, of course, although its sister company Land Rover has plenty of know-how. What the F-Pace brings to the SUV party is a driving experience that’s closer to a sports car than it is to a traditional off-roader. It’s also an incredibly handsome car inside and out that’s instantly recognisable as a ‘Jag’. There are 2.0- and 3.0-litre engines that’ll suit most buyers, while a 3.0-litre petrol engine provides Porsche-baiting performance. Inside there’s loads of space for five adults and a huge boot. This doesn’t come cheap of course – most are priced far north of £40,000. Read more.

Key points

4.6 / 5
Price 
£35,020 - £65,275

Volvo XC90 SUV

The second generation Volvo XC90 marked the rebirth of the brand, and has set Volvo on its path to ensure no one is killed or seriously injured by one of their new cars by 2020. It’ll do that by developing its autonomous technology, and the XC90 is the first Volvo that can drive itself. The technology works well, and takes steering, braking and acceleration responsibilities away from the driver in slow moving traffic, if desired. There’s more obvious tech too, including a brilliant tablet-style screen in the (beautifully designed) dash. There’s seating for seven and a boot with lots of useable space. Read more.

Key points

4.6 / 5
Price 
£46,850 - £64,555

Land Rover Discovery SUV

The Land Rover Discovery Sport is the long-awaited replacement for the old Land Rover Freelander, and it’s been improved in just about every way. Despite it being little bigger, the Discovery Sport has the option of seven seats – although the rear ones are tiny, meaning Land Rover describes it as a “5+2” rather than a seven-seater. It’s also better to drive than before, and no less capable off-road. That’s got a lot to do with the adoption of an all-new diesel engine, which delivers fuel economy of up to 58mpg. The Discovery Sport also has the upmarket feel for which Land Rovers are known, with a high quality interior and plenty of standard equipment. Read more.

Key points

4 / 5
Price 
£47,505 - £56,005

Kia Sorento SUV

With so many full-size SUVs available from big-name, upmarket brands, the fact that Kia rubs shoulders with the best is testament to the Sorento’s blend of abilities. It boasts a spacious interior, huge luggage capacity and four-wheel drive, which combine to make the Kia Sorento extremely practical. It’s not particularly fuel efficient, but that’s offset by a starting price of less than £30,000 and the reassurance that comes with Kia’s market-leading seven-year warranty. Its gutsy 2.2-litre diesel engine is capable of towing up to 2,500kg with a manual gearbox or 2,000kg with an automatic, making it an extremely good tow car. Read more.

Key points

4.4 / 5
Price 
£28,795 - £41,005

Hyundai Santa Fe SUV

The Hyundai Santa Fe is the Kia Sorento’s sister car, so it should come as little surprise that they stand side-by-side in this list. Subjectively there’s little between the two, although to our eyes the Santa Fe is the more attractive car. They share the same engine, and record the same running costs, and once you discount the most basic version of the Sorento, they match up on price and standard equipment. Where the differences creep in is when it comes to warranty – the Hyundai has five years’ cover, compared to the Kia’s seven – and while the Kia has seven seats as standard, Hyundai will charge you £1,200 for the privilege. Read more.

Key points

4.4 / 5
Price 
£31,850 - £39,000