Nissan Qashqai vs Kia Sportage vs Hyundai Tucson vs Ford Kuga: which should you buy?
We compare the Nissan Qashqai, Ford Kuga, Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage to find the most family friendly SUV
The compact SUV has never been more popular, and it's not hard to see why. Cars like the Nissan Qashqai and its rivals offer fuel economy and running costs comparable to a family hatchback, as well as handsome, muscular looks that add to their showroom appeal. Why drive an 'ordinary' family car when you could have an adventure in an SUV?
But the Qashqai, updated in 2021, isn’t short of alternatives. You might also consider the striking Kia Sportage, the excellent Hyundai Tucson or the versatile Ford Kuga, as well as other rivals such as the Peugeot 3008, Mazda CX-5 and SEAT Ateca. The four we have here are among the most popular models - and that desirability in the showroom means they're sought-after secondhand, which makes PCP financing more affordable than you might expect. But which of the current crop of compact SUVs is the best place to put your family's money? We've put five of the most popular models on the market through their paces to find out.
All are well equipped, practical and can be jazzed up with bigger wheels, body kits and suchlike. Each of these makes excellent family transport; family car buyers have never had it so good.
Which is the most practical?
Image aside, practicality is the strongest asset an SUV can offer, and the increased space you get is one of the main reasons why so many people have traded their humble family hatchbacks for crossovers such as these. None of these cars is terribly short on rear legroom; younger children will be comfortable in any of them. All also offer an array of handy interior storage for odds and ends.
In terms of boot space, the Tucson is the clear leader. Petrol models get a huge 620-litre loadspace, while the plug-in hybrid has a boot that’s around 10% smaller - but still very generous. The Sportage offers 540-591 litres, depending on spec, while the Qashqai offers 479-504 litres. Push the Kuga’s seats forward and you’ve got 526 litres of space, but with the rear seats back in their normal position you get a slightly meagre 414 litres - more than a Focus, but less practical than its nearest rivals.
It’s worth mentioning the thoughtful touches you get in the Sportage, such as the seatbacks that come with integrated coat hangers and USB ports.
Which has the best interior?
You don’t need to buy a premium model such as an Audi Q3 or Mercedes GLA for a premium interior these days; the Korean manufacturers have got mighty close. The Sportage and the Tucson have particularly impressive-feeling interiors that wouldn’t look out of place in luxury cars; both are well built and both use technology from the brands’ flagship electric cars.
The Qashqai, meanwhile, has a much improved interior over its predecessor, so we imagine current owners will be very happy with the new one. Material quality is good, but Nissan isn’t chasing after premium models like Hyundai and Kia are. The Kuga’s interior is pretty much shared with that of the Ford Focus and Ford Puma, and is intuitive to use if not the last word in design flair.
Which is the cheapest to run?
Although SUVs and diesel engines seem inextricably linked, many families will be better off with one of today's modern petrol engines. They're better suited to short, stop-start journeys like the school run and trips to the shops, and they're invariably less expensive to buy in the first place. These days, diesel engines are becoming very unfashionable, to the extent that the Qashqai and Tucson don’t offer diesel engines at all.
All here except the Qashqai offer a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) option, which will be the cheapest to run if you can regularly charge at home and use battery power for the majority of your journeys. PHEVs tend to be the most expensive engine choice, though, so they may not make sense for private buyers. The Sportage has the longest electric-only range, at up to 43 miles from a full charge.
Non-plug-in hybrid engines may be a better option for many customers. Pairing a petrol engine with an electric motor (but negating the need to plug in), these cars offer diesel-like fuel efficiency of around 50mpg. More conventional petrol engines are also available, and these tend to offer 40-45mpg officially. These cars are all quite well-matched in terms of fuel efficiency, so cost-conscious buyers will separate these cars on their monthly PCP prices and perhaps their insurance costs.
Which has the best warranty?
For anyone planning to keep a compact SUV for a long time, the Kia is the clear winner where it comes to warranty. The brand's seven-year/100,000-mile policy will suit those who cover average (12,000 miles a year) mileage or lower, and it's fully transferable to the car's next owner. The Hyundai doesn't trail by far, though, and anybody who expects to cover a high yearly mileage will find its 5-year/unlimited mileage warranty very generous.
The Ford and Nissan, meanwhile, have a three-year warranty, and carry a 60,000-mile cap. The Ford's mileage is unlimited in the first year, though.
Which is the best to drive?
Most family SUV buyers aren’t particularly interested in how they drive, so keen drivers have a slim selection of cars that’ll excite on a twisty road. The Kuga is one of those, though, so it’s worth a visit to your local Ford dealer if that’s important to you. It’s agile and fun, with more steering feel than you might expect and a great manual gearbox. Body roll is kept to a minimum, even if that results in a slightly firm ride.
The Tucson, while not at the same level as the Kuga, is also decent to drive. It’s impressive when driven in a relaxed manner, because it’s refined and comfortable, and on hybrid versions you may not always know whether it’s the engine or the electric motor providing the power. The Sportage has similar characteristics to the Tucson, but sounds quite noisy when getting up to speed. Nissan has made the latest Qashqai better to drive than before, but the driving experience is competent and a little forgettable rather than exciting in any way.
Verdict: which should you buy?
The Nissan Qashqai may be held partly responsible for SUVs being so popular, but rivals have superseded it. Ford’s Kuga is also one of the more familiar SUVs, and is worth checking out for its good level of standard equipment and driving experience. However, we’d recommend that family SUV buyers go to Kia or Hyundai, because the Sportage and Tucson are very impressive and easy to live with. The Tucson beat off all competition to win our Carbuyer Car of the Year for 2022.
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