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Top 10 best sports and performance SUVs 2024

Need a blend of speed and space? These are the best performance SUVs to choose

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While manufacturers are constantly trying to make their SUVs as efficient as possible, often by fitting hybrid or electric powertrains, many have taken a different approach and set out in the pursuit of speed and sportiness. In a similar vein to carmakers turning everyday hatchbacks into hot hatches, now there is a subsection of the market that has taken all the practicality and space of SUVs, coupled it with sports-car performance and given rise to the hot SUV.

The fastest SUVsThe top 8 fastest SUVs

Performance or ‘hot’ SUVs aren’t usually quite as agile as the equivalent hot hatchback or sports saloon, and fuel economy won’t be great either, but thanks to clever tuning and powerful engines, they are more fun to drive than you might think. They’ll appeal if you can’t squeeze everything into a hot hatchback or you want a car with extra ride height.

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We’ve put together a list of the best sports and performance SUVs on the market right now and not all of them are lottery-win fantasies. There are a small handful of cars in this sector that start under £30,000 – less than a Volkswagen Golf GTI. At the other end of the scale, there are now brands such as Lotus known for their sports-car heritage trying their hand at creating mind-bogglingly quick SUVs – offering both supercar luxury and pace in a practical form factor.

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Keep reading to see which fast 4x4s are our favourites...

Cupra Formentor review – our favourite hot SUV

Best Hot SUV: Cupra Formentor
Carbuyer rating

4.2 out of 5

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The Cupra Formentor range consists of a surprising number of models but all qualify as sporty. Like plenty of other fast VW Group cars, such as the Volkswagen Golf R or Audi S3, the Formentor can be ordered with a fiery 2.0-litre petrol engine. In its most powerful form, this engine produces 306bhp, which is enough for a sub-five-second 0-62mph time.

If that’s too powerful or too expensive, then there are 187bhp and 242bhp versions of the 2.0-litre, plus an entry-level 1.5-litre and two plug-in hybrids that provide similar excitement while also enabling over 30 miles of electric driving. These will likely appeal to buyers who spend a lot of time around town, or company-car drivers who aren’t ready to give up the Formentor’s dynamic styling. The Formentor feels sporty inside and out.

Ford Puma ST SUV review

Ford Puma ST Powershift 1
Carbuyer rating

4.2 out of 5

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The Ford Puma ST is by far the least expensive car on this list but it’s earned its place here fair and square. Based on the sparkling, now-discontinued Ford Fiesta ST (our favourite hot hatchback until the Hyundai i20 N arrived), the Puma ST is just as good to drive but adds a welcome boost to practicality.

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Its 197bhp power output seems weedy compared to the other cars on this list but don’t be put off. Quick enough to put a smile on your face on a twisty B-road, the Puma ST will also manage 40mpg if you’re careful. Because it doesn’t have a vast power output, you can have fun without breaking the speed limit, although spec it in Mean Green paint and the punchy Puma is certainly likely to get attention.

Porsche Macan SUV review

Best Used Hot SUV: Porsche Macan
Carbuyer rating

4 out of 5

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One of the original and best performance SUVs, the Porsche Macan seemed to be just what buyers were looking for: it’s Porsche’s best-selling car. The quite un-Porsche-like diesel engine was dropped in 2018, so now the Macan is petrol-only. While the range starts off with the same 242bhp 2.0-litre engine you get in a Golf GTI, fast SUV fans will be more excited by the 434bhp GTS that gets from 0-62mph in the same time as an entry-level Porsche 911.

Perhaps what’s more impressive is how the Macan drives. Having been on sale since 2014, it’s still the class leader for driving experience – yet it also rides beautifully and can even venture off road. The V6 GTS sounds better than nearly all the Macan’s rivals, too. Now’s the time to buy a petrol-powered Macan because it will soon be replaced by a fully electric version.

Ford Mustang Mach-E SUV review

Ford Mustang Mach-E - front 3/4 dynamic
Carbuyer rating

4.1 out of 5

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When Ford announced that it would be using the sacred ‘Mustang’ nameplate for an electric SUV, cries of heresy were heard echoing across the automotive community. Yet despite its chunky bodystyle and lack of a growling V8 engine, the Mustang Mach-E offers almost as much driving excitement as its muscle car sibling.

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Despite weighing over two tonnes, all versions of the Mach-E handle incredibly well thanks to a low centre of gravity and a finely-tuned chassis. Top-of-the-range GT models are even more impressive, however; a dual-electric motor setup produces a monstrous 480bhp and gets the SUV from 0-62mph in just 3.7 seconds – even quicker than the V8 Mustang Coupe!

Tesla Model Y SUV review

Best Company Car: Tesla Model Y
Carbuyer rating

4.2 out of 5

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If we asked you to guess what the fastest-accelerating car in the world was, you’d be forgiven for guessing some kind of McLaren or even Bugatti. However, that prestigious title belongs to Tesla and while the Model Y Performance SUV isn’t quite as fast as the range-topping Model S Plaid saloon, it will still give supercars a run for their money. The Tesla Model Y Performance will get from 0-62mph in just 3.5 seconds – the same as a Ferrari Portofino.

Other than blistering acceleration, the Model Y has plenty more to offer in the form of cutting-edge tech. The 14-inch central screen is just as responsive as your smartphone and is packed full of cool and exciting features. Particular highlights include a built-in video game console and a ‘Careoke’ mode with which you can sing along to your favourite tunes.

Porsche Cayenne Coupe review - less practical, even more fun

Porsche Cayenne Coupe
Carbuyer rating

3.8 out of 5

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The Porsche Cayenne was one of the first cars to kick off the hot SUV craze, and it actually kept Porsche afloat during a tricky period for the company. Nowadays, there’s a second version available to capitalise on the emerging popularity of coupe SUVs. The Cayenne Coupe is almost identical to the standard car mechanically but comes with a lower roofline, which actually suits the enormous power options.

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It’s a little bit less practical than the SUV, as you’d expect, but there’s still plenty of space. The Coupe in Turbo form is fractionally quicker to 62mph than the Cayenne SUV, dropping under the four second mark, and Coupe buyers can also choose a range-topping Turbo GT with a monstrous 631bhp (capable of 0-62mph in just 3.3 seconds). Buyers who’d like performance and the possibility of low running costs can choose the E-Hybrid versions.

Jaguar I-Pace SUV review

Best Used Large Electric Car: Jaguar I-Pace
Carbuyer rating

4.1 out of 5

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Jaguar has a history of making great sports cars and it shows with the British marque’s first attempt at an EV. Despite debuting back in 2018, the Jaguar I-Pace is still one of the best-handling electric cars out there and is just as sharp on a twisty road as the brand’s own petrol-powered F-Pace SUV; this is thanks in part to the I-Pace’s suspension setup which is shared with the F-Type Coupe.

On the inside, the I-Pace is suitably luxurious and boasts several hi-tech touches such as a second full-colour touchscreen for the climate controls. For the full Jaguar sports car experience, you can also specify the I-Pace with grippy bucket seats to hold you in place when you’re going fast.

Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio review – a fast, fun-to-drive hot SUV

Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio front quarter dynamic
Carbuyer rating

4 out of 5

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Combining beautiful bodywork with a Ferrari-derived V6 engine, the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio is essentially a jacked-up sports car with five seats and a big boot. It remains something of a niche proposition, so you’ll be joining quite an exclusive club by choosing the Alfa Romeo over one of its Porsche Macan, BMW X3 M and Jaguar F-Pace SVR rivals.

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Updates in 2020 focused on improving the interior, because that was the area in which the Stelvio lost out to its many competitors. Material quality and the infotainment system both got a boost but, gladly, the 503bhp V6 engine was left alone. It sounds phenomenal and gets Alfa’s SUV from 0-62mph in just 3.8 seconds and onto a top speed of 176mph.

Skoda Kodiaq vRS SUV review

Skoda Kodiaq vRS - front 3/4 cornering
Carbuyer rating

4 out of 5

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We love the Skoda Kodiaq in standard guise, thanks to its seven-seat practicality, smart styling and accomplished drive. The Skoda Kodiaq vRS well and truly kicks it up a notch by offering all that in a sportier package. The Czech brand was keen to prove the Kodiaq vRS’ performance credentials by having it lap the Nurburgring, setting a new seven-seat SUV lap record – something for the owner to brag about down the pub.

While originally launched as a 236bhp diesel-only model, Skoda swapped the diesel engine for a turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine at the facelift, producing 242bhp through a seven-speed DSG automatic gearbox and capable of 0-62mph in 6.6 seconds. The Kodiaq vRS also gets sportier, more-aggressive styling compared to the normal car, and should be a hit with most drivers. If you’ve got a big family but need that sports car fix after you’ve dropped the kids off at school, the Kodiaq vRS might be the perfect compromise.

Lotus Eletre SUV review

Lotus Eletre SUV
Carbuyer rating

4.2 out of 5

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It may have proved controversial among Lotus enthusiasts when it was released, but we think the brand’s first electric SUV proves itself as a very compelling package. The Lotus Eletre is quite simply sensational to drive, and that’s a testament to a company moving away from its ethos of simplicity and lightness in sports cars, towards the heavy weight and complex technology of EV batteries and powertrains, let alone adding a practical SUV bodystyle on top.

The Lotus Eletre comes with twin-motor all-wheel drive with a total output of 595bhp in standard and S guise, propelling it from 0-62mph in just 4.5 seconds. If that’s not enough, there’s an even mind-bogglingly quicker version called the Eletre R with a whopping 893bhp that does the same sprint in just 2.9 seconds. For most people, though, the two lesser models will provide more than enough oomph. 

At just under £90,000, the Eletre isn’t particularly cheap, of course, but aside from its performance its interior trim and finish does a good job of living up to that high price tag – there’s extensive use of high-quality leather-look and Alcantara upholstery and fit and finish is impressive. If the Eletre is anything to go by, Lotus has a bright future ahead of it into the electric car age.

Looking to prioritise space over pace? Read our picks for the best large SUVs here...

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Charlie writes and edits news, review and advice articles for Carbuyer, as well as publishing content to its social media platforms. He has also been a regular contributor to its sister titles Auto Express, DrivingElectric and evo. As well as being consumed by everything automotive, Charlie is a speaker of five languages and once lived in Chile, Siberia and the Czech Republic, returning to the UK to write about his life-long passion: cars.

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