Top 10 best family SUVs 2021
There are so many family-size SUVs to choose from, so we've listed the ten best family SUVs to buy now.
There’s no real definition of a family car - you could argue that superminis, hatchbacks, saloons, estates, MPVs and SUVs are all up to the job, depending on your specific requirements. But demand for ‘family SUVs’ has exploded in recent years, and now there are a huge number to choose from.
Family SUVs have overtaken MPVs as the default choice for many buyers. SUVs still offer most of the practicality of a people-carrier, but offer a higher driving position and a rugged look, both of which appeal to a huge number of buyers.
Safety is understandably a key concern for family car buyers, so it’s reassuring to know that all of these cars were awarded five-star crash test scores by Euro NCAP.
SUVs are often thought of as big and expensive to run but that’s often not the case with modern ones, as many are based on standard hatchbacks. Four-wheel-drive models are more expensive to run than front-wheel-drive versions, but that’s merely an option on most of these cars and some don’t even offer it.
If you’re one of the thousands of buyers looking at family SUVs, you’ve even got a choice about the number of seats it’ll have. Most come with five seats and a big boot, but there are a number of seven-seat options if you need them. With all seats in place, few of them have a large boot, but these cars are more versatile as you can use the space for passengers or cargo.
We have plenty of other guides you’ll be interested in if you need a family car. Read our lists of the best large SUVs, best used seven-seaters, best MPVs and best family hatchbacks. Continue reading to find out more about the best family SUVs on sale:
The Peugeot 3008 has won our coveted Best Medium SUV award for several years on the bounce. Even now, it still looks fresh and new with bold styling, slim headlights and interesting design touches. Step inside and the visual interest continues; Peugeot’s current interiors are like no others. You look over the steering wheel at a standard-fit digital instrument cluster, and the buttons on the centre console are styled like piano keys. It all feels well screwed together, and has an impressive 85% rating for child occupant safety. The middle-seat occupant might feel like they’ve drawn the short straw on long journeys as the centre console juts into legroom, but it’s fine for shorter trips and every other occupant will have plenty of space to get comfortable. Behind the seats, the boot is larger than the SEAT Ateca and Nissan Qashqai’s at 520 litres, and the boot floor is almost flat when you fold the rear bench down.
Seven-seaters tend to be quite expensive, as they’re bigger and sometimes come with more features than five-seat SUVs. While the Kodiaq isn’t cheap, it is good value-for-money and can cost under £30,000 - and you can’t say that about many of the car’s rivals. It doesn’t get its impeccable score from just its value alone, though. It’s well-built and feels like it’ll easily stand up to the rigours of family life, and the interior space in the front and middle rows is excellent. The rearmost seats are suitable for children, or adults on short trips, and when you fold them down you’ve got access to a truly gargantuan boot. All Kodiaqs get the essentials and much more besides, but we think the lower trim levels provide the best balance of price and equipment. The 148bhp diesel engine is more than adequate power-wise, while managing up to 48.7mpg - a decent figure for a car as big as this one. There’s a driving position akin to a Range Rover’s, and the Kodiaq is far better to drive than you’d expect.
The quality of the Ateca suggests SEAT has a long history of making SUVs, but SEAT’s first SUV was only launched in 2016. Of course, sharing parts with the Volkswagen Tiguan gave SEAT an advantage, and the car costs less to buy than the VW. While a Peugeot 3008’s interior is more eye-catching, the Ateca’s is logically laid out and will be instantly familiar if you’ve driven other VW Group cars. Dual-zone climate control, parking sensors, cruise control and smartphone mirroring are all included as standard, alongside all the main safety systems, which helped to get the Ateca its five-star Euro NCAP rating. As you’d expect from a family SUV, there’s also plenty of room for a pushchair, a whole team’s sports kit or some flatpack furniture. The boot is a mere 10 litres smaller than the 3008’s, so it’s still bigger than the Renault Kadjar and Nissan Qashqai. You can fold the seats down from a lever in the boot, although you don’t get a flat floor. While it won’t be the highest priority for many buyers, the Ateca is also one of the best-driving SUVs of this size.
Whether you buy the SEAT Ateca or the Skoda Karoq might come down to which of their dealerships you prefer because the two are very similar - both mechanically and in terms of their styling. That means that the Karoq is surprisingly good to drive, has an intuitive, well-built interior and is really practical. The boot size is the same as the Ateca’s but most models come with VarioFlex seats that can move forwards and backwards to prioritise boot space or legroom. Headroom and legroom are both excellent in the rear seats, and wide-opening doors make it easy to get young children in and out. Skoda also includes a number of ‘Simply Clever’ touches, including a removable torch and an umbrella stowed under the seat. The Skoda is good value, with the mid-range SE L trim undercutting the equivalent Peugeot 3008 by over £1,000. Even the entry-spec SE comes with a similar spec list to the cheapest Ateca. At the top of the range, you can choose from rugged Scout, luxurious Edition and racy Sportline models, but these are a little at odds with the Karoq’s great-value proposition.
The C-HR is now hybrid-only but it’s still a good pick for higher-mileage drivers thanks to fuel economy of up to 58.9mpg. That’s applicable for the 1.8-litre powertrain, which is shared with the Toyota Prius, while the more powerful 2.0-litre version still manages over 54mpg. Coupled with an automatic gearbox, the C-HR is a great car for driving around town too. You’ll be sure to get plenty of admiring looks behind the wheel, as Toyota’s hybrid SUV is incredibly distinctive and looks more like a coupe than an upright SUV. But its sleek shape means the rear visibility isn’t great, and the boot is a little small at 377 litres - although there are plenty of storage spaces in the cabin and only a shallow load lip. The C-HR is a little more expensive than some rivals but makes up for it with standard kit including a reversing camera, LED headlights and auto windscreen wipers. We’d also recommend making sure you take the C-HR for a test-drive before you buy, as the CVT gearbox may not suit all drivers.
The latest Renault Captur may only represent an evolution of its predecessor in styling terms but there are plenty of improvements elsewhere. In fact, the changes make it one of the best small SUVs to buy. Despite being Renault’s smallest SUV, there’s a lot of space in the back seats and a generous boot. Handily, the rear bench slides fore and aft to make the best use of the space, so the boot offers between 422 litres (still more than a Skoda Kamiq) and 536 litres, which is rather impressive. Also impressive is the interior; it feels more upmarket than before thanks to plusher materials, and top-spec cars get an enormous 9.3-inch portrait touchscreen. Most buyers will favour the small turbo petrol engines, which are punchy yet reasonably economical, while a new E-Tech plug-in hybrid version will offer a decent electric range. A few small SUVs are more suited to keen drivers but the Captur is more refined and more comfortable - which we think will appeal to most buyers.
Enthusiasts were up in arms about the Ford Puma name being used on an SUV but Ford’s latest Fiesta-based SUV is already one of the best small crossovers you can buy. It looks better in the metal than it does in pictures and provides plenty of room for a family of four and their luggage - despite its compact dimensions. The 456-litre boot isn’t as generous as the Captur’s boot but is bigger than average, and there’s an 80-litre ‘MegaBox’ hidden below the boot floor that can be washed. You’ll instantly feel at home if you’re upgrading from a Fiesta (or, indeed, a Focus), as the interior shares many of the same components. All cars get an eight-inch screen on top of the dashboard, which incorporates smartphone mirroring and DAB radio (and sat nav on higher-spec models). Another thing shared with the Fiesta is the excellent handling, so the Puma is one of the best-driving crossovers on the market. The popular 123bhp 1.0-litre engine is also carried over but it can be had with mild-hybrid technology to reduce fuel consumption. This engine achieves over 52mpg, while going for the more powerful version only drops fuel economy by 1mpg.
The latest Volkswagen Tiguan is only slightly changed from the model that came before, but small tweaks were enough to keep it popular. The mechanically identical Skoda Karoq and SEAT Ateca may undercut the Tiguan on price, but the VW offers a slightly more upmarket experience that, for many buyers, is worth the extra money. It’s an easy choice if you’re coming from a Golf because it’s very similar but offers much more in the way of practicality. There’s up to 615 litres of boot space available, which is more than most rivals give you, and rear-seat passengers enjoy much more knee and headroom than the first-generation Tiguan. Volkswagen has also included a number of handy storage cubbies to stash away your odds and ends. Overall build quality is commendable, and the interior is built to the same standard as the Audi Q3 and BMW X1 - both of which are more expensive. The entry-level ‘S’ trim carries the essentials, while Match and SEL add many of the features that new car buyers expect.
The Kia Sportage is now a real contender in the family SUV class and was one of the best-selling cars in the UK in 2019 as a result. A wide range of trim levels caters to most buyers, but we think the ‘2’ trim offers the best value, as it still offers DAB radio, two-zone air con, sat nav and a reversing camera without breaking the bank. Value-for-money is even better when you consider the Sportage’s huge seven-year/100,000-mile warranty, and the diesel engines should be inexpensive to run because they use mild-hybrid technology to reduce emissions and fuel consumption. There’s lots of space inside, and a good-sized boot that ranges from 439-491 litres depending on the model. Owners are obviously impressed with Kia’s five-seat family SUV; it posted a 13th place finish out of the top 100 cars on sale in our 2019 Driver Power owner satisfaction survey, which is above most cars on this list.
We’ve praised the looks of the Peugeot 3008 further up this list, and the bigger 5008 doesn’t lose out much in the way of style. What it gains is versatility, with two extra seats and the option to flip them down for a vast 780-litre boot. Leg and headroom is excellent in the middle row (although the optional panoramic sunroof cuts into headroom), and getting into the rearmost seats is not too difficult. Space back there is a little tight, like it is in many of its rivals, but adults should be able to squeeze in for short journeys. Fold the middle seats down and you’ll have a van-like carrying capacity, although there are frustrating crevices between the seats that will swallow small items. The interior is shared with the 3008 and is beautifully designed. We think your passengers will be wowed when they’re on board, and the only thing we’d change is having proper climate control dials instead of accessing the temperature settings through the touchscreen. You might expect a big seven-seater like this to cost a lot to run, but the most economical diesel engine can manage over 56mpg and even some petrol models will hit 45mpg.