Kadjar vs Qashqai vs Sportage vs Tucson vs Kuga
We compare the Nissan Qashqai, Renault Kadjar, Ford Kuga, Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage to find the most family friendly compact 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?
What's more, their 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.
The original Nissan Qashqai was arguably the pioneer of the breed. Although compact SUVs had existed for many years before it arrived in the UK in 2006, the Qashqai bridged the gap between hatchback in a way never seen before and paved the way for other manufacturers to follow suit. Renault was one of the first and its Kadjar actually shares much of its structure with the current Qashqai – the two brands have a strategic partnership. Fuel economy and practicality are celebrated virtues of both models, but driving enjoyment isn't at the top of their priority list.
The same is true of two companies from South Korea, and the Kia Sportage and Hyundai Tucson have been fraternal rivals for many years. The Sportage has evolved from its more traditional SUV form and has shared its structure with the Tucson since 2004, incorporating many parts shared by Hyundai and Kia models. This is a boon to its user-friendliness, and both brands are renown for reliability and impressive customer support.
Ford was relatively late to join in – it sat the first round out, but clearly learned the rules as the game unfolded. When the Ford Kuga was launched in 2008, it promised the driving enjoyment of the Ford Fiesta and Ford Focus – and sharing underpinnings with the latter made sure that this was the case. That's potentially a risky strategy, though, and runs the risk of alienating those in search of fuss-free family comfort and everyday practicality. So can the Kuga match the Kadjar, Qashqai, Tucson and Sportage as an easy-going all rounder?
Kuga, Kadjar, Qashqai, Tucson and Sportage practicality
Image aside, practicality is the strongest asset an SUV can offer, but all five of these cars have their pros and cons. If your family is a little older, for instance, and you've a pair of gangly teenagers to drive around, the Ford Kuga beats the others by offering the most rear-seat headroom. It marginally beats the Tucson and Sportage in this respect, and leaves the Kadjar and Qashqai trailing.
None of these cars is terribly short on rear legroom, though; younger children will be comfortable in any of them. All five also offer an array of handy interior storage for odds and ends. The Kadjar leads in this regard, with 30 litres of cubby space, with the Qashqai following closely. The Kuga's front drinks holders earns it the nod over the Tucson and Sportage, although all offer more places for oddments than your average family hatchback.
The tables are turned where it comes to load capacity, Here, the 513-litre Tucson is by far the biggest – 10 litres more commodious than the Sportage. Despite structural similarities to the Qashqai, the Kadjar's rear end is longer and its 472-litre boot is the bigger of the two model, with the Qashqai's 430-litre trailing the pack.
The 456-litre Kuga offers the second-smallest boot, but slightly eclipses even the Kadjar when the rear seats are folded down. In fact, the Ford's flat, smooth-sided boot is among the easiest to load, although the rear seats fold flat with the floor in all five cars. On the whole, for its sheer versatility, the Hyundai Tucson takes this round.
Petrol fuel economy
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. The latter point applies to all the five cars in this comparison.
Despite the 1.3-litre petrol engines of the Kadjar and Qashqai being identical, the Renault will return 42.8mpg compared to the Nissan's 41.5mpg fuel-consumption figure - although you'd struggle to notice the difference at the pumps. Coincidentally, the Kuga, Sportage and Tucson have a pretty similar fuel-consumption figure, too – 35mpg for their 1.5 and 1.6-litre engines respectively.
These figures all apply to front-wheel-drive, manual-gearbox cars. Adding four-wheel drive or an automatic gearbox will increase fuel consumption, as well as increasing emissions and the Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) company-car tax that goes with them. Business users will probably like the Qashqai the most, as its low emissions mean it has the lowest BiK rate.
Diesel fuel economy
If you expect to make a lot of long, fast journeys and cover more than about 12,000 miles a year, the diesel engines are more likely to appeal. By far the most economical of these is the 1.5-litre dCi common to the Qashqai and Kadjar, which can manage 56.5mpg in the Kadjar – an impressive figure for an SUV.
The 51.4mpg 1.6-litre diesel in the Tucson is the best of the rest, beating the 50.5mpg Sportage and the 43.5mpg Kuga. One of the most economical engines is also the least polluting: the Nissan manages CO2 emissions of 100g/km. This means the diesel Qashqai occupies the same BiK bracket as the smallest petrol engine, even with the current 4% extra tax on diesel.
At the other extreme, if power is more tempting than economy, the Tucson and Sportage offer a more powerful diesel-engine options than any of the others. You can pick it with a 2.0-litre 182bhp engine as well as four-wheel drive and an automatic gearbox, but with MPG in the low forties, it'll be more expensive to run.
The two South Korean cars lead the pack when it comes to low insurance costs. The Sportage and Tucson both offer versions with an attractive group 12 rating from the ABI (the Association of British Insurers), both with the 114bhp 1.6-litre diesel engine.
The 1.5-litre petrol Kuga starts in group 14, but this figure rapidly increases if you upgrade from the Zetec trim level. That's the only trim that offers the 118bhp engine; the 148bhp version increases the rating to group 19. The 118bhp 1.5-litre diesel, however, is available across the range and starts in group 15.
The Renault Kadjar starts in group 17 for the new entry-level Play trim in 114bhp 1.5-litre diesel form, while the least powerful petrol begins in group 19. Its Qashqai sister, meanwhile, starts in group 14 whether you choose the least powerful petrol or diesel engine. This only applies to the high-specification Tekna model, though, whose driver assistance aids bring the insurance rating down from the Acenta's group 17.
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, Renault and Nissan, meanwhile, all have a three-year warranty, and all three carry a 60,000-mile cap. The Ford's mileage is unlimited in the first year, though.
Read our guide to the best family cars on sale now.