The UK and mainland Europe have something of a soft spot for SUVs. The segment has been growing steadily for years, but it has really taken off more recently. Manufacturers from across the spectrum have launched their own take on these high-riding, family-orientated cars, giving buyers more choice than ever before.
The ones listed here are just below average on the size chart, but are the most popular. Some even represent the best-selling SUV model for that particular brand. Customers expect Tardis-like space and premium-brand quality on the inside, as well as a commanding driving position and the compactness of an average family car to help keep palms dry in town and on narrow lanes. Here are our favourites.
Land Rover has seized the critical lead of the most important market segment in which it now plays with the second-generation Range Rover Evoque. Based on an all-new mixed-material platform, the car has adopted mild-hybrid engines and sits on a longer wheelbase than its predecessor for improved interior space without having grown significantly in any outward dimension. The Evoque derivative range has also recently gained an important plug-in hybrid entry, the Evoque P300e, which squeezes into the UK's 6% benefit-in-kind company car tax band.
The car has taken big leaps forward on mechanical refinement, interior space, luxury ambience and technological allure. While it isn’t the most practical car of its kind, it’s very competitive on that score, with plenty of room for adults in the second row – albeit behind a fairly high window line that restricts visibility a bit.
The D200 diesel engine is the best pick, providing strong drivability and better refinement than we’re used to from Land Rover’s four-cylinder diesels. The P300e model is also seriously impressive, with an exceptionally slick plug-in hybrid powertrain, strong electric range and engaging handling.
Having rather come of age as a Range Rover, the Evoque now represents as luxurious-feeling a car as it’s possible to buy in this class – and that’ll help justify what’s a fairly high price to a great many buyers.
Volvo’s first attempt at a compact sibling for its established XC60 and XC90 SUVs is a real success, and in the XC40, the Swedish marque has given us a car with the sort of instant kerbside appeal you’d expect of the class-leading act that it very recently still was.
With a design sufficiently charismatic and alluring to bring younger family buyers into Volvo showrooms, the XC40 backs up its funky exterior with a cabin of laudable richness, comfort, usability and quality. While this isn’t the most practical car in the compact SUV class, it certainly has plenty of luxury car ambience, not to mention all the in-car technology you’d hope for.