To some, particularly the keen drivers who make up much of the readership of Autocar, I can imagine a dynamic character like that may seem a bit of a turn-off. But then I’m a keen driver. All other things being equal, I’ll always take the better-handling option. And yet I’d take an XC40 over an X1, a CX-5 or any of the others at least partly because of the way it rides and handles. The XC40 is so deliciously grown-up, mellow, refined and relaxing as to boss the argument; to own it, really. Because, in all seriousness, how else would you really want a premium SUV to be?
The coarseness of the BMW’s run-flat-roar-ride and its failure to distance itself from hatchback- level spaciousness means it must finish third here. The greater value, practicality and dynamic roundedness of the Mazda secures a very honourable second. But the sheer dynamic fitness-for-purpose of the Volvo is the finishing touch that makes it a hugely deserving winner – and, I would have thought, one of 2018’s hottest automotive properties.
3rd BMW X1 xDrive25d M Sport - Fiery diesel a bit of a square peg in a round hole – but a welcome one. Short on SUV spaciousness, refinement
2nd Mazda CX-5 2.2d 175 4WD Auto Sport Nav - Beats the premium brands and shows where the value really lies. Practical, classy, torquey and rounded to drive
1st Volvo XC40 D4 AWD Auto First Edition - Has luxury, desirability, comfort and charm to spare. Superbly fit for purpose, and singularly refreshing with it
But what about the…?
JAGUAR E-PACE - Available with a 237bhp diesel engine that might just have given the X1 a run for its money – albeit at a price that would also have made most other things look cheap. We’ll never know because we’re still waiting for our first loan car, which is due next month. A full road test will be forthcoming.
RANGE ROVER EVOQUE - Undoubtedly a loss to this exercise. “I’m afraid we don’t have a diesel to lend you,” Land Rover claimed. It’s now more than six years old, but that didn’t stop Audi fronting up a Q3. Like the Jag, it would have been pricey – but a proper luxury product too.
JEEP COMPASS - A curveball we’d have liked to have thrown in but were denied the opportunity. The new Compass was launched to the press last year but wasn’t quite available to test as these words were written. Unlikely, perhaps, to have landed much on the favourites – but a £36k Trailhawk has its appeal.
HONDA CR-V - Long-lived old faithful would have stretched the test’s defining bounds of respectability on compactness, and its 1.6-litre diesel might have come up short on torque. That said, its roundedness and usability would likely have made sure it avoided the wooden spoon.