Families and lifestyles come in all shapes and sizes and so cars do too. Sports Utility Vehicles, better known as SUVs, can give such families a level of comfort and convenience that most hatchbacks struggle to match. But with so many on sale, it can be tough to work out which is the best family SUV.
As a complete package, when coupled with the higher ride height, practicality and safety, SUVs are great family cars that suit a growing number of motorists, enough to become one of the most popular body shapes on the road. As battery technology gets better, there’s a variety of electrified versions too.
But which models available to buy really are the best for families? Parkers has put its considerable expertise to good use here and created this list of the top 10 family SUVs for UK buyers in 2023.
The best family SUVs
Editor's choice: Skoda Karoq
Our choice for THE best family SUV
The comfortable, calm vibes continue in the cabin too. The Varioflex seating system is especially flexible for families, offering a larger fifth removable seat. What’s more, the careful choice of interior materials offer both practicality and durability.
- Flexible rear seats
- No hybrid option
- 1.0-litre engine a little slow
Mercedes reinvents the MPV
A broad choice of engines, four trim levels and pleasing agility—despite its greater weight and height—means there’s much to smile about in this family wagon. Combine that with the capacious rear space, stunning standard in-cabin tech and superb safety features and, two years on, the GLB earns its place here too.
- Well equipped
- Seven seats in a compact package
- Third row best left to kids
- Not as flexible as a traditional MPV
<strong>The spacious choice</strong>
The Tucson has a very conventional drive, despite its daring exterior styling. The cabin sets a new benchmark for the brand in design flair and usability and it's intuitively laid out too. The five-year warranty is above the industry standard as well.
- Comfortable and spacious
- Mild, full or plug-in hybrid
- Not for keen drivers
- Unnecessary adaptive suspension
<strong>Adaptable all-rounder with striking design</strong>
Standard kit includes LED lights, intelligent cruise control and parking sensors, while options will integrate a swanky Bose sound system and massage seats. The interior space is great for four, less so for five, but a flexible boot system impresses.
- Quality interior
- Tech works well
- No high-performance or diesel models
- 1.3-litre mild hybrid is weak
<strong>Classy and comfy family SUV</strong>
Though there’s no pure electric model, the hybrid engines offer reasonable fuel economy—especially if you opt for the plug-in hybrid (PHEV). Though pricey, it could deliver as much as 80mpg if the battery is perpetually brimmed. When considered in the context of a seven-year warranty too, the Sportage is undoubtedly one for your shopping list.
- Lots of space for people and luggage
- Long warranty
- Overly light steering
- Pricey plug-in hybrid
Grown-up premium family SUV
There’s fierce competition in this space from the likes of BMW, Porsche and Volvo, but Land Rover has nailed the balance in the Evoque. It offers a capable family car with dynamic driving, well-considered interior trim and a decent amount of space. Granted, it’s not cheap, luggage space is a bit smaller than some (so possibly a better choice for smaller families) and reliability can be patchy, but a favourite, nonetheless.
- Comfortable and refined
- Luxurious interior
- Expensive to buy
- High running costs
<strong>Pragmatic and sensible family SUV</strong>
The Tiguan does cost a pretty penny more than its rivals. Yet, the VW reputation for reliability, safety and high quality interior finish helps to justify the additional expense. While touch-sensitive buttons are a common gripe of recent VW models, their presence isn’t a total dealbreaker.
- Generous interior space
- Wide range of engines
- Pricey against rivals
- Questionable interior switchgear
<strong>Punchy engines meet comfy cabin</strong>
Typical VW Group practicality, safety and convenience sees the Q5 boast decent levels of space, a pop-up bonnet for pedestrian protection and an electric tailgate. A stylish and well thought-out cabin with an intuitive infotainment system completes this holistic package. The Vorsprung trim adds wireless charging and a 360-degree parking camera, though these options can prove expensive when purchased separately.
- Composed ride
- Impressove tech
- Options costly
- As is the PHEV
The sensible choice
Though the infotainment offering will seem dated when compared with others on this list, it’s not outdated in the general schemes of things. Every trim level comes with roof bars, another string to the bow of practicality—especially for families.
- VW-based tech
- Decent to drive
- A bit dull
- Some engines are underpowered
<strong>The best for build quality</strong>
The NX has a seriously smart-looking cabin, comfortable enough for four, a commanding seating position and a much-improved infotainment interface. While rear vision is reduced physically, the high-tech suite attempts to offset any concerns using cameras and sensors.
- PHEV has a good EV range
- Exceptional build quality and reliability
- Confusing steering wheel controls
- Not especially inspiring to drive
Any other family SUVs to consider?
As mentioned above, the SUV market is big, broad and booming. Every carmaker has a plethora of sizes and so if you’re partial to a particular brand or need to upsize or downsize your SUV, there’s still plenty of choice.
Other mid-sized SUVs that we pored over include the BMW X3, Ford Kuga, Jaguar F-Pace, Skoda Kodiaq, Subaru XV and Volvo XC40, to name but a few. Each has a distinct USP for the right driver, but finding universal appeal is always a tougher job.
Why buy a family SUV?
The best family SUVs reduce the inconvenience of hauling parents, kids, pets and the relevant paraphernalia around while simultaneously minimising running costs.
Of course, some hatchbacks and estates can achieve the same thing, but SUVs have gained popularity bringing an increased sense of safety, even if stats don’t demonstrate any significant safety advantage.
SUVs also offer families the option of operating a two-car household, with a haul-all SUV and a smaller vehicle for cheaper local running around.
Aren’t SUVs really bad for the planet?
Not anymore. The vast range of SUVs have garnered such competition that there’s an competitive fierceness to minimise emissions, maximise fuel efficiency and play to all the best benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax advantages a car maker could muster.
While some SUVs are less friendly to your bank balance, those selected for this list bear in mind the strains on household budgets.