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The best SUVs to buy in 2024 - family-friendly hold-alls tried, tested and rated

  • Parkers ranks the Top 10 SUVs on sale
  • A wide range of budgets catered for
  • Petrol, diesel and EV all covered

Written by Graham King Published: 18 June 2024 Updated: 18 June 2024

It’s easy to see the appeal of the best SUVs. While they’ve evolved a long way from the working off-road and 4×4 vehicles of the past into the family-friendly lifestyle machines of today, by retaining high-riding practicality and an image of rugged capability they offer a do anything pragmatism that other types of car can’t match. No wonder SUVs have become the default choice for so many buyers.

With such popularity comes an almost overwhelming range of SUVs to choose from. But this is where we at Parkers are here to help. We’ve driven multiple versions of every example currently on sale in the UK, and on this page you’ll find our Top 10 SUVs across the entire spectrum.

And SUVs do come in many different sizes. Yes, there are still big, gas-guzzling luxury SUVs, but even the real whoppers can be remarkably efficient these days. Meanwhile, at the other end of the scale, there are dozens of small SUVs, perfectly sized for single people, couples and modest families. Larger broods will be better served by proper family SUV models, or maybe even a seven-seater SUV if you need extra space.

Electric SUVs are increasingly popular, too. You’ll find our pick of the very best of all of these in this article. So read on to take your first step towards finding the perfect SUV for you, gleaned from decades of reviewing experience – read our how we test cars page to see how we came to these conclusions.

Top 10 SUVs 2024

Brilliant small SUV that's great to drive and practical, too

In our opinion, the Ford Puma is greatest all-round SUV choice on the market, blending performance with value and fitness for purpose almost perfectly. Take the Megabox in the boot, for example. This is a huge storage compartment found under the boot floor, made from plastic and fitted with a drain plug - so you can chuck whatever you want inside and worry about hosing it out afterwards. A boon for busy families.

The main boot is a useful size and there’s decent space inside the passenger compartment for four occupants. Interior quality could be better, but the dashboard is very user-friendly and stocked with all the latest essential technology. What's more, the Puma’s great to drive, feeling almost as playful as the Ford Fiesta that used to share the same underlying platform. The 1.0-litre EcoBoost mild-hybrid engine is a peach and very efficient, too.

To find out more read our full Ford Puma review

Pros

  • Great to drive
  • Economical mild-hybrid engines
  • Ingenious Megabox boot

Cons

  • Disappointing interior
  • No plug-in or electric versions – yet

Family-friendly crossover is one of the best electric cars available right now

The Kia EV6 is an all-electric SUV that's low-slung by the sector's standards but vast compared with a conventional family hatchback. It's proving to be a real success story for Kia, attracting buyers from traditionally far more prestigious brands by demonstrating a great blend of performance and value. It's the reigning Best Large Family Car in the Parkers Awards and a very fine machine.

Key to its appeal is that every model has a driving range of well over 300 miles. Charging times are fast, too. It’s also spacious, feels surprisingly athletic from behind the steering wheel, and it’s a quiet and comfortable cruiser. Just a shame the dashboard layout doesn’t entirely make sense.

To find out more read our full Kia EV6 review

Pros

  • Long EV range
  • Useful practicality
  • Great to drive

Cons

  • Not as high-riding as some SUVs
  • Dashboard could be more user-friendly

Still one of the best seven-seat SUVs

It may be getting on in years but the Volvo XC90 remains one of the very best SUVs if you need seven seats. It’s one of few such cars that genuinely has space for seven six-foot tall adults and the seating layout is very flexible, so you can create a configuration with the ratio of passenger and boot space that best suits your needs. There’s no real loss of space in plug-in hybrid models, either.

As you’d expect of a Volvo, it’s very comfortable to travel in and the interior feels premium in a distinctively Swedish way. The screen-based dashboard controls won’t suit everyone, but the system is actually quite easy to use and doesn't require much of a learning curve. It’s surprisingly efficient for a big SUV, as well, but not as exciting to drive as other premium models - such as the BMW X5.

To find out more read our full Volvo XC90 review

Pros

  • Genuine seven-adult space
  • Big boot
  • Comfortable

Cons

  • Soon to be replaced
  • Not exciting to drive

A cleverly thought-out family-size SUV

The Skoda Karoq earns its place on this list of the best SUVs by being a comfortable, practical car that takes the job of making your life easier very seriously. The Nissan Qashqai may be the big seller in the family SUV space but this Skoda truly is one of the great all-rounders. The Karoq is hugely spacious for a midsize SUV with class-leading boot space; spec the Varioflex back seats and the layout’s as flexible as an old-school MPV.

The dashboard is a masterclass in ergonomics and there are lots of Skoda’s Simply Clever features, including some ingenious storage compartments. The ride’s very comfortable, it handles neatly and the 150hp engines combine useful performance with strong fuel economy. Meanwhile, four-wheel-drive diesels have an impressively high towing capacity of 2100kg.

To find out more read our full Skoda Karoq review

Pros

  • Super comfortable
  • Rugged, no-nonsense interior
  • Great visibility

Cons

  • 1.0-litre engine sluggish on motorways
  • No plug-in versions available

A luxury car that can climb a mountain

While the regular Range Rover is Land Rover’s most luxurious model, the Range Rover Sport reaches almost the same levels of cossetting prestige while also delivering a sharper, more satisfying driving experience – at a more affordable price. And don’t let the dashing looks fool you, it’s still a seriously capable off-roader as well.

If off-roading is important, the Land Rover Defender is the ultimate choice, and the brand’s bestselling model – the chunky styling, lifestyle image and utility you get from the Defender clearly ticking the right boxes for many buyers. But for us, the extra layer of sophistication you get from the Sport would see it get our money.

To find out more read our full Range Rover Sport review

Pros

  • Luxurious and good to drive
  • Elegantly understated design
  • Still unstoppable off-road

Cons

  • Image won’t suit everyone
  • Some build quality issues

The best small electric SUV

If you’re looking for a small SUV that’s powered by an electric motor then a Smart #1 – or the closely related Volvo EX30 – is the place to start. With far greater power and driving range yet a similar price, it makes the rival efforts from the Stellantis group of companies (including the Fiat 600e and Jeep Avenger) look decidedly poor value.

Especially when you consider the Smart comes loaded with standard kit. There’s a lot of interior space, too, though you will have to put up with a rather small boot, and some of the safety software is a little irritating. We’d take the #1 over the EX30 because the Volvo puts all its interior controls into a touchscreen. Prefer a sportier look? The Smart #3 is the same thing with a coupe roofline.

To find out more read our full Smart #1 review

Pros

  • 270-mile driving range
  • Strong performance
  • Lots of standard kit

Cons

  • Small boot
  • Avoid the Brabus model

Get past the styling and this is a very fine electric SUV

Whether or not you like the way it looks, there’s no denying that the BMW iX is a deeply impressive bit of kit. It’s one of the best SUVs to drive – electric or not – with big performance and great refinement, while the stylishly minimalist interior is a lesson in making cutting-edge infotainment tech as easy to use as possible. There’s generous space for five adults, though the boot is quite small for a car this size.

As for the driving stats, xDrive40 models with the smaller 76.6kWh battery have a range of 249 miles on the WLTP cycle, while the xDrive50 can manage 380 miles on its 100kWh battery. The sheer size of the batteries means it can take a while to fully charge, but this is a small price to pay when everything else about the iX is so outstanding.

To find out more read our full BMW iX review

Pros

  • Long range from big battery
  • User-friendly tech
  • Lots of passenger space

Cons

  • Chintzy looks
  • Small boot

Easy-to-live-with large SUV that happens to be electric

As with all other Skoda's, the all-electric Enyaq is a car designed by people who really care about making motoring as easy as possible, especially when the family is in tow. What's especially great about this one is that it adds a real sense of style as well, not to mention properly competitive EV driving range performance; big-battery Enyaq 80 models have well over 300 miles of claimed range (280+ in the real world).

The Enyaq's practicality is underlined by offering space for five adults and a two-Labrador boot. The dashboard is another lesson in ease-of-use - though a lot of features you actually want are only on top trim levels or optional. The ride is smooth and quiet, and the handling is neat enough that the overall package gives very few reasons for complaint.

Read our full Skoda Enyaq iV review

Pros

  • Spacious interior and big boot
  • Lots of trim and equipment options
  • 300-plus miles of range with big battery

Cons

  • Not particularly brisk for an EV
  • A lot of kit isn't standard

Exquisite quality with excellent efficiency

The old Lexus NX was a bit of an also-ran among its posh compact SUV peers, but this latest version – the second generation – goes straight to the top of the class. Why? It’s wonderfully comfortable and very quiet on the move. There are self-charging and plug-in hybrid powertrains available, the latter has a usefully long EV range of 40 miles.

Then there’s the interior, which looks fantastic and is exquisitely made from a palette of very high quality materials. Loads of tech, too, though some of the controls are a bit annoying. Space and practicality are perfectly adequate for a family car.

To find out more read our full Lexus NX review

Pros

  • Comfortable and refined
  • Fabulous build quality
  • PHEV has good electric range

Cons

  • Only average practicality
  • Frustrating steering wheel controls

A full-size SUV that drives like a sports saloon

You expect a BMW to be great to drive, but even so it’s remarkable how nimble and poised a car as big as the BMW X5 feels. Yet it doesn’t trade comfort for that handling. The engines provide a considerable turn of speed, too. They include petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid options; the latter has a claimed WLTP range of 54 miles in EV mode, and we've gotten very close to this in testing, even in winter.

Let’s not forget the ludicrously fast X5M, either. Inside the X5, there’s generous space for five adults and a massive boot. It’s rather luxurious, too, and the infotainment system is packed full of tech. It’s controlled by the classic iDrive click wheel, via the touchscreen, or voice commands, or gesture. Only the Porsche Cayenne is better to drive, and that's not quite such a great all-rounder.

To find out more read our full BMW X5 review

Pros

  • One of the best SUVs to drive
  • Great EV range from PHEV
  • Strong family car capability

Cons

  • Big and unwieldy in town
  • Divisive styling

FAQ: SUV questions answered

What does SUV stand for?

SUV stands for Sport Utility Vehicle. They come in many different sizes but they’re all linked by their high ride-height. The term SUV has been used for over 30 years. Originally coined in America, it was applied to four-wheel-drive cars with an emphasis on road-going comfort as well as off-roading ability. By contrast, many modern SUVs have no off-roading ability at all, indeed some are little more than tall hatchbacks and estates with the rugged look of a car that could go off-road. But that style is a big part of SUVs’ appeal to so many buyers.

Are all SUVs 4×4?

No. There was a time when pretty much every SUV had four-wheel-drive and could take you quite a long way into the wilderness. While there are still some SUVs that can do that – exemplified by the Land Rover Defender and Toyota Land Cruiser – that’s not really the point of these cars anymore.

If an SUV is fitted with four-wheel-drive – and many are – it’s there to improve traction on slippery roads and grip in corners. The vast majority of SUVs available to buy new at the moment are only two-wheel-drive.

Do SUVs flip easier than cars?

Not these days. Back in the 1980s, when the popularity of SUVs boomed, they earned a reputation for flipping over in emergency manoeuvres. Back then, though, SUVs tended to be top-heavy, had basic suspension, no electronic driver aids and very low handling limits. The safety of modern SUVs has taken a quantum leap forward.

Their suspension is much more sophisticated, they carry their weight lower down and they have an alphabet soup of acronymed stability aids to keep you on the straight and narrow. They do still have a relatively high centre of gravity which causes more body roll in corners, but something has to go drastically wrong to flip a modern SUV.

Is an SUV a good first car?

Absolutely. Small SUVs in particular are just as easy to drive as a hatchback of similar size. In fact, they’re arguably easier because their higher seating position gives better visibility – a key factor in the appeal of SUVs generally. Some brand-name driving schools have recognised the growing popularity of SUVs, as well. You’ll often see their instructors teaching learners in cars such as the Ford Puma.

Which is better: an SUV or MPV?

Also known as people carriers, MPVs were the car of choice for many families until the SUV took over in the late 2000s. You can read about the best MPVS on Parkers, but they’re now vastly outnumbered by SUVs. Which is better depends on your priorities.

If you need a car with maximum space for passengers and luggage, an MPV is still your best bet, van-based ones especially. There are plenty of SUVs with loads of space and big boots, but they ultimately can’t match the sheer volume and flexibility of an MPV’s interior. If, however, you need to tow or traverse rough roads, an SUV will be better for you.

What is a compact SUV/mini SUV?

Any SUV that’s less than about 4.2 metres long can be called a compact SUV, which makes them roughly the same size as a supermini hatchback. Indeed, many compact SUVs share their platforms with superminis. Popular ones include the Ford Puma and Renault Captur. There is some flexibility to that definition, though. Add in the word ‘premium’ or ‘luxury’ and the size boundary stretches up to about 4.5 metres.

What is a crossover?

It’s interesting how the language around SUVs is changing. For a brief period, the word ‘crossover’ was applied to SUVs that made no pretence of having off-road ability. We’re talking about cars such as the original Nissan Qashqai, Renault Kadjar and Lexus RX. But ‘crossover’ has already largely fallen out of favour. Most manufacturers now just use the term SUV, so that’s what we do at Parkers.

Why are SUVs so expensive?

It’s no secret that an SUV costs more than an equivalent hatchback, saloon or estate. For instance, an entry-level Ford Kuga costs around £6,000 more than the equivalent Focus. That’s partly because more material goes into building an SUV, but there’s also a premium to pay for the desirability of SUVs.

Higher prices mean SUVs are more profitable for car manufacturers, and many of them are refreshingly up front about that fact. For instance, Ford cited the greater profitability of the Puma compact SUV as one of the reasons it has stopped production of the Fiesta supermini.