Best family SUVs 2023
Want practicality, class and an elevated driving position in a relatively compact and affordable package? These are the top 10 cars you should be looking at – and the ones that are best avoided...
Family SUVs are now the default family car of choice for an increasing number of buyers – and it’s not hard to understand why. They represent a huge bump in practicality over many hatchbacks, and their raised driving position makes many drivers feel safe and secure.
Other key factors that make family SUVs so appealing are a raised ride height for crossing muddy fields, extra headroom over sleeker saloons and well-shaped boots which are often the perfect height for changing in and out of wellies or muddy shoes.
The original Nissan Qashqai of 2007 is credited with kick-starting the family SUV market, and in the years since, the choice afforded to buyers is endless. Family-friendly SUVs start from the tiny city-car-sized Suzuki Ignis right up to luxury models like the Bentley Bentayga. There are sporty, coupe-like models such as the Cupra Formentor, and even a convertible in the shape of the Volkswagen T-Roc Cabriolet.
But here we’re rounding up the family SUV mainstays, the mid-sized models that are perfect for the typical family with 2.4 children. Our list includes electric SUVs and plug-in hybrid (PHEV) options, which make a lot of financial sense as company cars because of the low tax rates applied.
So what is the best family SUV to buy, then? Our expert team of reviewers rate the Kia Sportage as the best family SUV on sale today. They were bowled over by its breadth of talents, which we’ll discuss in more detail further down the page.
To help you decide which is the best family SUV for you, our expert road testers assess each car's practicality, durability and comfort, as well as rating its performance on the road and how it compares with its rivals for running costs and price.
Here's our current top 10 ranking of the best family SUVs available to buy new in the UK, plus two models we think you should avoid. You can read about each one in more detail in our full new car review, and find the latest offers through our New Car Buying pages.
To be the best family SUV overall is a very tall order, and every car on our list must be practical, comfortable and efficient. But the Kia Sportage beats them all by being the most complete package of the lot.
It’s comfortable and good to drive, with a settled ride and precise steering. Although there’s no fully-electric version, most petrol engines come with some kind of hybrid assistance, be that mild, full or plug-in. Indeed it’s that plug-in hybrid version that will be of particular interest to company car drivers. There’s even the option of four-wheel drive on top-spec models
Inside, the Sportage feels solidly built and plush where it matters, while it has the lofty driving position that so many SUV buyers seek.
The Sportage is also outstanding when it comes to practicality, with generous space for five people and a boot capable of swallowing an impressive eight carry-on suitcases. As a bonus, you get lots of kit for your money. Highlights of our favourite 3 trim include electrically adjustable, heated front seats and keyless entry.
- Lower spec models are great value
- Smart interior
- Generous rear leg room and boot space
- Hybrid petrol engine sounds strained
- Rear head room compromised with panoramic roof
- No clever rear seat functions
Genesis is a relative newcomer to the British new-car market, and is the upmarket sister brand to Hyundai and Kia. As a result, cars from the trio are similar meaning the Genesis GV60 is based on the same underpinnings as the Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Kia EV6. And despite being the least well known of the three, it's the GV60 that is the most compelling package of the three.
Its ride strikes a perfect balance between comfort and control, making it more refined than the EV6, with less lean than the Ioniq when cornering. All models are supremely fast, but we think the entry-level Premium model is best because it trades searing performance for improved range. So while it takes 7.5sec to accelerate from 0-60mph, it can travel 321 miles between charges.
Inside, the GV60 is by far the most plush of the trio and is adorned with a sensible combination of physical and touch controls, making it very easy to live with. Despite being shorter than its siblings, the GV60 manages to be practical, and the value for money the entry-level car represents makes it the best all-round electric family SUV.
- Wonderful interior
- Extremely quiet on the move
- Great infotainment system
- Boot isn't huge
- Rear space is average
- Optional cameras not as good as traditional door mirrors
The BMW iX3, like many other electric cars, are based on the underpinnings of petrol and diesel models. In this case, it shares many parts with the impressive BMW X3. But developing cars in that way can leave electric versions compromised.
Not so with the iX3, though. By placing batteries under the floor, there’s no impact on boot space or leg and head room for rear passengers, and you can even recline the outer rear seats – something you can’t do in the Mercedes EQC or Jaguar I-Pace. That 550-litre boot can swallow eight carry-on suitcases, which matches the Land Rover Discovery Sport, but is one less than the Audi Q5 can accommodate.
Like the X3, the iX3 is great fun to drive, feeling agile and alert through the bends, which is why we favour the more sporting feel of the M Sport trim. Its 0-62mph time of 6.8sec is brisk rather than thrilling, but of more interest to most family SUV buyers is the range. Officially it will cover 285 miles on a charge, more than both the Audi E-Tron and Mercedes EQC, although we found 210-220 miles is more likely during our testing.
Don’t fancy an all-electric model? Don’t worry, because we rate the BMW X3 just as highly.
- Longer range than most direct rivals
- Great infotainment system
- Comparatively well priced
- Not as fast as rivals
- Audi E-tron is quieter
- Tesla Model 3 has a longer range and faster charging
We named the Kia EV6 What Car? Car of the Year in 2022, and the striking electric SUV remains a fantastic all-rounder and excels as an electric family SUV. It’s proof that family SUVs can be handsome, spacious, good to drive and travel long distances – even if its price is a far cry from Kias of old.
The Kia EV6 shares its underpinnings with the Genesis GV60 and Hyundai Ioniq 5, but the Kia is the most fun to drive of the trio. Yet while its suspension is firmer than the Hyundai, some of our testers preferred the less floaty sensation. The stiffer setup does mean that cars like the Jaguar I-Pace and GV60 are slightly more comfortable, though,
The EV6's interior is very smart and user-friendly, while space is generous up front and there's limo-like leg room in the rear. The boot is a very practical shape, and large enough to swallow seven carry-on suitcases.
It's great to drive, too: it grips well, the ride is firm without being uncomfortable, and depending on the model you choose, the EV6’s performance is either decent or seriously quick. And the range is impressive, with our top choice, the entry-level EV6 RWD, covering 230-270 miles between charges in real-world use.
- Long range
- Fast-charging capability
- Long warranty
- Loads of rear legroom
- Shallow boot
- Not exactly cheap
- Slightly firm ride
In many ways, the Volvo XC40 is the purest essence of a great family SUV. The former What Car? Car of the Year blends the practicality, style and – of course – safety credentials for which Volvo is famed the world over. Just here, it’s scaled down into more compact dimensions that make it great for more congested environments.
Our favourite engine is the entry-level B3 2.0-litre petrol, because it has enough power for most buyers and keeps costs down. The driving experience is relaxed and comfortable, with an outstanding ride and a smooth automatic gearbox – you can no longer buy a manual XC40. It’s not as much fun to drive as the BMW X1, but it’s certainly quieter on the road.
The XC40 comes well equipped as standard, although we’d recommend upgrading to Plus trim, which adds heated front and rear seats, a heated steering wheel and ambient interior lighting. As you might expect, the XC40 scored a full five-star rating in the Euro NCAP crash tests, coming with a comprehensive suite of safety features including an automatic emergency braking (AEB) system which can detect cars, cyclists, pedestrians and even animals. Low depreciation means good PCP deals are available.
- Stylish and high-quality interior
- Comfortable ride on most versions
- Comprehensive safety kit
- Lacks the rear seat flexibility of some rivals
- Fiddly infotainment system
- Road noise on the motorway
With a sub-£40,000 starting price, the Skoda Enyaq is among the cheapest family electric SUVs on sale. Yet despite this, it’s still a superb all-rounder – and its ‘Simply Clever’ features such as a compartment in the driver’s door to store an umbrella, double seat pockets, folding tables and myriad storage compartments make family life that much easier.
The interior is handsome and the controls are well laid out. And importantly for a family SUV, it feels higher quality than the more expensive Ford Mustang Mach-E. The driving position is great – not lofty like a Range Rover, but higher than a Kia EV6 – and the seats are comfortable for most drivers.
Tech is mostly good, and isn’t afflicted with the unlit heater controls that vanish at night as you find in cars like the Volkswagen ID 4. A number of interior design flavours are available, buy we think if you’re choosing our favourite model, the iV 60, then the standard Loft trim is plenty plush enough.
To drive, the Enyaq isn’t what you’d call fun, but even the entry-level car will be perfectly quick for most people, and we managed 208 miles of range from the standard battery in real-world conditions. You can upgrade to a version with a bigger battery, a more powerful motor and four-wheel drive if you want a longer range or better performance.
- Extremely practical
- 80 version has an impressive range
- Comfortable and easy to drive
- So-so performance by electric car standards
- You'll want to add options
- Infotainment isn’t as responsive as rival systems
The Mercedes GLC is a strong performer in the family SUV class but it’s the plug-in hybrid version, badged 300e, which is particularly impressive, especially for those with short commutes to school or work, or for company car drivers.
That’s because it combines low company car tax bills with the promise of being able to travel around 80 miles on electric power alone – that’s further than pretty much any other plug-in hybrid on the market.
Away from the pragmatic, the GLC has a spacious and eye-catching interior with loads of on-board tech that's a big step up from the tough-but-dull look of some family-focused models. Our favourite AMG Line Premium even includes special glass that insulates you from heat and noise – a welcome feature if you have a young family and do lots of long journeys.
We were able to fit six carry-on suitcases into the PHEV 300e which has a slightly smaller boot than regular petrol-powered models. But there’s more outright space than you’ll find in the Audi Q5 or BMW X3.
- Well equipped
- Plug-in hybrid has impressive electric range
- Spacious interior
- Slightly firmer ride than rivals
- Stylish interior doesn't feel the most sturdy
- Petrol engines need working hard
Lexus has been building SUVs and hybrid models for years, but the NX was the first to be offered as a plug-in hybrid. But you’d be hard pressed to tell, because it’s a superb effort. As you’d expect, the Lexus NX 450h PHEV offers lower company car tax and the best efficiency, while the non-plug-in 350h is significantly cheaper to buy, and is still very efficient by class standards.
Both versions offer a refined ride, especially if you opt for smaller wheels, and the driving position should suit most people. Indeed, those front seats are some of the best you’ll find in any car because they’re extremely comfortable, provide excellent support and have a huge range of adjustment.
The rest of the interior is a delight, with a superb attention to build quality and tech that represents a huge leap forward over Lexuses only a few years old. Space in the front, rear and boot is perfectly respectable, too, and usually for a plug-in hybrid, the NX 450h has underfloor storage for its charging cables.
The NX comes well-equipped whichever version you choose, but we recommend the entry-level version of the 450h called Premium Pack. And we certainly recommend the optional larger touchscreen.
- Strong performance
- Promise of stellar reliability
- PHEV has an impressive electric range
- Petrol engine isn’t the smoothest
- Choppy high-speed ride on F Sport versions
- Takumi versions are pricey
The Audi Q5 is a stalwart of the family SUV class because it blends sportiness, usability with the upmarket look and feel many buyers seek. While there’s no electric version – you’ll need the slightly smaller Q4 e-tron for that – there is a comprehensive range comprising petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid models. That’s in addition to the high-performance SQ5 and Q5 Sportback coupé SUV, which we’ve covered separately.
The best choice for company car drivers is the plug-in hybrid model, but for all round ability (whisper it quietly), the entry-level diesel, badged 40 TDI, is our top pick. It feels strong and smooth, and makes for an excellent tow car, too. Ride quality is good, but depends on the trim you choose. Here, the expensive Vorsprung is best, closely followed by the entry-level Sport.
Yet it’s the S Line that’s our favourite because it has superb and supportive seats, LED headlights with beams that constantly adjust to avoid dazzling other motorists – and the sporty look that’s so popular with premium SUVs.
Space in the rear is a step behind the Volvo XC60, but there’s a decent amount of storage. The boot is great; we were able to squeeze nine carry-on suitcases inside, although plug-in hybrids’ boots are smaller.
- Smooth and punchy engines
- Good to drive
- High-quality interior
- Plug-in hybrid battery range could be better
- No seven-seat option
- Firmer ride on S line and Edition 1 versions
Despite a raft of newer models, the Ford Kuga was the fifth biggest-selling SUV in 2022, thanks to a wide range of engine choices, sporty driving characteristics, svelte styling and a huge dealer network.
That engine range encompasses (relatively) affordable petrol engines, a plug-in hybrid capable of travelling between 30 and 40 miles on a charge, and a full hybrid. It’s the latter that’s our favourite, particularly in racy ST-Line trim, because it offers the economy of a diesel without the requirement to plug in. It’s better value for private buyers than the PHEV and has a smooth yet punchy engine.
It has the lofty driving position buyers want, even if the space in the front seats isn’t as plentiful as you’ll find in some other cars here. Things are better in the back seats, which can slide back and forth to balance legroom and boot space. We managed to fit six carry-on suitcases, which is less than the Hyundai Tucson, but the boot is at least well shaped with no loading lip and is a good shape.
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- Competitively priced against rivals
- Plug-in hybrid offers a long electric range and low company car tax
- FHEV hybrid is cheaper than equivalent diesel, yet has similar economy
- Interior quality doesn't impress
- Relatively small boot
- Infotainment system isn't the slickest
And the family SUVs to avoid...
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