Best family SUVs in 2021 - and the ones to avoid

Want practicality, class and an elevated driving position in a relatively small package? Then these are the top 10 cars you should be looking at – and the ones that are best avoided.....

Deciding which car is best for transporting you and your family is one of life’s more important decisions. So, here we've gathered together our favourite family SUVs.

Best family SUVs

All of them cater well for the growing number of people looking for practicality, comfort and sensible running costs, but also a raised driving position and off-roader looks. And to help prevent you from making a big mistake, we've also named the models that are best avoided.

Finally, don't forget, if you decide one of the cars featured here is just what you're looking for, you could potentially save thousands without any haggling by using our New Car Buying service.  We start at number 10 and work our way up to our current favourite:

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10: Nissan Qashqai

Nissan Qashqai

What Car? Target Price from £21,978

The Qashqai is the car that started the trend for mainstream family SUVs and, as hard as it is to believe now, it was seen as something of a gamble when it was first introduced in 2007. Fortunately for Nissan, the blend of an elevated driving position and stylish looks made the Qashqai a huge hit. And while it's been surpassed by several rivals in the last couple of years, it remains a sound proposition, particularly if you choose the quiet and efficient 1.3-litre petrol version.

10: Nissan Qashqai

Nissan Qashqai interior

Pros
Big discounts
Quiet and smooth 1.3 petrol and 1.5 diesel engines
Surefooted handling and easy to drive

Cons
Top-end versions are very pricey
Ride comfort isn't great on 18in and 19in wheels
Reliability is a concern

9: Mercedes GLA

2020 Mercedes GLA front

What Car? Target Price from £29,803

Thanks to its combination of class and comfort, the latest GLA is an appealing and sound choice. Just bear in mind that some rivals are cheaper and more practical.

9: Mercedes GLA

2020 Mercedes GLA dashboard

Pros
Forgiving yet well controlled ride
Interior feels special
Good luxury and safety kit

Cons
A bit on the pricey side
Rear head room isn’t great
Closely related A-Class has below-par reliability

8: Audi Q3

Audi Q3 35 TFSI Sport S tronic [Comfort and Sound Pack]

What Car? Target Price from £28,400

Audi's second-generation Q3 offers a high-tech interior with plenty of space for both passengers and luggage. It's a decent car to drive, too, with composed handling and accurate steering. However, the ride can be a little firm and some of the bigger-selling engines can sound rough.

8: Audi Q3

Audi Q3 interior

Pros
Big boot
Impressive interior space
Relatively agile for a family SUV

Cons
Interior quality not up to usual Audi standards
Firmer ride than some rivals
Fiddly infotainment system

7: Peugeot 3008

Peugeot 3008 front - 69 plate

What Car? Target Price from £26,178

The 3008 taps right into the current trend for aggressive exterior styling, while its interior looks like something you'd see in a motor show concept, with its mix of unusual materials and avant-garde design. The 3008 also offers good ride comfort and handling, and a large boot, but mediocre rear leg room and a sluggish infotainment system stop it finishing higher on this list.

7: Peugeot 3008

Peugeot 3008 - interior

Pros
Stylish, high quality interior
Large and practical boot
Strong engines

Cons
Rear space isn't class-leading
Pricier than some rivals
So-so infotainment system

6: Volkswagen Tiguan

Volkswagen Tiguan 2020 Front 3/4 tracking

What Car? Target Price from £23,414

This one-time Nissan Qashqai and Kia Sportage rival has been reinvented as a more expensive SUV, so now it’s up against formidable prestige-badged competition such as the BMW X1 and Volvo XC40. Fortunately, the latest Tiguan builds on the strengths of the original, offering more space and comfort, and improved efficiency. Unfortunately (for Volkswagen), it has two sister cars that are cheaper to buy and just as capable.

6: Volkswagen Tiguan

Volkswagen Tiguan 2020 Dashboard

Pros
Handles well despite its size
Plenty of seating flexibility
Lots of standard equipment

Cons
Higher trims get pricey
CO2 emissions could be lower
Automatic gearbox is laggy

5: BMW X1

New Volvo XC40 vs BMW X1 vs Volkswagen Tiguan

What Car? Target Price from £27,542

Based on the same underpinnings as BMW's first MPV, the 2 Series Active Tourer, the X1 is a very practical choice that's available in both front- and four-wheel-drive forms. Just make sure you can live with the considerable amount of road noise it generates.

5: BMW X1

BMW X1 - interior

Pros
Fantastic infotainment system
High quality interior
Spacious and practical

Cons
Lots of road noise
Firm ride
So-so reliability

4: Seat Ateca

Seat Ateca 2020 rear cornering

What Car? Target Price from £20,264

The Ateca broke new ground for Seat, because the Spanish brand had previously built as many SUVs as it had spaceships. However, it proved well worth the wait, combining a spacious interior with best-in-class handling and much more attractive pricing than the closely related Volkswagen Tiguan.

4: Seat Ateca

Seat Ateca 2020 dashboard

Pros
Spacious interior
Surprisingly fun to drive
Keen pricing

Cons
Firm ride – especially with big alloys
Some rivals offer lower emissions
No clever seating tricks

3: Skoda Karoq

Skoda Karoq driving

What Car? Target Price from £22,765
Like the Ateca, the Karoq offers many of the best bits of the Tiguan for thousands less. And while it's the least sporty of the three to drive, overall it's the best all-rounder, offering a polished ride and clever rear seats that can slide, recline or be removed entirely. It also comes with more standard equipment than the Ateca.

3: Skoda Karoq

Skoda Karoq interior

Pros
Good to drive
Excellent space and seating flexibility
Smart-looking and sturdy-feeling interior

Cons
A Seat Ateca is more fun to drive
Avoid big wheels for the best ride comfort
Top models are rather expensive

2: Volvo XC40

Volvo XC40 front

What Car? Target Price from £25,420RRP 

The XC40 may have similar front and rear lights to the company’s other models to ensure a family resemblance, but the rest of the detailing and the overall proportions of the car are quite different; it certainly doesn't look as if Volvo has put the blueprints for the larger XC60 in a photocopier and set it to 75%. More importantly, though, the XC40 mixes its distinctive style with space, comfort, cutting-edge safety and relative affordability so ably that it's a former What Car? Car of the Year.

2: Volvo XC40

Volvo XC40 2020 RHD dashboard

Pros
Stylish and high-quality interior
Comfortable ride on most versions
Comprehensive safety kit

Cons
Lacks the rear seat flexibility of some rivals
Fiddly infotainment system
Road noise on the motorway

1: Range Rover Evoque

Range Rover Evoque 2020 front

What Car? Target Price from £32,100

It might well be the Evoque’s looks that first pique your interest, but it’s a sensational car on more objective levels, too. Good to drive, really posh inside and surprisingly practical, it even makes financial sense thanks to incredibly strong resale values and attractive monthly PCP finance costs. In short, it's the best family SUV you can buy today.

1: Range Rover Evoque

Range Rover Evoque 2021 dashboard

Pros
Great driving position
Well equipped
Slow depreciation

Cons
There are cheaper alternatives
So-so fuel economy and emissions
Land Rover’s reliability record

So what about the family SUVs to avoid? Read on

Mitsubishi ASX

Mitsubishi ASX

Although it's well equipped and has a decent infotainment system, there are too many areas in which the ASX is poor. Despite soft springing, it isn’t very comfortable, while the engine needs working very hard. Factor in tight rear head room and it’s a long way off the pace.

MG GS

MG GS

Unlike the ASX, the GS has a peppy engine and a very spacious interior. Unfortunately, the ride is poor and it feels very cheap inside. If you're on a tight budget, the Dacia Duster is a much better choice. 

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