Top 10 best mid-size SUVs on sale 2021
The sheer variety of mid-size SUVs on sale means buyers are spoiled for choice. These are our favourites
Gone are the days when a large saloon, estate or people carrier was the dream choice for those with a family, now mid-size SUVs have taken over thanks to a high driving position, an abundance of interior space and that fashionable image.
Thanks to the growing popularity of mid-size SUVs, competition is extremely close, and each new model that enters the sector has to have genuine ability to succeed. And there are an awful lot of different cars to choose from in this class.
But which model should you buy? To help you decide we’ve picked out the top 10 best mid-size SUVs on sale right now, focusing on what to look for and which engine and trim combinations are the best picks.
Rest assured, every option in our rundown offers space, efficiency, technology, practicality, enough performance and a mix of handling, refinement and comfort in different quantities; which model you choose will depend on what you prioritise from your new-car purchase.
With manufacturers looking to shift cars to make up for interrupted sales due to Covid-19-related restrictions, it’s a buyer’s market, so shop around and don’t be afraid to try and negotiate a deal on a new vehicle.
Best mid-size SUVs for a family
If you’re buying any car that will most likely be used as family transport, such as with one of these mid-size SUVs, the obvious thing is to take your family along when you have a test drive.
Check they’ll fit, and find out if you can easily install any child seats you might be using at the time. This is often made easier with SUVs because they sit higher up from the road, so you don’t have to bend down as far to install them, and the doors tend to open wide for better access. Every car in our list features Isofix mountings, and it’s also worth checking that any items you might need on a family day out will fit in the boot.
Whether you buy with cash or on finance, if you’re committing to spending a significant chunk of cash on your new family SUV then you’re well within your rights to test it out. Any dealership that wants your business should oblige by giving you some time to do exactly this. Check that you and your family like the comfort on offer, too, and that everyone feels comfortable in it.
One more thing worth doing, as with any new-car purchase, is to check the spec and options fitted to the car that you test, and make a note of any features or extras that you like and feel might be a help in everyday life.
Top 10 best mid-size SUVs
Click the links above or scroll down to find out more about the best mid-size SUVs on sale…
|Engines:||1.6-litre petrol, 1.6-litre mild-hybrid petrol, 1.6-litre hybrid petrol, 1.6-litre petrol-electric plug-in hybrid|
|Trims:||SE Connect, N Line, N Line S, Premium, Ultimate|
The arrival of the fourth-generation Hyundai Tucson instantly made every other family SUV look rather conservative. Each side features more creases than an origami swan, and there’s the option of a smart-looking contrast-coloured roof. Chrome touches add visual flair, while Hyundai’s designers have been praised for the Tucson’s front end. The way the lights join the grille is like no other car on the road, making the Tucson look like it’s zoomed in from 2050.
Its powertrains are similarly forward-facing, with three out of four engines electrified. In fact, all Tucsons come with a 1.6-litre petrol engine, and then you can choose how much hybridisation you’d like. Above the standard engine is a mild-hybrid version with a tiny battery, then there’s a full hybrid version and lastly a plug-in hybrid Tucson with a 31-mile electric range. We think its next-generation looks deserve a fully-electric option, though.
Almost every carmaker seems to be targeting ‘premium’ models at the moment, and Hyundai is no exception. And Hyundai has arguably done a better job of a premium interior than many family-size SUVs, with a sweeping centre console and a cowl-less digital instrument cluster perched behind the steering wheel.
Add in a huge boot (between 558 and 620 litres depending on the engine you choose), lots of space inside and a decent towing capacity, and the Tucson ticks an awful lot of boxes.
Land Rover Defender
|Engines:||2.0-litre petrol, 3.0-litre mild-hybrid petrol, 5.0-litre V8 petrol, 3.0-litre mild-hybrid diesel, 2.0-litre petrol-electric plug-in hybrid|
|Trims:||Defender, S, SE, HSE, X-Dynamic, X-Dynamic S, X-Dynamic SE, X-Dynamic HSE, XS Edition, X, V8, V8 Carpathian Edition, Hard Top|
It took a few years for Land Rover to produce a worthy successor to the classic Defender, which isn’t surprising given the gruelling testing regime that spanned every terrain the world has to offer and even a stint around the Nurburgring. And the result is that the new Defender is just as adept off-road as its predecessor, while being vastly improved on tarmac.
There will still be people who prefer the old car, but Land Rover couldn’t continue producing a car with a decades-old interior, compromised road manners and agricultural engineering indefinitely. The new one is right up to date in terms of technology, and offers a much more luxurious and spacious cabin. Prices have risen as a result, but most people who actually buy Defenders are used to premium materials and decent refinement.
The Defender is still a brilliantly characterful car, and it manages to feel different from the Discovery on which it’s heavily based. Fuel economy is still pretty low down on the priority list, but now there’s a plug-in hybrid that offers the opportunity for zero-emission town driving. The Defender is quick, too, if you want, thanks to the ultimate 518bhp V8 petrol model.
Skoda Enyaq iV
|Engines:||62kWh electric motor, 82kWh electric motor|
|Trims:||60, 80, 80 SportLine|
The Skoda Enyaq may be the company’s first car designed from the outset to be electric, but it doesn’t change the recipe that has made the Karoq and Kodiaq so popular. That’s a good thing; the Enyaq is practical, smart-looking and good value compared to its rivals. It makes the jump to electric cars painless, and could tempt many more families to swap to a car that’s recharged instead of refuelled.
Two battery sizes are available, with up to 256 or 333 miles on a full charge respectively. Even the smaller ‘60’ battery should provide enough range for the majority of buyers, especially with fast-charging capability. Upgrading to even faster 100kW charging costs just £440, giving an 80% top-up in just over half an hour. And with two large battery choices, this is an electric car that doesn’t come with range anxiety.
The range is simply split into standard and Sportline versions, with the former offering a choice of interior themes designed to feel like a living room. It sort of works, with the cabin exuding a relaxing feel and being lined in premium-feeling materials. There’s lots of standard equipment, including the biggest screen Skoda has ever fitted in its cars, although top-spec cars are a bit expensive for our liking at over £42,000. The model with the smaller battery starts from £10,000 less, as it’s eligible for the plug-in car grant.
|Engines:||2.0-litre mild-hybrid petrol, 3.0-litre mild-hybrid petrol, 2.0-litre mild-hybrid diesel, 3.0-litre mild-hybrid diesel, 2.0-litre petrol-electric plug-in hybrid|
|Trims:||xLine, M Sport, M40d, M40i|
A combination of interior luxury, engaging driving dynamics and plenty of space have helped make the BMW X3 a firm Auto Express favourite. Thanks to a recent facelift and a frugal plug-in hybrid, the BMW is even more appealing.
There’s more cutting-edge technology, including an intuitive infotainment system and the option of crisp TFT dials. Happily, the German machine remains as versatile as ever, with a roomy interior packed with handy storage and a usefully shaped 550-litre boot.
Precise steering and agile handling make the X3 more fun to drive than most, even with a ride that’s a little on the firm side. If there’s a black mark against the BMW, then it’s the premium price – although for many buyers, the cost will matter less than the upmarket trimmings.
|Engines:||2.0-litre mild-hybrid diesel, 3.0-litre mild-hybrid diesel, 2.0-litre petrol, 3.0-litre mild-hybrid petrol, 2.0-litre petrol-electric plug-in hybrid|
|Trims:||F-Pace S, SE, HSE, Dynamic S, SE, HSE, SVR|
Our 2016 Car Of The Year continues to be one of the best mid-size SUVs you can buy. It was refreshed in 2020, with the update bringing smarter exterior styling and a new infotainment system. Now running JLR’s latest Pivi Pro system, the F-Pace’s screen is much more pleasant to use than before.
There are plenty of engines to choose from, starting with a reasonably efficient if not particularly brisk diesel engine, and ending with a 543bhp V8-engined SVR model. We’d pick something between the two, while now there’s a plug-in hybrid with lower running costs and decent performance.
Whichever F-Pace you pick, you’re guaranteed a great driving experience as the Jaguar handles better than nearly all its main rivals. It shares a platform with the XE and XF, so feels very car-like to drive and it remains composed over bumpy surfaces.
|Engines:||1.3-litre mild-hybrid petrol|
|Trims:||Visia, Acenta Premium, N-Connecta, Premiere Edition, Tekna, Tekna+|
If there’s one car that can be credited with the sheer number of SUVs on sale now, it’s the Qashqai. Now in its third generation, the SUV’s blend of style, technology and practicality makes it one of the most desirable family cars on sale, if no longer one of the most ground-breaking.
It’s clearly related to previous Qashqais, but the latest one looks a lot sharper, while inside its well designed dashboard features plenty of soft-touch materials. There’s a decent amount of space and a generous 504-litre boot, while all but the cheapest cars get an eight-inch touchscreen, plus a reversing camera and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto compatibility.
It’s not as entertaining to drive as a SEAT Ateca, but the Qashqai is composed and comfortable. There’s only one engine for now - a mildly electrified 1.3-litre petrol engine that saw duty in the last Qashqai too - but an interesting e-Power hybrid is joining the line-up in 2022. This promises the fuel efficiency of a diesel engine and the driving experience of an electric car.
|Engines:||1.5-litre petrol, 1.5-litre diesel, 2.0-litre diesel, 2.0-litre mild hybrid diesel, 2.5-litre petrol-electric hybrid, 2.5-litre petrol-electric plug-in hybrid|
|Trims:||Zetec, Titanium Edition, ST-Line Edition, ST-Line X Edition, Vignale|
It’s taken a while, but finally Ford is riding the crest of a crossover wave. For years its SUVs have struggled to impress, but with the arrival of the perky Puma and capable Kuga, the firm has a pair of contenders to take on, and beat, the best.
Underlining the Kuga’s credentials as a class leader is its range of electrified engines, which includes the option of mild, full and plug-in hybrid technology. The latter has had some trouble, but is in the process of being rectified free of charge to owners, with compensation from Ford, too. The PHEV can travel up to 35 miles on electricity and emits just 32g/km of CO2.
Whichever engine you pick, you’ll benefit from Ford’s trademark quick steering and agile handling that’ll make you relish the thought of tackling a favourite back road. Yet the supple suspension and hushed refinement keep you relaxed on long-haul journeys and during the daily grind.
Inside, the Kuga combines impressive space and tech, while the slick infotainment is a doddle to use. Factor in the attractive pricing and low running costs, and it’s easy to see why the Kuga is our top choice.
|Engines:||1.0-litre petrol, 1.5-litre petrol, 2.0-litre petrol, 2.0-litre diesel|
|Trims:||SE, SE Drive, SE Technology, SE L, Sportline, Edition|
In recent years Skoda has transformed itself into an SUV specialist, offering a range of rugged family cars that effortlessly combine style, space and attractively low running costs. One of the Czech firm’s standout performers is the brilliant Karoq.
As with all the best family cars, the sharp-looking Karoq feels like it’s been designed from the inside out. Its spacious interior is robustly built, well equipped and features smart design, while neat details include the numerous storage compartments and, the Vario Flex sliding rear seat on some models.
There’s the usual range of TSI petrol and TDI diesel engines, all delivering decent efficiency, refinement and eager acceleration – although the entry-level 1.0 TSI can struggle with heavy loads. Precise steering and grippy handling mean the Karoq is a pleasure to drive, and although the ride is a bit firm, it’s by no means uncomfortable.
Factor in Skoda’s usual strong display in our Driver Power satisfaction surveys, and it’s not hard to see why the Karoq is one of our favourite mid-size SUVs.
|Engines:||1.2-litre petrol, 1.6-litre petrol, 1.5-litre diesel, 1.6-litre petrol-electric plug-in hybrid|
|Trims:||Active Premium, Allure Premium, GT, GT Premium|
Peugeot is on a roll at the moment, and it’s arguable that the excellent 3008 started it all. Now there’s a still more desirable facelifted model that blends even sleeker design with the same family-friendly practicality and affordable running costs.
At the heart of the car’s appeal is its distinctive interior design that manages to rival premium models for fit, finish and technology, especially the distinctive i-Cockpit layout with its 3D TFT dials and upgraded infotainment.
There’s bags of space too, with loads of useful storage and a flat floor in the rear that makes carrying three adults a doddle. Open the large tailgate and you’ll find a 591-litre boot – one of the biggest in the class. You sit high behind the wheel for a commanding view, and while the 3008 isn’t as agile as a SEAT Ateca, the trade-off is a supple ride that effortlessly deals with rough tarmac.
There are a number of refined petrol and diesel engines to choose from, plus two and four-wheel drive plug-in petrol-electric hybrid models that claim more than 200mpg and around 40 miles of all-electric running.
|Engines:||2.5-litre petrol-electric hybrid|
|Trims:||Icon, Design, Excel, Dynamic, Black Edition|
With a history stretching back over 25 years, the RAV4 is a compact SUV pioneer. Yet Toyota hasn’t rested on its laurels, and the current machine is one of the most advanced and desirable there is. Packaging an efficient petrol-electric drivetrain into a boldly styled and spacious body, the Japanese machine is cost-effective to run and hugely practical.
Like the Prius and Corolla, the RAV4 is based on Toyota’s excellent TNGA platform, so it’s good to drive and impressively refined. Accurate steering and good body control allow you tackle corners with confidence, yet the suspension does a fine job of soaking up bumps and potholes. Performance is surprisingly strong, too, although the CVT gearbox can send engine revs soaring, so a careful right foot is required for quiet progress.
Still, there’s no arguing with the hybrid unit’s efficiency, with CO2 emissions of as little as 126g/km and a claimed 50.4mpg. Build quality is excellent and Toyota’s reliability record is second to none – although there is a five-year warranty. Inside, the RAV4 is more spacious than most and comes with a lengthy list of kit.
If we’re nit-picking, then the infotainment is tricker to use than some, while prices rise to nearly £40,000. Yet overall the Toyota is a spacious, stylish, comfortable and efficient family SUV, plus there’s a plug-in hybrid, too.
Looking for something smaller? Click here for our list of the best small SUVs and crossovers...