Mid-size Premium SUV of the Year 2020: Land Rover Defender

The Land Rover Defender is the 2020 Auto Express Premium Mid-size SUV of the Year, with the BMW X3 and Porsche Macan commended

The Defender is one of the star cars of 2020, so it’s no surprise to see it claim an impressive win at this year’s New Car Awards. It almost has a foot in two camps, because in 110 form it can seat up to seven people.

However, we know you buy cars with a keen eye on price, and with the five-seat 90 starting from £43,625, the headline figures mean it’s surprisingly affordable, even if you’ll have to spend a bit more than that sum for the specification of car you’ll really want.

There are many positives to the Defender, but the real area that makes it is the car’s personality. It feels different to every other Land Rover SUV without sacrificing that element of luxury you want from a premium vehicle. It sits alone and proud in the British manufacturer’s range.

It’ll do the rough-tough off-roading stuff its iconic predecessor became famous for, as we found out earlier this year on a three-day expedition across Namibia, but the Defender is equally at home around town, with clever technology such as ClearSight Ground View helping on tight city streets as much as on mountain trails.

A recently announced PHEV will join the line-up soon, while the range of diesel and petrol motors currently on sale is sound. It’s a more involving drive than any other Land Rover model, too, with steering that gives a good connection to the car, but with a level of refinement that a premium SUV like this needs to achieve.

Yet one area where the Defender really moves the game on for Land Rover is the in-car tech. Infotainment has been the brand’s weak point, but the Pivi system in the Defender counters that criticism, and helped it win this award, thanks to a responsive interface with plenty of features, super-sharp graphics and over-the-air software updates.

Clever nods to the original version of this British classic, such as a very useful storage ledge above the glovebox, mean that form still follows function, and it’s not just design for design’s sake with the new Defender.

In 110 spec you can choose five, six or seven-seat options, so the Defender’s flexibility is never in question, and while its styling and image might split opinion, it’s undeniable that Land Rover knows its market in 2020 and that there’s a new group of Defender buyers. They’ll be very pleased with the result of the company’s efforts.

Our choice

Land Rover Defender 110 D250 SE (£56,355)

Mild-hybrid technology complements the D250’s solid torque, sound refinement and smooth power delivery, while SE trim best balances equipment on offer and how much you’ll pay for it. This mid-spec model is where the Defender’s character shines brightest, which undoubtedly defines the car.

Commended

BMW X3

The X3 is a less characterful option compared with the Defender, but it’s still a solid choice, with practicality, great handling, efficiency and performance, plus comfort and technology all combining to make a great and refined premium family SUV. It’s still the best of the German competitors at this level of the market.

Porsche Macan

If you need an SUV with practicality for the family but you don’t want to sacrifice driving enjoyment, the Porsche Macan is the premium model to go for. Even the 2.0-litre four-cylinder-engine version that basically uses the motor from VW’s Golf GTI is more than enough – and it’s the most affordable option, too.

New Car Awards 2020: the winners

Recommended

Land Rover unveils limited-run Defender Trophy Edition
Land Rover unveils limited-run Defender Trophy Edition - front
Land Rover Defender

Land Rover unveils limited-run Defender Trophy Edition

Just 220 examples will be built to honour past Camel Trophy Land Rovers, all of which have been reserved for the North American market
30 Jul 2021
New Bowler Defender Challenge review
Bowler Defender Challenge - front
Land Rover Defender

New Bowler Defender Challenge review

The new Defender Challenge is the first Bowler under JLR ownership, and it’s a cracker
28 Jul 2021
Rally-prepped Bowler Defender Challenge car unveiled
Bowler Defender Challenge - front
Land Rover Defender

Rally-prepped Bowler Defender Challenge car unveiled

Bowler reveals competition-spec Land Rover Defender, built to compete in one-make rally series
27 Jul 2021
New Mercedes EQE SUV confirmed for launch in 2022
Mercedes EQE
Mercedes

New Mercedes EQE SUV confirmed for launch in 2022

Mercedes has announced it will launch the pure-electric EQE SUV next year, and our exclusive images preview how it could look
26 Jul 2021

Most Popular

Land Rover unveils limited-run Defender Trophy Edition
Land Rover unveils limited-run Defender Trophy Edition - front
Land Rover Defender

Land Rover unveils limited-run Defender Trophy Edition

Just 220 examples will be built to honour past Camel Trophy Land Rovers, all of which have been reserved for the North American market
30 Jul 2021
New 2021 Volkswagen Taigo coupe-SUV breaks cover
Volkswagen Taigo R-Line - front
Volkswagen Taigo

New 2021 Volkswagen Taigo coupe-SUV breaks cover

The new VW Taigo is a sportier, more aggressive looking version of the brand’s T-Cross and is aimed at lifestyle buyers
29 Jul 2021
New 2021 Kia EV6 boasts up to 328 miles of range
Kia EV6 - front
Kia EV6

New 2021 Kia EV6 boasts up to 328 miles of range

Kia reveals more specs for its bespoke electric car, with the EV6 offering long range and an 18-minute 80 per cent rapid recharge time
21 Jul 2021