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Best small SUV: New Car Awards 2014

The Porsche Macan is the 2014 Auto Express small SUV of the Year, with the Dacia Duster and Range Rover Evoque commended

It came close with the Cayenne, but Porsche has finally hit the SUV jackpot with the new Macan. By packing all of its off-roader and sports car know-how into one compact body, the German firm has created one of its best all-rounders yet.

As you’d expect from Porsche, the Macan features plenty of imposing kerb appeal, a beautifully finished cabin and a line-up of engines that deliver strong performance. Best of the bunch is the smooth and punchy V6 diesel, which provides muscular real-world pace and 40mpg. Yet it’s the jacked-up machine’s incredible handling which creates the strongest impression.

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Turn into a corner and the Macan responds with the same athleticism and poise as the mid-engined Cayman, plus there’s enough grip to carry dizzying speed through bends. Better still, you get the same perfectly weighted controls that fizz with feedback. Amazingly, the Porsche is as capable off the beaten track as on it. The permanent four-wheel drive serves up near-unbreakable traction, plus clever electronic aids such as hill descent control take the sweat out of tricky off-road tests.

The optional air-suspension can raise the ride height by 40mm, enough to clear most obstacles. Yet none of these remarkable dynamic feats comes at the expense of the Macan’s abilities as a desirable family runaround. The roomy interior will seat five, while the generous 500-litre boot can be extended to 1,500 litres by folding the rear bench flat.

And as you’d expect, the cabin is impeccably built and trimmed with the highest-quality materials. Of course, the Macan isn’t cheap, but when you consider you’re getting three cars rolled into one, you might view it as a bargain.

Our choice:

Porsche Macan S Diesel (£43,535)

It’s hard to look past the Diesel, which provides similar real-world pace to petrol versions of the Macan, but will return in excess of 40mpg. And all models feature the same practical, upper-class interior.

Commended small SUVs

Dacia Duster

Dacia Duster front tracking

Look past the Dacia Duster’s bargain-basement price and you’ll discover a hugely capable SUV. Two-wheel-drive versions are cheap to buy and run, while the four-wheel-drive models have genuine go-anywhere ability. Better still, all Dusters feature a roomy cabin, a decent amount of equipment and hassle-free ownership experience.

Range Rover Evoque

Land Rover Range Rover Evoque static

It’s more than four years old, but the Range Rover Evoque still manages to turn heads wherever it goes. It’s still good to drive, too, while the cabin strikes just the right balance between contemporary cool and old-school, hand-crafted charm. The diesel is a bit rattly, but when a car makes you feel this good you’re willing to accept a few foibles.

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