Top 10 best SUVs to buy 2023
We name the top 10 best SUVs and 4x4s you can buy on the new car market today
If you’re among the many buyers considering an SUV then you're spoilt for choice. Almost every manufacturer makes at least one SUV, with a huge variety of models on offer. While having lots of options is a luxury, it does make finding the best SUV to meet your needs more difficult.
They all follow a similar formula when it comes to style, with higher ground clearance than a normal car and rugged-looking body trim. But it’s not just a case of picking which manufacturer or dealership you like. Even if you opt for one of the UK’s best SUVs, it might not meet your needs as well as another model, because different SUVs are designed for different purposes.
Even if we limit the search to SUVs big enough to serve as family cars, with space for at least four adults and large boots for luggage or dogs, you’ve still got to consider whether to choose a mainstream or premium SUV, decide if you need five or seven seats and decide between petrol, diesel, hybrid or electric powertrains. That's before all the different SUV manufacturers, models and trim levels even come into it.
Thanks to the growing popularity of this class of car, the SUV segment can be hugely lucrative if manufacturers get it right. Many SUVs come in standard or ‘coupe SUV’ body styles, in economy-focused, luxury or sporty guises and you’ll need to think about what level of off-road ability you want. Are you looking for a hardcore mud-plugging 4x4 vehicle or do you just want to traverse the occasional speed bump or park by a raised kerb without scraping your alloy wheels?
We’ve focused on the best (and best value) family-sized models here but if you’re after something smaller, our top 10 best small SUVs list has those more compact models covered. We also have specific guides to the best large SUVs, best luxury SUVs, the most economical SUVs and many more.
The best SUVs to buy
The variety of SUVs on sale in the UK is huge, so we’ve driven and thoroughly tested every SUV in order to find the very best ones you can buy. Read on to find our top 10 favourite SUVs listed in reverse order…
10. BMW iX
The iX is BMW’s flagship electric SUV, so the brand had to ensure that this car stood out in the ever-growing EV market. While its controversial appearance does indeed separate it from the crowd in a literal sense, it’s also a high-quality car that’s great to drive, filled with the latest tech and efficient to run.
Despite its bulky 2.4-tonne kerbweight, the iX still retains plenty of BMW’s usual levels of driver engagement. Aim this large SUV towards a corner and it’ll respond with plenty of grip and steering feedback. When you’ve had your fun and want things to become a bit more settled, the cabin is supremely comfortable and quiet thanks to the near-silent powertrain and well-padded seats. One of the only major downsides is the price.
9. Renault Captur
To be a competitor in the small SUV class means offering plenty of style and versatility, as well as being good value for money. There are so many different models available, so a car of this size has to impress.
The Renault Captur, which is based on the underpinnings of the best-selling Clio, delivers handsome good looks and a practical high-set driving position, along with generous levels of standard equipment and attractive pricing.
At the core of the Captur's appeal is its practicality, and with increased dimensions over the previous model, it offers improved passenger space along with clever touches such as a sliding rear bench which allows you to prioritise room for extra occupants or luggage.
8. Jeep Avenger
While enthusiasts continue to debate whether the Avenger is a “proper Jeep”, there is no denying that this is a capable and charming small SUV. It’s far from being a Dakar rally competitor but yes, it can even handle some light off-roading.
Step inside the Avenger and everything feels sturdy and sensibly laid out. The on-board tech is a real step forward over older Jeeps, too, with many functions operating via a new 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment system – although some may be thankful to hear that there are still some physical controls. When you set off, there isn’t much to be had in the way of excitement but this compact crossover does feel lightweight and nimble, and it’s a doddle to drive around town as a result .
7. Skoda Enyaq iV
The Enyaq iV shares a number of parts with the Volkswagen ID.4, such as the batteries and motors, but in a package that’s very typical of Skoda – it’s a straightforward, practical and robust car that comes with plenty of essential features including LED headlights, a Virtual Cockpit digital instrument display, climate control, cruise control and rear parking sensors.
Skoda’s all-electric SUV should prove highly capable in most everyday scenarios, including family use, thanks to a large 585-litre boot and plenty of head and leg space for all passengers in both the front and rear.
6. BMW X1/iX1
Now in its third generation, the BMW X1 has developed into a compact family SUV that offers one of the finest blends of practicality, efficiency, driving precision and on-board tech in its class. It’s such a solid package that we’ve named it our 2023 Small Premium SUV of the Year.
With a 540-litre boot, along with a number of clever storage cubbies, the X1 will accommodate a family of four with ease despite its relatively small stature. Both front and rear passengers will have plenty of leg and headroom, too. The driver’s seat is perhaps the best place to sit, though, as the X1 offers an enjoyable amount of performance and precision. Efficiency is also impressive with even the petrol-powered versions returning over 40mpg.
For particularly low running costs, though, the all-electric iX1 could be the best option with its claimed battery range of 271 miles.
5. Lexus NX
Although Lexus was a fairly early adopter of hybrid technology with the second generation RX, the NX is the firm’s first plug-in hybrid. The range-topping 450h+ model comes with a 2.5-litre petrol engine mated to a 18.1kWh battery and a pair of electric motors. The result of which is a supremely smooth powertrain that offers 40 miles of all-electric drive and a decent thump of power with 302bhp available.
The NX is so good we named it our Mid-size Premium SUV of the Year in both 2022 and 2023, beating tough competition like the BMW X3 and Jaguar F-Pace. Lexus has clearly worked hard on the interior of the NX; the technology is a joy to use and the overall build quality is excellent throughout.
Along with the generous levels of equipment on board it’s also spacious and feels pretty premium inside. Lexus usually performs brilliantly in our Driver Power survey, and the NX placed 55th out of 75 cars in our 2023 best cars to own rankings.
4. Skoda Kodiaq
The Skoda Kodiaq has been around for six years now and during that time it’s been one of our favourite SUVs. A mid-life facelift made it even more appealing, and it has even bagged our Best Large SUV award for the last two years running.
It’s a difficult car to fault in any one area while it excels in plenty. The seven-seat Kodiaq has plenty of practicality on board with lots of storage bins and a roomy 765-litre boot with the rear row folded away. The materials don’t feel particularly luxurious but they all feel well put together and sturdy – something a family-friendly SUV like the Kodiaq really requires. Even the entry-level model gets a few USB ports dotted around the cabin, cargo compartments in the boot, dual-zone climate control, a rear-view parking camera and integrated Wi-Fi.
3. Hyundai Tucson
Visually, our two-time Best Mid-size SUV is a huge departure from the tame looks of previous Hyundai Tucsons, and the bold design is like nothing else on the road. Whether you like the looks or not, Hyundai should at least be commended for not playing it safe and by trying to make its family SUV stand out.
To really succeed in the family car market, a focus on practicality is a must and the Tucson’s 620-litre boot dwarfs the Nissan Qashqai’s load area and comfortably beats the SEAT Ateca’s 510 litres. The amount of legroom on offer will be a blessing for those sitting in the back and there’s plenty of headroom. Up front there’s a curved dash to give a premium feel for the driver and front-seat passenger.
Hyundai has chosen a screen instead of traditional dials behind the wheel, allowing you to change the layout of dials and sat-nav. The infotainment is one of the best systems in its class, being sharp and easy to use and having Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.
2. Land Rover Defender
Land Rover has really aced the task of reinventing the iconic Defender for the modern age. It's every bit as capable off-road as its predecessor, while introducing a level of luxury that underlines the brand’s premium credentials. Crucially, for 99 per cent of customers, the Defender is now great to drive on the road, delivering a surprising amount of fun and dynamic ability on smoother tarmac.
The Defender is as versatile as ever, and in 110 specification it offers five, six or seven-seat options, while the engine options are equally flexible with mild-hybrid petrol and diesel units, a plug-in hybrid variant and a storming 5.0-litre V8 model with 518bhp.
Practicality is still a priority for the Defender, with lots of cubbies and storage areas located around the cabin, as well as useful tech features like a standard 3D surround camera. The air suspension can raise and lower the car to make hitching-up a trailer much easier, while the ClearSight Ground View gives you a virtual view of the ground beneath and just in front of the vehicle – great for keen off-roaders.
1. Hyundai Kona
While the original Hyundai Kona proved popular with owners – it was voted as the best car to own in our 2021 Driver Power survey – there were just a few too many flaws for it to be a class leader. A dull interior, meagre space and a lack of driver engagement were three of the biggest weaknesses that held this compact SUV back. Now, though, there’s a new Kona in town, and Hyundai has listened very carefully to its customers’ feedback.
The new Kona has grown in size and is now based on the same K3 platform as the Kia Niro EV. This means that this compact SUV offers a much better level of space and practicality than its predecessor. It’s chock-full of standard tech, too, with a pair of 12.3-inch screens acting as the interior centrepiece. These run the brand’s latest infotainment software, and it’s a very easy system to use.
Like the old model, there’s the choice of petrol, hybrid or all-electric power. It’s still not the most exciting car to drive, but the Kona rides comfortably and is even rather nimble when darting around city streets. Opt for the Kona Electric and you will also have up to 305 miles of claimed range at your disposal – depending on battery size. We think Hyundai has done such a fantastic job with the new Kona that we have named it our 2023 Car of the Year.
Top 10 best SUVs to buy
- Hyundai Kona
- Land Rover Defender
- Hyundai Tucson
- Skoda Kodiaq
- Lexus NX
- BMW X1/iX1
- Skoda Enyaq iV
- Jeep Avenger
- Renault Captur
- BMW iX
Looking for a new family car? These are the best ones to buy...