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The rise of the premium SUV in the UK

In recent years, the UK has become inundated with 4x4s. The number of premium SUV and crossover vehicles looks set to continue to grow.

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Over the past few years, the major cities and towns of the UK have become inundated with premium SUVs (sports utility vehicles).  The number of SUV and crossover vehicles continues to grow, and this trend looks set to continue. They are often attractive and offer more versatility than your average road car, but this also usually comes at a higher price than your standard vehicle. The purpose of this post is to look at some of the different premium SUVs currently available on the market and what they offer to consumers.

The exact definition of an SUV is somewhat ambiguous, covering various types of vehicle depending on who you talk to. Some people would classify ‘crossover’ cars, which are beefed-up versions of regular models, as SUVs; whereas others are purists who equate an SUV with a traditional 4×4 vehicle. For the purpose of this article, the term SUV will cover all vehicles broadly falling into that area of the market.

The vehicles listed in this post are not ranked in any particular order, but are presented to give an overview of what is typical in today’s rapidly changing market.

Land Rover Range Rover Sport – the archetypal premium SUV

Range Rover Sport, premium SUV market leader

The Land Rover Range Rover Sport is a mid-sized yet powerful vehicle that sets out to make a statement. Favoured by executives and often found at the top end of corporate fleets, it is by no means cheap with prices starting around the £50k mark. The value from this vehicle comes from a high level of luxury and quality.

The latest Range Rover Sport has done well to achieve a sportier look and feel with kerb weight reduced by up to 420kg in some variations. The drive is pretty dynamic, as you would expect from a model that has ‘Sport’ in its name. The diesel V6 model can do 0-60 in 6.8 seconds, which is fast enough for most, and there is a supercharged petrol V8 model as well if you want to spend £90K.

Summary: The Range Rover Sport is very expensive to purchase and run, but it oozes quality and is a true premium car, let alone a premium SUV.

Audi Q3 – small premium crossover

Audi Q3, small premium SUV

This is a car that falls into the crossover category, with a construction built on the A3 hatchback model but with the design and feel of a larger SUV. As with most Audi vehicles, the focus is on quality and technology. You can definitely feel both, whether it’s under the bonnet or in front of you on the dash. It’s mid-range in terms of pricing for the premium SUV market, with prices generally floating around the £30k mark.

The Audi Q3 is a good all-round runner that gets its job done without complications. The entry cost and fuel consumption are good (54.3mpg on entry level models) and as with many Audi products you can feel it’s solid and reliable from the first drive. Despite its somewhat awkward styling from certain angles, it has certainly been popular with UK buyers since launch.

Summary: This is a car that’s built for practical users who want something of reasonable size that’s not going to cost them the world. Customer feedback shows that the maintenance is little and the Q3 gets on with driving in most real-world conditions without a struggle.

BMW X5 – large urban premium SUV

3rd generation BMW X5 large premium SUV 4x4

Now in its third generation, the BMW X5 is one of the larger models coming under the SUV bracket, with the ability to seat five comfortably or seven at a pinch. It’s a true urban SUV, built to look great and drive nicely around inner city routes and on motorways.  The result is that it gives a comfortable ride rather than focusing on purely off-road capability. Having said that, it offers good fuel economy with an average of 50.4mpg on entry level models.

The price may be a little high for what you’re getting, with entry-level models starting at around £42,000. There are other cars on the market that offer better value for the same amount of money. But what you’re paying for is a BMW badge, extra seating, good storage space and a surprising amount of agility for its big stature.

Summary: A big SUV that handles itself well, has plenty of storage/seating and is great for urban cruising. Not the most elegant or stylish but certainly has its value points and can’t be discounted.

Hyundai Santa Fe – aspiring premium SUV

Hyundai Santa Fe, budget or premium SUV?

Originally more of a budget SUV, the Hyundai Santa Fe has upped its efforts with the latest model and is pushing its way into the premium end of the SUV market. It is available in either five- or seven-seat models, and is a comfortable and practical car to drive. The Santa Fe could be described as more of a traditional 4×4 if you were to try and classify it.

It is still a relatively low cost vehicle, entering the market at around £25,000. So if you’re looking for a reliable car in this rising market without going overboard, the Santa Fe is a great choice. With consumer choice dominated by German manufacturers, Hyundai is rising up fast with this model. You get a good range of built-in electronics on the dash and the large panoramic front window gives a fuller driving experience.

Summary: Not at the top end of the SUV market in terms of performance, but comes close for a much reduced price.  The car handles well, has a lot of built-in technology and has plenty of space for busy families.

Kia Sportage – the next big thing in premium SUVs?

Kia Sportage, new addition to the premium SUV segment

One of the most requested SUVs on the market right now is the Kia Sportage.  Kia has continued on an upward trend to become a great value brand in the middle sector of the family car market. The appeal largely comes from getting a vehicle that provides the same experience as the big brands, but you’re not paying the premium for an established name.

The Sportage is great looking, a manageable size and comes with a starting price point of around £17,500. Where it does fall short is the quality of the interior furnishings, this car is not as focused on luxury as some of the competing higher priced models. With up to 54.3mpg it offers great value fuel economy and is cheaper than many SUVs to run on a daily basis.

Summary: Pure value for money is how the Sportage can be summed up. It will give you a similar driving experience to the traditional brands in the market and save you money on a humble yet comfortable interior.

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