Top ten SUVs for 2010

In the days of global warming and emissions targets, SUVs – or Sports Utility Vehicles – have had a bad press. However, contrary to fears, the segment has remained strong after of an influx of new, more efficient models.

SUVs offer vast storage space and practical loading areas. They’re ideal for carrying luggage and equipment and as many are 4×4 drive, are capable of off-road and on-road driving.

New crossover-style models such as the Kia Sportage have reinvigorated the segment and added compact, unique cars to choose from.

From the small, supermini-based SUVs to the large off-road kings such as the Discovery, the SUV segment has plenty to offer somebody looking for more space in a car capable of off-road terrain.

Below we’ve listed the best ten SUVs, starting with smaller models and finishing with the larger premium offerings. We’ve also included two new SUVs to look out for in the next year.

Kia Sportage

The Kia Sportage, although technically an SUV, is described by the South Korean manufacturer as a compact crossover.

The latest model has been redesigned by design supremo Peter Schreyer and as such boasts striking, sporty and aggressive exterior styling.

Kia says the five-seat Sportage will be its ‘breakthrough’ model in the European market as more people downsize from larger models.

It is only on sale in the UK in October 2010, but Kia is an emerging manufacturer in Europe and with the promise of city-friendly handling and performance from Sportage, it has all the potential of fulfilling the promise.

Renault Koleos

Renault’s first foray into the SUV market with the five-door, 4×4 Koleos was a big risk from the French manufacturer at a time when SUV sales were falling.

However, the Koleos has carved out a niche by offering five-star safety, practicality, interior space and a good level of equipment all in compact-SUV size dimensions.

It is slightly lacking in leg and head room compared to larger models, but the flexible seating and handy split rear tailgate is practical and functional.

The diesel engines in particular offer a smooth ride and the ability to switch from 4×2 to 4×4 mode in low grip conditions is a nice touch.

Mazda CX-7

The five-seat CX-7 is a mid-size SUV and like the Koleos, is the manufacturer’s first attempt at producing an SUV.

The CX-7 is everything you would expect from Mazda. In keeping with its passenger and sports cars the CX-7 boasts a bolder, but still recognisable, Mazda front end and a coupe-style silhouette.

It fares better on-road than off, but the Mazda CX-7 is well-equipped and a wide range of optional extras such as 19" alloy wheels, privacy glass and electric windows are available.

Mazda aimed the CX-7 at commercial buyers, but the model is ideal for someone looking for an affordable SUV with a bit more style.

Land Rover Freelander 2

No round up of the SUV segment would be complete without a Land Rover. The undisputed king of the premium 4×4 market, Land Rover has been producing capable off-roaders with a touch of luxury for over 60 years.

The Freelander 2 is a mid-size 4×4 SUV capable of on and off-road driving in all conditions. Land Rover’s best-selling model is greener than most Land Rovers, more equipped and better quality than other cars in its class and cannot be rivalled for off-road ability.

The popularity of the Freelander 2 means residuals stay strong, which is probably a good thing considering you will be paying a considerable amount for the privilege of driving one of the most impressive SUVs around.

Ford Kuga

From off-road to on-road ability, and although the Freelander rules on rough terrain, the Ford Kuga offers best in class road-going ability.

This is because the small SUV is based on the Ford Focus bodyshell architecture. The result is superb handling and it is extremely agile for an SUV.

The Kuga has stylish looks and is well-built, but the focus remains on the excellent drive and choice of efficient and willing engines.

Kia Sorento

The first of our larger SUV models comes in the shape of the Kia Sorento – not that you’d guess judging by the price.

The Kia Sorento is a cheap alternative to larger SUV owners looking to downsize. Despite the price, it is spacious inside and offers a range of configurations thanks to the folding second and third rows of seats.

The interior is practical and well-built and there is enough equipment included with even standard specifications to suggest a more premium feel.

Finally, the Sorento is subject to Kia’s fantastic seven-year warranty that can be transferred with ownership – something not found with any other manufacturer.

Land Rover Discovery 4

The Land Rover Discovery, introduced in 2009, is a typically luxurious Land Rover model with a high level of equipment closer to the Range Rover models.

If you’re looking for a large SUV built for off-road driving on all terrains with a huge towing capacity, look no further than the Discovery 4.

The simple, elegant exterior hasn’t changed much over the previous generation, but the latest model is more powerful, more premium and more equipped. It’s also more expensive and prices around the £47,000 mark are not uncommon.

Citroen C-CrosserPeugeot 4007

The C-Crosser and 4007 are rebadged models based on the same Mitsubishi-created large SUV.

The C-Crosser is Citroen’s first attempt at a large SUV, and the car-like handling and low price compared to more premium models stack up in the French marque’s favour.

Interior trim could be better quality, but the C-Crosser is spacious inside and seats seven easily. The Citroen is easy on the conscience too – relatively low CO2 emissions mean it won’t be targeted by the usual anti-SUV brigade.

Land Rover LRX – On sale October 2010

The ‘baby’ Range Rover has been the subject of much controversy. It will be the first Range Rover model available in two-wheel drive.

The benefits for smaller version of the Range Rover are obvious. The LRX will have low CO2 and fuel consumption, making it one of the greenest Land Rover cars to date.

It will also be cheaper than the Range Rover despite keeping the premium equipment levels and trim expected of a Land Rover model.

Front-wheel drive versions are expected to cost around £30,000 and 4×4 models will add £5000 to the price.

Vauxhall Astra SUV – Expected 2012

SUV versions of the hugely popular Vauxhall Astra is not expected for at least a year, but the British-built car will offer a perfect base for a compact SUV.

Expect top-class handling, smooth, sleek looks and more space than the supermini currently offers. It will be a bold move for Vauxhall, and could also be followed by a Corsa SUV.