For all the appeal of a slinky sports car, deep down, we all love an SUV. It might not set lap records at the Nurburgring, but there’s something deeply appealing about sitting loftily above the traffic in your very own Tonka toy.
Here are our favourite ways to go up in the world.
The Fiat 500X
The Fiat 500 city car has been an overwhelming success. Its retro styling is based on the now 50-plus-year-old Cinquecento, offering a fresh take on an automotive classic since its release in 2007. But despite the 500 being the perfect urban runaround, you wouldn’t ask it to face down mud and boulders. Cue the 500X.
The 500’s retro styling has translated well over to the X, complementing its swooping profile, while the muscular, clad wheel arches give it a more imposing presence than its delicate forebear.
Inside, it’s a fun place to be; quirky details like the pool ball gear knob and designer door handles are the kind of things that set this budget SUV apart. It’s not a bad drive either, with sharp steering and good grip.
With prices starting at just under £15k, it’s your perfect first step on the SUV ladder.
The Volvo XC90
The second generation of Volvo’s flagship 4×4 is a marked improvement on an already excellent car. It boasts a sleeker design, with a more rectangular grill, thinner headlamps and a more angular profile.
Inside, with lots of leather and brushed metal, it’s clean and desperately modern. But that’s timelessly, Swedishly modern, rather than the sort that’ll date in a decade (the previous XC90 was produced for 12 years and still looks fresh).
It’s a cracking view – both from inside and out – and especially impressive for just £46,000.
The Range Rover Evoque
There are few cars, let alone SUVs, that can visually match the Evoque. The slim windows, long nose and flared wheel arches give it the appearance of something much sportier than your standard off-roader. And the £29,000 price tag only enhances its appeal.
It was the Evoque that launched Land Rover’s current design language, and its three-door approach only intensifies the Evoque’s athleticism. For those who enjoy mud in their hair (or, more likely, an urban breeze), Land Rover is soon going to offer a soft-top version as well.
The Jaguar F-Pace
Jaguar’s first SUV only highlights how popular the category has become. Fortunately, it boasts looks that stand out even among the crowd.
The F-Pace is very clearly a Jag: the deep grill and steeply raked windscreen have been borrowed from its sportier cousins, while the rear three-quarters shares traits with the XF Sportbrake. In true Jaguar form, it’s aggressively styled, without being brash.
Inside, the F-Pace is just as impressive. It seats five comfortably and boasts a 10″ touchscreen infotainment centre, with 3D sat nav display. This is complemented by a range of specially-developed apps, and its own Wi-Fi hotspot, allowing up to eight devices to be connected.
The range starts at £34,000, but those keen on exclusives will want to shell out £65,000 for the 300bhp First Edition model. With a run of only 2,000 – and just 200 in Britain – it’s a small price to pay be one of a handful behind its wheel.
The Bentley Bentayga
An SUV for those on first name terms with their bank manager, the Bentayga justifies its eye-watering price tag with a top speed of 187mph, despite weighing in at over 2,500kg. Throw in a five second 0-60mph that belies a capacious interior, and you’d be forgiven for mistaking it for a country house that’s been strapped to a rocket.
Specifically, that’s a combination of Chatsworth and Soho House. Swathes of leather and wood coat modern luxuries; seats that can be adjusted in 22 different ways, a panoramic glass roof, 4G Wi-Fi and 20-speaker surround sound system. All of which prevents any feeling you could look in the rear view mirror and spot the Earl of Grantham in the back seat.
You’re probably not going to take a £165,000 car everywhere you would a Range Rover, but it’s almost as happy in the rough stuff, with settings for sand, snow, mud and more. This is the new daddy of SUVs. At least, until Rolls Royce’s makes its debut in the not-too-distant future.