Used buying guide: the SUV cynic’s dream garage

Of the 10 cars that recorded the most market share growth in Europe during 2018, do you care to estimate how many of those were crossovers and SUVs? That’s right, every single one of them. The SUV is no longer a trend or a craze but a full-blown epidemic. 

With the sector growing by 20% every year, already more than a third of all new cars being sold right now are SUVs of one size or another. We’re living in a George Orwell novel. New car buyers are terrified of being rounded up by Thinkpol if they so much as leaf through a saloon or estate car brochure, so they obediently choose high-riding hatchbacks on PCPs instead. 

Consider the Seat Arona. The tiny Spanish crossover is certainly very popular among buyers, sitting in first position on our list of hot-selling tall cars. It is equally popular here at Autocar: it is the best car of its type. 

It’s refined for one so small and its cabin is spacious, all of which means the Arona is a terrific car in many ways, except that it’s entirely uninteresting to look at and even less interesting to drive. It’s also quite slow. 

Compact SUVs are a little bigger and perhaps a touch more rugged as well, with some degree of off-road ability. Best of the lot is the new Range Rover Evoque, which recently knocked the Volvo XC40 off the top spot. They lead the class ahead of the Mazda CX-5 and Volkswagen Tiguan. 

Of the crossover hatchbacks – bigger than compact crossovers but unlikely to venture off road – the Seat Ateca is our favourite. It does everything a buyer in this sector could want it to do, with plenty of cabin space, attractive styling, good economy and affordability all on its side. The Volkswagen T-Roc and Nissan Qashqai are the best of the rest. 

Family SUVs are the do-it-all cars. As well as being very well suited to family life, they’re comfortable on longer journeys, they can be used for towing and they have some appetite for a muddy track as well. The Audi Q5 is the best, a classy all-rounder that scores well for comfort and refinement. It just about keeps its nose ahead of the BMW X3 and Jaguar F-Pace.