Best SUVs for 2011

Nevertheless, the UK has enjoyed a long and proud relationship with the SUV. British-based Land Rover has produced rugged 4×4 off-roaders for over 60 years in the UK, and has even supplied models from its luxury Range Rover brand to the Royal Family down the years.

Typically, SUV’s boast a raised ride height and commanding driving position. Four-wheel drive is common, and a spacious rear end is designed to cope with large and awkward-shaped luggage.

In recent years, split tailgates and fold-flat seats have boosted the practicality of many SUVs even further, and advances in technology means the traditional gas-guzzling image is being challenged by a series of frugal and low CO2-emitting models.

But, SUVs now cover a broad spectrum, and arguments can be made for the likes of the compact Kia Soul and even crossovers such as the Peugeot 3008 being classified as a part of the SUV family.

Below, we list ten SUVs and cars styled in a similar way that will be released in the next 12 months for UK buyers.

Kia Soul

The compact dimensions and single two-wheel drive configuration of the Kia Soul makes it more of a small car than an out-and-out SUV, but the boxy shape and raised ride height hint at an SUV-inspired design direction.

It’s quirky and fun, but with added practicality over lower, more sloped supermini rivals. The Kia Soul is in its own way a crossover, it looks like an SUV and has enough space for adult rear passengers, but it ideal for busy city streets and sits at the bottom end of the SUV segment in terms of running costs.

It was also one of the first cars to be designed using Kia’s universally popular new design direction, and as such has an inherent desirability replicated in the likes of the larger Sportage SUV and the new Kia Picanto.

For 2011, the Soul has been given a mid-life refresh, including some tweaks to the shape and a new engine in the shape of a 1.6-litre petrol engine, which delivers 34mpg despite an 11 per cent boost in power over previous versions.

The new 2012 model will be available to buy in the UK in autumn. Current generation models start from £11,500.

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Mazda CX-5

The Mazda CX-5 started life as the Minagi concept and brings with it some groundbreaking technology from the Japanese manufacturer.

The CX-5, as the name suggests, is a small SUV sitting below the larger CX-7 in the range. Full details, including pricing, will only be revealed later in the year, but there are some things we do know.

Mazda will introduce a new lightweight build to the CX-5 to bring down fuel consumption and improve drive and handling.

This is all part of Mazda’s new push for its SkyActiv technologies, which extend to newly developed engines and gearboxes designed to offer ultra-low CO2 emissions.

If your eco side can’t be appealed to, the Mazda CX-5’s smaller dimensions and slimmed down chassis should reproduce the pinpoint handling and fun driving dynamics seen in some of Mazda’s smaller cars – and if it comes anywhere near the superb MX-5 sports car, it will be an exciting prospect in the SUV market.

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Range Rover Evoque

What seems like one of the longest build ups to a car launch in recent years will end in November when the sub-£30,000 Range Rover finally arrives in UK showrooms.

Much has been said about the Range Rover Evoque since the glitzy opening ceremony featuring Victoria Beckham emerging from the three-door SUV.

A five-door model has since been introduced, and both offer a smaller, more stylish Range Rover for the 21st century. Designed primarily for on-road driving and even featuring a two-wheel drive option, the Evoque is a departure from the traditional Land Rover.

Luckily, it retains the high levels of standard equipment and luscious interior of its bigger brothers, the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport, and adds the lowest CO2 emissions ever seen in a Land Rover to impressive fuel economy figures.

With entry-level prices starting from less than £30,000 and orders already being taken, expect to be seeing much more of the Land Rover Evoque in a city near you soon.

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Chevrolet Captiva

The Chevrolet Captiva was a breakthrough for the US brand after its relaunch in the UK in 2005. It was the first model that wasn’t a rebadged Daewoo and opened up the lucrative SUV market for the car maker.

Chevrolet’s reputation for producing budget cars priced below competitors is present and correct here, but a 2011 update to the Captiva adds more equipment to the standard specification and that staple of a mid-life upgrade, a more frugal set of engines.

It now looks modern and aggressive – the perfect look for a rugged SUV. Inside, three trim levels improve the equipment level over older models, and top spec models now come with everything from rear parking sensors to full leather upholstery and heated front seats.

All-wheel drive, seven seats as standard and a choice of two diesel engines delivering 163bhp or 184bhp attest to the practicality of the Captiva, which will go on sale in the UK in May from £21.995.

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Land Rover Freelander 2 eD4

The Land Rover Freelander 2 is the car maker’s best-selling UK model. This is as a direct result of its off-road ability (it uses the famous All Terrain system), four-wheel drive, high build quality and instantly recognisable looks.

However, for 2011, Land Rover has extended its versatility further by offering the Freelander 2 in two-wheel drive form.

The result is 158g/km and 47.2mpg – figures previously unheard of on a Land Rover and sure to lower driving costs for those who choose the first ever Land Rover with two-wheel drive.

Of course, four-wheel drive versions remain and all models have received an update for 2011 to give them a more modern feel while retaining that iconic Land Rover design.

Prices start from £21,695 for two-wheel drive versions, which went on sale in the UK in January.

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Vauxhall Antara

Sometimes it’s difficult to look past the sales-topping Vauxhall Astra and Vauxhall Corsa in its range, but 2011 has seen the new Griffin badge transplanted onto a dusted down and refreshed Vauxhall Antara SUV.

The Vauxhall Frontera, with its low prices but off-road ability, was a huge success in the SUV segment, and is a testament to Vauxhall’s experience in the area.

The Antara is a much better model; offering more equipment, the new updated Vauxhall front end and an impressive amount of storage space in the back.

Prices start from just £20,000 in the UK, and for a large SUV that has enjoyed a huge leap in quality and drop in running costs is an enticing figure for anybody looking to buy a more traditional SUV than the myriad of crossovers on the market.

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These are the SUVs being updated or launched in 2011, but keep an eye out for some more in the long run:

Ford Vertrek – The Ford Vertrek is the next generation Ford Kuga. Using Ford’s kinetic design language, it wowed at the Geneva Motor Show this year. It could feature Ford’s efficient ECOnetic and EcoBoost engines when it finally arrives, which could be as early as 2012.

Renault Captur – This stunning crossover SUV with removable roof and unique ‘ropes’ to replace back seats was the star of the Geneva Show for us. Compact, four-wheel drive and dramatically styled using an elongated grille, futuristic headlamps and a low, coupe-like roof, the Renault Captur could influence a small crossover SUV to compete with the Nissan Juke.

Seat IBX – Seat’s SUV is a departure from other new concept cars in that is subtly styled with sharp, angular lines. Fresh, spacious and smart, the Seat IBX could signal a move into the SUV segment for the Spanish manufacturer, and expect some of that Mediterranean flair to shine through if it does.