Published on Wednesday 01 July 2020 in Car news
By Jonathan Crouch
If you're looking for a family crossover model, it's possible that the compact 'Qashqai'-class SUVs based on family hatchbacks might not be right for you - because they're not quite big enough or you'd like a model with a premium badge. Either way, you're still going to want the car of your choice to be a sensible monthly lease price around £350 a month, so here they are.
This 2nd generation CX-5 is a lower, sleeker thing than its predecessor, further developing the so-called 'KODO' or 'Soul of Motion' design philosophy that defined the look of the previous model. The original version of this CX-5 was one of the very best mid-sized SUVs to drive; this one still is. As before, much of this is due to Mazda's clever 'SKYACTIV Technology', a programme aimed at making the Japanese brand's models more efficient & more responsive to drive, primarily through reductions in weight. This time round, as before, Mazda talks of this SUV carrying over some of the DNA of its MX-5 sports car & there's certainly something of that in the sharp steering & the snikerty slick-shifting 6-speed manual gearbox.
Inside, the classy dash features a 7-inch 'floating' infotainment monitor. & in the rear, the seat backs recline, plus there's a 506-litre boot. Engine-wise, a 2.0 Sport Nav+ front-driven variant comes in comfortably under the £350 a month budget in our 'Offers' section, but you can also opt for a 2.2-litre diesel, developing either 150 or 184PS & available with the option of 4WD.
Range Rover Evoque
Today's Range Rover Evoque is a rather different thing to the original. Back in 2011, when it was also available in 3-Door Coupe form, Land Rover wanted us to believe that this model could be part-hot hatch & part-SUV. It quickly evolved though, into arguably what it should have been in the first place; a Range Rover shrunk into a more compact form for fashionable urban mobility.
The lightly evolved shape of this MK2 'L551'-series car looks reassuringly familiar, but the new 'Premium Transverse Architecture' chassis it all sits on is cutting-edge – or so we're told. At first glance, that seems to be true; the 'PTA' platform facilitates a longer wheelbase & can support both plug-in & mild hybrid engines. There's a wide range of power plant options, with petrol derivatives producing 197bhp, 247bhp & 296bhp, while the diesels develop 148bhp, 178bhp & 237bhp. To keep within our £350 a month budget, you'll need the entry-level front-driven 2.,0-litre D150 diesel with a manual gearbox, but you can choose to have it in either standard or sportier-looking 'R Dynamic' form.
Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace
This Tiguan Allspace features 215mm of extra body length, enough to make possible the addition of a 3rd seating row at the back – though the seats provided are probably best occupied by kids. This is an important variant for Volkswagen. The standard Tiguan isn't really big enough for the brand to offer in countries like America, but in pumped-up 'Allspace' form, it's a perfect fit as an entry-level SUV for that market, the additional rear inches also freeing up the extra second row room that burly Yankee buyers often need.
The Allspace formula gives you lots of extra boot space too – 700 litres with two rows in place (85-litres more than a standard Tiguan) & 1,775-litres with everything folded. With the third seating row up though, you only get 230-litres. The front of the cabin is exactly like an ordinary Tiguan – & the engine range isn't much different either. Most who want this model choose the 150PS version of Volkswagen's familiar 2.0-litre TDI diesel engine & you can have that unit within our £350 a month budget, paired with the well-specified 'SEL' trim & a DSG auto gearbox.
Some 'C'-segment SUVs are quite a long way removed from the ordinary family hatchbacks they're based upon. As you might gather at a glance, the Mercedes GLA, which is the brand's smallest SUV & shares nearly everything that matters with the MK4 Mercedes A-Class hatch it's based on, isn't one of those. The GLA does enjoy a bit of extra ride height over an A-Class, but this isn't aimed at providing the car with any kind of extended 'off piste' capability, reflecting the fact that for target buyers, proper off road performance isn't wanted or needed.
This MK2 GLA is a slightly more imposing thing to look at than its predecessor, partly because it sits 104mm higher, though it's 14mm shorter & 2mm narrower than the old car. Inside, you get the sophisticated twin-screen dashboard technology that characterises all of Mercedes' current compact models. Another change with this latest design is the option of a sliding rear bench, enabling buyers to prioritise either leg room or boot space. A wide range of engines are offered, but to come in under our £350 a month budget, you'll need the base GLA 200 petrol variant. This uses a 1.3-litre four-cylinder petrol power plant putting out 163hp & paired with 7G-DCT 7-speed automatic transmission.
The Audi Q3 wasn't the first premium-badged family hatch-based SUV, but since its original launch in 2011, it's been the one that's tended to define its growing segment. This 2nd generation version, launched in early 2019, proved to be significantly bigger than its predecessor, so there's no longer quite such an overlap with the brand's entry-level SUV, the smaller Q2. With this MK2 Q3, there's a much more purposeful look & a cabin that invites quality comparison with the only slightly larger Q5. To suit the prevailing market trend, it's safer & better connected too, plus you get a strong range of TFSI & TDI engines now further optimised for efficiency
The range kicks off with a 150PS 35 TFSI 1.5-litre petrol engine using Audi's latest 12V mild hybrid technology & S tronic auto transmission. This unit is aided by cylinder-on-demand technology, which at low & medium loads deactivates the second & third cylinders to reduce consumption. Manual transmission is also available with this derivative, which only comes with front wheel drive. It's this derivative you'll probably need to come in under our £350 a month budget. If you can afford a little more, Audi also offers the option of a sleeker Q3 Sportback body style; for that, you'll need to accept minor compromises in luggage room & back seat space, but the aesthetic rewards make that well worthwhile.
Why would you buy a 7-seat MPV when you could have a 7-seat SUV? That's the question Peugeot wants to ask you here, with this car, their second generation 5008. It's a question the brand sat down & asked itself before creating this model. The 1st generation Peugeot 5008, launched back in 2010, was a mid-sized MPV with three seating rows – & a moderately successful one for the French maker. When the time came for its replacement, we expected a sleeker version of the same People Carrying formula. Instead, what we got at this MK2 model 5008's launch in 2017 was this.
It's a 7-seat SUV, thanks to a lengthy 2.84m wheelbase & a 4.64-metre length, which explains the class-leading 1,060-litre boot capacity figure. Under the skin, all the mechanicals are shared with the French maker's 3008 five-seat SUV, including the sophisticated EMP2 platform & all the engines. These include 1.5 & 2.0-litre BlueHDi diesels & a zesty 1.2-litre 3 cylinder PureTech petrol unit. Your £350 a month budget will get you quite a lot with a 5008 just at present – currently, in our 'Offers' section, there's a choice of a version with the 1.2-litre PureTech 130hp petrol engine with plush 'GT Line Premium' trim & a choice of either manual or EAT8 automatic transmission.
One in every 10 BMWs sold is an X1 & that figure is set to rise as the compact SUV segment continues to grow. This improved version of the 'F48'-series MK2 model aims to capitalise on this sector's popularity, providing potential Qashqai-class buyers with a premium-badged option that's now an even classier choice. Efficiency, practicality & cabin quality are all strongpoints, plus there's now the option of plug-in hybrid power if you want it.
The visual changes made to this updated model are minor – a larger front grille & subtly restyled LED lamps. & nothing's really too much different inside, though BMW now standardises an 8.8-inch iDrive central infotainment screen, upgradeable to 10.25-inches at extra cost. The high-quality cabin finish is a strong selling point & two adults will fit in the rear with reasonable comfort, plus there's a decent 508-litre boot. Engine-wise, there's a wide choice & both the mainstream front-driven petrol variants, the sDrive 18i & the sDrive20i, fall within our £350 a month budget. Both the alternative diesel variants, the 18d & the 20d, can be had with xDrive AWD.