Compact SUVs, or crossovers as they're often called, are all the rage these days. But with so much high quality choice available, it can be difficult picking the make and model that's best suited to your particular needs. We've driven three of the best in the form of the Kia Sportage, Nissan Qashqai and Hyundai ix35 and can give you the definitive verdict on which of these three is the best.
All three cars vary in price depending on engine and spec. If money is tight and you don't care about extras the cheapest option by some margin is the Nissan Qashqai, which starts at £16,595 for the entry-level 1.6 Visia. Both the entry-level Kia Sportage 1 1.6 GDi and Hyundai ix35 1.6 GDi Style retail for £17,300 on the road.
The trio all cost a similar amount to refuel though the Hyundai ix35 has the worst CO2 emissions of the group -- it'll cost £170 to tax, as opposed to £135 for the Sportage and Qashqai. The cost of company car tax is also significantly higher with the Hyundai.
Best for pricing: Nissan Qashqai.
The Kia Sportage is available in 1, 2 and 3 spec levels on cars with the lowliest engines while KX-1, KX-2, KX-3 and KX-4 are your choices on cars with more powerful engines. The entry-level 1 spec includes 16-inch alloys, tinted glass, a leather steering wheel and gear knob, a CD radio player with 4 speakers, all round electric windows, LED daytime lights, air con, cruise control, hill start assist, Bluetooth with audio streaming, voice control, USB and aux audio input, rain sensing wipers and metallic paint -- all very generous.
The entry-level Nissan Qashqai Visia spec is comparatively spartan. It lacks window tints, has no leather steering wheel and gear knob, no the LED daytime lights, no cruise control, there's no hill start assist whatsoever, no USB connectivity and no rain sensing wipers. To get similar goodies, you'll need to upgrade to the mid-range Acenta spec, which commands a £1,500 premium.
The Hyundai ix35 comes in two specs -- Style and Premium. Style bags you pretty much everything you get in a Kia Sportage 1, but also includes bigger 17-inch alloys and a six-speaker CD and radio player. The Premium spec costs £1,850 more and comes with cruise control, rain-sensing wipers and privacy glass. Be warned -- the Premium spec is not available on the entry-level ix35 petrol model, you'll need buy a more expensive diesel car so the total you're paying for those features is £3,150.
Best for spec: Kia Sportage.
Options on the Hyundai ix35 are fairly straightforward. Metallic or pearl paint is £495, and you can shove in some upgrade packs that give the cabin a more premium feel. The £1,100 media pack gets you a touchscreen with sat-nav, seven speaker sound system with amp and subwoofer and a rear view parking camera. The £1,000 Individual Pack gives you black leather seat trim, auto-dimming mirror with compass, and blue lighting around the instrument cluster.
Options in the Kia Sportage are determined by the product lines. The top spec KX-4 is the most well kitted out and features a sat-nav, reverse parking camera integrated into the rear view mirror, an automatic parking option that finds spaces large enough to park in and drives the car into them for you, dual-zone climate control and a more poweful version of Kia's 2-litre CRDi engine.
If you're the type of person that likes to mix and match your options, the Qashqai may be the better of the three options. Nissan lets you go to town with a comprehensive list of optional upgrades. Much of it comes as standard in the other cars, but there are fewer instances where Nissan forces you to buy upgrade packs when all you want is a single element. The Qashqai doesn't have the auto parking feature of the Sportage but it still has some excellent optional tech including an around view monitor that gives you a 360 birds-eye view of car to make parking easier.
Best for options: a three-way tie.
Inside, they're all relatively similar with a good number of cubbies and cup holders. However, the Nissan Qashqai has the smallest boot. Its 410-litre capacity is well down on the 564-litre and 591-litre capacities offered by the Sportage and ix35 respectively.
Best for practicality: Kia Sportage.
Of the entry-level petrol models, it's the Kia Sportage that offers the cheapest insurance thanks to its 10E insurance rating. The ix35 falls in the 14E bracket while the Qashqai is rated at 17E. There's an even bigger difference in the 2-litre models. The Sportage sits in group 12E while its Nissan rival has been slapped with a 20E rating. There is no 2-litre petrol ix35. The difference in insurance grouping carries over to the diesel models. The 1.7-litre CRDi Sportage should prove cheapest of all thanks to its 10E classification, followed by the ix35 on 14E, while the Nissan Qashqai has to suffer with a 17E rating.
Despite the disparity in insurance group ratings, actual insurance prices were quite similar. We were quoted £601 for an entry-level Qashqai, £595 for an ix35 and £569 for the cheapest Sportage.
Best for insurance: Kia Sportage
Running costs are very similar where the cheapest variants are concerned, as all three use petrol engines of a similar size and power. The most effient is the 1.6-litre Qashqai, which returns 45.6mpg combined and emits 144g/km of CO2. Next best is the Sportage, which gets 44.1mpg and lives in the same tax bracket thanks to emissions of 149g/km. The entry-level Hyundai isn't as convincing in this department. 41.5mpg is all it can muster and you'll have to pay more tax because of its 158g/km CO2 emissions. The 2-litre petrol-engined Kia and Nissan models are similarly matched.
Kia and Nissan's entry-level diesels are similarly matched. Both deliver 54.3mpg and are in the same VED bracket with 135g/km and 137g/km respectively. The entry-level Hyundai ix35 car lives in the same tax band (just) but gets a mere 48.7mpg. If you can afford it, Nissan offers a silghtly more expensive 1.6-litre dCi diesel engine that trounces the competition with 62.8mpg and 119g/km. The engine is £1,500 more expensive than Nissan's 1.5 dCi, but it works out cheaper to own after 60,000 miles of use.
Best for running costs: Nissan Qashqai
The Nissan Qashqai's 3-year or 60,000 mile cover isn't bad, but Kia's cover is better. It offers an unlimited mileage warranty for the first three years of ownership, and will provide cover for a further four years provided the car doesn't exceed 100,000 miles of use. Hyundai's cover is arguably better still. It only lasts five years but the company doesn't place any limit on the number of miles you do.
Best for warranty: Hyundai ix35
The Kia Sportage, Hyundai ix35 and Nissan Qashqai are closely matched. All are attractive, well-screwed together and highly practical. Every group needs a loser and in this company it's the Hyundai ix35. It offers the fewest number of engines and those on offer aren't as economical or efficient as its rivals. That leaves the Qashqai and Sportage in a two-way battle for supremac.
The Nissan looks to the be most affordable at first glance, thanks to its lower price tag, but the Sportage comes with more equipment as standard. It also has a larger boot. Nissan can point to the fact its Qashqai has by far the most efficient engine in the range (the 1.6-litre dCi is a real gem) but Kia can counter with its whopping 7-year warranty. All things considered the Kia Sportage is our king of the crossovers.