ONE thing about lockdown – it gives us plenty of time to think.
So those of us who are considering a new set of wheels can check out the options, reckon up our cash …and even dream a little.
Prior to the pandemic, SUVs were sweeping the board in the popularity stakes. But which are the models that really earn the ‘sports’ aspect of the sector whose initials stand for Sports Utility Vehicle?
And just how sporty can a car be that’s also satisfies the ‘Utility’ tag?
Well, here are a few possibilities.
Obviously, if funds are near limitless you could put the Bentley Bentayga, Porsche Cayenne, and Range Rover Sport at the top of your wish list. But, living in the real world, I’m more interested in the sub-Â£50,000 options.
Here one of the best examples of a practical family car that has enough room for four and the dog plus a fair bit of luggage but drives like a sports car is the Porsche Macan, which effectively sets the bar high for others to follow.
At Â£47,000, it only just scrapes under the price limit. But for that you get Porsche’s uncanny ability to blend comfort and handling into one neat package which is also acceptably economical yet distinctly quick and wieldy.
Sadly there’s now no diesel version – a casualty of the emissions scandal – but the 2.0-litre turbo petrol polishes off the 62mph dash in less than seven seconds. Better still, its handling falls into the thoroughbred category with leach-like cornering and a flowing ride that so few high-riders manage to achieve.
Don’t expect much more than 30mpg, but you’ll relish the high grade cabin, quality furnishings and its ability to carry the whole family. Luggage space at 500 litres isn’t the most commodious but will be enough for most folk.
Around Â£10,000 cheaper will buy you a Cupra Ateca 2.0TSi which, might not have the cache of Porsche but is capable of blowing it into the weeds. With 296bhp four-pot turbo petrol power coupled to a twin clutch auto box and full time four wheel drive it has near-supercar performance – at least up to the legal limit.
For many though, it may feel a tad too highly strung with a harsh ride and ultra-sharp throttle response. It’s hard, however, not to be impressed by its sub-five second sprint to 62mph.
Despite the pace, it’s a practical piece of kit with seating for four, or even five at a pinch, and a boot that holds 510 litres of cargo.
Jaguar, though a bit late to the crossover party, have the sector well covered now with the F-Pace and its junior sibling, the E-Pace.
With no less than 542bhp to play with the F-Pace SVR’s mighty V8 lump has nose-bleeding acceleration (0 to 60mph in 4.1sec) and road manners to match but with a price tag of pushing Â£80k it’s beyond most folk’s budgets.
Look instead at the 2.0-litre petrol and diesel models which are both more affordable to purchase and cheaper to run. They share excellent dynamics, sensitive handling and a generously sized cabin that shames some SUVs. Prices start at just over £40,000.
Available with a choice of four-wheel-drive and rear drive, many owners who rarely stray off the beaten path may well prefer the cheaper single axle drive of the lower powered model.
Around ten grand cheaper is the nifty E-Pace which in many ways competes with style-orientated blood brother, the Evoque. Offered with similar two litre petrol and diesel engines to the F-Pace, it is more sprightly and manoeuvrable. Its obvious weight-saving also benefits handling.
Despite the compact external dimensions, there’s sufficient space for four onboard and the luggage room in the boot is an impressive 577 litres, beating many larger SUVs.
Designed with styling cues from the F-Type, it has ample visual impact and presents a strong challenge to the likes of Audi Q2 and BMW X1.
If you’re after a cheaper, smaller crossover that’s still fun to punt, then few models can match the brio and combination of talents of the Volkswagen T-Roc. The best version has the smallest engine with a modest price tag of just over Â£20,000.
With a three-cylinder, one litre engine under its snub nose, the T-Roc might not stun in terms of power but its immediacy and sweetness of character together with deft, light touch handling make it a great choice for those who appreciate good dynamics.
It is also staggeringly economical when driven delicately – 50mpg is easily attainable with a light right foot. Comfortable enough for four, it has 445litres of boot space which should be good enough for holiday luggage.