Family cars come in all shapes and sizes, from sedans and hatchbacks to scooters and minivans. However, SUVs have quickly become the first choice of many families, as they offer a unique combination of everyday functionality and the sound of supermarket parking.
With family SUVs now so popular, there are plenty of options to choose from; from entry-level models like the Skoda Karoq to desirable performance SUVs like the Maserati Grecale. In between is a collection of premium models that offer many of the luxury touches of high-end SUVs, without the hefty price tag.
We’ve picked three of the best premium family SUVs on the market today – the BMW X3, Mazda CX-60, and Volvo XC60 – and compared them to see which should end up in the driveway. While we haven’t oriented them side-by-side, we do have in-depth reviews that you can check out for a more in-depth opinion on each model. For now, at least, read on to see which one we think is the best. There is no doubt that we not only review those car models in the past but also wait and see the performance of 2023 Mazda CX-60, the BMW X3 as well as the Volvo XC60 in the future.
Which is the best to drive?
In a world full of comfortable crossovers, it’s easy to forget that the “S” in “SUV” stands for “Sport”. The Volvo XC60 is a prime example of why the ‘SUV’ title is often a bit confused, as it is designed first and foremost to provide the most comfortable driving experience possible. Of course, that’s not necessarily a bad thing as Volvo is probably the best of these three options for busy city driving. However, when it comes to a twisty road, you’ll find the XC60 leans a lot around corners and its steering isn’t nearly as sharp.
You may be surprised to learn that the CX-60 is in fact Mazda’s most powerful production model to date. Still, while it may not quite have the agility of the smaller Mazda MX-5 or the RX-8’s wobbly engine, the CX-60 can still deliver plenty of fun. Mazda’s 335-hp plug-in hybrid powertrain has less power than the powertrain offered in the Volvo, but the Japanese SUV still feels more fun to drive. With a steering setup almost identical to the aforementioned MX-5, the CX-60 is surprisingly sporty despite weighing two tons. A less powerful but lighter diesel model is also on the way, which will feel more alive.
However, the new BMW is the “Ultimate Driving Machine”. All X3s have BMW’s xDrive all-wheel drive system; this can reallocate force between the front and rear axles to maintain maximum traction. The X3 xDrive30e plug-in hybrid makes 288bhp, but buyers will want to opt for the 335bhp petrol X3 M40i if they want to make the most of BMW’s tweaked chassis.
Which is the cheapest to run?
Efficiency may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of two-ton luxury 4x4s; However, all three cars are available with diesel and plug-in hybrid powertrains, making them more efficient than you might think.
The BMW X3’s 2.0-liter diesel can top 47.8 mpg and is a solid choice for private buyers. However, the more expensive plug-in hybrid is the best option for the company’s car drivers, with low taxes in kind and a 30-mile electric range. Unlike the Mazda, the X3 is also available with a choice of powerful petrol engines, although these are reserved for low-range drivers.
The XC60 can then be configured with either a petrol or plug-in hybrid powertrain, and a diesel engine option is also offered. This one, called the B4, can return 44.1mpg, while the two patrols can still manage more than 35mpg thanks to mild hybrid assist. However, it is Volvo’s plug-in hybrid offerings that really shine, as the XC60’s lower and higher power configurations offer nearly 60 miles of electric range. This means that some drivers can drive the Volvo all-electric, which greatly reduces operating costs.
Expected to join the lineup in 2023, the Mazda CX-60’s diesel is expected to return 57.6mpg. Meanwhile, the only model available is a plug-in hybrid with a 39-mile electric range; that puts Mazda squarely between BMW and Volvo. That said, the CX-60 PHEV starts at just over £43,000 – £13,000 less than the equivalent XC60. While not a big deal for corporate car drivers, private buyers can save a lot of money by choosing Mazda, despite its shorter range.
Which has the best interior?
One of the hallmarks of a premium SUV is its luxurious interior. Shoppers here should expect plenty of luxurious materials like Alcantara leather and suede, as well as the latest technology to keep you and your family safe and connected.
Step into the CX-60 and it’s easy to think you’re sitting in a much more expensive luxury car – ignoring the numerous “Mazda” markings, of course. The overall design is minimalist and elegant, and Mazda has incorporated some touches of its Japanese heritage in the form of stitches and traditional lighting techniques. While the Japanese are certainly renowned for their technology, Mazda can’t quite match its rivals in this regard. The CX-60 uses a dial controller for the infotainment system instead of a touchscreen; that makes it safer to use on the go, but the system itself isn’t as intuitive or feature-rich as those found elsewhere.
On the other hand, the interior of the BMW X3 can only be described as a technology festival. The brand’s iDrive system is one of the best on the market and can be controlled via a dial in the center console or the 12.3-inch touchscreen on the dashboard. This is complemented by a set of 12.3-inch digital dials; The driver can configure it to display many car functions such as a sat nav map or the music you are currently listening to. Looking elsewhere, the X3’s interior layout is a bit conservative, but build quality and materials are perhaps strongest here.
If that’s the wow factor you’re looking for, though, neither of the other two cars has a cabin that comes close to that of the Volvo XC60. The overall design of the XC60’s cabin is quintessentially Scandinavian, with lots of natural materials and very little bulk. The center of the dashboard is dominated by a portrait-style 9-inch touchscreen; it may not be as sleek as the BMW, but it’s still simple to use. Another highlight is Volvo’s orthopedic seats that look as good as they feel.
Which is the most practical?
Aside from their undeniable appeal, perhaps the most common reason to choose an SUV over an equivalent hatchback or hatchback is added practicality. Volvo has long been known for its practical station wagons, and while the XC60 should provide enough space for most families, the SUV falls short of its rivals. Open the standard electric tailgate and you’ll be greeted by 505 liters of space, 14 liters less than the equivalent Volvo V60 scooter. On the bright side, that number is unchanged for the hybrid model, and Volvo’s boxy shape means rear passengers have plenty of headroom.
Next is the BMW, which has a luggage compartment of 550 liters; Unfortunately, the plug-in hybrid models only have 450 liters due to the boot floor mounts. However, the X3’s cabin is extremely spacious, allowing three people to sit side by side in the back with relative comfort, despite a large bump in the middle of the floor.
However, the title of the most spacious car belongs to the Mazda CX-60. The trunk of the CX-60 has a capacity of 570 liters, even with the plug-in hybrid powertrain. In terms of passenger space, the longer wheelbase (distance between the front and rear wheels) compared to the smaller Mazda CX-5 means plenty of leg room in the rear.
Which should I buy?
Whichever you choose, these three SUVs are great choices for anyone looking to upgrade to something fancy, with running costs lower than the premium. The BMW will appeal to most driving enthusiasts and tech enthusiasts alike, with its engaging handling and utility-filled interior. Volvo is a wise choice for those looking for comfort, while the plug-in hybrid’s nearly 60-mile range will significantly reduce operating costs for the company’s drivers.
On paper, however, Mazda is the most complete model. The CX-60 is almost as flexible to drive as the BMW, while its powertrain closely matches the Volvo in efficiency. The plug-in hybrid’s 39-mile electric range may not be the best in its class, but it should provide a welcome introduction to zero-emissions driving for those not ready to upgrade. into an all-electric car. In fact, the only thing Mazda doesn’t offer compared to the other two is premium visuals – so beware of badges!