With eight vehicles gunning for the 2022 Motor1.com Star Award for Best SUV, not only was this category saturated with exceptionally good vehicles, but it also featured competitors ranging in price from as low as $30,000 to well over six figures and varying in powertrains from standard four-cylinder engines to battery packs and electric motors.
It was clear, though, after testing these SUVs back-to-back that only one of them hit all of its marks. In terms of drivability, space, style, and overall comfort, the Kia Sportage Hybrid stood out the most. Kia beat out the perpetual front-running Honda CR-V, Jeep Grand Wagoneer, Subaru Forester Wilderness, BMW iX, Land Rover Range Rover, Infiniti QX60, and even its upmarket cousin, the Genesis GV70. But there’s a reason all eight of these SUVs made the cut.
What We Look For
Our Best SUV category is perhaps the most varied of any in this year’s competition. We consider price and efficiency, but also interior space and amenities (are there enough cupholders and USB ports for the kids and their friends?). We can’t ignore ride quality or powertrain performance, or capability such as towing and payload capacity. In general, our Best SUV winner needs to excel in a multitude of areas to have a chance of winning out.
|Quick Stats||2022 BMW iX xDrive50|
|Motors:||Twin Electrically Excited Synchronous Motors|
|Output:||516 Horsepower / 564 Pound-Feet|
|EV Range:||315 Miles|
|Cargo Volume:||35.5 / 77.9 Cubic Feet|
The BMW iX brings a lot to the table in the luxury EV space. It has a revolutionary interior, a wonderful driving experience, and enough power on tap to keep things interesting. A healthy 516 horsepower comes from the 111.5-kilowatt-hour battery pack, giving the iX a 0-60 time of just 4.1 seconds. But, the iX is also one of the pricier options out there with a starting cost of $85,095. And among the other SUVs we tested, it wasn’t the most comfortable, most spacious, or the most engaging from a driver’s perspective. It fell to the middle of the pack among a very competitive group.
|Quick Stats||2022 Genesis GV70 Sport Prestige 3.5T|
|Engine:||Twin-Turbocharged 3.5-liter V6|
|Output:||375 Horsepower / 391 Pound-Feet|
|Efficiency:||19 City / 25 Highway / 21 Combined|
|Cargo Volume:||28.9 / 56.9 Cubic Feet|
The Genesis GV70 3.5T with the Sport package was a fantastic vehicle to toss around the canyons. The 375 horsepower and 391 pound-feet of torque emanating from the turbocharged six-cylinder engine delivered power with purpose while the upgraded suspension offered more flingability than all of its compact counterparts. Not to mention the GV70 was a fantastic place to sit over that time thanks to its upscale interior. But the GV70 didn’t offer as much value in a segment that truly rewards it; some of the best options on this car were stuck in pricey packages.
|Quick Stats||2023 Honda CR-V EX-L AWD|
|Engine:||Turbocharged 1.5-liter I4|
|Output:||190 Horsepower / 179 Pound-Feet|
|Efficiency:||27 City / 32 Highway / 29 Combined|
|Cargo Volume:||39.3 / 76.5 Cubic Feet|
As far as affordable and reliable SUVs go, few do it better than the Honda CR-V. And for the 2023 model year, the new interior and the refreshed engine made it even more alluring in the compact space. The CR-V delivered decent power and a comfortable ride while still ticking most of the boxes that make for a great SUV: space, efficiency, and price, among others. But while the CR-V was a solid all-arounder, it didn’t feel class-leading in any one particular area – especially compared to the Kia.
|Quick Stats||2022 Infiniti QX60 Autograph AWD|
|Output:||295 Horsepower / 270 Pound-Feet|
|Efficiency:||20 City / 25 Highway / 22 Combined|
|Cargo Volume:||14.5 / 41.6 / 75.4 Cubic Feet|
The large and luxurious Infiniti QX60 is much improved over the one it replaces. A new architecture shared with the Nissan Pathfinder gives it a better driving experience and the fresh 3.5-liter V6 engine is more robust, while the cabin boasts lavish amenities and upgraded tech. The new QX60 also looks fantastic thanks to its sharp exterior design and two-tone paint. But for the price – $65,645 as tested – it isn’t a compelling value, and frankly, wasn’t nearly as nice to drive as the much more affordable Kia.
|Quick Stats||2022 Jeep Grand Wagoneer Series III 4×4|
|Output:||471 Horsepower / 455 Pound-Feet|
|Efficiency:||13 City / 18 Highway / 15 Combined|
|Cargo Volume:||28.4 / 72.9 / 96.9 Cubic Feet|
Jeep went big with the new Grand Wagoneer – and it packed in the power, too. Featuring a brawny 6.4-liter V8 Hemi underhood, the Grand Wagoneer offers up 471 horsepower and 455 pound-feet of torque. On top of that, the inside of the Grand Wagoneer has all the upscale amenities you’d expect of a luxurious three-row SUV: high-end leather, a stylish layout, and loads of comfort. But convoluted tech and an overabundance of touch-capacitive inputs are what kept the Grand Wagoneer from taking home the final award.
|Quick Stats||2022 Land Rover Range Rover L SE|
|Engine:||Twin-Turbocharged 3.0-liter I6 w/ISG|
|Output:||395 Horsepower / 406 Pound-Feet|
|Efficiency:||18 City / 26 Highway / 21 Combined|
|Cargo Volume:||8.7 / 43.1 / 92.9 Cubic Feet|
The new Land Rover Range Rover remains one of the finest luxury SUVs on the market. It has a handsome design – albeit updated from last year – a flashy interior, and a new inline-six-cylinder engine that is buttery smooth. The Range Rover is as joyous to ride in as it is to drive, but it’s not without issue. The six-figure starting price makes it a tougher sell than some of the other more affordable SUVs in this space, the third row is tough to access, and the light leather makes hauling children a terrifying proposition.
|Quick Stats||2022 Subaru Forester Wilderness|
|Output:||182 Horsepower / 176 Pound-Feet|
|Efficiency:||25 City / 28 Highway / 26 Combined|
|Cargo Volume:||26.9 / 69.1 Cubic Feet|
If you’re looking for a bit of funk with your compact crossover, the Subaru Forester Wilderness might be it. Its rugged design and 9.2 inches of ground clearance make it one of the most capable small crossovers in the class, yet it still boasts a cabin that’s quiet, comfortable, and comes with solid technology. In terms of the driving experience, though, the continuously variable transmission and 2.5-liter four-cylinder leave something to be desired.
|Quick Stats||2023 Kia Sportage Hybrid SX-Prestige AWD|
|Engine:||Turbocharged 1.6-liter I4 w/Permanent Magnet Motor|
|Output:||227 Horsepower / 258 Pound-Feet|
|Efficiency:||38 City / 38 Highway / 38 Combined|
|Cargo Volume:||39.6 / 74.1 Cubic Feet|
In the end, only one SUV delivered in virtually every category: the 2023 Kia Sportage Hybrid.
One of the major highlights was the styling. When parked alongside the rather uninspired Honda CR-V, the Kia’s boomerang-shaped LED running lights, tapered Tiger Nose grille, and the elegant rear end made it the obvious choice in terms of looks. The Sportage is spacious, too, offering some of the most cargo room in the class and more than enough head and legroom for all of us to sit comfortably in the second row.
But it was the optional hybrid powertrain that really won us over. Pairing a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine to a single electric motor gives this Sportage 227 horsepower and up to 38 miles per gallon with all-wheel drive. And the handoff between gas and electric was totally seamless during out testing. Kia’s streak of success continues with the new Sportage.
How We Choose Star Awards Winners
The Motor1.com Star Awards start with vehicles that received the highest Star Ratings throughout the year. Our awards consideration set starts with vehicles that are either all-new or significantly revised over the last year. From there, we invite the best vehicles to join us for a week of head-to-head testing.
During the year we let data take the lead in our rating system, but the goal of Test Week is to compare vehicles head to head – on the road, on the track, or in the dirt as the case may be – to see which competitor in each segment stands out with unmissable value, incredible technology, and impressive real-world behavior. Any vehicle invited to participate in Star Awards is excellent, but only the very best in each segment can claim the title.
Photo Credit: Logan Zillmer