10 Best 2018 SUV Models: Compact, Mid-Size & Full-Size
In today’s marketplace, the SUV is the king of family vehicles, no matter how many people there are in your household.
The thing is, new SUVs get expensive quickly as you move up the size ladder – particularly, 7-seater SUVs with 3 rows – which means you may have to shop the used market to find one that will get your family from A to B in comfort while sticking to your budget.
To help get you started in the search for your next vehicle, we’ve rounded up 10 of the best 2018 SUV and crossover models you can buy today to meet your family’s needs.
2018 Volkswagen Atlas premium mid-size SUV
2018 VW Atlas | Photo: Amee Reehal
- Why we like it: Nearly full-size accommodations at mid-size prices
- Specifications: 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder or 3.6L V6 engines; 235-276 hp/258-266 lb-ft; eight-speed automatic transmission; front or all-wheel drive
Volkswagen needed some good news in the late 2010s as it tried to distance itself from the diesel emissions scandal of 2015, and it found some in one of the two new SUV models it launched in 2018 – the redesigned compact Tiguan (which we’ll discuss later) and the all-new mid-size Atlas.
The Atlas replaced the Touareg as VW’s mid-size SUV model. Where the outgoing Touareg was aimed at buyers seeking an upscale vehicle, the Atlas was a more-affordable straightforward family vehicle with three rows of seats in a cabin at the large end of its class.
That size pays off in a third row with adult-friendly space, making the Atlas a legit seven- or eight-seater where many of its competitors’ third rows are best reserved for occasional use.
Despite the Atlas’s extra size, it boasted better fuel economy than the smaller Touareg, thanks to weight-saving construction.
VW Atlas interior in 2018 came well-equipped
The Atlas also came well-equipped, with Comfortline models getting an 8.0-inch touchscreen, three-zone A/C, heated seats, and passive keyless entry. Highline added ventilated front seats and heated rears, and an Execline model got digital gauges and automatic high beams.
2018 Toyota Highlander Hybrid fuel-efficient mid-size SUV
2018 Highlander Hybrid | Photo: Toyota
- Why we like it: Practical, reliable, and fuel-efficient family transportation
- Specifications: 3.5L V6 engine and electric motors; 306 hp/215 lb-ft; continuously variable transmission; all-wheel drive
In 2020, Toyota redesigned its Highlander into a fourth generation that has won praise for its bold styling and high-quality interior finishes. So why are we highlighting an older version of this mid-size crossover?
The 2018 Highlander may be less exciting to look at than the newer generation, but it's more traditional styling hides a very useful interior. There’s better headroom, especially for rear-seat passengers, and more space overall for the third row, which is quite cramped in the fourth-gen Highlander.
Toyota hybrid SUV one of the first in 2018
In 2018, Toyota was one of a few automakers that offered a hybrid option in a mid-size crossover. The Highlander Hybrid matches Toyota’s V6 engine with electric motors for generous torque and, of course, impressive fuel economy: Natural Resources Canada’s 8.3L/100 km combined fuel consumption estimate is better than the ones for some family sedans.
If you’re looking for luxury at mainstream prices, Toyota offered the Highlander Hybrid in a Limited trim loaded with items like LED headlights, ventilated seats, three-zone A/C, and navigation. Limited trim also added a blind spot monitor to the Highlander Hybrid’s list of standard safety features, which included forward collision mitigation, lane keeping assist, and automatic high beams.
2018 Audi Q5 luxury compact crossover
2018 Audi Q5 | Photo: Audi
- Why we like it: Handsome, unfussy styling wrapped around a comfortable, high-tech cabin
- Specifications: Turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder and 3.0L V6 engines; 252-354hp/273-369 lb-ft; eight-speed automatic transmission; all-wheel drive
The Audi Q5 is a good example of what happens when an automaker gets a design right. Normally, we might criticize an automaker for making so few changes to a second-generation model, but the original Q5, introduced in 2009, looked so good that Audi barely needed to touch the car’s styling for its 2018 redesign.
Instead, Audi changed the Q5 where it counts: Under the hood, the 2018 model’s base four-cylinder engine makes nearly as much power as the outgoing model’s V6. And if the Q5’s base powerplant doesn’t do it for you, consider the SQ5, which trades the four-cylinder for a turbo V6 with 354 horsepower.
2018 Q5 interior saw Audi-first features & Quattro all-wheel drive was updated
At the wheels, Quattro all-wheel drive is standard, but the 2018 Q5 got an updated system that can disconnect power to the rear wheels to help save fuel when you don’t need four-wheel grip.
Inside, the 2018 Q5 was one of the first Audi models to get the brand’s virtual cockpit digital gauge cluster, a slick piece of tech that displays a wealth of information. Considering how quickly tech evolves these days, the 2018 Q5’s setup still looks leading-edge.
2018 Infiniti QX80 full-size luxury SUV
2018 Infiniti QX80 | Photo: Infiniti
- Why we like it: Plenty of space in a body that looks posh without being ostentatious.
- Specifications: 5.6L V8; 400 hp/413 lb-ft; seven-speed automatic transmission; all-wheel drive
For many years, the Infiniti QX80 has been one of the full-size luxury SUV class’s best values, and it got even better in 2018 with a mid-cycle update for the brand’s largest model.
The QX80’s 2018 refresh was mostly a styling exercise, but it was a good one that improved the truck’s appearance to make it look more expensive. That update also added better sound insulation to reduce road noise in the cabin, making it feel more expensive. Meanwhile, a tweaked dash design improved the ergonomics of the secondary controls.
V8 sport utility with nearly 4,000 kg towing capacity
For all its luxury, the QX80 relies on good old V8 power, for better or worse: better for performance, including a towing capacity of more than 3,800 kg – but worse for fuel economy, with a combined rating of 15.1 L/100 km. Still, it’s hard to do one without the other.
The QX80’s light steering makes it easy to manoeuvre in parking lots, and its suspension does a great job of managing body motions on rough roads without resorting to the air springs available in other high-end SUVs.
Inside, the QX80’s cabin has lots of space for people and stuff, including a useful 470L of cargo volume behind the standard third row. The third row is spacious under the boxy roofline, and you can get quilted leather upholstery that amps up this truck’s luxury feel.
2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio sporty luxury compact crossover
2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio | Photo: Alfa Romeo
- Why we like it: No one makes sports cars like the Italians, and it turns out they can build an entertaining SUV, too.
- Specifications: 2.0L turbo four-cylinder, 2.9L turbo V6; 280-505 hp/ 306-443 lb-ft; eight-speed automatic transmission; AWD
Alfa Romeo made its long-awaited return to Canada in 2015 with the tiny 4C sports coupe, and followed that up with the Giulia sedan in 2017. But it got serious about making a dent in our luxury car market in 2018 with its first-ever SUV, the Stelvio.
Stelvio Quadrifoglio model puts down over 500 horsepower
This compact crossover model is a compelling alternative to the German and Japanese SUVs that dominate the luxury marketplace, with handling worthy of a sport wagon and the option of a 505-hp wicked turbo V6 in the top Quadrifoglio model. And if the Stelvio isn’t the roomiest vehicle in its class, it at least proves that it’s possible to make an SUV look sexy.
The ride is on the firm side, even in the base models, but that translates into flat cornering and the Stelvio has comfortable seats that provide good support in enthusiastic driving and are comfortable for long drives. Speaking of which, if you value being able to take manual control of the transmission when pushing along a twisty road, you’ll appreciate the Stelvio’s optional paddle shifters, which are sized and positioned to be easier to reach than in most other vehicles.
2018 Chevrolet Equinox spacious compact crossover
2018 Chevy Equinox | Photo: Amee Reehal
- Why we like it: Smooth styling, roomy interior, good performance
- Specifications: 1.5L and 2.0L gasoline turbo four-cylinder engines, 1.6L four-cylinder diesel; 136-252 hp/203-260 lb-ft; six- and nine-speed automatic transmissions; front- or all-wheel drive
The Chevrolet Equinox has always been a compelling choice in the compact crossover category for its generous interior space. For 2018, the Chevy redesigned the Equinox into a third generation with similar space in a smaller, lighter, and more efficiently designed body, plus better styling and fuel economy.
Small American crossover that has aged well in design
Styling-wise, you could criticize the Equinox for being forgettable-looking, but on the plus side, the design has aged well and looks more expensive than it is. It also contributes to the car’s useful headroom with a straight-back roofline that doesn’t try to trick you into thinking this is anything but a bread-and-butter crossover.
A sophisticated infotainment system contains controls for most secondary functions, but Chevrolet also put redundant hard buttons on the dash for the ones you’ll use most.
Among the Equinox’s powertrain options, the optional 2.0L turbo four-cylinder is the best choice, performance-wise. A 1.5L turbo motor works fine and is more efficient, but sluggish throttle response can make it feel slower than it is. Chevrolet also offered a diesel in the Equinox, but you won’t find many on the used market.
2018 Dodge Durango SRT powerful V8 mid-size SUV
20218 Dodge Durango SRT | Photo: Dodge
- Why we like it: Big power in a practical and attainable package
- Specifications: 6.4L V8 engine; 475 hp/470 lb-ft; eight-speed automatic transmission; AWD
Dodge updated its Durango mid-size SUV in 2018 with the addition of a high-performance SRT variant that injected new life into one of the segment’s plainest offerings, and one that hadn’t been redesigned since 2011.
Large Dodge SUV with equally vast horsepower
Under the Durango SRT’s hood is a 6.4L V8 borrowed from Dodge’s muscle-car line-ups. Even in this bulky vehicle, it provides thrilling acceleration and sounds terrific at full throttle, thanks to a nicely tuned exhaust system.
And while it’s not exactly fuel efficient – its combined city/highway consumption rating is 15.6 L/100 km – the Durango SRT is easy to live with day-to-day. The front seats are supportive and comfortable, the third row is roomy enough for adults, and the dash contains some useful tech features without getting too fancy. Among those items are a set of pages in the infotainment system that measure the truck’s performance if you feel like taking your SUV to the drag strip.
In an auto industry where EVs are dominating the news cycle, a big SUV with a big V8 engine is an anachronism, but if you want a practical vehicle that can do serious speed, this is a good way to get it.
2018 Volkswagen Tiguan premium compact crossover
2018 VW Tiguan | Photo: Amee Reehal
- Why we like it: Three-row seating in a compact package
- Specifications: 2.0L turbo four-cylinder engine; 184 hp/221 lb-ft; eight-speed automatic transmission; front- or all-wheel drive
In 2018, the Volkswagen Tiguan grew up in more ways than one. The second-generation model was larger than its predecessor and boasted enough interior space for an optional third row of seating. It also gained refinement thanks to a new platform and a new version of VW’s then well-known 2.0L turbo four-cylinder engine.
2018 Tiguan received full redesign inside and out
The outgoing Tiguan was loads of fun to drive, but its design dated back to 2009, and neither its size nor its character were good fits in the compact crossover class of the late 2010s. The 2018 Tiguan’s engine is less exciting to drive, but its generous torque makes it feel especially strong in city driving, and it’s more efficient all-round.
Inside, the 2018 Tiguan offered high-tech options like a digital gauge cluster, then a feature that had just started to trickle down into non-luxury vehicles. Perhaps more practical is a lower cargo floor, which makes it easier to load bulky items. And if you spend any time off-road, the 2018 Tiguan’s front bumper is designed to more easily clear large obstacles (keeping in mind that, even with AWD, the Tiguan is not built for rough running).
2018 Mini Countryman plug-in hybrid subcompact crossover
2018 Mini Countryman SD ALL4 | Photo: Graham Heeps
- Why we like it: One of the best SUV driving experiences around, with the added appeal of a plug-in hybrid option
- Specifications: 1.5L turbo three-cylinder, 2.0L turbo four-cylinder engines; 134-228 hp/162-284 lb-ft; six-speed manual/automatic transmissions; all-wheel drive
The Mini Countryman subcompact crossover came along a year after a redesign that added refinement and even more performance to a vehicle already known for its entertaining driving feel. But the 2018 model also got something new in Mini’s first-ever plug-in hybrid drivetrain.
Mini’s first plug-in hybrid (PHEV) model was the 2018 Countryman SE ALL4
Dubbed the Countryman SE ALL4, the first PHEV Mini offers a modest 19 km of electric driving range. But it boasts the lowest fuel consumption ratings of any Countryman model and its 221 hp/284 lb-ft promise performance similar to that of the punchy John Cooper Works model.
Mini isn’t known for vehicles with big interiors, but the 2018 Countryman was among the roomier options in the subcompact luxury crossover class that year, making it well-suited to couples and young families.
Regardless of which engine you choose, you get a small crossover that handles brilliantly, and all non-hybrid Countryman powertrains start with a six-speed manual transmission. That, and the Countryman’s extroverted styling, help set this little SUV apart in a field dominated by comparatively ho-hum vehicles.
If you’re considering a new hybrid SUV, read our article: 10 Cheapest Hybrid Vehicles (PHEV) in Canada for 2022
2018 Buick Enclave upscale 3-row SUV
2018 Buick Enclave | Photo: Buick
- Why we like it: A smooth, roomy near-luxury family crossover
- Specifications: 3.6L V6; 302 hp/260 lb-ft; nine-speed automatic transmission; front- or all-wheel drive
Buick is easily overlooked in today’s upscale vehicle marketplace because its offerings, like the Enclave full-size SUV, are designed and priced for a slice of the market between mainstream vehicles and true luxury models. Between that and the lingering stigma of Buick being a stodgy brand for old folks, the Enclave doesn’t end up on as many shopping lists as it should.
2018 Enclave was redesigned and offered in Buick’s then-new Avenir package
In 2018, Buick redesigned the Enclave into its second generation, with sleeker styling and a more modern dashboard. It also built on the earlier model’s reputation for smooth, quiet performance with the addition of active noise cancelling, which helps it feel more luxurious than many mainstream three-row models priced up to the 2018 Enclave’s $48,000 starting point.
In no universe will the Enclave keep up with an Acura MDX or any of Germany’s mid-size crossovers on a handling course, but an available variable real-time damping suspension makes this Buick feel surprisingly athletic.
The 2018 Enclave was also the first Buick offered trimmed with the brand’s then-new Avenir package, which was loaded with useful tech like navigation, a digital gauge cluster, and a camera-based rearview mirror.