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6 May 2017

Can a space-age 7-seater electric car have a 351 mile range?

Find out more about the Tesla Model X. Plus we've reviewed the enormous Fiat Tipo SW and the new hybrid SUV from Kia - the Kia Niro

Not a week goes by without Tesla or its maverick owner Elon Musk making the news - whether it's self-driving cars, hyperloop or underground roads (more on those later). But nothing gets the heart racing quite like a new Tesla car, so we'vetaken a lookatitsbiggest modelyet - the Tesla Model X.

Tesla's space-age SUV, with its glorious falcon-wing doors, isn't cheap at £85,000. But fear not, we've recently reviewed some cars with more realistic price tags.

The Fiat Tipo SW is an estate car with room to spare, the Kia Niro is a hybrid SUV with the Toyota C-HRin its sights, and the Vauxhall Mokka X will need the x-factor to topple either of Nissan's small SUV successes, the Qashqai and the Juke.

Rounding things off is our first drive of the new sixth-generation Suzuki Swift. Suzuki said it designed the Swift to compete with 'character' hatchbacks such as the Mini. We put this car through its paces to see whether Suzuki made good on its promise.

See all the cars we recommend, from the smallest city car to the biggest estate. Head to our top cars for 2017.

Tesla Model X

The Model X may be Tesla's biggest car to date, but it's based on the Tesla Model S. It's the same length, but a touch wider and much taller. The model S is already a large car, but the extra height on the Model X gives it an impressive profile.

Extra room means extra seats to a maximum of seven, and how you get into those extra seats is one of the Model X's most visually exciting features.

The dramatically named falcon-wing doors raise upwards, rather than outwards, and are hinged in two places. This means that doors can open with just 30cm of room - perfect for a cramped car park. Let's face it, in a car this size a lot of parking spots are going to be a tight fit. Once the doors have fully risen, the car is open from base to roof and you'll barely need to stoop to get in.

The delightfully clever doors are the icing on the cake for this oh-so-desirable car, and that's before we talk about the power. There are three battery options: 75kWh, 90kWh and 100kWh.

You'll need the 100kWh model to get the best acceleration and the top range of 351 miles.Tesla claims the car can reach 60mph in 2.9 seconds - that's quicker than an Audi SQ7 and Range Rover Sport SVR.

Each model has four-wheel-drive plus a 17-inch central control panel to mess around with.With only two buttons on the dashboard, everything is controlled via the touchscreen.

The tablet by the dashboard isn't the only huge bit of glass in the car. The panoramic windshield covers half of the car's roof, and Tesla says it's the largest one in production.

We've got a lot more to say about the Tesla Model X. So to find out how this tall car handles, how comfortable it is for seven passengers and how long those beefy batteries take to charge, head to our Tesla Model X first drive review.

Kia Niro

If you want an SUV that's cheap to run, but you're not ready for the all-electric Model X (or your bank account isn't), then Kia has provided an option. The Kia Niro is the company's latest hybrid, which pairs an electric motor with a 1.6-litre petrol engine.

Kia says you'll get a mighty 74.3mpg from the low-spec models, while the bigger-wheeled Niro returns 64.2mpg. Both are lofty figures, which would put the Niro near the top of our list of the most efficient SUVs and 4x4s if they're true.

Engine aside, Kia isn't exactly breaking the mould when it comes to design. It's nice enough, but it's not going to turn heads like a Lexus NXor a Toyota C-HR. What might is Kia's generous warranty. It has offered seven years on its cars for some time now, and the Niro is no different. The added peace of mind that comes from such a lengthy period of cover is bound to tempt buyers, as will the price.

The entry-level model is just under £21,000. This puts it in the region of the Toyota C-HR, although the Niro is bigger. Whichever trim level you go for, it's worth spending £350 for the Advanced Driving Assistant Systems. Without them, the car only gets a four-star Euro NCAP safety rating.

We reveal whether Kia's claimed mpg figures are accurate and whether the car is easy to drive - see our fullKia Niro review.

Fiat Tipo SW

The estate version of the Fiat Tipo has two things going for it: it's cheap and it's huge.

The Tipo starts at £13,540, and Fiat says the station wagon's boot capacity is 550 litres. Fiat didn't skimp on space, which makes you wonder how itgot the price of the Tipo SW so low. Even the mid-range trim level, which adds electric rear windows, rear parking sensors and cruise control, among other things, only adds £1,000 to the price.

There's a solid range of engines, too, including a pair of 1.4-litre petrol engines and a range-topping 120hp 1.6-litre diesel. The diesel costs an extra £2,000, so you'll need to do a fair bit of driving to make it worthwhile.

How does it handle, and are the engines efficient? You get the impression something's got to give with this low-cost estate. Alternatively, Fiat may have knocked it out of the park and made a cheap Best Buy estate. Read our Fiat Tipo SW review to find out.

Vauxhall Mokka X

The Mokka is no more, now we have the Mokka X. It's a restyled crossover that sits betweenNissan's Juke and Qashqai in size and - Vauxhall will be hoping - above them in quality.

For a small SUV, the Mokka X isn't short of interior space, but this does mean that the car is tall. The height, coupled with the short wheelbase, could prove tricky when cornering.

As well as the new look, there's a new engine. With 152bhp, the 1.4-litre Ecotec petrol is the most powerful engine available for the Mokka X. But no matter what engine you choose, you can opt for automatic or manual transmission and four-wheel-drive or front-wheel-drive.

The Mokka X is one of the cheapest 4x4s available in the UK. Features like hill descent control mean that this is a 4×4 that is actually competent off road. Is it competent around town and is it better than a Qashqai? Read our Vauxhall Mokka reviewfor the answers.

Suzuki Swift

The Swift is an important car for Suzuki. The nippy little car has garnered a reputation for being a fun and lively small hatchback.

Suzuki has the Baleno for anyone wanting a small car with a decent amount of space, leaving the Swift to go after the Mini and Citroen C3, or 'character' hatchbacks as Suzuki likes to call them.

The Swift will need to be responsive, quick and handle well if it wants to compete, and the 111bhp 1.0-litre engine should have the power to do it. Suzuki calls the engine a 'mild hybrid' and claims 61.4mpg, which would make the Swift a cheap car to run.

One concern could be safety. Only the top-spec model gets all the safety features, which means cheaper models may not be safe enough to recommend.

To get our impressions on how the car handles and whether it can rival the mighty Mini, head to our first drive review of theSuzuki Swift.

Latest car news

Tesla goes underground
We said Tesla is never far from the news, and here it is again with another out-of-the-blue announcement. It wants to build roads under cities to help with traffic congestion.

A new branch of Tesla called 'The Boring Company' will handle the project, which will let cars travel at up to 124mph on electric sleds along preset routes. it will be many years before we see any car-transporting underground tunnels, but the idea is far from boring.

Nissan's solution for drivers using smartphones
Wjile Tesla is looking forward to fix the problem of traffic congestion, Nissan is looking back to an old invention to stop motorists using their phone while driving. Faraday cages block all electrical signals, including phone reception, making smartphones all but useless, and Nissan is considering putting one in all of its cars.

The concept, known as the Nissan Signal Shield, will give drivers the option to drive without the distractions of phone calls and texts.