Best small SUVs

Pint-sized and chunky, small SUVs offer a high driving position without the bulk of a big car

BuyaCar team
Jan 19, 2017

If you think big is best but want a car that you can park easily, then the small SUV is ideal.

They look like mini versions of full-sized off-road cars, known as sport utility vehicles (SUVs), but actually use the mechanical parts from small superminis like the Renault Clio or Vauxhall Corsa.

This makes them crossover cars, which are meant to have the low running costs, comfort and stability of a supermini but with the raised height of an off-roader, offering a higher driving position and more practicality.

Whether you’ve got something bulky to put into the boot or just want to strap your child into their seat with less bending down, then the small crossover is likely to do the job better than a supermini.

But it is a compromise: making the car taller makes it less stable, which often means that you’ll either get a car that doesn’t lean in corners, or one that soaks up bumps well. Only a few get the balance right, and feel fun to drive too, thanks to zippy engines and precise steering. Here’s our pick of the best

Honda HR-V

Best small SUV for practicality

A look at the specification of our favourite HR-V should convince you the model is no ordinary small SUV. Small? It has the biggest boot here. The cabin is so roomy it challenges SUVs such as the Nissan Qashqai in the class above. Its practicality is boosted by a feature Honda calls ‘magic seats’. Simply – but cleverly – the rear seat squabs can be raised to the vertical so you have a clear through-space into which you can place tall items. Meanwhile, the DTEC diesel is one of the most efficient in the class: nippy but frugal and cheap to tax.

Our pick Honda HR-V 1.6i-DTEC SE


Mazda CX-3

Best small SUV for style and driving enjoyment

With distinctive styling, the Mazda CX-3’s design stands out from the competition, , but it’s also
Mazda’s new models are on a roll, what with their stylish lightweight designs, efficient engines and fun driving qualities. Yes, the CX-3 is a bit tight in the back and the boot could use more space but otherwise, it’s a well sorted car that drives better than most compact SUVs thanks to its sharp steering and nippy engines. The diesel is impressively economical, too. It comes in a choice of two or four-wheel drive but for most situations, the former is perfectly acceptable. The CX-3 comes well supplied with Bluetooth and a DAB digital radio but our pick goes one better with satellite navigation.

Our pick Mazda CX-3 1.5 Skyactiv-D SE-L Nav


Audi Q2

Best small SUV for image and space

The new Q2 brings a welcome touch of class to the small SUV sector. All the brand’s hallmarks are here: great styling and build quality, and efficient engines. In fact, our favourite engine, the 1.4 TSI can close down two cylinders when they’re not required (such as when coasting), saving fuel. It’s a comfortable car that’s also fun to drive. As you’d expect, you can have your Q2 in two or four-wheel drive, although you pay handsomely for the latter. There’s a reasonable amount of space, certainly enough for two adults to be comfy in the back. The boot is a reasonable size, too.

Our pick Audi Q2 S line 1.4 TSI


Citroen C4 Cactus

Best small SUV for comfort

Everyone talks about the Cactus’s so-called Airbumps on the sides, there to protect the car from casual knocks and scrapes. However, this SUV is more interesting than just a couple of sheets of bubblewrap. It looks good for a start – more like a jacked-up estate than a bulky SUV. Inside it has plenty of storage spaces including a clever top-loading glovebox. Meanwhile, that estate-like boot is clean and space-efficient. Talking of efficiency, our favourite engine, the 1.2 Pure Tech petrol, is impressively economical and powerful, too. Just look at the figures. Add a choice of funky colours and what’s not to like?

Our pick Citroen C4 Cactus 1.2 Pure Tech 110 Feel


Fiat 500 X

Best small SUV for distinctive design

The 500 X shares may of the styling cues of the Fiat 500 city car that spawned it. It’s usefully larger, though, with decent space for four plus their luggage, and being an SUV, it sits higher from the road. There are two versions: the two-wheel-drive City Look for urban types and the four-wheel-drive Off-road Look for those who fancy a spot of adventure. There’s a broad range of engines, too, but our pick, for its economy and decent performance, is the 1.6 Multijet diesel paired with the City Look in mid-price Lounge trim. The ride is quiet and comfortable, and all versions have good levels of grip, so they’re fun to drive.

Our pick Fiat 500 X Lounge 1.6 Multijet 120

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