Best high up small SUVs to buy in 2021

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

BuyaCar team
Jun 8, 2021

With its confident stance, spacious and lavishly appointed interior, and impressive go-anywhere, tow-anything capabilities that are beyond compare, the Range Rover is the golden standard of all SUVs. But there's a snag: the price.

Little wonder, then, that smaller, more affordable SUVs and crossovers have become one of the fastest-selling types of car in Britain. Drivers still get some of the high driving position, practical interior and, generally, the option of four-wheel drive – without the eye-watering price tag of the real deal. What's more, these cars typically use the mechanical parts from a conventional small car, crossed with the higher driving position of a proper off-road SUV, to keep the cost down.

The choice of models has grown faster than a bamboo plantation, thanks to their wide-ranging appeal. They are popular with young families; older drivers who appreciate the easy access of a taller car; employees who want a company car that can carry their bike at the weekend; and newly qualified drivers who can now realistically dream of an SUV as their first set of wheels.

What's more, power isn't limited to petrol or diesel. There are plenty of hybrid and plug-in hybrid examples, as well as electric models, too.

Best small SUVs on sale now

1. Mazda CX-3

Best small SUV for putting a smile on your face

Our pick Mazda CX-3 2.0 Skyactiv-G 120 Sport Nav
Used deals from £12,795
Monthly finance from £210*

There aren’t many small SUVs that try hard to put a smile on the driver’s face, but the Mazda CX-3 is one of them. There’s a precision and poise to the way this pretty little car goes about its business. And it means that when you have it all to yourself, an open winding road can be a real pleasure to drive.

However, it’s not perfect. The CX-3 is a bit confined in the back seats and the boot could use more space, so you’ll need to size it up carefully and decide whether it meets your needs. Mazda offers the CX-3 with a choice of two or four-wheel drive but for most situations, the former is perfectly acceptable.

The CX-3 was updated in September 2018, and received an all-new diesel engine. On the outside, it was subjected to a new grille, while an electronic handbrake replaced the manual lever type; a padded centre armrest and a folding centre rear seat with cupholders were also added.

MAZDA CX-3 BUYERS' GUIDE

2. Mini Countryman

Best small SUV for the personal touch

Our pick Mini Countryman Cooper S E ALL4
Used deals from £22,989
Monthly finance from £356*

You wouldn’t want to be given the job to count how many different combinations of Minis there are, because it would take more than a lifetime of head-scratching. Under the watchful eye of BMW, Mini introduced the concept of personalisation and drivers loved the idea of making a Mini theirs.

Today, that trend continues, and you can have plenty of fun configuring the big-ish Countryman on the company’s configurator. It’s worth pointing out that the second-generation Countryman is a big improvement over the first, especially for cabin space and the quality feel of the interior. It also saw a four-wheel-drive plug-in hybrid option introduced which uses a tuned down version of the entry-level 1.5-litre petrol engine paired with an electric motor, to give Cooper S-rivalling performance with boosted efficiency; Mini promises around 150mpg if you charge the Countryman regularly. 

And happily, the fun-to-drive feel remains alive and kicking, even if the engines, sound insulation and choice of options – such as the automatic gearbox and four-wheel drive – has given the car a more sophisticated feel.

MINI COUNTRYMAN BUYERS' GUIDE

3. Citroen C3 Aircross

Best small SUV for comfort

Our pick Citroen C3 Aircross PureTech 110 Feel
Used deals from £11,361
Monthly finance from £194*

Some small SUVs give you a higher driving position, but not much more space than if you had bought a standard small hatchback. That's not the case with the C3 Aircross, which hides plenty of practicality behind its zany design. Adults should be able to get comfortable in the back, thanks to a reasonable amount of legroom and the 410-litre boot is larger than you'll find in a Volkswagen Golf.

The family-friendly focus continues in the way that it drives: cushioning rough roads comfortably and minimising leaning in corners. Because it has been around since 2017, there's plenty of choice on the used market.

CITROEN C3 AIRCROSS BUYERS' GUIDE

4. Audi Q2

Best small SUV for image and space

Our pick Audi Q2 1.4 TFSI Sport
Used deals from £18,590
Monthly finance from £249*

Small but perfectly formed, the Q2 brings a touch of class to the small SUV sector. All of Audi’s hallmarks are here: slick styling and impressive build quality, efficient engines and surprisingly good roadholding.

Our favourite engine, the 1.4 TSI petrol unit, can switch off two cylinders when they’re not required, such as when coasting downhill or driving steadily at main road speeds, helping to save fuel. A sporty version of the Q2, called the SQ2, joined the range in 2019. Its 300hp engine catapults the car from 0-62mph in 4.8 seconds, so it’s no slouch.

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.

AUDI Q2 BUYERS' GUIDE

5. Suzuki Ignis

The best SUV for economical motoring

Our pick Suzuki Ignis 1.2 SZ3
Used deals from £7,799
Monthly finance from £128*

Even modestly-sized family SUVs can leave drivers with the nagging doubt that there’s no way it will fit into a parking space near the school gates or on the high street. Not so the pint-size Suzuki Ignis, which looks a little like a bigger car that’s been shrunk on a hot wash, but has an attitude all of its own thanks to edgy styling and a wheel-at-each-corner stance.

It’s also packed with features. You can opt for a mild hybrid system or four-wheel drive, but the engine choice is simple: a 1.2-litre petrol that’s enthusiastic and economical even without mild hybrid tech. Job done.

SUZUKI IGNIS BUYERS' GUIDE

6. Skoda Kamiq

Best small SUV for quality on a budget

Our pick Skoda Kamiq 1.5 TSI DSG SE L
Used deals from £22,750
Monthly finance from £321*

Skoda's smallest SUV offers a spacious interior and high levels of standard equipment. Entry-level S models have 16-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights and air-conditioning. If you can, avoid this trim as it has a small 6.5-inch media system, and go for SE with its eight-inch system, which supports wireless Apple CarPlay and wired Android Auto. SE Drive models and above come with an even bigger 9.2-inch display.

There's an engine to suit most drivers, including a couple of 1.0-litre petrol engines with either 95hp or 110hp. The 1.5-litre petrol engine's 150hp is the strongest of the bunch; it's this and the higher powered 1.0-litre engine that can be had with the super-slick automatic gearbox. There are no four-wheel drive options, though.

The Kamiq also shares many of its parts with the sportier-looking Seat Arona and the more grown-up Volkswagen T-Cross and T-Roc.

SKODA KAMIQ BUYERS' GUIDE

7. Ford Puma

Best small SUV for boot space

Ford Puma side view

Our pick Ford Puma 1.0 EcoBoost MHEV 125 ST-Line
Used deals from £21,696
Monthly finance from £307*

Many drivers will recognise the Puma as a small sports car from the 1990s, and while Ford has revived the name, it's a very different car. Its unique selling point is something that Ford calls the 'MegaBox' - clever packaging of the space around the boot means that there's lots of space under the adjustable boot floor. Enough room for items up to 115cm tall.

It's only available in high-spec trim levels: entry-level Titanium (a name that has previously been reserved for top-spec models) comes with an eight-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, automatic lights and wipers and rear parking sensors. There are a couple of ST-Line variants, and a range-topping Vignale, but it's the full-fat Puma ST you'll want if acceleration is important to you. It uses the same 200hp 1.5-litre petrol engine from the Fiesta ST.

Besides the 1.5-litre ST, there's a 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol engine that uses mild hybrid technology to improve efficiency and power. It comes in two flavours: 125hp and 155hp.

MORE ABOUT THE FORD PUMA

8. Dacia Duster

Best small SUV for cheap and cheerful motoring

Dacia Duster front three quarters view

Our pick Dacia Duster TCe 125 4x4 Ambiance
Used deals Limited stock

A pragmatist would argue that you shouldn't pay the slightest attention to the glossy brochures and enticing videos that are used to sell cars when we all know the reality of living with one: spilt coffee, muddy welly boots, chocolate stains, car-sick children and the pong of wet dogs.

That’s when the Dacia Duster comes into its element. It’s a good car that drivers can be proud to own, but not so fancy that you feel house-proud towards it. It can cope with hard knocks, has space for five and their luggage, there’s enough technology in the latest model to stop smartphone addicts from turning twitchy, and best of all, it’s priced to meet the financial needs of millions of families around the UK.

This is one of the cheapest ways to get behind a four-wheel-drive crossover, and while the diesel engine may be best suited to off-roading, most drivers won't be venturing beyond muddy fields. The 1.2-litre petrol variant will be best suited to city drivers' shorter journeys and provide equally strong efficiency. 

DACIA DUSTER BUYERS' GUIDE

9. Peugeot 3008

Best small SUV for style

Our pick Peugeot 3008 1.2 PureTech 130 GT-Line Automatic
Used deals from £27,250
Monthly finance from £386*

Very few crossovers employ such bold styling as the Peugeot 3008, which uses sharp lines and angles to make a statement. It's well equipped, too: every model comes with dual-zone air-conditioning, all-round parking sensors and a reversing camera, LED headlights, an eight-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and a 12.3-inch display to replace conventional dials behind the wheel. Go for Allure and above, and you'll get an upgraded 10-inch media system and more safety equipment like lane keep assist and blind spot monitoring.

Engine choice is simple, there's a 1.2-litre petrol engine and a 1.5-litre diesel engine. Both produce 130hp, and both come with a 6-speed manual gearbox, and can be upgraded to an 8-speed automatic. There's also a pair of hybrids that use a 1.6-litre petrol engine to produce either 225hp or 300hp. Electric-only range is limited to around 40 miles, and if you want four-wheel drive, expect to pay a premium as it's only available on the most powerful hybrid model.

PEUGEOT 3008 BUYERS' GUIDE

10. Hyundai Kona Electric

Best small SUV for electric power

Our pick Hyundai Kona Electric 64kWh Premium
Used deals from £28,070
Monthly finance from £396*

The Kona Electric was the first electric SUV for the real world; it's relatively affordable and has a decent range. On that point, real-world tests have shown the more powerful of the two models to be capable of 259 miles per charge.

Granted, a conventional diesel or petrol SUV will easily outrun it but for most drivers, most of the time, the Kona Electric could be the solution for emissions-free, SUV motoring.

The most powerful Kona is very quick, but even the lower-powered model feels nippy, and that electric range is better than a Renault Zoe or Nissan Leaf - easily enough for a typical commute.

Downsides are a rather small boot and a cramped rear interior but front seat space is excellent. And remember, there’s a government contribution to come off the price when buying brand new.

HYUNDAI KONA ELECTRIC BUYERS' GUIDE

*Representative PCP finance - Ford Fiesta Titanium:

Monthly payments over 48 months: £192
Deposit: £0
Mileage allowance: 8,000 per year
Optional final payment to buy car: £2,923
Total amount payable to buy car: £11,926
Total cost of credit: £2,426
Amount borrowed: £9,500
APR: 9.9%

Buyacar is a credit broker, not a lender. Our rates start from 6.9% APR. The rate you are offered will depend on your individual circumstances.

 

Latest best cars & vans

  1. Best cars with high torque

  2. Best cars with adaptive cruise control

  3. Best cars with reclining back seats