Best used small SUVs

Small but spacious and affordable too: the best used small SUVs are ideal for a young family or as a comfortable runaround

John Evans James Mills
Nov 6, 2018

They look more interesting than a hatchback, have similarly compact dimensions that make them car park friendly, offer a high driving position and – in plenty of cases – are surprisingly spacious.

So it’s little wonder that small sport utility vehicles (SUVs) are some of the most in-demand cars in the UK. Sales have been rising with rocket-like trajectory for a decade, meaning that used car buyers now have a broad choice to suit all manner of tastes, budgets and practical needs.

Indeed, when it comes to setting a budget, a starting figure of under £150 per month can get you behind he wheel of a decent car. These cheaper models may have covered lots of miles in their lifetime to date, but with a complete and documented service history, they should be good to travel the same distance again.

Most small SUVs, which are also known as crossovers, are based on small cars (such as a Ford Fiesta or VW Polo), using the same mechanical parts in a taller package. This usually makes them more spacious (at least where headroom is concerned), and ensures they are affordable to insure, fuel, and service.

Choose wisely and you'll find models registered before April 1 2017 that will cost no more than £30 a year to tax; cars registered after this date incur a £140 annual fee.

The body shape does come with one downside: to prevent these taller vehicles from leaning uncomfortably in corners, they tend to be fitted with firm suspension, which makes them more unsettled over dips and bumps than some family hatchbacks.

Best used small SUVs

1. Renault Captur

Best used SUV for all-round ability

Latest Renault Captur deals from £7,204
Finance from £126 per month

Underneath the metal of Renault's small SUV are the mechanical parts from the company's popular but unspectacular Clio. To these unpromising ingredients the Captur adds more practicality in the form of a larger interior, bigger boot and higher driving position, which provides much-improved visibility.

Like the Clio it isn’t particularly sharp and agile in corners, but of arguably more importance to drivers it proves comfortable over bumps and quiet. An update on cars delivered from July 2017 brought higher quality interior materials, standard digital radio across the range and a slight redesign, which is barely noticeable. Perhaps of greatest interest to drivers who want to make their money go far, prices start at £7,204 or from £126 per month.
Renault Captur buying guide


2. Peugeot 2008

Best used SUV for interior space

Latest Peugeot 2008 deals from £6,799
Finance from £115 per month

For a small SUV, the Peugeot 2008 is quite large, which means that it offers decent interior space for five adults. The boot is reasonable, although trails the Captur’s in size (360 litres compared with 377). Interior quality is good but not everyone will get on with the small steering wheel; you look over it rather than through it to see the instruments, which isn't to every driver’s liking.

The 1.2 PureTech petrol engine is efficient, returning around 45mpg in real-world driving. Higher-specification 2008 models come with Grip Control, an electronic system that boosts grip when accelerating on slippery surfaces. It's not as good as a proper four-wheel drive system but comes into its own on an icy morning.


3. Audi Q2

Best used SUV for quality

Latest Audi Q2 deals from £17,523
Finance from £225 per month

The Audi Q2 is the upmarket option in the small SUV class and it shows in its styling and quality, as well as its price. It first went on sale in late 2016, so even the earliest Q2s are quite new – don’t expect much change from £20,000.

The good news is, it ages well, so should feel almost box-fresh. The reassuringly heavy clunk of the doors, solid-feeling interior and soft-touch materials resist wear well and its general design has a stylish if a minimal sort of vibe.

These touches of quality put the Q2 above its rivals, as does the noise insulation, which makes it one of the quietest small SUVs on the market. You will have to put up with a firm ride, though, which can make for a bumpy ride over potholes and rough roads. There's space for adults in the back seats, but the boot is only an average-sized 405 litres.
Audi Q2 buying guide


4. Mini Countryman

Best used SUV for fun with practicality

Latest Mini Countryman deals from £8,795
Finance from £132 per month

An all-new Mini Countryman only went on sale last year, so bargain hunters are best off looking at the previous model for maximum choice and value.

The car combines the charm of the Mini Hatchback with the extra space needed by families, offering enough rear legroom for most adults to get comfortable (although, we should point out that its successor is considerably more accommodating). The dashboard has a characterful design, with a big circular speedometer in the centre, above retro-look toggle switches, and it makes other small SUVs feel rather dowdy.

With the extra weight and height over the standard Hatchback, it was never going to be as nimble, fast or fun to drive. But for its type, this is one of the more satisfying small SUVs drivers can buy, particularly if you go for the Cooper D diesel version or the Cooper S; the more affordable, less powerful Cooper drags its heels once passengers are aboard.


5. Mazda CX-3

Best used SUV for enjoying the drive

Latest Mazda CX-3 deals from £11,490
Finance from £158 per month

The Mazda CX-3 is one of those cars that’s easily overlooked. But spare a thought for the smallest SUV in the Japanese car maker’s range, because it is surprisingly good.

For starters, it looks good. This is at once both stylish and different, something that’s hard to achieve in such a crowded part of the car market. Then there’s the price. The most affordable models, dating back to 2016, cost from about £10,000, which is good value.

And finally, this relatively unknown model as good as sets the bar by which competitors are judged, as it’s surprisingly good to drive. There’s a diesel available, that can return up to 48mpg, but we prefer the free-revving petrol, which helps get the most from the CX-3 responsive roadholding.

It’s also pleasingly practical, with room for a family of four, a fair size, 350-litre boot and a stylishly designed dashboard that feels built to last.
Mazda CX-3 buying guide


6. Ford EcoSport

Best used SUV for value

Latest Ford EcoSport deals from £6,990
Finance from £117 per month

The first version of Ford's EcoSport was a drab car with outdated engines and an uncomfortable ride on anything other than mirror-smooth roads.

That's why it was quickly updated in 2015 as Ford brought it closer to the standard of its competitors. It still wasn’t the best car in its class, but proved quieter and more comfortable than the earlier model. And Ford did away with placing the bulky spare wheel boot door. There was a further update ealier this year, involving a small redesign and an improved interior with fewer buttons and a modern touchscreen.

Prices for the latest cars are still quite expensive but earlier models are cheaper than many rivals, which means that you could get behind the wheel of a 2017 car for a little over £10,000 or £150 a month. Zetec is the most popular trim but Titanium brings a useful rearview camera and climate control.
Read the Ford EcoSport buying guide


7. Toyota CH-R

Best used SUV for hybrid power

Latest Toyota C-HR deals from £16,990
Finance from £221 per month

It’s one of the most striking looking SUVs on the road but there’s another significant reason why a driver would part with their hard-earned money to own a C-HR: it comes with a hybrid engine.

Toyota has fitted its smallest SUV with the same petrol-electric hybrid system that features in the Prius. The Japanese car maker refers to it as self-charging, meaning the driver never has to think about how things are working as the car’s computers control the petrol engine a battery-powered motor to give the most efficient drive possible, while maintaining the charge of the battery.

Introduced in 2017, this is not a cheap option – the most affordable are about £17,000 - but it does provide an option for those who want the fuel economy of a diesel without having to worry over what’s coming out of the exhaust.

Look out for mid-range Excel trim models, as they came with additional safety equipment that help keep all aboard safe.
Toyota C-HR buying guide


8. Citroen C4 Cactus

Best used SUV for quirky style

Citroen C4 Cactus with airbumps

Latest Citroen C4 Cactus deals from £6,990
Finance from £117 per month

The Citroen C4 Cactus is the French car maker at its quirky best. Its most noteworthy feature are protective rubber body panels, called Airbumps which can help protect against car park bumps and scrapes. After putting them to the test, against a kid’s bike, a wheelbarrow and a football, we can report that they do indeed stand up to knocks.

It's a comfortable car with suspension that smooths over Britain’s poorly surfaced roads, but this comes at the expense of nimbleness; the C4 Cactus is best driven leisurely, or you'll find it leans heavily in corners. Smooth driving also brings excellent efficiency. You can expect fuel economy of around 45mpg from the 1.2-litre petrol engine, and over 60mpg from the 1.6-litre diesel.

There's now an updated C4 Cactus without Airbumps, which divided opinion. The earlier cars are extremely good value for money, with prices starting from £6,990 on BuyaCar.
Citroen C4 Cactus buying guide


9. Nissan Juke

Best used SUV for eye-catching looks

Latest Nissan Juke deals from £6,395
Finance from £116 per month

Despite being launched in 2010, the Nissan Juke's bold design remains as distinctive (and divisive) as ever. It's helped to keep the car selling strongly, even though it's behind rivals in terms of comfort, space and technology.

Fuel economy remains good, particularly if you choose a model built after summer 2014, when a more efficient 1.2-litre petrol engine became available. These more recent cars are also better buys because they have a 354-litre boot that's 40% larger than in earlier models, and optional extra safety technology, including blind-spot warning.
Nissan Juke buying guide


10. Suzuki Jimny

Best used SUV for off-roading

Latest Suzuki Jimny deals Limited stock

Suzuki's little Jimny is the Terrier of small SUVs, with tough and resilient performance that you might not expect, given its size.

Small and light, with heavy duty suspension and a choice of two-wheel or four-wheel drive, nothing can get in its way, as you’ll know if you’ve ever hired one on a Greek island. It'll drag you through most slippery and rough terrain just as well as a Land Rover.

Basic trims are just that but SZ4 spec does bring more equipment, with air conditioning and alloy wheels.


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