Best new petrol SUVs

The number of petrol SUVs on offer is ramping up rapidly, but which are the best for UK roads?

James Wilson
Jul 31, 2019

Go back a few years and everyone wanted diesel power in their SUV. Everything from the small Nissan Juke, to the mid-sized Volkswagen Tiguan, and massive Land Rover Discovery was typically fuelled by diesel rather than petrol. That's because diesel power helped to cut fuel bills for these often big and heavy cars and the low engine speed muscle of a diesel engine suited such weighty machines - especially those bought by people planning to tow or take them off-road. 

Following question marks over diesel emissions and potential health concerns, the tables have turned - though choosing a diesel is still likely to save you money if you cover more than 20,000 miles per year. Petrol SUVs are gaining in popularity and if you don’t cover too many miles per year, petrol power is often the best option when you consider that the lower purchase costs compared with diesel, hybrid or electric alternatives often outweigh any fuel cost savings for those versions.

Other benefits for choosing petrol over diesel are the greater smoothness and refinement petrol models typically offer over diesels and more recently, the fact they come with lower road tax rates when new.

All that is left to find out is which are the best on the market - whatever your budget and whatever size off-roader you’re after. Below are the creme de la creme of petrol SUVs, with different sizes and price points all catered for.

The best new petrol SUVs

1. Peugeot 3008

Latest Peugeot 3008 deals from £9,990
Finance from £160 per month

While the old 3008 was dull to look at and to drive, the latest 3008 comes with standout styling and is one of the best affordable petrol SUVs on sale.

It comes with a choice of two petrol engines; a frugal 1.2-litre unit and a more powerful 1.6-litre. Both claim strong fuel economy. You might expect the small 1.2-litre petrol to struggle with a car of this size, but even at motorway speeds, it copes very well and is smooth, surprisingly powerful and far more pleasant to work hard than the 1.6, which only comes with a dimwitted automatic gearbox that feels as if it practically cancels out its power advantage in performance terms.

One thing to note with the 3008 is that it has a tiny steering wheel. Rather than looking at the dials through it, you peer at them over the wheel. Some love it but some find it impossible to set a comfortable driving position where they can see the dials clearly.

Peugeot 3008 buying guide


2. Dacia Duster

Latest Dacia Duster deals from £11,999
Finance from £164 per month

The petrol Dacia Duster models are so fantastically affordable - in cash and PCP finance terms - that they more than make up for their lower fuel economy than the much more expensive diesel models. That said, an entry-level Duster houses one of the most basic cabins on UK roads - so it’s worth paying a little more for a slightly higher specification petrol model.

Move up to Comfort trim and you will be treated to air-conditioning, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay plus cruise control. On the engine side of things, there are three petrol options to choose from, with 115hp to 150hp. As the Duster is relatively light for an SUV, all provide reasonable performance.

Furthermore, because Dacia is owned by Renault, much of the engineering behind them is shared with more upmarket vehicles. If you're used to driving pricier cars and think you'll find the Duster a little downmarket for you, therefore, it's worth giving it a chance. Avoid the super-basic Access model and you'd never guess that the Duster had such a low price.

Dacia Duster buying guide


3. BMW X1

Latest BMW X1 deals from £13,099
Finance from £178 per month

BMW recently revealed the facelifted X1 - and while it isn’t a massive overhaul of the outgoing model, BMW has made changes in the right places.

Petrol engines come in two guises currently - both of which are more economy-focused than overly powerful, although this could well change in the coming months as BMW is becoming good at shoehorning powerful engines into its SUVs. And whether you're after an automatic or manual gearbox there's a version to suit, as you have the choice of both transmissions with the two engines.

BMW X1 buying guide


4. Citroen C3 Aircross

Latest Citroen C3 Aircross deals from £9,595
Finance from £140 per month

The C3 Aircross goes a long way to show that Citroen is still king of the hill when it comes to quirky cars. Even before you get inside, the distinctive front end and multi-colour plastic trims give you an impression that this car deviates from the norm.

It’s available with three petrol engines, each offering a different combination of power and economy. The middle one, called PureTech 130 S&S - and also available in the Peugeot 3008 above - offers the best blend of the two.

Citroen C3 Aircross buying guide

5. Audi SQ2

Latest Audi SQ2 deals from £31,000
Finance from £355 per month

Performance cars are normally powered by petrol engines (save for a few oddballs) and the Audi SQ2 continues this trend. Where it differs, is in its ride height. Fast cars normally sit low to the ground, but being a crossover, the SQ2 offers a bit more height, making it easier to get in and out of.

Flatten the accelerator and it will devour the road ahead at a staggering pace, too. The 0-62mph sprint takes only 4.8 seconds and it’s good fun to drive too. Furthermore, Audi’s Quattro four-wheel-drive means you will be able to confidently exploit the 300hp on offer all year round, without worrying about the tyres spinning the power away.

Audi Q2 buying guide


6. Suzuki Jimny

The Suzuki Jimny is available with just one engine – a 1.5-litre petrol. Its economy might seem a little disappointing (35.8mpg is what you can expect from the manual) but it is about as aerodynamic as a breeze-block. So it's hardly the the engine’s fault here.

Underneath, you will find some proper off-roading kit, so should you need a small SUV for going off-road - if you do check out our roundup of the best new small cars for off-roading - the Jimny could be for you. With a starting price of around £15,500, the Jimny costs no more than an entry-level Fiesta and monthly payments on PCP finance are also surprisingly affordable.

Suzuki Jimny buying guide


7. Seat Arona

Latest Seat Arona deals from £14,000
Finance from £196 per month

Based on the Seat Ibiza - itself an impressive small car - the Arona offers extra interior space and a higher driving position to make it feel more like a traditional off-roader.

Prices start at just over £17,000 for the entry-level petrol SE model, even though you are treated to air-conditioning, Bluetooth and cruise control. PCP finance costs are even more appealing - especially as metallic paint comes as standard, so you won’t have to pay more per month to have the colour combination you want.

On top of this there are a couple of petrol engines to choose from and economy is claimed to be an impressive 45.6mpg for the most frugal one, which isn’t a million miles away from the - more expensive - diesel alternative.

Seat Arona buying guide


8. Kia Stonic

Latest Kia Stonic deals from £10,899
Finance from £154 per month

The Stonic, like all Kias, comes with an industry-leading seven-year warranty. That means seven years of protection should things go wrong. And even if you buy a four-year old model, you’d still have the same length warranty as most new cars.

As for engine choices, there are only two. The first being a 1.0-litre unit and the second being a 1.4-litre. While their capacities suggest otherwise, it is the 1.0-litre which is the more powerful and responsive, thanks to a power-boosting turbocharger.

Inside you will find a smart cabin, which suits the car’s modern exterior looks. As standard there is a good smattering of equipment, including air-conditioning, Apple CarPlay and cruise control. Prices start under £17,000 so the Stonic is affordable, too, though the Arona above is better value on finance.

Kia Stonic buying guide


9. Volvo XC90

Latest Volvo XC90 deals from £28,400
Finance from £384 per month

The latest Volvo XC90 was launched in 2014 but refreshed slightly this year. Irrespective of age, the XC90 still looks sharp as a tack and thanks to the fact it offers an excellent cabin with space for seven.

The updates Volvo made to the XC90 in 2019 included a reshuffle of the engine lineup. You have two pure petrol options now - known as T5 and T6 – with the T6 being the more powerful. If you want a manual gearbox however, you are out of luck as both options come with an automatic gearbox only.

Volvo XC90 buying guide

10. Mini Countryman

Latest Mini Countryman deals from £15,999
Finance from £215 per month

Yep, Minis are no longer the tiny vehicles they used to be. The Countryman may be Mini’s largest and most practical car and sacrifices some of its fun-loving nature, but it’s still enjoyable to drive.

There are three petrol engines to choose from. The most powerful is the speedy John Cooper Works model, although this isn’t as rapid as the Audi SQ2 mentioned above. The remaining engine options come with the Cooper and Cooper S models, and even though they offer less performance, they do boast better economy and cost less to buy and run.

Mini Countryman buying guide


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