Fast SUVs for less than £50,000

If you have £50,000 to spend on a fast SUV, there are plenty of desirable models to choose from, but which are the best? Find out below

James Wilson
Nov 30, 2021

Fast SUVs for less than £50,000 encompass a surprisingly large variety of makes and models. It can be hard to believe that vehicles so large, so practical and sometimes so comfortable, can possibly be as fast as the latest sports cars, but in many cases high-performance SUVs really are that quick and capable.

Unlike low-slung sports cars, however, that often magnify the sense of speed when driving, many rapid SUVs make driving at speed feel incredibly sedate, making them great cars for racking up long distances in comfort.

With that in mind, there are a couple of pointers to remember when looking for a fast SUV. Some models offer more effortless performance - they may have softer suspension, quieter engines and are great for the kind of driver who wants to be able to out-accelerate most people on the road, but doesn’t want flashy styling to give the game away.

Other models go down a more hardcore route. They feature stiff suspension to help control the car while cornering, loud exhausts and sporty styling that begs for attention. Cars like this tend to come with big petrol engines that drink through lots of fuel due to their sheer size, weight and performance.

Fast SUVs for less than £50,000

1. Jaguar I-Pace

Used deals from £41,500
Monthly finance from £726*

The electric Jaguar I-Pace was something of a revelation when it arrived. It was fast, although not the fastest mainstream electric car, but importantly it showed that a battery-powered SUV could drive in a way that was a match for petrol- and diesel-powered alternatives. Plus, it comes with an impressive claimed range of 292 miles per charge, although, in the real world the range will likely be less.

When it comes to build quality, the Jaguar gives nothing away to its conventionally fuelled alternatives. The cabin is a particular highlight with plush materials used throughout and the only real gripe being that the media system isn’t quite on the same level as what you would find in an equivalent BMW or Audi.

As standard, the I-Pace develops 400hp, which is enough to help achieve a 0 to 62mph acceleration time of 4.8 seconds. For a car which weighs more than two tonnes, this is extremely fast. The Porsche Cayman T sports car, meanwhile, requires 5.1 seconds for the same acceleration milestone. The difference is that the petrol-powered Porsche produces a distinctive engine note, while the electric Jaguar simply blasts forward in silence.


2. Mercedes-AMG GLA 45

Used deals Limited stock

The Mercedes-AMG GLA 45 is like a Mercedes A-Class on stilts, with this extra ride height proving a big draw for people, especially those who don’t want to stoop too low when loading kids into the car. That said, the GLA 45 is more of a performance car than a super-practical family car, as it is seriously fast but not that spacious compared with many other SUVs.

The engine used in the GLA is so powerful that when it was first launched, it was the most powerful engine of its type and size. Granted it lost the title the following year but that was only because Mercedes wasn’t happy with just 355hp - a huge amount for a car of this size - so tweaked the engine and increased power to 376hp.

The latest version (pictured above) produces a whopping 421hp, which means that it picks up speed seriously quickly - especially as four-wheel-drive enables it to accelerate very fast without spinning the wheels. For covering ground at astonishing speed in a compact SUV, there isn’t anything much better.



3. Cupra Ateca

Used deals Limited stock
Cupra is a sub-brand of Seat. It started as an in-house performance division of Seat but has been turned into a brand in its own right. One of the first cars to come from Cupra is the Cupra Ateca - which is a Seat Ateca with some sportier styling and a powerful engine borrowed from the high-performance Volkswagen Golf R.

All things considered, the Ateca is a great performance SUV. It handles well, which can sometimes be an issue for tall SUVs, as they often roll around corners more than lower hatchback equivalents. When in the driver's seat most of the parts you see, touch and feel have a premium quality to them and there is plenty of space for passengers front and back. This is thanks to the taller SUV body providing more headroom than the Seat Leon - a similar size hatchback alternative. The boot can take 485 litres of luggage, which is also larger than most hatchback equivalents.


4. Volvo XC90

Used deals from £30,000
Monthly finance from £965*

Volvo might be best known for its focus on safety, but it is also particularly good at making comfortable and rapid SUVs. The XC90 T8 Twin Engine is the biggest fast Volvo SUV and is seriously speedy. Rather than having an enormous petrol engine, it has a 2.0-litre petrol engine paired with a large battery pack and electric motor, which together enable it to reach 62mph from a standing start in under six seconds.

This plug-in hybrid XC90 comes with an automatic gearbox and four-wheel-drive and offers the prospect of impressively high fuel economy, provided you charge the batteries regularly. Having four-wheel-drive not only comes in handy in the winter months for providing greater traction on slippery surfaces, but it also means that this powerful machine has more grip when accelerating than it would otherwise have.

Should you want to take things more steady, Volvo claims that the XC90 T8 Twin Engine is able to travel up to 25 miles using electricity alone from a single charge (models made after 2019 have a 30-mile claimed range). This might seem low and in everyday driving you're likely to achieve less, but it is enough for many drivers to do their daily commute on battery power alone. You'll just have to remember to charge the batteries regularly to get the most benefit from carrying a heavy battery pack and electric motor around with you.


5. BMW X3

Used deals Limited stock

The medium-sized X3 has been a big success for BMW. Now in its third generation, this SUV is one of the best midsize upmarket SUVs available, and there are a lot of used versions available. Rivals include cars such as the Mercedes GLC, Jaguar F-Pace and Alfa Romeo Stelvio. The X3 comes with good handling around corners, an upmarket feel inside and out and a spacious cabin. There is no seven-seat version available here. To get extra seats in a BMW SUV you'll need to step up to a BMW X5.

Fast BMW X3s are fairly easy to come by. At the top of the tree are X3 M high-performance models, which are furiously fast but also very heavy on the wallet to purchase and when it comes to fuel. The smarter choices for most drivers are the X3 M40d diesel and X3 M40i petrol models. These are still incredibly fast but are more comfortable and slightly less expensive to run. All three of the models mentioned above come with four-wheel-drive and an automatic gearbox, making them excellent all-year-round SUVs.


6. Porsche Macan

Used deals from £28,995
Monthly finance from £771*

Porsche may have a long history in making sports cars rather than SUVs, and despite its looks the Macan feels much more like a sports car than an off-roader from behind the wheel. It feels sporty and enjoyable to drive yet remains comfortable. In terms of size, the Macan is similar to the BMW X3 and Audi Q5 though the Porsche isn’t quite as practical due to its sleeker roofline.

All Macans come with an automatic gearbox and four-wheel-drive. There is a choice of engines, though. Diesel versions are perfectly fine and relatively economical, but it is the petrol versions which steal the show. When it comes to speed, S models are the starting point and GTS versions are more expensive, slightly more powerful and come with some styling features like more sporty alloy wheels. If these don’t prove fast enough for you, then there are Turbo models, which pack a hefty 400hp and are extremely fast.


7. Audi Q8

Used deals from £46,000
Monthly finance from £637*

The Audi Q8 is a sleek version of the Audi Q7 large SUV. This means it shares a lot of components with the Q7, such as engines and brakes, but its styling differentiates it, mostly thanks to the sloping rear roofline. This makes the Q8 one of Audi's most luxurious machines, prioritising comfort and speed over practicality, with the Q7 being the practical choice.

Driving a Q8 isn’t about blasting down the road with a noisy exhaust and firm sporty suspension, it is more focused on making good time and arriving in supreme comfort. This doesn’t mean the Q8 is slow and even entry-level diesel models can go from 0 to 62mph in a quick 6.3 seconds.

As for the interior, the design of the Q8's cabin is modern, crisp and balances digital displays with buttons very well. Yes, the glossy finish of some panels will show every greasy fingerprint if you're not careful, but keep it clean and it looks very impressive.


8. Volkswagen Tiguan R

Used deals Limited stock

If you like the sound of a fast SUV but want a big, powerful car that is still easy to drive, then the Volkswagen Tiguan R is a safe pair of hands. The steering, brakes and accelerator pedal are all set up so it is simple to drive quickly, and having four-wheel-drive and an automatic gearbox as standard allows the car to help you as much as possible.

There is also some clever technology that can manage which wheels receive the power from the engine - regardless of the surface you're driving on - ensuring that the wheels with the greatest amount of grip receive a fitting proportion of the engine's power.

Also included as standard is something Volkswagen calls ‘Dynamic Chassis Control', which features adaptive shock absorbers. These allow you to adjust the suspension to be softer or firmer depending on your preference or the type of driving you're doing. As for the cabin, it is largely carried over from the standard Tiguan, but there are sporty touches like well-bolstered seats to hold you in position when you corner. Equipment is plentiful, with features such as matrix LED headlights, Android Auto/Apple CarPlay compatibility and a reversing camera included.


*Representative PCP finance - Ford Fiesta:

48 monthly payments of £192
Deposit: £0
Mileage limit: 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.


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