Best SUVs to buy in 2021

Lots of space, luxury touches and a lofty view: the best SUVs have every feature a family could need at an affordable price

Simon Ostler James Mills
Jun 16, 2021

When it comes to transporting yourself and potentially a number of passengers in comfort and style and at a reasonable cost, there really is no better choice than a high-riding SUV. Throw in some serious practicality in the majority of cases and it's unlikely you'll find anything that does it better.

Drivers across the nation have fallen head over heels in love with SUVs' high and mighty stance and there's no match for the feeling of security that comes with sitting up high. SUVs might not actually be any safer than other types of car in reality but, significantly, they often feel safer from behind the wheel.  

Don't be fooled by many SUVs' size either. SUVs don't have to be tank-like 4x4s that drive like a truck and are impossible to park. Most SUVs are designed to offer a car-like driving experience with broadly comparable fuel economy and servicing costs to similarly sized hatchbacks. A new generation of electric SUVs will reduce running costs and company car tax bills, too.

The best SUVs come with individual rear seats for maximum practicality and can carry between five and seven people, with lots of Isofix child-seat mounts, charging points for the kids’ gadgets, smartphone integration and more technology to reduce crashes than a health and safety convention.

Such immense popularity brings great choice in used SUVs for drivers, but it can be a daunting process trying to identify the best SUV for your needs. We're here to help, so read on for details on our top 10 SUVs to buy in 2021.

The best SUVs to buy in 2021

1. Volvo XC40

Best SUV for all-round excellence

Our pick Volvo XC40 T3 R-Design
Used deals from £24,390
Monthly finance from £353*

Hands up who remembers the days when Volvos were seen as square cars for square people, and children would plead with their parents to buy anything other than a Volvo? How times have changed. The new XC40 manages to capture the Scandinavian feel-good vibe, with a funky look all of its own and a beautifully crafted interior that’s brimming with practical touches.

It also happens to be seriously good to drive, especially if you go for one of the smooth and punchy petrol models - which make a pleasant change from noisier and less refined diesel motors. Give the XC40 a try and be prepared to change your view of Volvos.

VOLVO XC40 BUYERS' GUIDE

2. Land Rover Discovery Sport

Best SUV for families with more than three children

Our pick Land Rover Discovery Sport SE TD4 180 4WD   
Used deals from £20,495
Monthly finance from £310*

If you have three children or more, chances are that you’ll need an SUV with seven seats. For around £30,000 upwards when new, not much can top the Land Rover Discovery Sport, but thankfully it's far more affordable if you're happy to go for a used model.

The Discovery Sport can juggle all manner of seating combinations and comes with up to six USB charging points for charging everyone's gadgets on the move, making it as prized as an attention-holding children’s entertainer at birthday parties.

You’ll want to go for the reasonably powerful 180hp TD4 diesel engine if you're getting a seven-seat model, but that’s a wise move, given how heavy a fully laden SUV can be and the fact this engine offers lots of muscle from low engine speeds. Pick the four-wheel drive version and it should keep going no matter what the conditions.

LAND ROVER DISCOVERY SPORT BUYERS' GUIDE

3. Jaguar I-Pace

Best SUV for electricity-powered luxury

Our pick Jaguar I-Pace SE
Used deals from £43,995
Monthly finance from £782*

Jaguar got the jump on its German competitors when launching its first electric car, the I-Pace SUV. And happily, in the rush to be first to market it didn’t sacrifice the level of attention to detail required from a car costing more than £60,000 when new. Drivers will be pleased to hear that the starting price to get into an I-Pace is far cheaper if you consider used models.

Jaguar says the I-Pace is capable of being driven up to 298 miles on a single charge. In our tests, we’d say that’s more likely to be somewhere around 200 miles. Even so, that’s competitive for a big and heavy electric car of this type. And the turn of speed it is able to generate is impressive - passengers won’t be able to make any jokes about milk floats.

The interior is a delight; refreshingly different to Jaguars of past, it is a modern, touchscreen-heavy environment with first class levels of space, comfort and refinement. Yes there are many more electric SUVs now available than when the I-Pace was launched, but for now, it’s the electric SUV of choice, for those that can afford it.

JAGUAR I-PACE BUYERS' GUIDE

4. Mazda CX-5

Best SUV for a satisfying driving experience

Our pick Mazda CX-5 SE-L Nav 2.2D AWD  
Used deals from £11,950
Monthly finance from £242*

You might think this is just another pretend off-roader that’s built to tackle nothing tougher than a kerbstone or two during the school run. However, the Mazda CX-5 is much more capable than you might expect off-road. Despite this, the car really excels on the road, as it feels both sporty to drive and comfortable.

It’s excellent to drive, the interior is minimal and there’s all the space you could need from this type of family car. Mazda might not be on the radar of all SUV drivers, but those that give its CX-5 a try won’t be disappointed.

MAZDA CX-5 BUYERS' GUIDE

5. Mini Countryman

Best SUV for low company car tax

Our pick Mini Countryman Cooper S E ALL4
Used deals from £13,495
Monthly finance from £225*

Company car drivers pay attention: the Mini Countryman S E ALL4 is a better car than the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. Both are plug-in hybrid cars, combining a petrol engine with an electric motor, offering a strong mix of the security of a petrol car - enabling you to top up the tank at thousands of filling stations across the country - and the efficiency of an electric car. And both attract substantially less in benefit-in-kind company car tax than a comparably priced petrol- or diesel-powered SUV.

The Countryman can be driven for nearly 30 miles on battery power alone - provided you've fully charged the battery before setting off - and there’s the backup of a petrol engine for long journeys, though you can expect the S E ALL4 to be less efficient when this kicks in. The difference is, the cheaper Countryman is a genuinely good car, whereas in places the Outlander feels like one from the last century.

MINI COUNTRYMAN BUYERS' GUIDE

6. Audi Q2

Best SUV for style at an affordable price

Our pick Audi Q2 1.4 TFSI Sport
Used deals from £16,910
Monthly finance from £240*

You could be forgiven for losing count of the number of SUVs offered by Audi. The German manufacturer offers its ‘Q’ models in countless sizes, giving it a menu extensive enough to rival McDonalds. And like a Happy Meal, the smallest - and most affordable - the Q2, won’t leave you feeling short-changed.

It successfully distils the essence of Audi into a compact package. There’s a head-turning body, a classy interior and a seriously impressive drive. In fact, by being smaller and lighter, this is easily the most fun SUV to drive in the Audi range. The pick of the engine range is the 1.4-litre petrol, as the 1.0-litre engine can feel a little overwhelmed by the weight of the car at times.

There are larger, more spacious SUVs in abundance, including other options from Audi, but they won’t capture the feel-good factor of this car’s interior, or come with the posh badge on the grille. For a feeling of quality and SUV style at affordable prices, look no further.

AUDI Q2 BUYERS' GUIDE

7. Skoda Karoq

Best SUV for value for money

Our pick Skoda Karoq 1.5 TSI SE L
Used deals from £14,498
Monthly finance from £216*

The Skoda Karoq is squarely aimed at the sort of drivers who may be running around in a Nissan Qashqai - which has been one of the UK's best-selling cars for several years - and feel it’s time for a change, without sacrificing value for money.

Sure enough, the Karoq ticks all the boxes drivers of this type of car seek. The driving position is reassuringly high, there is space for a family of five inside and the range of engines, gearboxes and option of four-wheel drive (on certain models) means there is something for most budgets.

It’s also that bit better to drive than most other family SUVs, including the Qashqai, the interior is that bit smarter and - crucially - the boot is larger than the Nissan's, particularly if the VarioFlex rear sliding seats are fitted - as these enable you to slide the rear seats forward to boost boot space. So, if you drive a Qashqai, take note: the Karoq could be your next SUV.

SKODA KAROQ BUYERS' GUIDE

8. Volvo XC90

Best SUV for seven-seat comfort

Our pick Volvo XC90 Momentum D5 AWD
Used deals from £29,995
Monthly finance from £452*

Do you need a large SUV but cringe when you see an in-your-face Audi Q7, BMW X5 or Mercedes GLS? Then the Volvo XC90 is for you. It’s undeniably big but appears to offer a more subtle style, and once inside you’ll discover a haven of calm.

There is a plug-in hybrid version of the Volvo XC90, but it costs over £12,000 more than the most affordable diesel model when new and £9,000 more than the cheapest petrol, so unless you want to reduce your company car tax bill, save the money for fuel bills, servicing, insurance and a family holiday or two.

Better still, with plenty of used models available, there's lots of choice and more affordable prices for those who want all the style of the latest XC90 models on sale now, without spending the mountain of money needed to get one.

VOLVO XC90 BUYERS' GUIDE

9. Hyundai Kona Electric

Best SUV for an affordable electric experience

Our pick Hyundai Kona Electric Premium 64kWh
Used deals from £26,995
Monthly finance from £354*

Given the popularity of SUVs that cost £30,000 or more, it's easy to see how the new Hyundai Kona Electric, which costs from less than £30,000 after government electric car grants when new, has a place in the market. It offers drivers the chance to move away from petrol and diesel, reduce company car tax bills - if your car is being paid for by your company - and slash running costs all at once.

The cheapest price is for the entry-level SE version with the smallest battery. However, it's worth paying more (from £33,000 for a new car) for a mid-range Premium trim model with the larger 64 kWh battery. This extends your real-world range between charges from around 150 miles to more than 200 miles.

As practical as a Nissan Leaf or VW e-Golf, and surprisingly good to drive, the Kona Electric also comes with Hyundai’s five-year warranty, giving SUV drivers another reason to plug in to the electric car revolution. This gives you even more confidence to go used to get more for your money, since a two-year old model has as much manufacturer warranty as many brand new alternatives.

HYUNDAI KONA ELECTRIC BUYERS' GUIDE

10. Citroen C3 Aircross

The best SUV for winter weather

Our pick C3 Aircross PureTech 100 Feel
Used deals from £10,295
Monthly finance from £167*

For proof that not every SUV needs be too big to fit in the average parking space, take a look at the hatchback-sized Citroen C3 Aircross. It might be small, but this Citroen is capable, even though it doesn’t have four-wheel drive. Instead, it offers a clever 'grip control' system that enables it to maintain maximum traction even on snow or mud.

The engines are frugal, the ride is comfortable and the Aircross has a plucky character that’s rather likeable. You’re probably wondering whether it is practical? Yes it is, thanks to a good amount of cabin space, a sliding rear seat and a big 410-litre boot. Some of the interior fittings feel a bit downmarket, but drivers should be able to forgive that as this is an affordable car - especially if you go for a second-hand model.

CITROEN C3 AIRCROSS BUYERS' GUIDE

*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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