Best SUVs to buy in 2021

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

Simon Ostler James Mills
Jan 13, 2021

When it comes to taking a family of five on a lengthy journey in serene comfort at a reasonable cost, there really is no better alternative than a high-riding, cushion-impersonating SUV. Throw in some serious practicality and 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 the SUV’s high and mighty stance. They might not actually be any safer in reality but, significantly, they feel safer to the millions of mums and dads who have bought one.  

Don't be fooled by their size either, these are not tank-like 4x4s with no manors or decorum, SUVs are designed to offer a car-like driving experience with broadly comparable fuel economy and servicing costs. A new generation of electric SUVs will reduce running costs and company car tax even further.

The best SUVs will come with individual seats and carry between five and seven people, Isofix child-seat mounts, charging points for the kids’ gadgets (you’ll have remembered to charge yours, right?), smartphone integration and more technology to reduce accidents than a health and safety convention.

Such immense popularity brings great choice 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 ten SUVs to buy in 2020.

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 £22,900
Monthly finance from £306*

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 beautifully crafted interior that’s brimming with practical touches. It also happens to be seriously good to drive, especially the smooth and willing petrol-powered models – which make a pleasant change from grumbly diesel motors. Give it a try and be prepared to change your view of Volvos.


2. Land Rover Discovery Sport

Best SUV for busy families with more than three children

Our pick Land Rover Discovery Sport SE TD4 180 4WD   
Used deals from £17,995
Monthly finance from £277*

Do you have three children or more? Then you’ll most likely need an SUV with seven seats. For around £33,000 when new, not much can top Land Rover’s Discovery Sport. It can juggle all manner of seating combinations and comes with up to six USB charging points for everyone's gadgets, making it as prized as an attention-holding children’s entertainer at birthday parties.

You’ll need the more powerful TD4 180 engine to have seven seats, but that’s a wise move, given how heavy a fully laden seven-seat SUV can be. Pick the four-wheel drive version and it should keep going no matter what the conditions.


3. Jaguar I-Pace

Best SUV for luxury and electric power

Our pick Jaguar I-Pace SE
Used deals from £42,680
Monthly finance from £759*

Jaguar got the jump on its German competitors by launching its first electric car, the I-Pace SUV, at the end of last year. 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.

Jaguar says the I-Pace is capable of being driven for 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. 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 environment with first class levels of space, comfort and refinement. Audi’s new e-tron is about to arrive in Britain’s showrooms, and will give the I-Pace a hard time. But for now, it’s the electric SUV of choice, for those that can afford it.


4. Mazda CX-5

Best SUV for an impressive driving experience

Our pick Mazda CX-5 SE-L Nav 2.2D AWD  
Used deals from £10,995
Monthly finance from £207*

Is this the world’s toughest SUV? After driving one across the frozen surface of Lake Baikal, in the depths of a Siberian winter, and subjecting the all-wheel drive CX-5 to eight hours of traversing brutal terrain, we can report there wasn’t so much as a hiccup from one of its cylinders nor a grumble from its driveshafts. Yet to look at, you’d think this was just another SUV that’s built to tackle nothing tougher than a kerbstone or two during the school run.

It’s equally excellent to drive on the road, the interior is minimal-chic and there’s all the space you 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.


5. Mini Countryman

Best SUV for low company car tax

Our pick Mini Countryman Cooper S E ALL4
Used deals from £12,600
Monthly finance from £187*

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 standard combustion engine with an electric motor, offering a strong mix of the security of a petrol car and the efficiency of an electric car. And both attract substantially less in benefit-in-kind company car tax than a comparably priced, diesel or petrol-powered SUV.

They can be driven for nearly 30 miles on battery power alone and there’s a petrol engine for long journeys. The difference is, the cheaper Countryman is a genuinely good car, whereas in places the Outlander feels like one from the last century.


6. Audi Q2

Best SUV for style at affordable prices

Our pick Audi Q2 1.4 TFSI Sport
Used deals from £12,790
Monthly finance from £191*

You could be forgiven for losing count of the number of SUVs in Audi showrooms. The German manufacturer offers its ‘Q’ models in four sizes, giving it a menu to rival McDonalds. And like a Happy Meal, the smallest – and most affordable – 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-litre can feel short of breath 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 bonnet. For style at sensible prices, look no further.


7. Skoda Karoq

Best SUV for value for money

Our pick Skoda Karoq SE L 1.5 TSI
Used deals from £13,040
Monthly finance from £178*

The Skoda Karoq is squarely aimed at the sort of drivers who may be running around in a Nissan Qashqai (Britain’s fourth best-selling car last year) and feel it’s time for a change – without sacrificing value for money.

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

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. So, if you drive a Qashqai, take note: the Karoq could be your next SUV.


8. Volvo XC90

Best SUV for seven-seat comfort

Our pick Volvo XC90 Momentum D5 AWD
Used deals from £25,895
Monthly finance from £400*

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

There is a plug-in hybrid version of the acclaimed Volvo XC90, but it costs over £12,000 more than the most affordable diesel model 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.



9. Hyundai Kona Electric

Best SUV for driving electric at an affordable price

Our pick Hyundai Kona Electric Premium 64kWh
Used deals from £21,495
Monthly finance from £311*

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 grants when new, has a place in the market. It offers drivers the chance to ditch diesel, reduce any company car tax 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.


10. Citroen C3 Aircross

The best SUV for winter weather

Our pick C3 Aircross PureTech 100 Feel
Used deals from £7,995
Monthly finance from £134*

For proof that not every SUV need be too big to fit in the average parking space, take a look at the pint-sized Citroen C3 Aircross. It might be small, but the Citroen is capable, even though it doesn’t have four-wheel drive. Instead, it offers a grip control system that enables it to maintain 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 generous amount of cabin space, a sliding back seat and a big (410-litre) boot. Some of the fittings feel a bit downmarket, but buyers should be able to forgive it that if they secure a great deal.


*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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