Best used SUVs 2023
Offering the prospect of good value, chunky looks and flexible, spacious interiors, the best used SUVs and crossovers make great family cars
You might refer to them as SUVs, off-roaders, crossovers or even 4x4s, but these cars all undoubtedly share a few things in common: they are designed to be stylish, offer a high driving position and be practical to live with, making life easier for parents dealing with children.
With a much higher driving position than hatchbacks and estate cars, the best SUVs offer a commanding view of the world, giving drivers a heightened sense of safety. Some seat five, others throw in a third row of seats to carry seven, but all of them offer enough space for gadgets and gizmos, books and bottles, and handy touches such as USB charging points and ventilation controls for those in the back to keep passengers of all ages comfortable, occupied and tantrum-free.
They may not be as economical as some other family cars, or feel as precise to drive, but the best SUVs will smooth out Britain’s crumbling roads as if by magic. They’re usefully taller than the average family hatchback too - making it easier to load and unload the child seats in most cases.
The choice of used models is plentiful and prices can be surprisingly affordable, as there are now so many models available. All you need to be aware of are potentially higher running costs; fuel bills, the cost of tyres and routine servicing can be higher than, say, an estate car.
The best used SUVs and crossovers
- Land Rover Discovery Sport
- Skoda Yeti
- Nissan Qashqai
- Volvo XC90
- Range Rover Evoque
- Dacia Duster
- Kia Sportage
- Peugeot 3008
- Lexus RX
- Porsche Macan
So what's the difference between an SUV and a crossover? Well, from the outside you probably wouldn't notice the difference - that comes when you look beneath that bulky bodywork. In basic terms, a crossover will tend to be based upon a small hatchback, so all of the mechanical parts such as the engine and the suspension will be virtually identical. An example would be the Renault Captur, which is mechanically identical in many ways to a Renault Clio.
This means that despite its more rugged appearance, the Renault Captur is unlikely to be much better suited to off-roading than the standard Clio hatchback, bar its slightly higher ground clearance, which makes it less likely to scrape the floor when crossing rough ground. A traditional SUV, on the other hand, is more mechanically similar to a van, making it larger first off, but also stronger and better suited to harsh terrain and driving off-road. Don't be put off, though: most SUVs are very un-van-like when it comes to driving them.
Best used SUV for seven seats in a compact package
Despite its name, this is not a particularly sporty car. Nevertheless, it is a terrific family car and it is enjoyable to drive.
The ace up its sleeve is that it is compact enough to be relatively easy to manoeuvre in a multi-storey car park, but inside all but the cheapest 'Pure' models come with seven seats. Just don’t expect adults to thank you for spending hours in the rearmost row; children are a much better fit.
Some models are available with two-wheel drive only, which reduces the weight of the car and improves fuel economy, but the majority come with four-wheel drive for when you need the extra grip, such as for towing or tackling muddy farm tracks. It isn’t the cheapest car of its type, but holds its value well, making PCP finance more affordable than you might think.
Best used SUV for standing out of the crowd
With a name like Yeti, you know that Skoda’s SUV is going to be one of the more quirky options before you’ve even set eyes on it. And sure enough, it does have a pretty disctinct look with its bluff nose and boxy passenger compartment. However, depending upon the specification and colour the Skoda Yeti can be both striking and sophisticated.
Look beyond the obvious and you’ll find a car that’s surprisingly sprightly to drive and astoundingly practical. The rear seats, for example, slide on rails, the backrests tilt to help passengers get comfortable, they also fold down in 40/20/40 configuration - perfect for loading some woodwork or plumbing materials through the space in the middle - and can even be removed, providing a particularly large and useful load area.
The tried and trusted 2.0-litre diesel engine is by far the most popular engine, and some models feature four-wheel drive, but if you don’t do many miles in a year, try a cheaper 1.2-litre 'TSI' petrol instead, as this will cost you less overall. And if you want something sporty-feeling with added performance and all-wheel-drive grip, the turbocharged 1.8-litre petrol option is a great choice.
Best used SUV for value for money
This version of the Nissan Qashqai went on sale in 2014, and was recently replaced in 2021. This update helps to push down the prices of the previous-generation model, which still looks fresh and comes with plenty of kit.
It's not the best crossover for off-roading, but it’s capable on-road and well-liked by drivers, taking care of all their needs at a price they can afford with a name they recognise. The interior is well made, some versions come packed with technology - including electronic driving aids - and rear-seat legroom is impressive, but the boot is on the small side for a family SUV. For SUVs with larger boots, check these out.
It’s smooth and stable to drive, with pretty good fuel economy, but the lower-powered 1.5-litre diesel engine can feel a bit feeble if you're loaded up for a family holiday. We'd stick with the larger 1.6-litre dCi diesel for extra punch. Drivers turning away from diesel power will be pleased with the 1.2-litre and 1.3-litre turbocharged petrol engines.
Best used SUV for safety and space
Volvo has a reputation for building safe cars and the XC90 is one of the safest SUVs so far. But did you know that since records of vehicle fatalities began, nobody inside a Volvo XC90 has ever been killed in Britain? (At the time of publication, at least).
So if you want your loved ones to be as safe as possible - and who doesn’t - then the Volvo XC90 is for you. A quick exploration of the interior suggests it was designed by someone who has children - lots of children. The space on offer is huge and comfort levels are very high - perfect for keeping parents relaxed and reducing how often shouts of 'are we nearly there yet?' are heard, too.
The XC90 is not as expensive as some may imagine, given how large it is and how upmarket it feels, and used versions of the latest model, sold since 2015, are coming down in price.
Best used SUV for style
If you turn up with a Range Rover Evoque on your drive, the neighbours won't be able to help but notice that your life is going swimmingly. When it comes to getting envious looks from next door, few cars will have people peering past the curtains quite like this one.
There is a trade-off, however. The low roof that gives the Evoque its striking stance means the rear seats feel a little cramped - more like a coupe than a tall SUV. But in other ways, this helps by keeping the car’s weight relatively low and making it feel surprisingly sporty on a nice stretch of road.
Unusually, there’s a choice of three- and five-door models. It means this is one used SUV that could actually end up being more of a stylish fashion statement for many owners than the most practical family holdall. A new Range Rover Evoque hit the streets in 2019, but this older model represents great value now the pricey new model has arrived. The newer model is only available with five doors, but it's more efficient thanks to some mild hybrid and plug-in hybrid options.
Best used SUV for budget motoring
Dacia offers outstanding value for money to budget-conscious drivers, and the Duster is the ultimate example of a cheap SUV. However, its cars, notably the Duster, are far from dated. Even when new, the Duster was calculated to be Britain’s most affordable car to buy and run over three years. Think of the bargain it becomes after a few years, especially now it has been replaced by a newer model, which tends to push the price down further.
The Duster uses Renault-sourced engines, and the diesel is a hard worker that returns more than 50mpg in real-world driving, though most drivers went for petrol power. There’s a choice of two- and four-wheel-drive versions, and with the latter, you get a car that’s ideal for tackling winter weather, wet grass fields or slippery slipways.
The fit and finish of the interior means it's not the last word in style or quality but the Duster is hard-wearing and there’s enough space for a family of five, while the big 475-litre boot will happily carry the pet pooch and plenty more besides.
Best used SUV for a long warranty
Buy a three-year-old Sportage and you’ll still have four years remaining on its warranty. Bearing in mind a car is probably the most expensive thing any of us will pay for, other than our home, having that peace of mind (thanks to the fact that Kia’s seven-year warranty can be transferred to the next owner) is a serious selling point.
The Sportage is a good-looking car but proves to be more than just a pretty face. Its interior is spacious, the dashboard is sensibly laid out and the boot is large. The tricky bit will come with deciding which model to go for. The 1.7-litre diesel engine has sufficient performance for daily driving duties and is surprisingly pleasant to drive, but those who need four-wheel drive will have to pick the larger 2.0-litre version.
Also, brush up on what comes with the different trim levels before you buy, as the entry-level ‘1’ is a little miserly, whereas the ‘2’ comes with parking sensors at the back, a glass sunroof and part-leather seats. As with most Kias, you get more kit than you expect - bar with that basic model - so when buying used paying a small premium to get the next trim up could get you tonnes more kit.
Best used SUV for fuel economy
The current Pegueot 3008 has helped make the Peugeot brand more desirable, replacing the last model that wasn't particularly stylish or good to drive. This one is far more appealing, though.
Stylish looks inside and out, comfortable and predictable performance, and the option of a clever system called Grip Control - which can improve traction in slippery conditions - are among its key attractions. Some versions return impressive fuel economy too. The 1.6-litre diesel engine is great for people who spend most of their time on the motorway, but the 1.2-litre petrols are plenty capable enough around town and are pleasantly economical.
The 3008 is not all about frugal living, though. The digital dashboard (consisting of a screen behind the steering wheel and one in the middle of the dashboard) looks high-tech and the information display can be customised. The interior is roomy, too, with plenty of rear head and legroom. In short, it's an appealing all-round family car.
Best used SUV for reliability
As a hybrid SUV, with a petrol engine that’s helped along by an electric motor, the Lexus RX is economical in town, but that's not its strongest selling point. The big SUV is one of the most dependable cars that you can buy, and was named the most reliable new car in 2016's Auto Express Driver Power survey.
Don't expect this hybrid to be economical - the self-charging setup uses a large 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine so between 30-40mpg is likely in the real world. It creates somewhat of a balance between power, efficiency and comfort. That being said, the CVT automatic gearbox is best suited to gentle driving because it doesn't have gears in a traditional sense.
Best used SUV for a sporty drive
Even when it's more than three years old, the Porsche Macan still costs more than some brand new rivals, which says everything about the demand for the car and its quality. In fact, it has long been one of the slowest depreciating cars. Because it maintains its value so well, used car PCP finance costs are surprisingly affordable - since what you pay across the deposit and monthly payments effectively covers the difference in the car's value at the start of the contract and the end. Of course, there's the small matter of the optional final payment if you decide to keep the car at the end of the contract.
The Macan is the SUV that feels most like a car to drive, responding quickly when you turn the steering wheel, while remaining flat. It's also surprisingly comfortable over bumps. And the range of engines means those feeling flush can travel seriously fast, with the Turbo version proving very nearly as swift as its sports car sibling, the 911.
The quality of the interior is what you would expect from Porsche and it doesn't skimp on equipment, having features such as digital radio, parking sensors, two colour displays and trailer stability control for safe towing.
*Representative PCP finance - Ford Fiesta:
48 monthly payments of £192
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
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.