Best small SUVs 2021
Thinking of buying a new small SUV? Then make sure you read our countdown of the top 10 cars in this booming sector – plus, find out which ones we'd avoid...
Small SUVs are among the most popular cars on sale, because they usually offer the high-set driving position, practicality and muscular looks of more traditional off-roaders, but without the high purchase price or running costs.
Here, we count down the top 10 you can currently buy – and reveal the small SUVs that are best to steer clear of. You'll see plenty of popular names here, including the car which started the small SUV craze, the Nissan Juke, as well as models from Audi, Ford and Volkswagen among others.
Finally, don't forget, if you decide one of the cars featured is just what you're looking for, you could potentially save thousands without any haggling by using our New Car Buying service. You'll find links to our latest deals with each car.
The Stonic is the smallest SUV in Kia’s extensive range, and although it's only available in front-wheel drive form, it does have a slightly jacked-up ride height, roof rails and black plastic wheel arches to give it a rugged look. It also handles tidily and is well equipped, but there's no bargain-basement entry-level version to tempt budget-conscious buyers. We reckon the 118bhp 1.0-litre petrol engine will suit most people best.
- Punchy turbo petrol engine
- Plenty of standard kit
- Agile handling
- Uncompetitive PCP finance deals
- Firm ride
- Rivals are more practical
Based on the i20 hatchback, the Bayon is decent to drive, with a comfortable ride and quieter cruising manners than most rivals. It's roomy in the back and well equipped, too, so it's a pity that Hyundai hasn’t made more of an effort to lift the perceived quality of the interior.
- Relatively smooth ride
- Good rear space
- Low CO2 emissions
- Low driving position won’t appeal to everyone
- Interior is far from plush
- No flexible seating options
The original Juke sold in huge numbers, despite having a hard ride and horribly cramped rear seats, but the latest version is much improved in both areas, and has one of the smartest interiors of any small SUV. The 115bhp 1.0-litre petrol engine is gutsy enough for most situations, while N-Connecta models get climate control, extra leather trim and keyless start, on top of the plethora of kit which already comes on Acenta cars.
- Strong safety rating and equipment
- Smart interior
- Lots of toys on our recommended trim
- Choppy ride
- So-so infotainment system
- Nissan's reliability record
Once the class leader, the Arona remains an appealing choice, thanks to precise handling, good practicality and affordable PCP finance deals. Although the 94bhp 1.0-litre petrol engine is the baby of the range, we reckon it's also the best buy, especially if you'll mainly be driving on urban roads. Team it with SE Technology trim and you'll get an upgraded infotainment system as well as rear parking sensors.
- Tidy handling
- Roomier than many rivals
- Well equipped
- So-so interior quality
- Top trims are too pricey
- Rivals have more flexible rear seats
Not only does the Peugeot 2008 look the part (both inside and out), it's well equipped and has a range of punchy, efficient petrol engines. The 129bhp 1.2 Puretech 130 is particularly good; in fact, it's strong enough to make the pricier Puretech 155 feel pointless. It's just a pity all 2008s are more expensive than most of their mainstream rivals.
- Classy interior
- Well equipped
- Punchy, frugal petrol engines
- More expensive than mainstream rivals
- Relatively heavy deprecation
- Average to drive
Audi's Q2 was one of the first small SUVs to combine its compact dimensions with a premium badge. The handling is tidy and it holds its value well, but it’s the quality of the interior that will really blow you away. It also has one of the best infotainment systems around – better than those in bigger, more expensive Audi SUVs, in fact.
- Classy and user-friendly interior
- Tidy handling
- Slow depreciation
- More expensive than some rivals
- Mini Countryman is more practical
- Firm ride with 19in alloys
Volkswagen's T-Cross is exactly what many small SUV buyers are looking for. It’s comfortable and easy to drive, without feeling like a wallowy barge. It’s very roomy for its size, yet small enough that it’s easy to handle in town. And it's competitive on running costs, whether you’re a company car driver or a private buyer.
- Spacious, flexible interior
- Impressive for safety
- Good to drive
- Only slightly cheaper than the superior T-Roc
- Interior is hardly plush
- SEL and R-Line trims too pricey
Stick to the cheaper engines and trims, and the T-Roc is an even better buy than its T-Cross sister. Its cosseting ride, superb refinement and practical boot will appeal to families, plus it has one of the best driving positions of any car in the class. Only the quality of the interior plastics relegates it to third place on this list
- Comfortable ride and quiet on the motorway
- High-set driving position for a small SUV
- Good boot by class standards
- Cheap-feeling interior
- Upper trims and engine options are too pricey
- Unexciting handling; the Ford Puma is a sharper drive
In contrast to the T-Roc, the Kamiq puts you quite low to the ground; in fact, its driving position is barely any more elevated than that of Skoda's Scala hatchback. However, in every other respect it's a brilliant choice, with its supple, controlled ride and remarkably spacious interior particular highlights. That interior feels classier than the T-Roc's, too.
- Remarkably roomy seats and boot
- Better-finished interior than many of its rivals
- Comfortable ride
- No sliding or reclining rear seats
- Not especially well equipped
- Other small SUVs have a higher driving position
As good as the other cars in this top 10 are, it's the Ford Puma that's the best small SUV you can buy today. Thanks to agile handling and surprisingly nippy performance, it will put a bigger smile on your face than any rival. But it’s also a car you can buy with your sensible hat on, thanks to its low CO2 emissions, excellent real-world fuel economy, clever boot and attractive monthly PCP costs. No wonder it was our 2020 Car of the Year.
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- Great fun to drive
- Remarkable blend of performance and fuel economy
- Big and cleverly designed boot
- Rear space is adequate rather than outstanding
- Visibility could be better
- Volkswagen T-Roc is more comfortable and quieter
And the small SUVs to avoid...
Ford's Ecosport is as bad as its Puma is good, suffering from disappointing handling, a poor ride and limited rear space. The side-hinged tailgate is pretty impractical, too. Read our review
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