Used Car of the Year Awards: SUVs
With living costs on the rise, getting a good deal on your next car is more important than ever. That's where our Used Car Awards come in. These are our favourite SUVs...
Price from £15,000 Our pick 1.0 Ecoboost mHEV 155 ST-Line
Picking just one SUV from a class that encapsulates everything from the smallest and most frugal at one end to the largest and most luxurious at the other might seem a Herculean task, but sometimes one car seems to automatically rise above all the others. This year, much as we admired the Seat Arona for its affordability, the Kia Sportage for its practicality and the BMW X3 for its sheer classiness, the Ford Puma was that magically levitating car.
Perhaps that’s not surprising. When it was first launched at the end of 2019, we were so impressed with it that we had no hesitation in making it our overall 2020 Car of the Year. Buyers like it, too, with the Puma being the best-selling car in the UK so far in 2023. Such popularity means there are now plenty of examples on the used car market.
And the Puma is at least as good a buy when used as it is when new. For starters, it’s not only impressively economical but also great fun to drive, easily eclipsing such rivals as the Nissan Juke and Skoda Kamiq for its agility and sense of connection with the road. The Puma’s steering is pin-sharp and its handling is delightfully eager. All the engine options are gutsy, but we’d seek out the 155 version of the 1.0-litre Ecoboost for its easy oomph.
Inside, the Puma’s attractive dashboard makes good use of some pleasingly plush materials, and it comes with plenty of standard kit. The boot is the real star of the show; it’s bigger than those of nearly all of its small SUV rivals, and if you lift up its floor, you’ll find a large well with a drain hole so you can hose mud from dirty boots away.
And here’s the best news of all: the Puma undercuts its main rivals on price as a used buy. You can now buy one of the earliest examples – from 2019 – in our preferred ST-Line trim for just £15,000. That’s less than you’ll pay for an equivalent Audi Q2, Mini Countryman or Skoda Kamiq.
The sweet spot for us would be a 2020 car with a minimal mileage and a full service history for around £17,000, which we think is remarkably good value for something so entertaining and highly polished.
Best budget buy
Seat Arona (2017-present)
Price from £10,000 Our pick 1.0 95 TSI SE
The best things come in small packages, and here to prove it is the Seat Arona. This compact SUV is no stranger to collecting gongs in our used car awards before, and it’s our top choice again this year for buyers on a tight budget.
Despite its handy dimensions, the Arona is roomy inside, and its ride is more comfortable than the much pricier Mini Countryman’s. The Arona is practical, too, and more fun on the road than its Renault Captur and Suzuki Vitara rivals, although the Ford Puma beats them all in these regards.
The Arona has been around long enough, though, for early examples to look enticingly affordable; prices start at just £10,000 for the earliest cars, making it much cheaper to get into than an Audi Q2, a Puma or a Volkswagen T-Cross. We’d go for the smooth 1.0 TSI 95 petrol engine, and SE trim brings all the standard equipment you really need.
Best premium choice
BMW X3 (2018-present)
Price from £25,000 Our pick xDrive20d MHT xLine
So, you want a bit of prestige to go with the practicality of your SUV? Who can blame you? The problem is an upmarket badge can cost, but you might be surprised at how affordable the BMW X3 can be. Prices for the current generation start at just £25,000, and you could pick up a 2021 car in our favourite xLine trim for around £29,000.
The X3 is much more fun to drive than its Land Rover Discovery Sport and Lexus NX rivals; in fact, we think it’s the best-handling large SUV this side of the more expensive Porsche Macan. All X3 engines are good, but our favourite 20d has plenty of grunt yet can return near-50mpg economy.
Meanwhile, the X3 is spacious, very plush and well equipped inside; its infotainment system is one of the best around, and the X3’s reliability record is superior to that of its closest rival, the Audi Q5. The Puma’s irresistible blend of value and fun keep the X3 off the top spot here, though.
Best nearly new buy
Kia Sportage (2022-present)
Price from £23,000 Our pick 1.6 T-GDi 3
If you want to make sure you can find your SUV in the school car park, you’d do well to consider the Sportage. Its distinctive style sets it apart, and it’s not merely interesting to look at; the Sportage has evolved over the years into one of the finest family SUVs you can buy.
It has one of the best interiors in the family SUV class. It looks smarter than the Seat Ateca’s and Skoda Karoq’s, while rear passengers have lots of head and leg room, and the boot is even bigger than those of the Karoq and Nissan Qashqai.
The Sportage is well equipped, especially in our chosen 3 trim, and used cars come with the remainder of Kia’s seven-year-from-new warranty. On top of that, a 2022 example can be bought for just £23,000 now; that’s cheaper than rivals such as the Hyundai Tucson and Volvo XC40. A slightly older Ford Puma for a fair bit less is an even more enticing used buy, though.