Best small SUV 2023
SUVs are among the most popular cars in Britain. At the time of writing, six of the top 10 best-selling cars in the country were SUVs, with three of them classed as small SUVs. Proof that the best things come in small packages?
It's easy to see the appeal. A small SUV takes up no more room on the road than a small hatchback, so it's easy to park and thread through our tight, congested streets. Another bonus is the high driving position, for a commanding view of the road ahead.
They also tend to be more spacious than small hatchbacks, with more leg room and head room for the driver and passengers, plus a larger boot for your shopping bag and the dogs. None of this comes at the expense of running costs, with a small SUV likely to be cheap to run, especially if you opt for a small petrol engine or hybrid model.
One thing's for certain: you won't be short of choice. There are dozens to choose from, but to help you on your way, we've selected the best small SUVs available to buy right now.
Best small SUVs
Like Skoda’s other popular cars, the Kamiq is an extremely practical small SUV. It’s perfect for growing families, with a good amount of interior space for passengers, plus a 400-litre boot. That’s bigger than a Volkswagen Golf, and the load space itself is more than a metre wide, swallowing pushchairs without blinking an eyelid. The engine range is entirely petrol, with all of them turbocharged for good mid-range pulling power and impressive efficiency. Every Kamiq gets alloy wheels, a touchscreen infotainment system, rear parking sensors and front emergency assist (collision warning and automatic braking). They all enjoy styling that resembles a shrunken version of Skoda’s popular large SUVs, too.
At the time of writing, the Ford Puma was Britain's best-selling car. Like the original Puma coupe from the late 1990s, this SUV reinvention boasts head-turning style, with curvaceous lines and a squat, sporty stance. Practicality hasn’t been forgotten, though, with the Fiesta-based Puma offering a high-up seating position and ample legroom in the rear. The boot is an enormous 456 litres and we love the hose-clean underfloor stowage area, which Ford calls the Magic Box. Choose from regular petrol and mild-hybrid versions, along with a high-performance 200PS Puma ST. All are fantastic to drive, with nimble handling and grin-a-minute dynamism.
The Vauxhall Mokka has been reinvented as a super-stylish and very distinctive SUV. It looks refreshingly modern, and owners can stand out even more if they choose one of the vivid metallic colour options. The interior also has a contemporary feel, with cool gloss-black surfaces and a dual-screen dashboard that wraps around the driver. High-set seats give a good view down the flat bonnet, which feels a bit like sitting in a Range Rover. The 1.2-litre turbo engines sound small on paper, but serve up decent pulling power. You can even choose an all-electric version, which Vauxhall calls the Mokka Electric. Fully charged, it has a driving range of 209 miles.
There’s a strong argument that the Duster doesn’t belong on this list, because it’s actually larger than most of the other entries. But we’ve included it because you get so much for your money – less money, in fact, than some much smaller cars. So if you’re after a small SUV for budgetary reasons, then read on. The Duster is still fairly compact, will give you loads of space for passengers and luggage, and you can even have a four-wheel drive version if you need to venture out of the city and into the mud. It comes with lots of features as standard, and holds onto its value well, too. If you want lots for less, the Duster is a great option.
The British-built Nissan Juke courted controversy when launched, thanks to its radical styling, but it’s become one of the best-loved small SUVs here in the UK. Now into its second generation, the bold face remains, but the Juke is now larger, more practical and more refined. It has a 422-litre boot, much better space for rear-seat passengers and an appreciably more premium feel to its interior. We love gadgets such as the optional Bose 360-degree sound speakers, and style-seekers will like alloy wheels that measure up to 19 inches. There are two engines available: a 1.0-litre DIG-T three-cylinder petrol engine producing 114PS, or a 143PS 1.6-litre petrol-electric hybrid unit. Both offer excellent fuel economy, with the later offering an official 56.5mpg.
The Peugeot 2008 is another small SUV that stands out from the crowd. It has a huge grille and very pronounced creases along its sides. There’s also no missing it once on the move, thanks to bold LED running lights that expand from the headlights into deep strakes on either side of the bumper. The interior is unlike any other SUV, with a tiny steering wheel and driver-oriented dashboard. It’s all tactile and well-formed, with extras including a highly distinctive 3D instrument display. Peugeot also offers a pure electric e-2008 alongside combustion-engined versions. The EV has an electric driving range of up to 214 miles.
Toyota Yaris Cross
The new Toyota Yaris Cross is a high-riding sibling to the highly acclaimed Yaris small hatchback. Its rugged shape has more in common with the larger Toyota RAV4 SUV, while its interior is a raised-up interpretation of the smooth, well-built Yaris layout – including extra space for rear-seat passengers. Like the Yaris, it only comes with a petrol-electric hybrid drivetrain (also known as a ‘self-charging hybrid’), which can travel as a pure EV for more than half the time in the city. In daily driving, it reduces exhaust emissions and delivers excellent fuel economy. The standard automatic gearbox makes the Yaris Cross a breeze to drive, while Toyota’s reliability record is second-to-none.
Volkswagen has not one, but three small SUVs, and they’re all really good. The T-Cross is a good option if passenger practicality is your priority, and the Taigo has coupe-like suave looks, but we think this, the T-Roc, is the all-round best of the three. It’s more stylish and better to drive than the T-Cross, with a more comfortable ride and a better quality interior. Although rear legroom is less than in the T-Cross, the T-Roc has a bigger boot, and it comes with more features as standard too – many of which you’d expect to find in larger, more expensive cars. The T-Roc is bigger than the Taigo but still very compact, and it’s hard to find a better small SUV overall.
The latest Honda HR-V is a bit of a design landmark for the Japanese brand. It trades the old model’s awkward creases for a much purer and smoother style. In profile, the car has a coupe-like appearance, despite its SUV proportions. The upscale, premium-finish interior is appealing, and it offers a good amount of space both in the rear seats and the boot. This is helped by being derived from the practical Honda Jazz supermini, which also lends its clever ‘twin-motor’ hybrid drivetrain. This ingenious system doesn’t have a gearbox; the engine drives one motor and the other turns the wheels, which means the engine can be shut down even at motorway speeds. It results in great refinement and very impressive fuel economy.
The Audi Q2 is the fully premium competitor in our list of the best small SUVs. Measuring less than 4.2 metres long, it certainly looks the part, with bulging wheelarches that reference the original Audi Quattro. That car’s spirit influences the oily bits, too: this is one of the few small SUVs available with all-wheel drive (the system is called ‘Quattro’, naturally). You can also buy a high-performance Audi SQ2, with a searing 300PS for 0-62mph in just 4.9 seconds. There is no faster small SUV on sale. Inside, the Q2 is roomy and well laid-out, and its classy dashboard feels a cut above other vehicles here. It costs more than other small SUVs, of course, but it’s easy to see what the extra outlay buys you.
Which is the most reliable small SUV?
Honda, Toyota and Nissan are among the most reliable car brands, and their well-proven small crossovers rank among the most reliable small SUVs. Toyota in particular has a superb reputation for reliability – even its high-tech hybrid drive systems generally prove faultless. All those Prius taxi drivers can’t be wrong… Saying that, any of the SUVs listed here should prove dependable, as they are derived from top-selling superminis that are sold in high numbers. As such, they will have generally had any faults ironed out in double-quick time.
Can you get a small SUV with all-wheel drive?
These days, the market doesn’t demand that any size of SUV offers all-wheel drive. The era of the mud-plugging 4x4-style SUV is long gone. Only the Audi Q2 and Dacia Duster on our list of the best small SUVs offer all-wheel drive as an option. Most buyers simply don’t need it, as they don’t take these vehicles off-road. In the Audi’s case, all-wheel drive is really there to help variants such as the high-performance SQ2 transmit their power to the ground. But if you need to climb muddy hills or ford streams then the Duster is the car to look at.
What is a good affordable small SUV?
You can spend large SUV money on a top-of-the-range small SUV, but you certainly don't need to. The Nissan Juke offers plenty of SUV style from around £21,000, for example, while cars such as the Vauxhall Mokka, Skoda Kamiq and Peugeot 2008 are also very affordable. The Dacia Duster starts from around £17,500. The idea behind a small SUV is to offer a more stylish, higher-riding alternative to a regular supermini, without breaking the bank, which is why car manufacturers work so hard to keep prices in check. And why these cars have proven so popular.