Best used small SUVs and 4x4s 2021

If you're after a little extra style without breaking the bank, then check out our guide to the best used small 4x4s and SUVs for 2021

Few areas of the new car market have exploded in popularity like the compact SUV sector in recent years. Whether you’d rather take a pragmatic or a slightly more superficial approach to car buying, it’s easy to see why the standards set and the choices available just keep on growing. Of all the segments on offer, few have to deliver such a wide range of strengths – and on such a tight budget. 

In general, these mini-SUVs derive their underpinnings from superminis – and take up barely any more space on the road. However, the chunky 4x4-inspired looks and high rooflines which make them so appealing to buyers also make them usefully more practical – in most cases they’re genuinely roomy enough to handle family life. 

So space and style are two of the biggest considerations here, but so are low running costs and reliability – although not necessarily at the expense of fun. Even in our used list, there are alternative-fuel powertrains available – be that hybrid, plug-in or even fully electric. Yet many of the cheaper combustion options offer enough power to promise a little enjoyment, too. 

Above all else, these cars have to be affordable. The initial sting of depreciation has been felt by the first owner, so as you’ll see from the monthly PCP rates quoted by our sister site Buyacar, all 10 promise very competitive prices. Regardless of where your priorities lie, we’ve rounded up 10 of the finest used buys, rated on all of these strengths and more.

Read on for our guide to the best used small 4x4s and SUVs…

Best used small 4x4s and SUVs to buy

  1. Citroen C3 Aircross
  2. SEAT Arona
  3. Kia Niro
  4. Toyota C-HR
  5. Dacia Duster
  6. Audi Q3
  7. Peugeot 2008
  8. Suzuki Vitara
  9. Mazda CX-3
  10. Renault Captur

1. Best used small 4x4 and SUV: Citroen C3 Aircross

The C3 Aircross foregoes the sharp lines that are trendy for small SUVs at the moment in favour of softer curves. In fact, it sets its own agenda in many ways, and that’s why it’s one of the best cars in the class. It’s great value, too – the monthly PCP rates are among the cheapest of our used contenders.

The interior is relatively unusual – it has an airy feel, helped by a minimal dash design and big windows, but it’s also one of the most spacious cars in its class – there’s lots of room in the back seats and a big boot.

The C3 Aircross isn’t the sharpest car to drive, but it’s not meant to be – it’s aimed at those who want a car with a smooth ride. The upright driving position is comfortable and is complemented by soft suspension. 

The engine range includes diesels, but we’d stick with the 1.2 petrol because it’s punchy, economical and enjoyable to use.

See the latest Citroen C3 Aircross prices on our sister site BuyaCar...

2. SEAT Arona

The Arona has all the right ingredients to make it one of the best small SUVs you can buy. A second-hand model offers all of the new car’s benefits, but with the spectre of depreciation heading out the door.

The Arona is good to drive, comfortable, spacious, well equipped and cheap to run – what more do you really need? We love the 1.0-litre petrol for its balance of performance, economy and refinement.

The SEAT’s sharp looks are mirrored by the tech-laden cabin. Smartphone connectivity can be found on the majority of Aronas on the market. The boot is a useful shape, and while there could be more legroom in the back, it’s big enough for kids. Owners ranked the Arona as the best small SUV in our 2019 Driver Power satisfaction survey, so the ownership experience should be good.

See the latest SEAT Arona prices on our sister site BuyaCar...

3. Kia Niro

The Niro is one of few cars for sale that’s available as a so-called ‘self-charging’ hybrid, a plug-in model or as a fully electric car. The latter – the e-Niro – is the most expensive version, but it’s also the best, because it offers an impressive range of 282 miles and a smooth, relaxing driving experience.

There’s also a plug-in hybrid option, but the most competitively priced model is the normal hybrid. Unlike some petrol-electric models, it uses a dual-clutch automatic gearbox rather than a CVT transmission, which means it’s not as noisy when you put your foot down.

All versions of the Niro are easy to drive and well designed for daily life. The interior is a bit dull but very functional, easy to use and well built. The infotainment set-up in the Niro is also excellent, with easy-to-understand menus and a responsive screen, so it’s best to choose a higher spec (3 trim or above) with this system.

See the latest Kia Niro prices on our sister site BuyaCar...

4. Toyota C-HR

The C-HR is one of the larger models on this list, but the funky styling means that it’s less practical than you might expect – and those tiny rear windows mean it feels dark in the back. Don’t let that put you off unless you need strong practicality, though, because the C-HR is fantastic in many other ways.

It’s enjoyable to drive and comfortable even on bumpy roads, plus it’s quiet inside and the front seats are supportive. The cabin looks interesting and is well built, plus the C-HR is bound to be reliable – a fact that’s now supported by a warranty that’s extendable up to 10 years, and is applicable to all used C-HRs serviced at a Toyota dealer.

There was a 1.2 petrol manual, which is great to drive, but most buyers will be interested in the hybrid models. The 1.8-litre version is more common, while the 2.0-litre offers a bit more power. Both of them are easy to drive in town, and offer excellent fuel economy and relaxing low-speed driving.

See the latest Toyota C-HR prices on our sister site BuyaCar...

5. Dacia Duster

The Dacia Duster was one of the cheapest new cars you could buy when it was new, and as a used car it’s a genuine bargain – prices start at less than £3,000. It’s roomier than most of the other cars on our list, and even comes with a reasonable amount of equipment in higher-spec Laureate and Ambience trims.

Okay, the interior is dated and it’s not all that refined – there’s plenty of wind and road noise, plus the engines aren’t very quiet. It’s easy to forgive that because the cabin is made using hard-wearing materials, so it’ll stand up to family use, and the engines are economical.

The 1.5 dCi diesel is a tempting option for high-mileage drivers, while the pick of the petrol line-up is the 1.2 TCe. There are four-wheel-drive versions, which offer genuine off-road ability, but for most people front-wheel drive models will be cheaper to buy and deliver better fuel economy.

See the latest Dacia Duster prices on our sister site BuyaCar...

6. Audi Q3

If you’re looking for a more upmarket small SUV then the Audi Q3 is a standout choice. Depreciation has pushed prices to the point where it competes with cars that were a lot less expensive as brand-new buys. 

You’re not just getting a premium badge with the Q3, either. The interior is very high-quality, looks great, and the in-car tech still stands up well compared with the latest new cars. It’s roomy inside, too – there’s enough space in the back seats for adults, even if the high central tunnel restricts legroom in the middle seat.

That tunnel is there because the Q3 was offered with quattro four-wheel drive, so buyers can benefit from improved traction in poor conditions. The engine range is small but you can’t go far wrong – the 2.0 TDI diesel is punchy and economical, while the 2.0 TFSI petrol is powerful and smooth. The 1.4 TFSI petrol is quiet and offers a good balance between the two.

See the latest Audi Q3 prices on our sister site BuyaCar...

7. Peugeot 2008

The original 2008 was a popular new car, so there are plenty of used examples around at affordable prices. Its main strong points are its practicality and low running costs.

There’s plenty of standard kit on most models (Access cars are a bit bare) and a big boot. Some might find the driving position awkward – the small steering wheel can obstruct the dials – but the Peugeot delivers secure handling and a smooth ride.

Our favourite engines are the 1.5 BlueHDi diesel and 1.2 PureTech petrol. The former is smooth and returns good economy, while the latter is ideal for those who do a lot of local trips. The 2008 is enjoyable to use and provides excellent performance for its size.

See the latest Peugeot 2008 prices on our sister site BuyaCar...

8. Suzuki Vitara

In the small SUV class, the Vitara is an interesting option because it offers a strong balance of abilities. It makes a great choice as a second-hand car because it’s reliable, plus the engine range is solid.

We love the 1.0-litre turbocharged Boosterjet versions, although later 1.4-litre mild-hybrid models are good, too, if a little expensive. They provide decent performance and economy, and thanks to the Vitara’s comfortable driving position and sweet manual gearshift, the Suzuki is rather enjoyable to drive.

The Vitara is practical, too, with a big boot and plenty of rear head and legroom – there are even four-wheel-drive models for those who need some kind of off-road ability. The functional interior lacks plusher soft-touch plastics, but it feels hard-wearing. The infotainment system is a little clunky though, so make sure you hunt out a version whose touchscreen offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.

See the latest Suzuki Vitara prices on our sister site BuyaCar...

9. Mazda CX-3

The Mazda CX-3 is the small SUV for those who love driving – it’s one of the most enjoyable cars of its type on the road. 

You can choose from a couple of frugal diesels or a 2.0-litre petrol. The latter sounds oversized, but it maximises fuel economy in real-world conditions. With no turbo, it requires revs, but performance and economy are similar to the Mazda’s 1.0-litre turbo-powered rivals.

The CX-3 has an upmarket interior with excellent seats, but practicality is its weak spot – the rear seats are a little cramped, and the 350-litre boot can’t quite match the capacity of rivals.

See the latest Mazda CX-3 prices on our sister site BuyaCar...

10. Renault Captur

It was an affordable car when new, so a used Captur that’s already shed much of its original price is an even better buy. This first generation was a big seller in the small SUV class when it made its debut, and as a used buy it represents great value for money.

A big part of the reason for this is the practical interior, particularly the big boot. It even has a sliding rear bench, so you can increase rear legroom or boot space as you need it. While the latest Captur is praised for its interior quality, the old model feels a little more basic, but it’s still well equipped and the high seat position will win many fans.

Thanks to numb controls, the driving experience isn’t the greatest when compared with some rivals. The engine range is a little underpowered, too, but it is economical. If you need more power, then the 1.3-litre turbo petrol introduced towards the end of the production run offers strong performance. 

See the latest Renault Captur prices on our sister site BuyaCar...

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