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

Small SUVs and 4x4s are amongst the cars setting the pace when it comes to fashionable design statements these days, with every new model that’s unveiled seemingly pushing the style boundaries a little further.

It all started with Nissan’s Juke, a jacked-up supermini on steroids with almost cartoonish SUV styling cues that set dealerships alight. Nowadays everyone is in on the compact 4x4/crossover game, with manufacturers from Alfa Romeo to Volvo offering their own takes on the genre.

All this action is great news for used car buyers, even if they do have to wait a while for the fun to filter down. There’s already a lot of choice out there, and to help separate the wheat from the chaff we’ve come up with our list of the best used small 4x4s and SUVs you can buy right now.

Focusing on value and desirability, we’ve got all bases covered from the cheerful and exceptionally cheap Dacia Duster to more upmarket options like the Audi Q3. There’s a whole raft of options in-between too, so whether you’re looking for fun and funky, a sporty drive or something that’s practical and comfortable, we’ve got you covered.

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. Dacia Duster
  3. SEAT Arona
  4. Audi Q3 (2011-2018)
  5. Citroen C4 Cactus
  6. Peugeot 2008 (2013-2020)
  7. Mazda CX-3
  8. Renault Captur

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

Citroen’s quirky design and comfort-orientated outlook seem tailor-made for the small SUV segment. It’s a sector that prioritises urban style, an upright stance and suspension that can deal with the country’s worst potholes and biggest speed bumps. And by any measure the C3 Aircross excels.

It’s one of the most spacious models in the class; the boot is of a decent size, two adults can sit in the back in comfort in those forgiving seats, and its big windows bathe the interior in light, particularly on models fitted with a glass roof. This does eat into the headroom, though, so it’s certainly a case of try before you buy. Up front, the seats are wide, and the dashboard layout is funkier than the class norm.

The C3 Aircross drives well, too. The suspension is soft, and while the steering is pretty remote, the engine range manages to deliver punchy and refined performance. You can pick from two 1.2-litre petrol engines and a 1.6 BlueHDi diesel, but it’s the 109bhp 1.2 turbo petrol that we think is the best for running costs, at the same time as delivering all the go you’d really need in a car like this.

All well and good, but what makes it our best small used SUV? It’s the fact that it’s so well priced. There’s no shortage of two-year-old, sub-£9,000 models that have covered 25,000 miles, so there’s plenty of life – and in some cases the balance of the new-car warranty – left.

The majority of those cars are with our preferred engine and in Feel trim, which includes kit such as Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, operated through a seven-inch touchscreen. This also controls the air-con, although that feature won’t suit everyone.

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

2. Dacia Duster

For buyers on a budget, there’s no better small SUV than the Duster. It’s cheap to buy new, which means it’s an even bigger steal used. Factor in genuine off-road talent and lots of interior space, and there’s plenty to like. Access models are very basic, though, and a so-so safety rating might concern some.

That said, anyone buying a Duster is unlikely to want to drive it dangerously, and the practicality and value offered by a Nissan Qashqai-sized off-roader for Nissan Micra money is hard to argue with.

There’s plenty of room for five adults aboard the Duster, and with up to 445 litres of boot space (1,623 litres with the seats down), you’re getting far more space than in a similarly-priced hatchback.

With decent-enough driving characteristics, economical 1.5-litre diesel or more lively 1.3-litre petrols among a range of options that even includes a ‘dual-fuel’ LPG set-up, it’s no wonder the Duster’s appeal transcends its lowly badge.

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

3. SEAT Arona

Under the skin the fashionably high-riding SEAT Arona SUV is a spin-off from the SEAT Ibiza supermini, but the Arona is a more upmarket and larger vehicle that’s just big enough to qualify as a small family car.

It’s not the largest or most practical SUV in its class, but the Arona strikes a good balance between practicality and manageable size. It’s also refined and comfortable to drive, with an engine range that offers efficiency and performance. Couple this with a wide range of sporty and/or luxurious trim-levels that are all reasonably well-specified, plus the availability of high-tech features like adaptive cruise control, and the Arona line-up has something for everyone. All models get a 6.5-inch touchscreen at least, but you’ll need the Connectivity Pack Plus for an eight-inch screen and satnav – fortunately it’s included in the popular SE Technology trim and all higher grades too.

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

4. Audi Q3 (2011-2018)

A brand new Audi Q3 arrived in 2018, but that’s no reason to write-off the previous generation Q3 on sale from 2011 – in fact, for used SUV buyers it remains one of the most attractive options around.

The Q3 arrived as a five-seat understudy to the larger Q5 and Q7 models, and was available with a broad range of petrol and diesel engines, all of which are powerful and efficient, and many were available with a choice of DSG auto or manual transmissions, and the option of front- or four-wheel drive.

As befits a prestige brand, even the SE entry-level trim came with plenty of kit, including 17-inch alloys, a 6.5-inch display screen with Bluetooth, dual zone climate control and parking sensors, so it’s hard to pick a dud when you’re browsing second-hand models. That said, we’d probably recommend the SE for value, especially when matched with the super-frugal 2.0 TDI engine that can comfortably deliver 40+mpg averages in normal daily usage.

As with most Audis series, you’ll also benefit from the fact that the latest Q3 isn’t wildly different from the old at a casual glance, so you can park it on your driveway with pride.

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

5. Citroen C4 Cactus

When it first appeared in 2014 the Citroen C4 Cactus certainly stood out from the crowd, with its distinctive a ‘airbump’ plastic door flank protectors a real talking point. A redesign in 2018 saw the C4 Cactus toned down a little with less obvious airbumps, and the French firm began to promote the C3 Aircross as its primary SUV offering in the class. Nowadays Citroen pitches the C4 Cactus as a funky alternative to a regular hatch like the VW Golf or Ford Focus, but it still looks like an SUV/crossover to us.

Not that the Cactus has been left out in the cold, and both pre-and post-2018 models both offer used car buyers a roomy and funky looking alternative to some of the more staid SUV designs on the road.

As well as looking great, the C4 Cactus is fun to drive in spite of a three-cylinder engine line-up, and owners will love or hate quirky features in the plushly upholstered and comfy cabin, like the pop-out rear windows and a top-loading glovebox.

See the latest Citroen C4 Cactus prices on our sister site BuyaCar...

6. Peugeot 2008 (2013-2020)

The new-for-2020 Peugeot 2008 is something of a style icon, but what its less eye-catching predecessor lacks in terms of visual pizzazz it more than makes up for in other ways. The older model is also tremendously good value on the used market, especially for SUV/crossover buyers on a budget who put practicality and comfort ahead of prestige.

The 2008 was launched as a rival to the Nissan Juke, and is based on Peugeot’s 208 supermini, so it’s only practical in relative terms. However it does have a spacious interior and generous equipment levels across all trim levels means there’s no risk of buying a poverty spec car.

Choose the bigger 1.6 engines if you do lots of miles as they feel more comfortable on the motorway whereas the smaller 1.2-litres can feel a bit stretched. While the entry level Access models have remote locking, electric windows and mirrors, plus aircon, it’s worth aiming for the plusher Allure for parking sensors, privacy glass and more luxurious interior fit-out.

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

7. Mazda CX-3

If you want a small SUV that handles well and is fun to drive, then the Mazda CX-3 is a great place to start looking.

To start with, the Mazda CX-3 is a bit of a looker, with a design that is classy and grown-up. That grown-up feel continues into the driving experience, and as well as having a sportier and more agile chassis than most of its rivals, the CX-3 is comfortable and refined too. With a well built and comfortable interior that’s also very well equipped, this really is an SUV that rewards its drivers and cossets passengers.

You can pick from petrol and diesel engines, all of which are strong performers, and opt for two- or four-wheel drive.

The only real thorn in the side is overall practicality thanks to a cramped rear bench seat and small-ish boot, but singletons or couples will manage just fine.

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

8. Renault Captur

The Renault Captur is one of the more stylish recent takes on the supermini-based SUV concept, and is based on the Renault Clio platform. The second-generation Captur appeared in 2020, but we’re here to sing the praises of the model launched in 2013.

The five-door Captur is a decent drive, roomy and still looks fashionable thanks to a design that was at the cutting-edge back in 2013.

The Captur has always been pretty good value new, and that’s reflected in low asking prices for used ones – great news for anyone who wants a bit of French SUV style for a song.

Both diesel and petrol models look good value, but the petrols are generally nicer to drive – choose from 0.9-litre TCe90 or 1.2-litre TCe 120 versions. If you want a diesel, the post-2015 1.5dCi got an extra 20bhp which is preferable.

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

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