Top 10 best small SUVs and crossover cars to buy 2023
There's a huge range of crossovers and small SUVs on the market today. These are our top ten picks
Small SUVs, also known as crossovers, are big business for carmakers. Most models are based on supermini underpinnings but boast the raised driving position and extra flexibility that many motorists crave. This combination of lower running costs and more space allows these small SUVs to not only appeal as viable supermini alternatives, but also as rivals to more traditional family cars.
First-generation cars like the Nissan Juke and Renault Captur set the benchmark for small SUVs, and today, the market has rapidly evolved with a huge number of manufacturers now trying to appeal to buyers.
There’s a small SUV for just about everyone, so whether you prioritise comfort, practicality, sportiness or style – or any combination thereof – there’s bound to be something to suit you.
Our list only scratches the surface of what’s available on the small SUV market, but we reckon the models in our top 10 are the best of the current bunch.
Top 10 best small SUVs on sale
- Hyundai Kona
- Jeep Avenger
- Kia Niro
- Renault Captur
- Ford Puma
- Kia Soul EV
- Toyota Yaris Cross
- Skoda Kamiq
- Volkswagen T-Cross
- Peugeot 2008
1. Hyundai Kona
Hyundai clearly listened to customers’ feedback when creating the second-generation Kona, and the resulting improvements impressed us so much that not only is the new car our Small SUV of the Year for 2023, it’s also our Car of the Year.
One of the biggest criticisms of the original Kona was its limited rear cabin space and luggage capacity. This time however, the Kona is closer in size to a crossover rather than a supermini, making it more suitable for family use. Passenger head, knee and legroom have all increased and the boot can now carry up to 466 litres of stuff.
Buyers are offered a choice of petrol, hybrid or pure-electric power. Hyundai says the new Kona Electric can cover up to 305 miles on a single charge, and we managed to get very close to that figure when we tested it on a variety of roads including motorways and city streets.
Inside, all Konas are fitted with a more upmarket-feeling interior than the previous model, with higher-quality materials throughout. The dashboard consists of two 12.3-inch screens which run new software that should prove even easier to use than Hyundai’s already incredibly initiative infotainment system. This new interior design provides a lot more storage, too.
Hyundai has placed a greater emphasis on comfort and refinement with the new Kona. Rough surfaces and speed bumps did cause some disturbance during our testing, but the small SUV remained composed for the most part, particularly at lower speeds. Wind and road noise were also minimal.
2. Jeep Avenger
The Avenger is fully-electric and two-wheel drive, so you’d be forgiven for questioning if it’s a ‘proper’ Jeep. But cast aside your preconceived notions, and you’ll quickly realise that this is a capable crossover.
The Avenger is fitted with parent firm Stellantis’s latest battery technology, and is good for up to 248 miles of range and has a maximum charging speed of 100kW. Even though the Jeep is quite small, even by small SUV standards, it still feels roomy inside, plus it makes the car surprisingly easy to manoeuvre in and around town.
Inside, everything is pretty straightforward and logically placed, and the 10.25-inch infotainment system is a major improvement over the brand’s previous systems. The quality of materials used feel sturdy and should stand up well enough against any muck that finds its way in.
Perhaps most importantly to any prospective Jeep owners, the Avenger does have some off-road ability. You can choose between Mud, Sand and Snow drive modes, and a hill descent system is also fitted as standard. The Avenger is competent at dealing with slippery and rough terrain, but it’s important to remember that it’s not exactly a Wrangler.
3. Kia Niro
Kia has gone bold with its latest Niro. Blending head-turning style with cutting-edge electrification, the Korean machine scooped Small SUV honours in our 2022 New Car Awards ceremony. Built on a new platform, the latest Niro offers more space than ever, while its stylish interior looks good, is well built and packs loads of useful tech.
Yet it’s under the skin that the compact crossover really impresses, with buyers able to choose from self-charging and plug-in hybrid versions, the latter providing up to 40 miles of zero-emissions running.
However, it’s the all-electric Niro EV that’s the certified star of the line-up, with its large 64kWh battery delivering an impressive claimed range of 286 miles. It also packs eager acceleration and strong refinement, and as with the other versions, it features accurate handling and a decent ride.
Factor in attractive pricing, loads of standard kit and the brand’s trademark seven-year warranty, and the Niro won’t fail to warm the cockles on a cold winter’s day.
4. Renault Captur
If you want style and substance in your small SUV, then look no further than the Captur. This family-friendly machine is a former New Car Awards winner and it remains hugely desirable.
Despite its compact dimensions, it serves up a surprising amount of space inside, while its sliding rear bench adds an extra dose of practicality. The interior also packs a level of premium appeal, with slick design, plenty of high-grade materials and its eye-catching portrait-style infotainment set-up.
It’s not as sharp to drive as some rivals, but the supple suspension and strong refinement mean that it’s more comfortable and relaxing. Plus, unlike most in the class, the Renault offers a powerful and efficient plug-in hybrid edition that delivers 158bhp and a claimed electric range of 30 miles.
5. Ford Puma
The Puma is one of the best-selling cars in the UK, and it’s not hard to see why. Whether you want to have fun behind the wheel or you need to carry your family and all their gear, the Blue Oval’s brilliant machine has it covered.
Fast steering and impressive agility make the Ford a real treat to drive, while the flagship ST packs a 197bhp punch. The Puma’s interior is relatively roomy and well equipped, while hidden under the boot floor is the surprisingly useful 80-litre Megabox. Although the cabin doesn’t feel as upmarket as some rivals’, Ford’s SYNC 3 infotainment delivers hassle-free connectivity.
6. Kia Soul EV
The Kia Soul EV offers great performance, along with decent levels of refinement, comfort and tech. The high list price might prove to be a sticking point for some, but it brings the benefits of low running costs, zero road tax and no congestion charges to worry about.
Practicality is pretty good, with 315 litres of boot space, while there's a huge 1,339 litres if you fold the rear seats down. You also have the option of lowering the boot floor to free up a bit more room. Leg and headroom are perfectly acceptable, and taller passengers will be able to travel in comfort, although the middle seat of the rear bench is more suited to children.
There's plenty of power available to ensure swift and smooth progress - a single electric motor sends 201bhp and 395Nm of torque to the front wheels, fed by a 64kWh lithium-ion battery mounted under the floor. The 0-60mph benchmark is achieved in 7.6 seconds and, on paper at least, the Soul EV will return 280 miles of range from a single charge.
7. Toyota Yaris Cross
Tapping into the SUV sales boom, Toyota has created a rugged, off-road-themed version of its Yaris supermini. Featuring a raised ride height and tough body cladding, the Cross certainly looks the part, while the availability of four-wheel drive means it reaches parts other small cars cannot.
The Yaris Cross gets the same 1.5-litre petrol-electric hybrid powertrain and CVT as its hatchback sibling, which means claimed fuel returns of over 60mpg. And while it’s not exciting to drive, the Yaris handles accurately and is decently refined. If you need a cost-effective and compact all-weather runabout, then it should be on your shortlist.
8. Skoda Kamiq
The Kamiq may be the entry point to Skoda’s stellar SUV line-up, but it’s a small car that likes to think big. It’s based on the same platform as the SEAT Arona and VW T-Cross, but clever packaging means there’s a little more space for occupants inside, as well as a larger boot.
As with other models from the Czech brand, the interior looks and feels smart, plus it gets all the tech you’ll need. The Skoda is also a more relaxing choice than its VW Group stablemates, thanks to softer suspension settings, although it’s not quite as sharp to drive.
However, it gets the same range of petrol engines, including a lively 1.0-litre TSI that’s the pick of the bunch.
9. Volkswagen T-Cross
The T-Cross is also a great choice if you want all the benefits of the VW Group’s MQB A0 platform but want to express your individuality: Volkswagen offers a range of design packs, each of which adds a unique look to the already handsome SUV.
A familiar line-up of engines covers all the bases, with the more powerful of the 1.0-litre petrol units providing a particularly good blend of performance, economy and refinement. The Volkswagen SUV drives well, feeling agile and grippy but stopping short of providing real excitement, while the light steering is great around town and in tighter spots. Overall, the T-Cross is easy and relaxing to drive.
It’s broadly similar to cheaper cars from sister brands Skoda and SEAT, but if you’re willing to pay a little more for the privilege, the T-Cross is a great choice. It’s not all about extra brand kudos and customisation scope, though, because the Volkswagen brings a sliding rear bench for improved flexibility, plus marginally better residual values than its Skoda and SEAT rivals.
10. Peugeot 2008
Yet despite being so closely related, the two cars have different characters. For starters, the softly suspended Peugeot serves up more comfort and slightly more engaging handling.
Inside, it’s slickly designed, but i-Cockpit dash layout won’t suit all drivers. However, the Peugeot hits back with its Grip Control system that helps inspire confidence in slippery conditions.