Best cars & vans

Best crossover cars and small SUVs 2021

There's a huge range of crossovers and small SUVs on the market today. These are our top ten picks

It’s no secret that the new car marketplace today is dominated by SUVs of all sizes. However, it’s the smallest ones that are proving particularly popular with buyers. Largely based on supermini underpinnings but boasting the raised driving position and extra flexibility that so many motorists crave, small SUVs suit modern family life perfectly; many models stand not only as viable supermini alternatives but also as rivals to more traditional, larger family hatchbacks.

Pioneering cars in this class, like the original Nissan Juke, set the benchmark for small SUVs and since then, every manufacturer has rushed to get its own piece of the action. There’s now something different 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 in the showrooms.

Our rundown of the very best small SUVs includes a model to match every taste and requirement; some of the cars are genuinely fun to drive, while others prioritise passenger comfort above all else. As a rule, those vehicles towards the top of our list do the best job of balancing everyday considerations such as practicality with driver appeal, value and good looks.

Our list only scratches the surface of what’s available, of course, such is the ever-expanding scale of this segment – but we reckon the models in our top 10 are the best of the current bunch.

Top 10 best small SUVs on sale

  1. Renault Captur
  2. Ford Puma
  3. Kia Niro/e-Niro
  4. Kia Soul EV
  5. Skoda Kamiq
  6. Volkswagen T-Cross
  7. Peugeot 2008
  8. Citroen C3 Aircross
  9. SEAT Arona
  10. Dacia Duster

Click the links above or scroll down to find out more about the best small SUVs and crossovers on sale at the moment...

Renault Captur

The original Captur was a roaring success for Renault, so the new model had a lot to live up to. Thankfully, it’s better than ever. Based on the excellent new Renault Clio hatchback, the Captur is a stylish and comfortable SUV that’s good enough to fight for the top spot in this class. In fact, we think there is no better small SUV to buy in 2021.

We’ve tested it at home and abroad and loved what we found. Standout features include a well designed and built interior, a big boot and plenty of equipment; a decent range of petrol and diesel engines with great claimed economy figures also helps the Renault’s cause.

The Captur will appeal to those drivers who want a bit of flair from their small SUV. The Renault looks the part and drives well, too, with its precise steering and controlled yet comfortable ride making it bang on the money in this class.

Renault has also made the second-generation version more refined and comfortable than the previous model, so the Captur is now a much more viable option for longer journeys.

Ford Puma

Just as the latest Renault Captur shares its platform with the Clio, the new Ford Puma is based on the Fiesta supermini. And that connection is very good news.

While the use of the old Puma coupe’s name has ruffled some feathers, Ford has done a great job of making sure its new SUV lives up to that sporty heritage. The new Puma is one of the best-driving cars in this class thanks to its great steering, honed chassis and slick six-speed gearbox; it feels much like a higher, more spacious Fiesta. A new mild-hybrid engine sits under the bonnet and while it’s not the most sophisticated or refined unit, it performs well and should be economical.

Inside, all will be familiar to Fiesta owners in terms of design and quality: it’s not quite the best in class in either respect but does a solid job, while the driving position and seats are particularly comfortable. Elsewhere, a 456-litre boot and good rear passenger space help the Ford’s family-car credentials.

The Puma makes a lot of sense as a fun-to-drive, practical, small SUV that goes about its business with a bit of flair. Ford’s newcomer is a great all-round package, and only a whisker behind the award-winning Captur.

Kia Niro/e-Niro

The Kia Niro makes it easy to jump to hybrid, plug-in hybrid or indeed electric power. It’s almost as efficient as the Toyota Prius without being so zanily styled, and not everyone who wants an electrified car wants to stand out or shout about it. Regardless of the powertrain you pick, the Niro is easy to drive and relaxing.

There’s arguably very little to get excited about, but it does all the right things well. The SUV body is roomy and the hybridisation doesn’t reduce the car’s practicality. It’s very well-equipped, and now the electric version slots in under the plug-in car grant threshold.

The e-Niro is the best of the bunch, providing an almost unrivalled electric range for the price. It also provides the nippiest acceleration, the biggest boot and the lowest running costs. The Niro family was one of the runners-up in our Small SUV of the Year 2021 award.

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. 

Skoda Kamiq

The Kamiq is Skoda’s smallest and newest SUV. Based on the Volkswagen Group’s widely used MQB A0 architecture, it hits all the right notes. It’s spacious, practical and powered by a range of efficient, tried-and-tested engines, all the while remaining decent – if not totally electrifying – to drive. It shares most of its mechanicals with the Volkswagen T-Cross and SEAT Arona elsewhere on this list, but trumps both of these models on value for money.

You’ll spot the difference between the Kamiq and its relatives – notably thanks to inferior interior plastics up front – but it’s still well built and sensibly appointed. Top-spec SE L cars have a great 9.2-inch infotainment system that pairs nicely with Skoda’s Virtual Cockpit display, while SE models have an eight-inch system with Android Auto and wireless Apple CarPlay functionality.

The Kamiq is as good to drive as the T-Cross, rides comfortably and feels almost as nice inside. It lacks the VW’s sliding rear seats but counters with great legroom in the back and a decent load space with the seats folded. The Skoda is a talented, practical car that’s pretty hard to beat.

 

Volkswagen T-Cross

Volkswagen’s offering in the small-SUV class is one of the best. The T-Cross is broadly similar to the Skoda Kamiq, but adds a little more style and desirability to the mix over its Czech cousin.

And the T-Cross is 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.

 

Peugeot 2008

Arriving on the back of lots of SUV-related success for Peugeot with its larger 3008 and 5008, the latest 2008 is an all-new model that looks set to follow suit.

Sharing its platform with the latest Peugeot 208 and Vauxhall Corsa, the 2008 was designed to accept all-electric power as well as internal-combustion engines, and the e-2008 is now available, taking the fight to the Hyundai Kona Electric.

The ICE car is worth considering against its more conventional rivals, too, however; the 1.2-litre petrol engine is excellent (especially in 128bhp form), build quality in the spacious, stylish interior is good, and the car feels planted, precise and comfortable on the move. It may be pricier than some rivals, but it ticks lots of boxes.

Citroen C3 Aircross

Citroen likes to do things its own way and its small-SUV offering is no exception. Where some rival manufacturers focus on performance and driver involvement, the C3 Aircross is refreshingly relaxed; soft, forgiving suspension and equally cosseting seating are the order of the day.

It’s a little older than some more modern competitors in mechanical terms, but the C3 still keeps up. The Aircross’s engines are strong and offer respectable economy, and while it’s not exactly sporty or precise, the Citroen remains largely refined and comfortable. Its soft suspension can be easily overwhelmed by mid-corner bumps and the steering is a little lifeless, however.

Still, some of the biggest reasons to pick the C3 Aircross over its more rounded competitors are the amount of interior space and practicality on offer. The Citroen boasts sliding rear seats, a large boot and lots of space for passengers to travel in comfort.

While it falls behind on in-car tech and overall composure, the C3 Aircross remains one of the more flexible options on this list.

SEAT Arona

It’s the elder statesman in the Volkswagen Group’s trio of MQB-based small SUVs, but the SEAT Arona remains a great option. It’s well built, has a great range of petrol and diesel engines, and benefits from a good trade-off between ride quality and handling; go from a Skoda Kamiq or VW T-Cross into the SEAT and you won’t notice a huge difference in the way they drive. The Arona’s a solid choice, but just trails its stablemates for practicality.

The biggest difference between the Arona and its sister cars is its trim structure; while Skoda and VW offer base trim levels that can be supplemented by individual cost options, SEAT buyers wanting more kit have to step up a trim level or two. Entry-level SE cars are well equipped but you’ll need SE Technology to upgrade the infotainment, for example. The only options beyond SEAT’s trims are paint finishes for the body and contrasting roof.

Weigh up the Arona’s pricing against the kit you need and you may find it works out cheaper than its Skoda relative. Kit levels on each vary slightly, so do your homework.

Dacia Duster

Dacia is now famous for its low asking prices, so if you’re willing to forgo the latest and greatest tech and some creature comforts, the Romanian brand’s range offers value that few other manufacturers can match.

The Duster is our favourite car in Dacia’s line-up. An interloper from the class above, it’s a mid-sized SUV that nonetheless can be secured for less than many of the smaller, supermini-derived models on the market. Refreshingly, it’s a ‘proper’ SUV, too; with its tall suspension and optional four-wheel drive, the Duster is a genuinely capable off-roader that has found favour with those whose car needs to cope with farm tracks, bad weather or the odd jaunt over a field. Dacia has even introduced a petrol/LPG Bi-Fuel option, alongside the regular petrol and diesel models.

It may not be the most exciting model to drive, nor the safest or best-equipped, but the Duster is simply impossible to ignore thanks to its sheer bang for the bucks.

Tell us your favourite current small SUV or crossover in the comments section below...

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