Top 10 best used small SUVs 2023
Looking for a small but family-friendly used car? Read our list of the best used small SUVs you can buy
Small SUVs are among the most popular new cars in Britain, which means there’s always a ready supply of used examples to choose from. Nearly every mainstream manufacturer offers a small SUV of some description, so you shouldn’t have too much difficulty finding the right one for you.
The majority of small SUVs are based on humble superminis, yet offer the high driving position of a large SUV combined with the practicality of a family hatchback. Throw low running costs and affordable finance into the mix, and you’ve got yourself the perfect family car.
The sector originated with cars like the Nissan Juke and has grown so quickly that some manufacturers now see their smallest SUVs out-selling the superminis they are based on.
Used small SUVs start from very little money but you’ll pay significantly more for a car with a premium badge. The majority of small SUVs are front-wheel drive, but many are available with optional four-wheel drive. These offer greater reassurance on slippery roads in exchange for higher fuel consumption and, sometimes, increased VED (road tax).
It’s important to remember that although these vehicles may look chunky, they don’t have the interior space of larger SUVs and so you should check to see that they have enough boot space and legroom for you and your family.
We’ve pulled together a list of the best small SUVs you can buy. Use this as your starting point before narrowing the search to two or three candidates. It’s all best to do your homework before parting with your cash.
The Kia Niro is now in its second generation and is available as a hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and an all-electric variant. This breadth of options mean that car buyers on the used market can choose between a good-value hybrid that will achieve over 55mpg, a plug-in hybrid with over 35 miles of range on a charge, or the pricier electric model with lower running costs and silent driving.
The popularity of the Niro isn’t just down to the powertrain options; the boxy styling maximises space for families and the EV model offers the largest boot at 475 litres on the latest generation.
Due to how recently the new Niro launched, most used car buyers will be looking at the first-generation model (sold from 2017), however if you are looking at a later version of the previous generation it may be worth seeing if the budget can be stretched to the new model.
The new Renault Captur was named Carbuyer’s 2021 Best Small Family Car of the Year, fending off stiff competition from the Ford Puma and Kia Soul EV. Few small SUVs offer such a winning blend of space, practicality and low running costs.
If your budget doesn’t stretch to a new Captur, it’d be worth seeking out a used example. Launched in 2013, the first-generation Captur was a more conventional alternative to the Nissan Juke, offering a roomier interior and more equipment for your money. The petrol engines were popular but don’t rule out the frugal and efficient 1.5 dCi diesel engine.
The Captur feels more substantial than the platform-sharing Renault Clio, with the high driving position providing great visibility when driving in town. All versions except the entry-level Expression trim come with air-con.
Launched in 2019, the Skoda Kamiq is one of the latest small SUVs to hit the market. It’s Skoda’s smallest SUV, sitting below the Karoq and Kodiaq, but it’s actually similar in size to the old Yeti, a car we hold in high regard.
Why should you buy a Kamiq over any of its rivals? Space is one thing. While the boot capacity isn’t quite up to the standards of the Renault Captur, it remains one of the largest in the small SUV class, plus your rear-seat passengers will enjoy plenty of legroom and headroom.
Value for money is another factor, with the top-spec SE L model featuring the kind of equipment that would cost considerably more on a premium small SUV.
The Ford Puma offers all of the benefits of the Ford Fiesta in a more practical and family-friendly shell. It arrived at the end of 2019, so there are cheaper small SUVs on the market, but few are as great to drive as the Puma.
This is especially true of the Puma ST, which uses the same 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol engine as the Ford Fiesta ST hot hatch to create a brilliant small SUV. But that’s also true of the cheaper 1.0-litre versions that offer a great blend of power and fuel efficiency.
Luggage capacity of 456 litres puts the Ford Puma near the top of the class, plus you get the benefit of Ford’s ‘Megabox’ hidden beneath the boot floor.
If style is as high as practicality on your priority list for your next car then the Peugeot 2008 should be on your shortlist. Not only has the 2008 grown in size but in character with an interior that is well designed and features Peugeot’s fancy digital instrument cluster.
The higher quality does come at a price, so while a used example will be a bargain compared to new, competitors may offer a better-value proposition.
Used car buyers who want to reduce running costs have the option of an electric version with 217 miles of range.
The Citroen C3 Aircross offers up to 1,289 litres of luggage capacity with the rear seats folded down, or an impressive 520 litres with the seats up. It’s this, coupled with the excellent headroom, that makes the C3 Aircross so easy to recommend.
It’s also one of the most comfortable cars in its class, with the front seats feeling more like something you’d find in your living room. Choose the right model and you can go wild with a long list of personalisation options, although you’re limited to the original owner’s taste or lack thereof when buying used.
Power is sourced from a 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol engine or a 1.5-litre diesel. We’d favour the petrol for urban duties but the diesel is excellent for covering long distances and motorway driving. The C3 Aircross has been on sale since 2017, so you can pick up a used example for less than the price of a new Dacia Sandero.
The Toyota Yaris Cross took the 2021 European Car of The Year Award, giving used car buyers a great indicator as to the talents of the Yaris-based SUV. It impressed all-round although we note that it is a bit more expensive than some rivals. The Yaris Cross doesn’t have any previous generations and so used buyers will still be looking at a fairly new vehicle when shopping around.
The hybrid system benefits from over two decades of experience from the Japanese manufacturer and so it is not only frugal – expect 65mpg or more – but effective in helping fill in the gaps of power from the petrol engine when accelerating.
In common with most small SUVs, the Volkswagen T-Cross is based on a humble supermini. In this case it’s the Polo, although the T-Cross is longer and taller, and designed to look like a larger VW SUV.
All versions come with sliding rear seats, so you have the choice of maximising boot space or giving your passengers in the back a little more legroom. It helps to make the T-Cross one of the most spacious used small SUVs you can buy.
Interior quality isn’t up to the high standards set by other Volkswagen models but an eight-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, manual air conditioning and all-round electric windows come as standard. We’d recommend the SE trim, as this offers the best blend of equipment and value for money.
C-HR stands for ‘Coupe-High Rider’, which means Toyota has tried to blend coupe-like styling with the practicality of an SUV. It’s certainly one of the most distinctive cars in the small SUV class, rivalling the Juke for divisive looks.
A key advantage of buying a used C-HR is the reassurance of Toyota’s five-year warranty. It arrived in 2017, so even the earliest cars will benefit from the remainder of the 100,000-mile warranty.
The earlier 1.2-litre petrol engine has been discontinued, so power now comes from 1.8 or 2.0 hybrid petrol systems featuring a CVT automatic as standard. It’s not the cheapest small SUV you can buy but the C-HR scores highly for its blend of quality, efficiency and warranty. It’s also great fun to drive, which isn’t a given in this competitive segment.
The latest Mercedes GLA represented a big step for the model, becoming more than just a Mercedes A-Class on stilts. It’s a pretty convincing family SUV with an extra touch of class and quality. Having been on sale since 2019, there are now a fair few to choose from on the used market, meaning you can get that premium feel and SUV practicality for less.
One of Mercedes’ main draws in recent years has been its well-designed and high-end interiors, so we recommend the GLA for anyone with that at the top of their buying checklist. Mercedes’ MBUX infotainment operating system is simply one of the best on offer, and that’s still true in used versions of the GLA a few years on.
The priority for Mercedes’ seems to be comfort, and that’s certainly true of the GLA – in many cases, you’d expect a small SUV to compromise in other areas, but we found this Mercedes pretty nice to drive too. While the GLA isn’t as sharp or fun to drive as a BMW X2, it’s the better all-rounder, and offers improved body control and steering responsiveness compared to its predecessor.
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