Top 10 best sports and performance SUVs 2021

Need a blend of speed and space? These are the best performance SUVs to choose

Cupra Formentor

Manufacturers are generally trying to make SUVs as efficient as possible, often by fitting hybrid or electric powertrains, but they’re also making space in ranges for performance-focused models. If you’re keen on the latter, perhaps because of the noise they make or because you want to try one before the all-electric future arrives, then our list of the best sports SUVs is for you. 

We’ve put together a list of the best sports and performance SUVs on the market right now and not all of them are lottery-win fantasies. One of them starts at under £30,000 and provides both driving thrills and the practicality of an SUV body. At the other end of the scale, you could easily spend six-figure sums on a Bentley Bentayga Speed or an Audi RS Q8.

The UK’s top 10 fastest SUVs 2021

Performance or ‘hot’ SUVs aren’t usually quite as agile as similarly powerful hot hatchbacks or sports saloons, and fuel economy won’t be great either, but the best are still great to drive. They’ll appeal if you can’t squeeze everything into a hot hatchback or you want a car with extra ride height.

Read on for our rundown of our Top 10 best performance and sports SUVs on sale now.

Cupra Formentor SUV review

Best Hot SUV: Cupra Formentor
Carbuyer rating

4.2 out of 5

Read full review

The Cupra Formentor range consists of a surprising number of models but there aren’t any that fail to be sporty. Like plenty of other fast VW Group cars, such as the Volkswagen Golf R, Audi S3 and the Cupra and VW SUVs elsewhere on this list, the Formentor can be ordered with a fiery 2.0-litre petrol engine. In its most powerful form, this engine produces 306bhp, which is enough for a sub-five-second 0-62mph time.

If that’s too powerful or too expensive, then there are 187bhp and 242bhp versions of the 2.0-litre, plus an entry-level 1.5-litre and two plug-in hybrids that provide some of the excitement while also enabling over 30 miles of electric driving. These will definitely appeal to buyers who spend a lot of time around town or company-car drivers who aren’t ready to give up the sporty looks. The Formentor feels sporty inside and out.

Hyundai Kona N SUV review

2021 Hyundai Kona N
Carbuyer rating

4.2 out of 5

Read full review

Before the Hyundai Kona N turned up, your choice of hot SUV was essentially limited to VW Group models or more expensive cars like the Mercedes-AMG GLA 35, MINI Countryman JCW and BMW X2 M35i. The Kona N undercuts the T-Roc R and Audi SQ2 by more than £5,000 but still packs 276bhp and a 5.5-second acceleration time. That’s quicker than the Hyundai i30 N hatchback with which the Kona shares its engine.

Big air intakes, a double-wing spoiler and huge exhaust pipes mark out the Kona N from the rest of the range, and the car has been engineered by a team headed up by Albert Biermann. You may not know the name, but he is the former head of BMW’s M Performance division, so knows how to make a rewarding driver’s car.

Ford Puma ST SUV review

Ford Puma ST
Carbuyer rating

4.2 out of 5

Read full reviewWatch video

The Ford Puma ST is by far the least expensive car on this list but it’s earned its place here fair and square. Based on the sparkling Ford Fiesta ST (our favourite hot hatchback until the Hyundai i20 N arrived), the Puma ST is just as good to drive but adds a welcome boost to practicality.

Its 197bhp power output seems weedy compared to the other cars on this list but don’t be put off. Quick enough to put a smile on your face on a twisty B-road, the Puma ST will also manage 40mpg if you’re careful. Because it doesn’t have a vast power output, you can have fun without breaking the speed limit, although spec it in Mean Green paint and the punchy Puma is certainly likely to get attention.

Porsche Macan SUV review

2020 Porsche Macan - side view
Carbuyer rating

4 out of 5

Read full reviewWatch video

One of the original and best performance SUVs, the Porsche Macan seemed to be just what buyers were looking for: it’s Porsche’s best-selling car. The quite un-Porsche-like diesel engine was dropped in 2018, so now the Macan is petrol-only. While the range starts off with the same 242bhp 2.0-litre engine you get in a Golf GTI, fast SUV fans will be more excited by the 434bhp GTS that gets from 0-62mph in the same time as an entry-level Porsche 911.

Perhaps what’s more impressive is how the Macan drives. Having been on sale since 2014, it’s still the class leader for driving experience - yet it also rides beautifully and can even venture off-road. The V6 GTS sounds better than nearly all the Macan’s rivals too. Now’s the time to buy a petrol-powered Macan because by 2023 it will have been replaced by a fully electric version

Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio SUV review

 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio SUV - front 3/4 driving
Carbuyer rating

3.9 out of 5

Read full review

Combining beautiful bodywork with a Ferrari-derived V6 engine, the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio is one of the most characterful SUVs on sale. It remains something of a niche proposition, so you’ll be joining quite an exclusive club by choosing the Alfa Romeo over one of its Porsche Macan, BMW X3 M and Jaguar F-Pace SVR rivals.

Updates in 2020 focused on improving the interior because that was the area in which the Stelvio lost out to its many competitors. Material quality and the infotainment system both got a boost but, gladly, the 503bhp V6 engine was left alone. It sounds phenomenal and gets Alfa’s SUV from 0-62mph in just 3.8 seconds and onto a top speed of 176mph.

Aston Martin DBX SUV review

2021 Aston Martin DBX
Carbuyer rating

3.9 out of 5

Read full reviewWatch video

Trading on the association with James Bond can only go far, and Aston Martin is no stranger to the odd financial crisis. Aston will hope its first-ever SUV will have the same effect as the Lamborghini Urus, which became Lamborghini’s best-seller almost immediately. The DBX has been styled to fit in with Aston Martin’s range of performance coupes, but has space for four adults and all their luggage.

You’d expect the DBX to be quick and, with a 542bhp 4.0-litre Mercedes-AMG V8, it is. Flat-out acceleration from 0-62mph takes 4.5 seconds, while the air suspension can hunker the car down so it’s even good around a racetrack. If the road runs out, simply change the driving mode and the car can be lifted higher than normal, while four-wheel drive is also fitted if you ever fancy taking the DBX for some light off-roading.

Cupra Ateca SUV

Carbuyer rating

3.8 out of 5

Read full reviewWatch video

The standard SEAT Ateca is good to drive, so it was a fine place to start for Cupra’s first model. The Cupra Ateca shows what the car’s capable of, with a 306bhp petrol engine providing rapid straight-line acceleration. You still get a big boot  and four-wheel drive to give all-weather security.

However, the Cupra version has now been joined by the Formentor, which is newer inside, similarly priced and available with the same powerful engine - plus a host of other powertrain options. The Ateca also looks a bit square compared to the sleeker Formentor, so may only appeal if you need the extra practicality.

Volkswagen T-Roc R SUV

Carbuyer rating

3.8 out of 5

Read full review

Take the mechanicals from the Cupra Ateca, stick a VW body on it, and you have the Volkswagen T-Roc R. It’ll appeal to buyers who need a little more space and ride height than the Volkswagen Golf R hatchback, and is a little more discreet than the more flamboyant Cupra rivals. Until you plant the accelerator and hit 0-62mph in 4.8 seconds, that is.

One thing to consider, however, is that the Ateca starts at a whisker under £40,000, while the T-Roc R starts at over that threshold. That’s important because the Ateca will cost the standard rate in annual VED tax (roughly £150) but the T-Roc will command a near-£500 bill until it’s six years old thanks to the surcharge on cars costing more than £40k. We’d also like some higher-quality materials for the price but that won’t be a dealbreaker for VW fans.

Porsche Cayenne Coupe SUV review

Porsche Cayenne Coupe SUV - front cornering view
Carbuyer rating

3.8 out of 5

Read full reviewWatch video

The Porsche Cayenne was one of the first cars to kick off the hot SUV craze, and it actually kept Porsche afloat. Nowadays, there’s a second version available to capitalise on the emerging popularity of coupe SUVs. The Cayenne Coupe is almost identical to the standard car mechanically but comes with a lower roofline, which actually suits the enormous power options.

It’s a little bit less practical than the SUV, as you’d expect, but there’s still plenty of space. The Coupe in Turbo form is fractionally quicker to 62mph than the Cayenne SUV, dropping under the four second mark, and Coupe buyers can also choose a range-topping Turbo GT with a monstrous 631bhp (capable of 0-62mph in just 3.3 seconds). Buyers who’d like performance and the possibility of low running costs can choose the E-Hybrid versions.

BMW X5 M SUV review

BMW X5 M Competition SUV review
Carbuyer rating

3.7 out of 5

Read full review

The BMW X5 is surprisingly good to drive for such a large SUV, so BMW wasn’t going to miss the opportunity to create an X5 M range-topper. It’s thoroughly upgraded over the standard car, with fantastic handling and a 3.8-second acceleration sprint - courtesy of a 616bhp V8, four-wheel drive and launch control.

Turn into a corner and you won’t know that the X5 M weighs a porky 2.3 tonnes because the chassis is so impressive and there’s so much grip from the vast tyres. The X5 M is also capable of settling into a cruise, giving you time to enjoy the interior. BMW does excellent interiors, and the current X5 has one of the best yet. Boot space is also good and your passengers will have plenty of room to stretch out.

Read our picks for the best large SUVs here

Recommended

Citroën C3 Aircross SUV review
Citroen C3 Aircross SUV
Citroën C3 Aircross
8 Dec 2021

Citroën C3 Aircross SUV review

Vauxhall Mokka SUV review
2021 Vauxhall Mokka - front 3/4 dynamic
Vauxhall Mokka
3 Dec 2021

Vauxhall Mokka SUV review

Mercedes EQB SUV review
Mercedes EQB driving
Mercedes EQB
2 Dec 2021

Mercedes EQB SUV review

Audi SQ2 SUV
Audi SQ2 SUV
Audi SQ2 SUV
1 Dec 2021

Audi SQ2 SUV

Most Popular

New Renault Austral SUV replaces Kadjar for 2022
2022 Renault Austral
Renault
6 Dec 2021

New Renault Austral SUV replaces Kadjar for 2022

How much does it cost to charge an electric car?
How much does it cost to charge an EV
Electric cars
3 Dec 2021

How much does it cost to charge an electric car?

Top 10 best car battery chargers 2021
Top 10 best car battery chargers 2021
Tips and advice
25 Nov 2021

Top 10 best car battery chargers 2021

Tips & advice

View All
Car dashboard warning lights: the complete guide
Car dashboard symbols and meanings
Tips and advice
10 Aug 2021

Car dashboard warning lights: the complete guide

Electric car charging stations: a complete guide
Electric car charging station
Tips and advice
5 Nov 2021

Electric car charging stations: a complete guide

PCP vs HP – which type of car finance is right for you?
PCP vs HP
Tips and advice
29 Sep 2021

PCP vs HP – which type of car finance is right for you?

Average speed cameras: how do they work?
Average speed cameras: how do they work?
Tips and advice
23 Jul 2021

Average speed cameras: how do they work?

Best cars

View All
Top 10 best car interiors 2021
Peugeot 208 hatchback
Best cars
25 Jun 2021

Top 10 best car interiors 2021

Top 10 best electric cars 2021
Ioniq 5
Best cars
1 Dec 2021

Top 10 best electric cars 2021

Top 10 best cheap-to-run cars 2021
Toyota Prius front 3/4 cornering
Best cars
10 Jun 2021

Top 10 best cheap-to-run cars 2021

The UK's top 10 fastest hot hatchbacks
Audi RS 3 driving - front view
Hot hatches
27 Oct 2021

The UK's top 10 fastest hot hatchbacks