Top 3 used small luxury SUVs for £20,000
“Dear Carbuyer, I want a small luxury SUV that’s well equipped. What do you recommend for £20,000?”
Small luxury SUVs are becoming increasingly popular, allowing people to swap out of superminis and upmarket family hatchbacks to get the combination of an elevated driving position, premium interior, and versatility on and off the road.
They have, in fact, become one of the bestsellers for the premium brands, with the likes of BMW, Audi and Volvo all having at least one small SUV that accounts for a healthy proportion of their global sales.
Although there are now many different types of SUV, be it big, fast, luxurious, or even convertible, it’s the small luxury SUV that tends to be the most popular.
Our reader has a budget of £20,000 to spend on a used, well-equipped, small luxury SUV. We’ve chosen three high-spec, practical contenders that offer a varied choice of engines and good quality, spacious interiors.
The left-field choice: DS 3 Crossback
- For: Comfortable ride, distinctive styling
- Against: Unrewarding to drive, confusing dashboard
The focus for the DS 3 Crossback was on style and passenger comfort. It offers a large helping of Gallic flair and its relative rarity may appeal to some buyers too.
The EV version is expensive, so we’d recommend choosing a 1.2-litre turbo petrol with 99bhp or 153bhp, or a 1.5-litre diesel with 101bhp. This budget will buy you a 69-plate, 6,200-mile 1.2-litre model in Prestige trim, with adaptive cruise and a digital dash.
A seven-inch infotainment screen is standard with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and the Prestige trim gets an upgraded 10-inch setup. There are five trim levels to pick from but even the entry-level Elegance model gets 17-inch alloy wheels and automatic headlights.
The Crossback also features driver aids including automatic emergency braking, lane-keep assist and speed limit recognition as part of DS’ Safety Pack as standard – an addition that helped the DS 3 gain its five-star safety rating from Euro NCAP.
When it comes to driving, there’s little feedback from the steering and quite prominent body roll when cornering but the Crossback is satisfyingly smooth and comfortable on the motorway, which some buyers may prefer.
The hi-tech choice: Audi Q2
- For: Modern, angular looks,‘Virtual Cockpit’digital dash
- Against: Firm ride, interior could be better made
The Audi Q2 may not offer a great deal more space than an equivalent hatchback but, like all small SUVs, it does bring a higher driving position and fashionable looks.
Sitting on Volkswagen’s MQB platform means the Q2 offers competent handling, while three petrol engines with outputs from 114bhp to 187bhp, two diesels with 114bhp or 148bhp, and the option of quattro four-wheel drive, mean there’s plenty of choice. A 115bhp petrol 19-plate Q2 Sport with 6,000 miles is within budget.
While you will find some scratchy plastics if you look hard enough, the Q2’s cabin is neatly designed and it features a respectable 405-litre boot. There’s a standard seven-inch infotainment screen, and look out for cars with the excellent 12.3-inch digital dash.
With well weighted steering and light controls, the Q2 is an easy car to drive. Although there isn’t much body roll, the ride can be rough over poor tarmac, and the brakes can be over-sensitive. High-performance fans should seek out the 296bhp SQ2, which shares its engine with the VW Golf R.
The sporty choice: BMW X2
- For: Great to drive, high-quality interior, big boot
- Against: Sloping roofline limits rear headroom
The BMW X2 may be a compact SUV from Germany that’s available with front or four-wheel drive, but it differs from the Q2 in some ways. Based on the same platform as the MINI Countryman, the BMW is sharper to drive than the Audi, and has a more driver-focused dashboard.
It’s available with a similarly broad spread of petrol and diesel engines, and £19,500 buys a 68-plate, 23,300-mile 148bhp X2 18d sDrive Sport, complete with 18-inch alloy wheels and LED headlights.
One highlight of the X2 is the way it drives. Its steering is sharp, direct and well weighted, and although the ride is a bit firm, it’s better at coping with bumps than the Q2. Those after serious pace should look for the 302bhp X2 M35i, which covers 0-60mph in five seconds flat – 0.5 seconds behind the Q2.
In terms of materials and build quality, the X2’s interior is top-notch, although the sloping roofline does restrict rear headroom. BMW’s excellent 8.8-inch iDrive infotainment system comes as standard, while boot space is generous, at 470 litres.
Carbuyer’s choice, as picked by content editor Sophie Charman
Each of these small luxury SUVs would be a great used buy, given the range of engines available and the standard equipment they come with. All of them are easy on the eye too. But, given our reader's requirements, my recommendation has to be the BMW X2. Of the three cars, it has the highest quality interior, the largest boot and it’s the most enjoyable to drive - a key factor for those trading in a sporty hatchback.
A £20,000 budget will buy you an X2 in SE, Sport or M Sport trim, meaning there’s a spec to suit a number of budgets, depending on whether comfort and efficiency or power and performance are at the top of your wish list. Throw in BMW’s premium badge, which guarantees quality and healthy used residuals, and it’s definitely my clear winner.
Read our picks for the best used small SUVs.