The best SUVs to buy in 2021

Ford Puma vs rivals - Best SUVs 2021

Looking for a new SUV? You're not the only one. The car market is changing rapidly and is currently packed with high-riding, family-friendly SUVs that are easy to drive, look good, and handle the rough and tumble of modern life.

We understand why you're keen on buying one and we're here to show you the best ones to buy. Read on for everything you need to know about SUVs, as well as links to cars to lease or buy, both new and used.

Top 10 SUVs 2021

1. Ford Puma
2. Dacia Duster 
3. Volkswagen Tiguan
4. Volvo XC40
5. Audi Q5
6. BMW X5 
7. Peugeot 3008
8. Mercedes-Benz GLB
9. Hyundai Tucson
10. Nissan Qashqai

Scroll down to discover our list of the best SUVs in the UK - or click on your favourites above to jump down.

Read our guide to SUVs and FAQs at the bottom of the page

1. Ford Puma

Ford Puma (2020) front view

Pros:
✅  Great to drive

✅  Economical mild-hybrid engines

Cons:
❌  Lacks interior quality

❌  No plug-in or electric versions

The Ford Puma is based on the Fiesta and makes great use of its brilliant engines and suspension set-up to create an enjoyable-to-drive small car that is both practical and good to look at. Its styling won’t appeal to all but you can’t call it boring or derivative. We love it for that.

It's tough inside and looks good, and the major controls are so simple that making yourself at home in a Ford Puma takes seconds. Practicality is impressive, too, and we love how the roomy passenger compartment is complemented by a large and well-shaped boot that comes with an extra storage area that Ford calls the MegaBox.

Lease this car from £213 per month
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2. Dacia Duster

2020 Dacia Duster SUV

Pros:
✅  Cheap with lots of choice

✅  Good tech and spec options

Cons:
❌  Question marks over resale values

❌  Dual-fuel LPG no substitute for lack of hybrid

This offering from Dacia is not only great value, but it's pretty good offroad too. So good in fact, that it was crowned the Best Off-Roader in the Parkers New Car Awards 2019. Now available with the option of dual fuel LPG, running costs can be cut ever further.

It may be the cheapest SUV in the UK, but buyers won’t feel short-changed. It comes with more kit than ever, including keyless entry and climate control. It's a contender on our list of Best SUVs in its own right, even before that rock bottom price is factored in.

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3. Volkswagen Tiguan

Volkswagen Tiguan (2021) main image

Pros:
✅  Brilliant image

✅  Simple-to-use interior

Cons:
❌  R-Line suspension too hard

❌  The opposition is catching up

Volkswagen's big-selling Tiguan has just been facelifted, adding showroom appeal to what is still an excellent choice. Blessed with a strong image and a tough, no-nonsense interior, it's an aspirational choice without the excessive prices its posher rivals are landed with.

It's roomy inside, looks good, and in R-Line trim has a high resale value that reflects that it's so in demand. Recent changes have made it better to drive, and the sporty new R version adds hot-hatch-style performance.

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4. Volvo XC40

Volvo XC40 (2021) main image

Pros:
✅  Looks great inside and out

✅  Lots of engine and transmission choices

Cons:
❌  Expensive compared with rivals

❌  Some options are also dear

The XC40 is one of our favourite SUVs right now thanks to its chunky styling, smart and functional interior and neat road manners. Its engines are all efficient and powerful - and you can also buy this car as a plug-in hybrid or an all-electric version.

As well as a Scandi cool vibe that Audi or BMW would kill for, its onboard tech is great too. Its semi-autonomous systems are among the best in the business. Obviously, it gets a five-star rating from Euro NCAP, but there's also autonomous emergency braking, whiplash prevention systems, and more airbags than a Zeppelin factory.

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5. Audi Q5

Audi Q5 (2021) main image

Pros:
✅  Excellent build quality

✅  Spacious interior

Cons:
❌  Expensive options

❌  Cost of plug-in versions

We really like the Q5, and it seems that family car buyer do, too, judging by the number of them you see on the road. It majors on interior quality, precision engineering and being easier to drive than you would think - put that down to sharing much of its engineering with the Audi A4 saloon.

It comes with loads of standard and optional equipment, and is a five-star performer in the Euro NCAP safety test, as you'd expect. Highly recommended, as is its coupe-roofed sister car, the new Audi Q5 Sportback.

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6. BMW X5

BMW X5 (2020) front view

Pros:
✅  One of the best SUVs to drive

✅  Practical and spacious

Cons:
❌  Big and unwieldy in town

❌  Divisive looks

This is a massive SUV, but BMW offers a range of engines that get this beast moving with agility. The inside feels luxurious, with a choice of comfort or sports seats, and entertainment options for those residing in the back seats.

Tech levels are high; you can personalise the suspension levels, and Parking Assistant seeks out a parking spot and controls the steering, accelerator and brake while it parks itself. The optional head-up display is excellent. The X5 is a monster, and we like it.

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7. Peugeot 3008

Peugeot 3008 (2021) on Parkers

Pros:
✅  Great looks inside and out

✅  Brilliant petrol engines

Cons:
❌  Infotainment isn't brilliant
❌  Hefty price for plug-ins

The Peugeot 3008 is a striking family car that not only looks great on the driveway, but also it's fabulous inside thanks to some impressive trim choices and supremely comfortable seats. It has all the space you need for the family, drives well and doesn’t cost a bomb to run thanks to a range of frugal and fun-to-drive engines.

What really makes it appealing is that stunning interior though - it's a real showpiece. It is far more interesting a place in which to spend time than the equivalent Skoda Karoq or Kia Sportage. Stick to the more modest models in the range and you won’t be disappointed.

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8. Mercedes-Benz GLB

Mercedes-Benz EQB (2021) front view

Pros:
✅  Impressive dashboard and tech

✅  Competitive prices

Cons:
❌  Third row of seats for children only

❌  Options are expensive

We really rate the Mercedes-Benz GLB so much that we made it the 2021 Best Medium Family Car in the Parkers New Car Awards. The Mercedes-Benz GLB is a convincing, if pricey, option. Space in the third row of seats is tighter than with a Skoda Kodiaq or Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace, yet in return you get a car that’s nicer to drive, has a better interior and features the all-important Mercedes-Benz badge.

There’s also the small matter of the Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 4Matic performance version. The novelty factor of a seven-seater that’s as fast as a hot hatch will be lost on many, yet for those interested it’s in a class of its own – even if the price might be rather eye-watering on paper.

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9. Hyundai Tucson

Hyundai Tucson (2021) main image

Pros:
✅  Quirky, modern styling

✅  Some great hybrid options

Cons:
❌  Expensive for well-equipped models

❌  It's not the sharpest-driving SUV

The 2021 Hyundai Tucson is a striking-looking car that has loads of interior space and lots of tech, even in the entry-level versions. The latest version has upgraded high-quality materials in the cabin, a simplified interior design, and the latest technology to make driving its infotainment system easier.

There's a good range of hybrid engines, which offer great efficiency. If you're looking for an interesting family SUV with strong warranty and great dealer backup, the Tucson should be near the top of your list.

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10. Nissan Qashqai

Nissan Qashqai (2021) front view

Pros:
✅ Good to drive with excellent handling

Family-friendly, high-quality interior

Cons:
❌ Mild-hybrid engines are disappointing

No plug-in hybrid available

The all-new Nissan Qashqai is in our Top 10 SUVs because it's hit the ground running as a sharp-looking, good-to-drive family car that works really well. The interior is roomy with lots of useful features, while the tech is all easy to use and won't cause the driver any grief.

The outgoing model was an enduring success, and this one improves on that in all areas, making it a safe bet if you're looking for a family car that does the job effectively. There's just one engine (with two power outputs) from launch, which is a disappointment, but the forthcoming E-Power version looks very interesting indeed.

Lease this car from £240 per month
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What does SUV stand for? Sport Utility Vehicles explained

SUV stands for Sports Utility Vehicle. They tend to be larger, high-riding cars, often with four-wheel drive. Originally all SUVs were designed for off-roading, but that's very much not the case now. Some are little more than tall estates and hatchbacks with a rugged look that families can't get enough of.

>> Read more: What is an SUV?

They are spacious, safe, with lots of practical solutions and storage for luggage and all the gear that families accumulate. They have a higher driving position than a standard, and some can even have seven seats, making them ideal for a large family and all their kit and clobber. On the downside, their size can mean they are difficult to park, and they're often less efficient than the equivalent estate car or MPV.

With so many SUVs on the market, it's important to decide what's vital in your choice of new car, and what your budget is. With help from Parkers, you might be surprised at what your budget could stretch to thanks to finance and leasing deals. Plus, you can often get a really large car for a relatively small amount of money - just because an SUV is large, doesn't mean it'll cost the earth.

FAQ: Sport Utility Vehicles (SUV) questions answered

Are all SUVs 4x4?

Absolutely not. The idea of an SUV being a four-wheel drive mud-plugger is outdated, and probably hasn't really been the case since mid-2000s. The emergence of cars, such as the Nissan Qashqai and Ford Kuga, and their popularity proves that an SUV works just as well as a front-wheel drive family car. Popular family SUVs are generally based on hatchback and saloon counterparts, and although some are available with four-wheel drive, the majority these days are front- or rear-wheel drive.

Do SUVs flip easier than cars?

Not these days. Back in the 1980s, when the popularity of SUVs blossomed, they earned a reputation for flipping in emergency manoeuvres. But these cars were very different to today's counterparts - they were often quite basic in their engineering and dynamics. Modern SUVs are much safer and are designed to corner and steer within the same margins as their lower-bodied counterparts, and have a huge number of electronic stability aids. They might have more bodyroll in corners, due to a higher centre of gravity, but you need to do something quite drastic to flip a modern SUV.

Is an SUV a good first car?

A small SUV is just as easy as a small hatchback to drive, and has the added bonus of a higher seating position, so visibility is better. There's no reason to believe that a Vauxhall Mokka or Ford Puma is any less suitable as a first car than a Corsa or Fiesta.

Which is better: an SUV or MPV?

Functionally, they're pretty much the same thing these days, so it comes down to personal choice. If space is your absolute first priority then you're probably best off going with an SUV, which tends to be roomier within the same footprint in the road. However, if you're likely to be towing or driving on rougher roads, the raised ride height of an SUV will make one of these cars a better bet.

What is a compact SUV/mini SUV?

A compact or mini SUV is generally based on a small car. Out of your current options, a typical compact or mini SUV is a Nissan Juke, Ford Puma or Vauxhall Mokka. They're family-friendly cars, but also manageable in towns and cities - a good compromise.

What is a crossover?

It's interesting how the language around SUVs is changing. Cars such as the Renault Kadjar, Nissan Qashqai and Audi Q3 were clearly based on standard road cars and until recently what many people (and car manufacturers) referred to as crossovers. That meant they featured SUV-like styling with pretty standard road car engineering underneath. In other words, they were hatchbacks on stilts. These days, they tend to all be called SUVs, and that's how we refer to them.

Why are SUVs so expensive?

If we were being cynical, we'd say that they are more expensive than the hatchbacks and saloons they are based on for marketing reasons. They are in demand, so people will spend more on them. But with so many SUVs on sale now, prices are much fairer than they used to be as they increasingly become the norm. Having said that, used examples command higher prices, too, because they are more in demand. If you don't necessarily need all of the features of an SUV, you can save money by choosing an estate or hatchback instead.