The best small SUVs for 2020

  • Looking to buy a new compact SUV? 
  • We choose our favourite models
  • Everything from upmarket choices to budget bargains

There's been no escaping the meteoric rise of the compact SUV over the last decade or so. There's barely a manufacturer now that doesn't sell one or more of these dinky crossovers, and it's easy to see why they're so popular - especially in the UK.

Compact SUVs aren't perfect, but they're beloved by many owners because of how effortlessly they combine the manoeuvrability, ease of driving and fuel economy of a supermini with the high driving position, rugged styling and desirability of an SUV.

In many ways, these little cars have replaced the once-popular mini-MPV as the go-to car for those with a growing family or just after a little more space.

This market segment was popularised more than a decade ago by the Nissan Juke and since then, it’s grown and grown until just about every mainstream manufacturer offers a small SUV. That means there’s truly something for everyone, whether it’s practicality, sportiness, comfort or style you prioritise.

What makes a good small SUV?

Buyers of small SUVs generally don’t want their cars to drive like a large off-roader. In fact, the best models feel very much like a regular hatchback to drive – with tidy handling, a composed ride and light, easy controls.

Mazda CX-30 vs Honda HR-V vs Toyota C-HR

The advantages usually come in the form of a higher driving position – we like compact SUVs that feel commanding on the road and aren’t too difficult to get into and out of – and increased practicality. Larger boots, greater rear legroom and more clever touches aren’t just nice things to have, they’re necessities. Otherwise, why wouldn’t you just save your money and go for a cheaper hatchback?

The reality of a larger, heavier car means fuel economy is usually affected, but the best small SUVs still return impressive numbers, often aided by hybrid or plug-in hybrid systems that their smaller siblings can’t quite squeeze in to their daintier frames.

And of course, many of the same qualities we look for in any car also need to be present here – such as a high-quality, well laid-out interior, enough performance and the ease-of-use to make them effortless to own and run.

With all this in mind, here are our favourite small SUVs on sale in 2020. You can click on the links below to jump straight to the ones you’re interested in, or scroll down to read the full list.

The best small SUVs on sale 2020

Ford Puma
Renault Captur
Volvo XC40
Peugeot 2008
Honda HR-V
Volkswagen T-Cross
Skoda Kamiq
Mazda CX-30


Ford Puma
 

Ford Puma

Ford’s given us a compact SUV before, in the form of the disappointing EcoSport. We’re happy to report that the Puma is a totally different beast, and combines all the best aspects of the Fiesta on which it’s based to make a car that’s somehow even greater than the sum of its parts.

Thanks to its Fiesta underpinnings, the Puma is the best car in its class to drive, bar none – it’s comfortable yet handles like a dream, with steering that wouldn’t feel out of place on many cars with much more sporting pretension. At the same time, its range of mild-hybrid engines are both an emotional choice and a pragmatic one – they’re powerful, yet frugal.

Better yet there’s no real sacrifice in terms of practicality, as the Puma offers plenty of space in the back seats and a simply cavernous boot with a clever waterproof Megabox underneath the floor. The divisive styling is the only sticking point, in our eyes – if you can get past that, the Puma is a very easy sell.

Price new: From £21,640
Lease this car: From £207 per month
Find a used Ford Puma for sale on Parkers here

Renault Captur 

Renault Captur

The Renault Captur is based on the Clio supermini, a car we rate very highly at Parkers – so highly, we gave it our First Car of the Year award for 2020. With such impressive beginnings, it’s no surprise that we think the Captur’s every bit as good as its smaller sibling.

It’s roomy inside, with a big boot and sliding rear seat to make the most of the available space. It shares the Clio’s impressive dashboard, too, with a portrait-oriented infotainment touchscreen, lots of safety equipment and high-quality materials all round.

We like the Captur’s petrol engines, even the entry-level 100hp model feels peppy enough – but we’d opt for the more powerful 130hp unit, which is more relaxing to drive on the motorway and feels more muscular in everyday use.

Better yet, the Captur’s available on some impressively good-value deals, as with all Renault products. You can get your hands on this impressive SUV for much less than you might expect.

Price new: From £18,295
Lease this car: From £225 per month
Find a used Renault Captur for sale on Parkers here

Volvo XC40 

Volvo XC40

If it’s a taste of the premium you’re wanting in your small SUV, the Volvo XC40 has you covered. It’s every bit as solid-feeling and stylish as Volvo’s larger cars like the XC60 and XC90 and instantly recognisable thanks to distinctive ‘Thor’s Hammer’ headlights.

Yet there’s a little element of fun to the XC40 that’s missing from a lot of SUVs. You can specify it in a range of nice two-tone paint finishes and, if you’re particularly bold, lurid orange carpets.

The interior’s also incredibly clever, with a boot floor that folds up to offer bag hooks or loadspace dividers, a hook on the glovebox to carry a takeaway bag, and massive door bins capable of accommodating a laptop with ease.

Whether you opt for one of the smooth petrols, efficient diesels or high-tech hybrid models, the XC40 is great to drive – biased towards comfort rather than sportiness. And, of course, you can count on Volvo to keep you safe – the XC40 is loaded with safety kit right from the entry level.

Price new: From £25,295
Lease this car: From £342 per month
Find a used Volvo XC40 for sale on Parkers here

Peugeot 2008 

Peugeot 2008

The 2008 is certainly one of the most eye-catching compact SUVs around. With Peugeot’s trademark ‘sabre-tooth’ daytime running lights, sharp edges and a healthy dose of class, the 2008 really shows Peugeot’s shift into the more premium end of the family car market.

This is best shown off in the 2008’s interior, which is, for want of a better word, spectacular for a mainstream car. It’s high-quality, well-designed and features some really space-age touches, like ‘3D’ digital dials.

It’s also great to drive – a range of peppy 1.2-litre petrol engines are joined by a super-efficient diesel as well as the all-electric e-2008, giving buyers loads of choice. We’re particularly fond of the mid-range 130hp petrol engine paired up to a super-smooth eight-speed automatic transmission – we think it’s the sweet spot in the range.

Practical, good-looking and great to drive, the 2008 is an excellent small SUV and one well worth considering on your shortlist.

Price new: From £20,190
Lease this car: From £242 per month
Find a used Peugeot 2008 for sale on Parkers here

Honda HR-V 

Honda HR-V Sport

If you're looking for maximum practicality, nothing touches the Honda HR-V. Though this little SUV is a bit narrow to carry three adults on the back seat, that's the only area where it struggles - it offers excellent legroom, plenty of room up front and one of the cleverest boot areas on the market.

Not only is the HR-V's boot square, wide and super-deep, the rear seats fold totally into the floor, leaving an area that would make even a small van wince. Have taller loads to carry? The seat bases flip up, leaving an uninterrupted space in the back for items such as pot plants, excitable dogs, multi-tier wedding cakes...

Opt for the Sport model and the HR-V is also far more fun to drive than it has any right to be. Add in the promise of Honda reliability (always a strong point) and a straightforward interior, and the HR-V might just be the hidden gem of Honda's range.

Price new: From £20,735
Lease this car: From £202 per month
Find a used Honda HR-V for sale on Parkers here

Volkswagen T-Cross 

Volkswagen T-Cross

The T-Cross is the smallest in Volkswagen's SUV line-up, but don't let that make you think it's the worst. In fact, it's a really practical and quite likeable little car. 

Far from being just a clone of its larger siblings, the T-Cross has its own look thanks to a full-width styling element across the rear. It's not particularly adventurous, but it's smart and distinctive. 

>> We ran a long-term Volkswagen T-Cross - read our thoughts here

Even less adventurous is the interior of the T-Cross, but what it lacks in flair it makes up for in practicality. There's space for five adults in here thanks to a sliding rear bench which allows you to trade luggage space for legroom, and like all Volkswagens the interior design is no-nonsense and feels built to last.

Efficient, peppy petrols and even a super-frugal diesel are on offer, and the T-Cross excels at comfortable cruising.

Price new: From £18,360
Lease this car: From £188 per month
Find a used Volkswagen T-Cross for sale on Parkers here

Skoda Kamiq 

Skoda Kamiq

The Kamiq is Skoda's answer to the VW T-Cross - it's based on the same underpinnings but in typical Skoda fashion, it's bigger and more spacious, with a whole host of 'Simply Clever' features to make life easier for the occupants.

With loads of rear space and a cavernous boot, the Kamiq's the ideal small SUV for families who don't travel light - yet it handles like a hatchback, with a slightly raised driving position that makes it easy to get into and out of, perfect for older drivers.

Opt for a high-specification or well-trimmed Monte Carlo spec and the Kamiq also looks just great, thanks to posh scrolling LEDs for the indicators and attractive alloy wheels. The same range of capable and efficient engines as the T-Cross also feature.

Price new: From £18,295
Lease this car: From £190 per month
Find a used Skoda Kamiq for sale on Parkers here

Mazda CX-30 

Mazda CX-30 front cornering

The CX-30 is Mazda's smallest SUV, based on the same mechanical underpinnings as the excellent 3 hatchback, endowing it with a brilliant chassis. That means ride and handling are some of the CX-30's highlights.

The exterior styling is another, as is the interior design and quality - this is a pretty car, by SUV standards, and the interior's beautifully screwed together.

It's not as practical as some rivals, and the engines lack a bit of punch - but otherwise we're smitten with this slinky SUV. We even ran one as a long-termer - you can read our thoughts on it here.

Price new: From £22,940
Lease this car: From £248 per month
Find a used Mazda CX-30 for sale on Parkers here

Further reading:

> The best small cars to buy

> The best seven-seater SUVs to buy

> Mazda CX-30 vs Honda HR-V vs Toyota C-HR