Unless you’ve been hiding away for the past couple of years, you will have noticed that the 4×4-esque, chunky styling once reserved for, well, chunky 4x4s has now spread across every shape and style of car. Want a tiny supermini? How about a Yaris Cross or Suzuki Ignis – they look just like a tiny off-roader (and they can go off road a bit, too).
What this really means for you is that when you’re considering a used compact family car, but want to aim at the younger or nearly-new end of the market, what you actually want is a small SUV. Even if it can’t go off-road, everyone’s calling them that, and who are we to argue.
The selection is vast, so we’ve scoured the new models available and the used cars for sale in the UK and rated the top five you’ll find on sale almost everywhere; nothing too obscure, though if you’re determined to take that 4×4 aesthetic all the way, there are still some Suzuki Jimnys around.
1: The Ford Puma – one you’ll want to drive
Pros: massive boot, clever, and the ST is fun
Cons: Fiesta origins mean Fiesta interior quality – but also, Fiesta-like value
This isn’t Ford’s first small SUV, nor is it its first Puma, but it’s so different from either that it feels like a wholly new idea. It decisively leaps, cat-like, to the top of your buying list by not just looking good or being affordable – it’s clever, too. Although the car is based on the Ford Fiesta, which shows in the dashboard particularly, it’s a good size family hatchback with a generous boot (plus massive megabox storage underneath), efficient small engines and impressive standard equipment. It loses a little showroom appeal against premium rivals for the plastics inside, but that’s soon forgotten when you drive it.
Best of all, the Puma’s Fiesta origins mean there’s a hot ST version with 200hp, sporty exhaust and less than 7.0-second 0-62mph sprinting ability. It’s a small SUV that works as a family car, but it’s also appealing for how it drives, how it looks and the character behind the wheel. And the most expensive one costs less than the cheapest Audi Q2, new.
2: The Skoda Kamiq – the solid all-rounder
Pros: Deeply sensible, solid value
Cons: Almost too sensible
Gone past the Puma ST and decided that’s all too exciting and frivolous? Skoda may have the answer. The Kamiq is roomy, well-made and puts all of the effort into just being a really solid
family car for a good price. There are few fripperies, but plenty of useful touches – Skoda’s Simply Clever range of gadgets for example.
You’re getting the same engineering as a Volkswagen or Audi for less money, too – though the real surprise is that some aspects of the Skoda may actually prove more appealing, particularly with regard to the navigation and audio systems which are bang up to date at the higher end of the range.
Residual values will be strong, too, but you’re not likely to find many pre-owned Kamiqs on the market for a while. Look for strong ex-demo deals and finance incentives.
3: The Audi Q2 – an air of quality
Pros: Good to drive, flattering to be seen in, sensibly shaped
Cons: Premium price and not all of the interior is a grade to match
One of the older small SUVs you’ll find, the Audi Q2 is an excellent used buy with a wide variety of engines, trims and even all-wheel drive on offer. New, it’s a little harder to justify. Some unique qualities may turn your head, though. In its most basic form the Q2 may lose gadgets like climate control you could afford on other cars, but it has a directness to the steering, a simplicity to the controls that feels lost in more recent designs. It’s also well made, free of squeaks and rattles and robustly trimmed.
Family-friendly touches include the provision of ISOfix points on the front passenger seat and plenty of storage cubbies. If it weren’t for the price it would deserve a higher rating – when buying used, you may want to look at the Q2 first.
4: The Peugeot 2008 – the comfortable one
Pros: ride comfort, and avantgarde design that’s genuinely different
Cons: not the biggest interior or boot here, a bit too soft in bends
Peugeot’s square, crisply-styled 2008 stands out as much as the swoopingly-curved Puma does, and if you like adventurous design the 2008 is definitely the car for you. Two-tone paintwork, bold daytime running light signatures and an assertively square shape surround an interior that’s equally interesting, with a small steering wheel, high-dash layout, unusual trim materials and clever storage boxes.
It’s good to drive, too, but the rear legroom is a little cramped and the smaller engines struggle with plenty of people on board. It’s also tuned for comfort, which in this case means a rather softer ride than you may be used to, but without the handingprecision associated with Peugeot hatchbacks and saloons. That isn’t a bad thing – for once, you have a choice rather than everything being firm and jarring.
5: Renault Captur
Pros: good balance of comfort and handling
Cons: interior dull on low-cost models
When Renault turned its attention to the small SUV buyer, it created a soft, curvy rugged hatchback that immediately won sales and praise from owners and reviewers. Bold two-tone paint helps, and that popularity means there are plenty of Capturs to choose from used and nearly-new.
In traditional Renault style it scores highly for safety, and also offers good motorway refinement, without giving up reasonable cornering behaviour and overall handling. The engines let it down a bit, and even the hybrid feels a bit coarse. It’s a small price to pay for the value you’ll find against rivals though. Stick to the higher specifications and you’ll love it.