Ben Griffin analyses the relative merits of the best small SUVs on sale in 2015.
With the small SUV, or ‘crossover’ market exploding recently, choosing the right model can be incredibly tough. Luckily for you we’ve driven most of them and have come up with this delightful little list of the finest offerings to help ensure you get the right car for the job. Read on.
Citroen C4 Cactus (the quirky one)
The Citroen C4 Cactus has quirky air bumps on its sides, which help reduce the chance of its body being damaged by other drivers (or yourself) when opening doors in a car park. It’s more spacious than a Nissan Juke and somehow even bolder when it comes to design. It is also cheap to buy and, with the right engine, it’s free to tax and supremely frugal (91.1mpg is claimed). Forgo creature comforts and it can be had for a mere £12,990, which is a bargain given its 358-litre boot, comfortable interior and refined ride.
Nissan Juke (the bold one)
The Nissan Juke is one of the best known crossovers on the planet, and that’s because it’s proven to be capable in and out of town since it landed in 2010. With the 1.5dCi it offers 61.4mpg and 104g/km of CO2, which makes it one of the most frugal cars in our list. There’s a sporty Nismo RS version for those who crave performance but the standard car is sufficient for most, not to mention much cheaper. Boot space is 354 litres so it’s competitive in this group, while its five-star Euro NCAP rating inspires confidence in a worst case scenario.
Jeep Renegade (the off-roader)
The Jeep Renegade is by no means perfect, but for going off the beaten track it’s our first choice – even if you opt for the base two-wheel drive model. To be fair it’s an enjoyable drive and the variety of bright colours do a good job of disguising the fact it’s a box with wheels. It has the same boot space as the Fiat 500X, rising to 1,297 litres with the rear seats folded down, while the grumbly 1.6-litre MultiJet II diesel offers 120g/km of CO2 and 51.4mpg. The ability to adapt to various terrain types to maximies traction is a bonus for those who prefer the company of trees and fields.
BMW X1 (the luxury choice)
Imagine a smaller BMW X5. That’s pretty much the new X1 in a nutshell. It’s a premium take on the compact crossover and as such the interior is plush, and features a rather excellent sat-nav as standard. A sliding rear seat means you can eke out a generous 505 litres of boot space, or maximise legroom for taller passengers. The xDrive25d, meanwhile, can manage 56.6mpg and 132g/km of CO2 so it’s frugal. Fast, too, when you consider the same engine’s 146mph top speed.
Dacia Duster (the cheap one)
There are plenty of reasons why the Romanian Dacia Duster should be taken seriously, its ridiculously low price being chief among them. But it’s also pretty good on fuel and has lots of space. No one can argue with the 475-litre boot (rising to 1,636 with the seats down) in the two-wheel drive model. Nor would anyone argue with its rugged, no-nonsense design. Just about everything else is more fun to drive in our list but you can make up for that with the thousands you’ll save when buying one.
Fiat Panda Cross (the off-roader)
Sitting between the Fiat Panda and the Panda 4×4 is the Panda Cross, a crossover that offers the potential for off-roading shenanigans with city car practicality. The more frugal diesel (60.1mpg and 125g/km of CO2) is pricey but will pay for itself in the long run if you can stomach its tractor-esque engine sound. Even though it’s a tiny car (370cm long), the 225-litre boot is usable, especially if you make use of the 60:40 split folding rear seats. Not exactly cheap, but well worth considering for those who want to make parking as easy as possible.
Skoda Yeti (the multi-talented one)
Forget the emissions furore surrounding parent company VW. The Skoda Yeti is still a delightful car that punches well above its weight in terms of practicality. It’s got 180mm of ride clearance and 416 litres of boot space with the rear seats in place, rising to 1,518 litres when folded flat. Up to 68.9mpg in its 2.0-litre turbo diesel guise makes it affordable to run, while those boxy dimensions make it supremely spacious, so tall relations will be catered for. There are more stylish options in our list, but very few quite as characterful.
Fiat 500X (the pretty one)
For those who love curves and find the 500 too small, Fiat offers the 500X, a crossover with 179mm of ground clearance and rugged plastic cladding for added off-roading protection. Its tall design means gangly people will want to ride in it willingly, while the 350-litre boot means it can take a fair amount of shopping and Ikea clutter. What it lacks in refinement it makes up for with charm and style without breaking the bank. Go for the 1.6-litre MultiJet II diesel as it’s the most frugal yet nippy enough to raise the odd smile.
Ssangyong Tivoli (the underdog)
Ssangyong who? Yeah, most people have no idea, but the Tivoli happens to be a talented runaround. Not only is it cheap, the 1.6-litre e-XDi 160 turbo diesel is nippy and capable of a claimed 65.7mpg with the likable manual gearbox. Avoid the much less frugal petrol, though. Headroom is a strong suit, while the interior is more stylish than a number of its rivals and the 423-litre boot is competitive, too. Look past the badge snobbery and this is a surprisingly talented option that stands out.