Best used small SUVs (and the ones to avoid)
The soaring sales of SUVs are testament to the fact that almost everyone wants one these days. And the chances are if you’re reading this, you do too.
We don’t blame you – today’s best SUVs combine a high driving position that gives you a vantage point to see out clearly; while the practical and versatile interior space of these vehicles means there’s room for the whole family. But, of course, you’ll probably also want a car that’s light and easy to drive, and not so large that it’s impossible to park – which is where smaller SUVs, like the ones we’ve featured here, come in.
Now, we know that not everyone wants to buy brand new, especially when there’s a plethora of great options on the used market. Thanks to booming sales, there’s now a massive choice, which can be a bit confusing – which is why we’re here, and why we’ve rounded up our 10 best used small SUVs to help you work out which one’s best for you.
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Compact sport utility vehicle
See also: Compact crossover SUV
A compact sport utility vehicle or compact SUV is a class of small sport utility vehicles that is larger than mini SUVs, but smaller than mid-size SUVs. However, there is no official definition of the size or dimensions for this market segment. Moreover, some manufacturers have marketed the same model name on different sized vehicles over time. The most common distinction between versions of crossover automobiles and compact-sized SUVs is that the first is based on a car-based unibody platform, while an SUV uses the body-on-frame chassis commonly used on trucks. However, manufacturers and common usage has blurred the two terms. Many recent vehicles labelled as compact SUVs are technically compact crossovers and are built on the platform of a compact/C-segment passenger car.
The modern compact SUV market segment began in 1983. According to a Car and Driver review in 2019, the compact crossover and SUV market segment is popular because the vehicles "are right-sized, right-priced, and blend carlike refinement with a touch of utility."
Small-sized utility-type vehicles have been available since the advent of the first automobiles. The modern use of the "compact sport utility" category can be traced in the United States marketplace to the 1982-1994 Chevrolet S-10 Blazer and the 1984-1990 Ford Bronco II because they are considered compact-sized SUVs that were built on a compact truck chassis. They were marketed alongside the Chevrolet K5 Blazer and Ford Bronco full-size 4x4 vehicles. The compact two-door 1983 Chevrolet S-10 Blazer featured four-wheel drive with a four-cylinder engine as standard and Ford brought out the similar Bronco II model. Both were body-on-frame designs based on each automaker's small pickup trucks, the Chevrolet S-10 and Ford Ranger respectively. The general dimensions, drive train, and cab details were identical to those of the compact truck with differences in the interior only aft of the doors. Both were station wagon-like vehicles with seating for four adults and an enclosed cargo area with a rear hatchback.
American Motors made the full-sized Jeep Wagoneer (SJ) SUV using a truck chassis, but developed a completely new and slim unibodyJeep Cherokee (XJ) line of two- and four-door compact sport wagons that were marketed starting in late 1983. These were also first compact American four-door sport utility vehicles. While the competing SUVs were adaptations of compact pickup trucks, Jeep did not have one so they designed a SUV first; starting with a four-door version and featuring a very strong, lightweight unibody construction like most passenger cars, as well as with a lightweight "link/coil" suspension design that was praised by the automotive press for its superior ride, performance, and handling. The original Jeep XJ combined a passenger car comfort with a rugged chassis for ease of driving in difficult conditions, and established the modern SUV market segment.Automobile magazine called it a "masterpiece" of automotive design with room for five passengers and their cargo.
According to Bob Lutz, an executive at several car companies, American Motors (AMC) "invented an all-new automotive segment—the compact sport utility vehicle" with the original compact Jeep Cherokee two- and four-door models. The compact Cherokee's design, appearance, and sales popularity spawned imitators as other automakers noticed that the Jeep XJ models began replacing regular cars. Compact SUVs have become an alternative to the minivans for families who need cargo space. While almost unchanged since its introduction, Cherokee XJ production continued through 2005 in China, and was one of the best-selling compact SUVs in the world. There were over 2.8 million Jeep XJs built in the U.S. between 1984 and 2001. According to a 1995 review by the American Automobile Association, AMC's "clever marketing helped create the present demand for compact sport-utility vehicles."
The Japanese 1988 Suzuki Vitara is also considered to be a compact SUV.
- ^DeMuro, Doug (July 2019). "SUV vs. Crossover: What's the Difference?". Autotrader. Retrieved September 26, 2019.
- ^Loveday, Steven (September 21, 2016). "SUVs vs. Crossovers: What's the Difference?". U.S. News and & World Report. Retrieved September 26, 2019.
- ^Jorgensen, Janice, ed. (1994). Encyclopedia of Consumer Brands: Durable goods, Volume 3. St. James Press. pp. 252–253. ISBN . Retrieved September 26, 2019.
- ^Stoklosa, Alexander (May 15, 2019). "Every 2019 Compact Crossover SUV Ranked from Worst to Best". Car and Driver. Retrieved September 26, 2019.
- ^Dunne, Jim; Keebler, Jack (January 1984). "Compact four-wheel drives: Who's King of the Hill?". Popular Science. 224 (1): 26, 28, 32, 34. Retrieved September 26, 2019.
- ^Foster, Patrick R. (2004). The Story of Jeep. Krause Publications. p. 187. ISBN .
- ^Dunne, Jim (June 1982). "'83 Preview". Popular Science. 220 (6): 67.
- ^Dunne, Jim (May 1983). "Ford's new off-road compact Bronco II". Popular Science. 222 (5): 85. Retrieved September 26, 2019.
- ^Dunne, Jim (January 1984). "PS 4,000-mile test Mini-Jeep". Popular Science. 224 (1): 22. Retrieved September 26, 2019.
- ^Statham, Steve. Jeep Color History. MotorBooks International. p. 112. ISBN . Retrieved September 26, 2019.
- ^Foster, Patrick R. (2004). The Story of Jeep. Krause Publications. p. 246. ISBN .
- ^Boberg, Evan. "History of the Jeep Liberty". allpar.com. Retrieved September 26, 2019.
- ^Burgan, Michael (2005). The Automobile. Gareth Stevens Publishing. p. 39. ISBN . Retrieved September 26, 2019.
- ^Cumberford, Robert (April 2009). "20 greatest cars". Automobile Magazine. Retrieved September 26, 2019.
- ^Lutz, Robert A. (2003). Guts: 8 laws of business from one of the most innovative Business Leaders of Our Time. Wiley. p. 83. ISBN .
- ^Bradsher, Keith (2002). High and Mighty: SUVs - the World's Most Dangerous Vehicles and How They Got That Way. PublicAffairs. p. 41. ISBN .
- ^"At a Glance: competition between the segments". The Power report: Volume 20. J.D. Power and Associates. 1998. Retrieved September 26, 2019.
- ^Foster, Patrick R. (2004). The Story of Jeep. Krause Publications. p. 242. ISBN .
- ^Zappe, Eric (2015). Jeep Cherokee XJ Performance Upgrades: 1984-2001 (Revised ed.). CarTech. p. 9. ISBN . Retrieved September 26, 2019.
- ^AAA Autotest 1996. American Automobile Association (AAA). 1995. p. 161. ISBN . Retrieved September 26, 2019.
- ^Mathioudakis, Byron. "Forester for the trees". Wheels Magazine (November 2018): 87.
- ^"Suzuki Vitara: Everything You Need To Know About All-Grip". www.pakwheels.com. January 13, 2017. Retrieved December 8, 2018.
Be Smart, Check in Advance. CARFAX — Your Vehicle History.
CARFAX — Your Vehicle History Expert
Sometimes what you don't know can't hurt you, but that's not the case when buying a used car. As an independent vehicle history provider, at CARFAX we've made it our mission to tell you everything you need to know by uncovering as many events as possible from the previous life of a used car. Our primary goal is to help you get to know your next car from the inside out before deciding to make an investment that will be part of you and your family's everyday life. We believe your next car shouldn't be hiding anything from you.
CARFAX Vehicle History Reports contain over 28 billion historical records from 20 European countries, the US and Canada, which are updated daily with new information.
Even if you live in a country we don't collect vehicle data from, it's still always worth checking the Vehicle Identification Number without obligation. The used car import and export market is booming and many owners would be surprised to find out exactly what happened to their vehicle during its previous life abroad.
Privacy for Customers — Transparency over Vehicles
Let's be clear: Although we strive to find every detail of a vehicle's life so far, we are focused only on the vehicle's history, and do not collect any information on previous owners. The information we provide relates solely to the vehicle, its odometer reading, any accidents that have been covered up, where the vehicle comes from and much more — it never gets personal. We've uncovered irreparable damage several times in the past, but other times our vehicle history checks draw a blank — and sometimes that's actually a good thing.
Second Hand — Not Second Best
Did you know that considerably more used cars are sold than new cars? We think this second-hand system is nothing short of fantastic. However, it goes without saying that it gives rise to different methods and tactics: Some sellers will disguise a car that's been in an accident under a fresh coat of paint, tamper with the odometer or conceal theft. This is one of the less appealing aspects of buying second hand. Our goal is to establish trusting relationships between buyers and sellers, since this is the best way to help customers make the right decision. Your new car should be reliable and make you feel safe, as well as make you feel like you haven't paid too much.
But more than anything else, we don't want you or your family unknowingly sitting behind the wheel of a vehicle that isn't 100% safe. This is why we strive to take these vehicles off the road, which not only makes the used car market safer but our streets safer too.
CARFAX — 35+ Years of Experience in Vehicle Histories
CARFAX was founded in the US in 1984 and expanded into Europe in 2007. Around 100 team members spread across six European offices process vehicle information from 22 countries.
Fostering strategic partnerships with registration authorities, law enforcement agencies, government departments, insurance companies, inspection centers and numerous other leading companies around the world has enabled us to compile a unique international database for vehicle histories. We use this database to help make the used car market more transparent. We give everyone in the process of buying a used car access to what is currently the world's most comprehensive source for vehicle history reports, and is growing day by day.
We remain neutral and independent despite our partnerships — our sole purpose is help customers make an informed choice and ensure their safety and the safety of their family. This includes never collecting any personal details — we do not accept any PII from data sources amongst the information we provide about a vehicle. We ensure that data protection laws are observed at all times. Furthermore, we always collect our data in compliance with legal and regulatory frameworks — in all the countries in which we are active. We expressly distance ourselves from illegal activities such as data theft, scraping and hacking.
Top 10 Best-Selling SUVs In America – 2005 Year End
Ranked ninth in 2002, sixth in 2003, and fourth in 2004, the Ford Escape slid back to the fifth position among SUVs and crossovers in 2005 thanks to a 10% year-over-year U.S. sales decline.
Ford Explorer sales, meanwhile, slid 29%, and the Explorer lost its grasp on the number one position among America’s top-selling SUVs. Likewise, the top-selling Chevrolet TrailBlazer reported a year-over-year sales decline, but not so significant as to fall behind the rising Jeep Grand Cherokee, sales of which jumped 17%, or 31,271 units.
• Top 10 Best-Selling SUVs In America – 2004 Year End
• Top 10 Best-Selling SUVs In America – 2006 Year End
• Top 40 Best-Selling Vehicles In America – 2005 Year End
Along with the TrailBlazer’s decline, Chevrolet sold a great deal more copies of the more car-like Equinox in 2005 than in 2004, when the Equinox first arrived on the market. Pontiac sold its first 10,303 Torrents in 2005, as well.
The only remaining full-size, truck-based SUV in the top ten was Chevrolet’s Tahoe. As recently as 2003, there were three full-size SUVs in the top nine.
Jeep Grand Cherokee
Source: Automakers & ANDC
Suv 2005 small
What’s the Best Used SUV for Sale Under £5000?
The Top 5 SUVs for Sale Under £5k
If the choice is between an MPV or an SUV, if you want to keep your cred then it has to SUV, all the way, unless you’re an environmentalist – but that’s a whole different conversation.
So with a max budget of 5k, here’s the list of the best used SUVs around:
Honda CR-V (2006-2012)
The Honda CR-V has proved to be one of the most popular SUVs on UK roads, and with good reason. The Mk3, launched in 2006, remains popular and despite its age, still compares well against its rivals. Picking up a post-2010 used from this generation CR-V allows you to get great value without compromising on quality or reliability.
A slight remodelling in 2007 left intact the 2.2-litre diesel from the previous CR-V, which is a fantastic, high-performing engine that delivers 140bhp and 44mpg. It’s also available with a 2.0-litre petrol engine, which will return 150bhp. The petrol is available with either a five-speed automatic or a six-speed manual transmission gearbox, whilst the diesel is limited to the manual.
Despite the SUV moniker, the CR-V isn’t actually that large – it’s shorter than a Honda Accord and is a relatively compact vehicle. Thanks to this smaller size and lower centre of gravity, it corners well, with very little lean.
However, its off-road abilities are limited: this is an SUV that was designed strictly with tarmac driving in mind, despite four-wheel drive as standard. That said, decent handling and good refinement make driving on normal roads an enjoyable and comfortable experience.
Add to this the large interior cabin, which can easily fit five adults, and this is an SUV well-suited to long-distance family drives. The interior uses much of the same equipment as the Honda Accord, hence the relatively upmarket feel, and even basic models come with features such as air conditioning and electric windows.
Honda is a notoriously reliable brand, and the CR-V is no exception, so even buying a low-priced, high-mileage vehicle isn’t likely to be too risky.
Toyota RAV4 (2006-2012)
The Recreational Active Vehicle Four Wheel Drive was introduced in 1994, and was essentially the first compact SUV. Since then it’s inspired lots of the competition in the compact SUV market, meaning it’s been continually upgraded and improved to stay one step ahead.
This means that this third generation RAV4 is a spacious, reliable and comfortable vehicle which makes an excellent choice for a low-cost SUV.
The Mk3 RAV4 (2006-2012) is available with two engines, a 2.0-litre petrol and the more popular 2.2-litre diesel, which delivers either 147bhp or 177bhp.
Although the RAV4 isn’t as stylish as some competitors, it makes up for it in practicality: the spacious interior is complemented by a 547-litre boot, and even entry level models have air conditioning, power steering and electric windows. This third generation remains fun to drive for a vehicle of its size.
Thanks to its great reputation for reliability, the RAV4 clings to its value quite well, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get a well-looked after diesel model for under £5000.
Suzuki Grand Vitara (2005-14)
The Grand Vitara was launched in 1988 and went through a relaunch in 2005, which aimed to improve the style of the vehicle. A facelift in 2008 and engine improvements in 2010 mean that it’s worth considering a post-2010 model when buying used.
The Vitara is an undeniably robust SUV, with strong on-road presence. On tarmac, it handles well, with little lean, but it’s when driving off-road that the Vitara excels. Factors like permanent four-wheel drive and a low ratio gearbox give you all the power you need to tackle challenging and muddy terrain.
The 1.6 and 2.0-litre petrol engines deliver 105bhp and 138bhp respectively, and a 1.9-litre diesel is also available. Perhaps cementing the Vitara’s position as an off-roader is the fact that the 2005 model lacks decent refinement, meaning driving is a noisy experience. However, this went through some improvement with the introduction of some sound insulation equipment in its 2008 facelift.
The Vitara is available with three or five doors, although unsurprisingly it’s the five-door model that’s proved most popular and that you’ll be most likely to see on the used market.
For under 5k, you’ll be able to get yourself a well-looked after Vitara with a relatively low mileage, so get looking!
Hyundai Tucson (2004-2010)
Introduced as a budget alternative to the likes of the Land Rover Freelander, the Tucson is probably the vehicle on this list that you’ll be able to pick up for the lowest price. Despite a relaunch in 2015, it’s worth finding a model from 2009/10 to combine bargain prices with a quality SUV.
It was launched in 2004 with two petrol engine options – a 2.0-litre engine delivering 134bhp, or a 2.7-litre V6 engine which was limited to a four-speed automatic gearbox, returning 28mpg. The 2.0-litre diesel engine fares better when it comes to mileage, returning 39mpg, making it more economical than SUVs such as the Suzuki Vitara.
The Hyundai Tucson is also available as a two-wheel drive or a four-wheel drive vehicle, but in both, driving feels more car-like than some other SUVs. Despite this, the interior will comfortably seat five adults, and the vehicle still has a great raised driving position and performs very well as a tow vehicle.
Toyota Land Cruiser (2010-)
Not an SUV for comfortable family drives, the Toyota Land Cruiser is the car you want if you’re driving off-road. It’s a tough workhorse that’ll tackle the most challenging of terrain with ease, thanks in part to a range of features such as downhill assist and crawl function.
Only one diesel 3.0-litre engine is available in the Land Cruiser, but you do get the choice or a six-speed manual or automatic gearbox. In 2015, this engine was replaced with the more economical 2.8litre diesel.
It’s available as a three or five door vehicle, but the five door is the obvious choice, which also has the option of seven seats. The interior isn’t as comfortable as some more luxurious rivals, and driving on the road feels heavy – because the Land Cruiser is massive and heavy.
But the Land Cruiser was designed to excel off-road, and its reliability is legendary. Additionally, it’s capable of towing 3000kg.
So what is the best SUV for under £5,000?
Our favourite and it comes with no-frills, has to be a real off-road SUV that’ll never let you down, therefore you can’t go far wrong with the Toyota Land Cruiser.
With Carsnip you can get browsing today for any one of the top-performing SUVs or just the SUVs available for under £5000.
Top 10 used SUVs for less than £2000 (and the ones to avoid)
The Kia Sorento also has a separate chassis, which lends it a fidgety ride and rather ponderous handling, but if you can live with those flaws, it’s a solid tow car with a decent reputation for reliability. It’s only available as a five-seater, but the flipside is an enormous boot and plenty of space in every seat, and what’s more, the big Kia is a competent and quiet cruiser, and it's well-equipped.
We found: 2.5 CRDi XS, 119,000 miles, service history, £1995
Read the used Kia Sorento review
Find a used Kia Sorento in the What Car? Classifieds
8. Hyundai Santa Fe
The first-generation Hyundai Santa Fe’s styling was somewhat divisive, but it still won fans for its space, comfort and value. Today, those good points still ring true, with the Santa Fe offering lots of kit for the cash, a smooth ride and plenty of room. There are always downsides, of course, and with the Hyundai they extend to a cheap-feeling interior and sloppy handling. But if you’re after a well-equipped and comfortable SUV, it’s worth a look.
We found: 2005 2.0 CRTD CDX, 90,000 miles, £1995
Read the used Hyundai Santa Fe review
Find a used Hyundai Santa Fe in the What Car? Classifieds
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