Size is no limitation when it comes to style – just look at Tom Cruise – and these ultra-fashionable small SUVs provide even more proof. They have the rugged, jacked-up styling that more and more car buyers crave these days, but all within a footprint no bigger than your average city car or supermini. Small usually means affordable, too, so you’re getting a whole lot of style for not all that much cash. What’s not to like? Here’s our pick of the best pint-sized SUV offerings.

  • Fiat Panda 4x4 – the small-yet-rugged SUV
  • Dacia Sandero Stepway – the cheap SUV
  • Renault Captur – the practical SUV
  • Volkswagen T-Roc – the stylish SUV
  • Audi Q2 – the posh SUV
  • Peugeot e-2008 - the electric SUV
  • Jeep Renegade 4xe – the hybrid that can really off-road
  • Mercedes-Benz GLB – the small seven-seater

Fiat Panda 4x4 – the small-yet-rugged SUV

Despite being the smallest car here, the Panda 4x4 is also the most rugged, because it’s the only one that has – as its name suggests – four-wheel drive. You’ll be surprised just how capable the Panda is when it ventures off the beaten track, too. Thanks to its impressive traction, high ground clearance and short overhangs we’ve seen them scrabble up muddy slopes that a mountain goat would think twice about. Sure, it’s limited on practicality and quality, but those after a rugged city car or go anywhere car for country lanes probably won’t be too bothered about that.

Dacia Sandero Stepway – the cheap SUV

We were big fans of the previous Dacia Sandero Stepway, which with a starting price of just over £10,000 was easily the most affordable SUV-style car on sale in the UK. That car is about to be replaced by an all-new Sandero, which will also include a Stepway version with the raised ride height and toughened up body cladding of the outgoing car. Full details will be announced in due course but the range will include an LPG version for reduced CO2 and cheaper running costs. Onboard tech will also be improved. Pricing is to be confirmed but Dacia will be keen to maintain its value proposition.

Renault Captur – the practical SUV

The Renault Captur is a good bit older than most other cars in this section of the market, yet it still has the edge on all of them for practicality. The roomy cabin is really generous on headroom and legroom in any of the five seats, and the boot is also an impressive size. Practicality isn’t all the Captur has going for it, either. It had all the style that SUV buyers demand, and it’s really quiet and comfortable on the road. A new E-Tech plug-in hybrid version increases its appeal, the ability to do short journeys on electric power helping save on fuel costs.

Volkswagen T-Roc – the stylish SUV

Being ‘the stylish one’ in this list is really good news for T-Roc, because style is what small SUVs are all about. Volkswagen knows that, of course, and that’s why the T-Roc has a look that’s much more in-your-face and outlandish than many of VW’s other offerings, which are generally famed for their conservatism. The badge on the nose of the car doesn’t do its desirability any harm, either, and the T-Roc is also great to drive, with a comfortable ride and sharp handling. A convertible version is a quirky addition to the range for those who want a mash-up between SUV and drop-top.

Audi Q2 – the posh SUV

Whether it’s the angular styling or the four-ringed badged that does it for you, the Q2 is about as desirable as small SUVs get. The other big thing that helps on the desirability front is the Q2’s super-posh interior. It’s mostly the same as you’ll find in the A1 hatchback, which means it’s ergonomically excellent and blessed with a level of build quality that’s not very far removed from that of Audi’s luxurious executive cars. However, it differs from the A1 in that there’s also a splash of extra colour, plus the raised driving position that SUV drivers love.

Peugeot e-2008 – the electric one

Peugeot isn’t the only one offering a small electric SUV but the e-2008 might be one of the best of the bunch at the moment. The car it’s based on is already a pretty appealing combination of compact size, SUV stance and practicality, the electric version costing quite a bit more to buy but potentially offering huge savings in running costs. An official range of just under 200 miles on a full charge will be plenty for the kind of short trips many of these cars get used for and it’s simplicity itself to drive, with plenty of performance and no compromises in practicality.

Jeep Renegade 4xe – the hybrid that can really off-road

Jeep’s heritage as a true off-road brand means it feels obligated to give even its Renegade proper ability in the rough stuff, even as a hybrid. In range-topping Trailhawk trim it gets a feisty 240 horsepower to make short work of any driving conditions but can also cover 20-odd miles in pure electric mode thanks to its combined petrol-electric powertrain. The Renegade as a whole might not be the freshest small SUV on the block but the addition of this new hybrid version gives it a new lease of life and if you want a proper mini-4x4 this is the one to go for.

Mercedes-Benz GLB – the small seven-seater

Mercedes has been very clever in the many and various models it spins off the A-Class hatchback, these including the GLA and the GLB SUVs. The latter is our favourite, given it stands taller, has the option of respectable off-road performance for those who need it but also manages to somehow squeeze an extra row of seats. True, there are more spacious seven-seaters in the market but for the compact on-road footprint the GLB manages to feel like a car from a class above, with the quality to back that up. Not cheap but you get what you pay for.

What is an SUV?

SUV is short for Sports Utility Vehicle. SUVs used to be bigger cars primarily built for tackling tougher terrain or towing, and most or all of them were 4x4s. However, this has changed over the years, and you can now get SUVs in all shapes and sizes. Many newer SUVs also focus on style, rather than off-road practicality, and quite a few are two-wheel drive.

Drivers of SUVs are often drawn to their practicality as family cars, the high driving position and the overall look.

What’s the difference between a crossover and an SUV?

Crossovers generally mix the practicality of a hatchback, with SUV styling, meaning increased ride height, better visibility and ease of access, with relatively light weight, relatively small and economical engines, and a price not much higher than a hatchback.

And while crossovers may appear more bulky than a hatchback, they don’t take up any more space on the road.

There is quite a mix of sizes within the crossover class however, with both family sized models, and smaller crossovers, too – just to confuse things further.

Crossovers are one of the fastest selling types of SUV.

While most crossovers are front-wheel drive, four-wheel drive is often available as an option for the highest spec models. And there’s usually a decent range of petrol and diesel engines available. Which you choose will depend on your needs. A diesel may be useful if you’ll be covering lots of longer distances, but petrol engines are catching up to diesels in terms of efficiency, so it may not be worth the extra cost.

Types of SUVs

There are lots of different sizes of SUVs out there – from small, through to compact, mid-size and large – and you’ll want to find the one that’s best suited to you.