Best new petrol SUVs

Want to drive a high-riding SUV, but don't want a gruff diesel engine? We've rounded up the best petrol-powered models for UK roads

James Wilson
Jul 13, 2020

Looking at it in general terms, an SUV should work best if it is powered by a diesel engine. They're larger and heavier than your standard hatchback, and the increased low-engine-speed muscle you get from a diesel is much better suited to getting them moving. It's no surprise, therefore, that everything from the small Nissan Juke, to the mid-sized Volkswagen Tiguan, and massive Land Rover Discovery has typically been fuelled by diesel rather than petrol - especially those bought by people planning to tow or take them off-road.

However, following question marks raised over diesel emissions and potential health concerns, the tables have turned - and although choosing a diesel is still likely to save you money if you cover more than 20,000 miles per year, their popularity has fallen somewhat.

As a result, petrol SUVs are now beginning to gain some popularity, and if you don’t cover too many miles per year, petrol power is often the best option when you consider that the lower purchase costs compared with diesel, hybrid or electric alternatives often outweigh any fuel cost savings for those versions. Petrol engines have other benefits, too, they're generally smoother and more refined, while they also tend to come with lower road tax rates when new.

All that is left to find out is which models are the best you can buy. We've picked out 10 such options that we think offer the best value for money, the creme-de-la-creme of affordable petrol SUVs, with everything from teeny weeny three-door models to super-sized seven-seaters to choose from.

The best petrol SUVs 2020

1. Peugeot 3008

Peugeot 2008 deals from £12,300
Monthly finance from £195

While the old Peugeot 3008 was dull, both to look at and to drive, the latest version comes with standout styling and a very affordable price tag.

It comes with a choice of two petrol engines; a frugal 1.2-litre unit and a more powerful 1.6-litre - with fuel economy figures of 47.2 and 39.6mpg respectively. You might expect the small 1.2-litre petrol to struggle under the weight of a car of this size, but even at motorway speeds, it copes very well, delivering smooth and surprisingly effective power which is far more pleasant to work hard than the 1.6, which only comes with a dimwitted automatic gearbox that only serves to cancel out its power advantage and add stress to the driving experience.

One thing to note with the 3008 is that it has a tiny steering wheel. Rather than looking at the dials through it, you peer at them over the wheel. Some love it but some find it impossible to set a comfortable driving position where they can see the dials clearly.

PEUGEOT 3008 BUYERS' GUIDE

2. Dacia Duster

Latest Dacia Duster deals from £10,999
Monthly finance from £166

The petrol Dacia Duster models are so fantastically affordable - in cash and PCP finance terms - that they more than make up for their lower fuel economy than the much more expensive diesel models. That said, an entry-level Duster houses one of the most basic cabins on UK roads - so it’s worth paying a little more for a slightly higher specification petrol model.

Move up to Comfort trim and you will be treated to air-conditioning, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay functionality, and cruise control. On the engine side of things, there are three petrol options to choose from, with 115hp to 150hp. As the Duster is relatively light for an SUV, all provide reasonable performance.

Furthermore, because Dacia is owned by Renault, much of the engineering behind them is shared with more upmarket vehicles. If you're used to driving pricier cars and think you'll find the Duster a little downmarket for you, therefore, it's worth giving it a chance. Avoid the super-basic Access model and you'd never guess that the Duster had such a low price.

DACIA DUSTER BUYERS' GUIDE

3. BMW X1

Latest BMW X1 deals from £12,399
Monthly finance from £177

BMW recently revealed the face lifted X1 - and while it isn’t a massive overhaul of the outgoing model, BMW has made changes in the right places.

Petrol engines come in three guises currently - all of which offer strong fuel economy instead of any real power to speak of, although this could well change in the coming months, as BMW is tending to shoehorn increasingly powerful engines into its SUVs. And whether you're after an automatic or manual gearbox there's a version to suit, as you have the choice of both transmissions across the range.

There's even an xDrive all-wheel-drive version of the more powerful 192hp 20i engine, so you could even partake in some light off-roading with the X1, but it does have a slight negative impact on fuel economy.

BMW X1 BUYERS' GUIDE

4. Citroen C3 Aircross

Latest Citroen C3 Aircross deals from £9,290
Monthly finance from £146

The C3 Aircross goes a long way to show that Citroen is still king of the hill when it comes to quirky cars. Even before you get inside, the distinctive front end and multi-colour plastic trims give you an impression that this car deviates from the norm.

It’s available with three petrol engines, each offering a different combination of power and economy. The middle one, called PureTech 130 S&S - and also available in the Peugeot 3008 above - offers the best blend of the two.

CITROEN C3 AIRCROSS BUYERS' GUIDE

5. Audi SQ2

Latest Audi Q2 deals from £25,930
Monthly finance from £313

Performance cars are normally powered by petrol engines (save for a few oddballs) and the Audi SQ2 continues this trend. Where it differs, is in its ride height. Fast cars normally sit low to the ground, but being a crossover, the SQ2 offers a bit more height, making it easier to get in and out of.

Flatten the accelerator and it will devour the road ahead at a staggering pace, too. The 0-62mph sprint takes only 4.8 seconds and it’s good fun to drive too. Furthermore, Audi’s Quattro four-wheel-drive means you will be able to confidently exploit the 300hp on offer all year round, without worrying about the tyres spinning the power away.

AUDI Q2 BUYERS' GUIDE

6. Suzuki Jimny

The Suzuki Jimny is available with just a singe 1.5-litre petrol engine. Its economy might seem a little disappointing (35.8mpg is what you can expect from the manual) but it is about as aerodynamic as a breeze-block, so it's hardly the the engine’s fault here.

Considering the amount of proper off-roading kit you get with the Jimny, everything else about it is pretty simplistic so it doesn't actually weigh an awful lot (less than a Ford Fiesta) compared to some other cars on this list, this means the petrol engine fairs surprisingly well.

So should you need a small SUV for going off-road - if you do check out our roundup of the best new small cars for off-roading - the Jimny could be for you. With a starting price of around £15,500, the Jimny costs no more than an entry-level Fiesta and monthly payments on PCP finance are also surprisingly affordable.

SUZUKI JIMNY BUYERS' GUIDE

7. Seat Arona

Latest Seat Arona deals from £11,390
Monthly finance from £172

Based on the Seat Ibiza - itself an impressive small car - the Seat Arona offers extra interior space and a higher driving position to make it feel more like a traditional off-roader.

Prices start at just over £17,000 for the entry-level petrol SE model, even though you are treated to air-conditioning, Bluetooth and cruise control. PCP finance costs are even more appealing - especially as metallic paint comes as standard, so you won’t have to pay more per month to have the colour combination you want.

On top of this there are a couple of petrol engines to choose from and economy is claimed to be an impressive 45.6mpg for the most frugal one, which isn’t a million miles away from the - more expensive - diesel alternative.

SEAT ARONA BUYERS' GUIDE

8. Kia Stonic

Latest Kia Stonic deals from £10,495
Monthly finance from £165

The Kia Stonic, like all Kias, comes with an industry-leading seven-year warranty. That means seven years of protection should things go wrong. And even if you buy a four-year old model, you’d still have the same length warranty as most new cars.

As for engine choices, there are only two. The first being a 1.0-litre unit and the second being a 1.4-litre. While their capacities suggest otherwise, it is the 1.0-litre which is the more powerful and responsive, thanks to a power-boosting turbocharger.

Inside you will find a smart cabin, which suits the car’s modern exterior looks. As standard there is a good smattering of equipment, including air-conditioning, Apple CarPlay and cruise control. Prices start under £17,000 so the Stonic is affordable, too, though the Arona above is better value on finance.

KIA STONIC BUYERS' GUIDE

9. Volvo XC90

Latest Volvo XC90 deals from £25,900
Monthly finance from £368

The latest Volvo XC90 was launched in 2014 but has recieved some attention via some light overhauls in more recent years. Irrespective of age, the XC90 still looks sharp as a tack and thanks to the fact it offers an excellent cabin with space for seven.

The updates Volvo made to the XC90 in 2019 included a reshuffle of the engine lineup. You have two pure petrol options now - known as T5 and T6 – with the T6 being the more powerful. If you want a manual gearbox however, you are out of luck as both options come with an automatic gearbox only.

VOLVO XC90 BUYERS' GUIDE

10. Mini Countryman

Latest Mini Countryman deals from £16,500
Monthly finance from £237

Yep, Minis are no longer the tiny vehicles they used to be. The Countryman may be Mini’s largest and most practical car and sacrifices some of its fun-loving nature, but it’s still enjoyable to drive.

There are three petrol engines to choose from, a  standard 1.5-litre producing 136hp, a 192hp 2.0-litre unit available with Cooper S models, and the most powerful 2.0-litre John Cooper Works model with 231hp, although this isn’t as rapid as the Audi SQ2 mentioned above.

Although the less powerful Cooper and Cooper S models offer less performance, they do boast better fuel economy and represent much more affordable options for the stylish Countryman.

MINI COUNTRYMAN BUYERS' GUIDE

 

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