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The best new petrol SUVs for every budget

Despite the shift towards EVs, petrol still powers more than half of all new car sales. We list the best new petrol SUVs for every budget.

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If you’re looking for a new car in 2021, then chances are you’ll be considering an SUV of some sort. Hatchbacks may still be the biggest-selling type of new car, especially for small cars, but petrol SUVs have well and truly overtaken saloons and estates to become the default for larger vehicles.

Despite the growing industry shift to electric models, EVs and plug-in hybrids still only make up about 15% of all new car registrations right now. And with diesel sales at an all-time low and still falling, that means that a lot of people are looking at a petrol-powered SUV or crossover for their next car.

We’ve analysed all of the petrol SUVs available at each price point, then consulted our industry-leading Expert Rating index to see which models have the highest review scores from across the UK motoring media.

With comprehensive review data backing our recommendations, you can be confident that this is the definitive guide to the best new petrol SUVs for every budget that are on sale in the UK right now.

Under £15,000: Dacia Duster

Best petrol SUVs 2021 – Dacia Duster

It may not be the most stylish, comfortable or energetic petrol SUV on this list, but the Dacia Duster is truly unbeatable when it comes to value for money.

You can pick up a new model for the starting price of £14,000. However, as the ‘Essential’ variant lacks equipment, most buyers tend to go for the ‘Comfort’ model for an extra £1,000, which comes with a few more useful perks.

Dacia has recently given the Duster a makeover and, as of October 2021, the small budget SUV has an Expert Rating of 67%, based on 23 reviews from the UK motoring media.

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Under £25,000: Skoda Karoq

Best petrol SUVs 2021 – Skoda Karoq

If you are not too fussed about makes and models, top speeds and entertainment excess, the Skoda Kamoq is the perfect petrol SUV for ferrying you and your family from A to B. It is a well-built, mid-sized petrol SUV that offers plenty of cabin space and practical features.

Available for a competitive starting price of just under £23,000, the Karoq offers a comfortable driving experience, although British reviewers generally conclude that it is a bit bland compared to some of its competitors.

As of October 2021, the Skoda Karoq has an Expert Rating of 76%, based on the reviews published by 18 different UK media sources.

If fun performance is a priority for your next SUV, it’s worth checking out the Ford Puma, which has received plenty of praise from the UK media for its outstanding driving experience and surprising practicality, especially in its boot capacity and layout.

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Under £35,000: Volvo XC40

Best petrol SUVs 2021 – Volvo XC40

With a string of prestigious awards to its name, including 2018 European Car of the Year, the Volvo XC40 is no stranger to industry acclaim, and is still picking up trophies three years after its launch. With a dash more style than its still-impressive larger siblings, the XC60 and XC90, the XC40 has been a sales success for Volvo and has been regularly popping up in the top ten best-sellers’ list this year.

As of October 2021, the Volvo XC40 has an Expert Rating of 79%, based on scores given from 40 UK reviews.

If you’d prefer something a bit larger for your budget, there are plenty of petrol SUVs at this price point that score well in our Expert Rating index. The Mazda CX-5, Hyundai Tucson, Cupra Formentor and Peugeot 3008 all share an Expert Rating score of 75%, so are well worth a look.

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Under £50,000: Porsche Macan

Best petrol SUVs 2021 – Porsche Macan

If you’re looking for performance and prestige, the Porsche Macan offers plenty of interior comfort and refinement, and trademark Porsche engineering under the bonnet.

The Macan has been around since 2014, with a couple of updates over the years, including a recent facelift. The starting price is just under £48,000, but note that the more powerful Macan S and GTS models cost a great deal more than £50,000. It will take great restraint wit the infamous Porsche options list to keep your Macan within this price point.

As of October 2021, the Porsche Macan range has an Expert Rating of 79%, based on reviews collected from 31 separate UK publications.

If the Porsche Macan is a bit too much for your tastes, you may want to consider the Volvo XC60. While the Porsche offers a superior driving experience, the Volvo counters with a more comfortable ride and more everyday practicality.

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Under £75,000: Volvo XC90

Best petrol SUVs 2021 – Volvo XC90

It may be in the twilight of its life, having been on sale since 2015, but the Volvo XC90 remains one of the most comfortable large SUVs on the market. For a family of five (the third-row seats are really very small) and luggage, the XC90 makes an excellent road trip vehicle.

As well as being a success story in its own right, this model was also the catalyst for Volvo’s brand resurgence over the last few years, with the XC90’s platform and engines also underpinning the large S90 saloon and V90 estate, as well as the smaller XC60/S60/V60 models.

As of October 2021, the XC90 holds an Expert Rating of 79%, just edging out the Land Rover Discovery by a mere 0.1% according to our panel of UK media reviews. The Volvo may be the more comfortable car for five people around town and on motorways, but if you want to use the third row of seats and/or trek off-road, the Discovery would be a better bet.

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Money no object: Land Rover Defender

2021 Land Rover Defender 110 test drive

If money’s no object in your search for your next petrol SUV, then your local Land Rover dealership is the place to be. No longer a utilitarian farmer’s tool, the Land Rover Defender is now a luxury family SUV that just happens to carry the same name as its illustrious forebear.

Launched in 2020, the new Defender retains the superb off-roading ability as Land Rovers of yesteryear, although it combines that with grand interior trim, expensive tech and everyday practicality.

Despite rather consistent doubts about the fuel economy of the Defender, this top-of-the-line SUV has an Expert Rating of 85%, based on 34 reviews from UK media sources. Although you *can* theoretically pick up entry-level Defender variants for around £50,000, the versions that people actually buy are easily upwards of £75K and can comfortably exceed £100K if you choose the petrol V8 engine and tick enough options boxes.

If the Defender is a bit too chunky and clunky for your tastes – and money really isn’t an option – you may prefer to look at the Aston Martin DBX. As far as sophisticated SUVs go, the DBX is pretty much the ultimate machine on the market. Yes, you’re trading practicality for performance and panache, but if you’re looking at dropping £160K on a V8-powered SUV, you can probably also afford a Toyota Land Cruiser for when you want to get muddy…

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Additional reporting by Stuart Masson

For the definitive rankings of the best new petrol SUVs for every budget, we’ve used The Car Expert’s industry-leading Expert Rating index. The index analyses new car reviews from 25 of the top UK motoring websites, using an advanced algorithm that we have developed specifically to compare review scores. It constantly recalculates and updates the Expert Rating score for every single car in real time to make sure you’re getting the most accurate and reliable ratings for every new car.

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Sean Rees
Sean Rees
Sean is the Deputy Editor at The Car Expert. A enthusiastic fan of motorsport and all things automotive, he is accredited by the Professional Publishers Association, and is now focused on helping those in car-buying need with independent and impartial advice.