Used car buying guide: Small SUV for £12,000

We’re all looking for the perfect compromise in a car and the small SUV appears to be it for many buyers. Usually based on accepted supermini models, they promise chunky off-road looks with everyday usability and cheap running costs. It’s a niche that’s becoming ever more popular with downsizing drivers, not to mention an increasing number of car makers keen to cash in on a popular trend. We look at three models that could be yours for £12,000.

Small SUV Nissan Juke

Nissan Juke: Funky looks and plentiful supply make it a fantastic used buy (Picture © Nissan)

Small SUV Nissan Juke: Overview
There’s one very convincing reason for buying the Nissan Juke: it looks like nothing else on the road. The combination of a five-door supermini bodyshell, a high-riding off-roader’s stance and the looks of something NASA might design for moon landings has ensured the Juke has been a big hit. There’s a choice of four or two-wheel drive, three engines (1.6-litre petrol in two power outputs and 1.5-litre diesel), plus four trim levels.

Small SUV Nissan Juke: Good performance and well equipped
The Juke has a lot going for it with its funky looks, decent blend of performance and economy plus high equipment levels. That lofty ride height makes it easy to get in and out of and visibility is excellent while the seats are comfortable. On the downside, there’s a lot of noise inside from both the tyres and engine. Combine this with a firm ride and it’s not a comfortable car for long distance drives. There isn’t a brilliant amount of space in the back, as you might expect of a car this size, and neither is the boot particularly big. The dashboard looks quite funky which just about makes up for the low-grade plastics used.

Small SUV Nissan Juke: Plentiful supply
Where the Juke really scores is in its equipment levels. Even the cheapest Visia model has six airbags, ESP stability control, 16-inch alloy wheels and electric windows and mirrors as standard. The top of the range Tekna has leather seats, a 5.8-inch touch screen for the sat nav and sound system plus keyless entry and ignition. Supply is plentiful so there’s no need to settle for the first model you come across. For our £11,795 we found a 2012 12-reg Juke Tekna 1.6 petrol that had done just 18,000 miles and came with a year’s Nissan warranty. For £11,981 there was a 2014 63-reg mid-range N-Tec 1.5 diesel with 14,000 miles and again a Nissan warranty.

Small SUV Dacia Duster

Dacia Duster: Rugged looks and great value for money makes this popular (Picture © Dacia)

Small SUV Dacia Duster: Overview
Dacia’s unashamed approach to budget busting has got off to a blockbuster start with the Brits. And it’s hardly surprising. The Duster isn’t bad looking in a bland sort of way; it relies on proven technology from sister company Renault; the cars are incredible value for money; and they’re rugged enough to withstand family life. What’s not to like?

Small SUV Dacia Duster: Class-leading cabin space
The Duster comes with either 1.6 petrol or 1.5 diesel engines, four-wheel drive is available and trim levels are charmingly simple. The entry Access model even does away with a standard sound system. You only find the equipment many drivers now take for granted, such as electric rear windows, air-conditioning and a trip computer, on the top of the range Laureate model. The Duster isn’t a car to excite keen drivers. But there’s nothing offensive about it either. On top of that, it’s easy to get in and out of and all-round visibility is good. It’s also a more spacious car than either rival here and many cars in the class above. The cabin has room for five adults with a generous boot.

Small SUV Dacia Duster: A new car for used car money
The astonishing thing about the Duster is that for £12,000 you could actually buy a new two-wheel drive version in mid-level Ambiance trim. Good news for buyers is that the popularity of the Duster means they lose money slowly once they leave the showroom. In fact, there are low mileage Ambiance models selling for the same price as brand new cars. Alternatively, you could plump for a nearly new top-of-the-range Laureate model. We found a one-owner 2014 14-reg 1.5 diesel model with less than 7000 miles for our target price.

Small SUV Peugeot 2008

Peugeot 2008: Car-like handling and lots of equipment are keys to its success (Picture © Peugeot)

Small SUV Peugeot 2008: Overview
Of the three cars in this comparison, the Peugeot 2008 is the most like a regular supermini. Mechanically, it’s based on the 208 but its styling is very much an acquired taste. If you can see past that, you’ll enjoy a car with a relatively comprehensive equipment list. Even in standard Access+ guise there are LED daytime running lights, a one-touch folding rear bench seat, electric front windows and six airbags. It also comes with a wide range of engines including 1.2 and 1.6-litre petrol and 1.4 and 1.6-litre diesel, the latter of which has two power outputs.

Small SUV Peugeot 2008: SUV style, supermini handling
Although the suspension has been jacked up to give the 2008 the look of an SUV, its big plus point is that it handles just like a regular car. There’s minimal body roll for a vehicle that rides this high and it soaks up bumps well. There is no four-wheel drive option. But Peugeot claims that its Grip Control system that relies on electronics to control power to the front wheels is almost as good. It’s also a lot cheaper to buy and to own than a 4×4 system. Although the seats are comfortable, the back seats are quite narrow and there isn’t really room for three adults to sit in comfort across the rear bench.

Small SUV Peugeot 2008: Lots of used choice
New prices for the 2008 start only just beyond our target price so there are plenty of models for £12,000. A manufacturer-approved 2014 14-reg model being sold by a main dealer caught our eye. In mid-range Active trim, the 1.4-litre diesel model had done slightly more than 8000 miles and was selling for £11,990. The same money would buy the same age and reg in a 1.2 petrol model, again manufacturer approved, again with just more than 8000 miles on the clock.

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