The five best used family SUVs for £5,000

Skoda Yeti in some muddy wilderness
The Skoda Yeti is one of our favourite family cars. But is it the best, and what else should buyers on a budget consider?

So you want to grab yourself a slice of the SUV pie – but funds are tight. Fortunately, you don’t need to have pots of disposable income to be able to get yourself a family-friendly SUV that is worth having.

That’s because there’s a glut of SUVs hitting the second-hand market and, as a result, prices for some models are very competitive. Which means it’s getting ever-easier to bag yourself an SUV that doesn’t break the bank. 

Here are five great examples which you can get hold of within a budget of only £5,000.

5. Volkswagen Tiguan (2007-2017)

It might not be all that exciting to look at, but the Volkswagen Tiguan is at least inoffensive, and it has the classy solidity we’ve come to expect from Volkswagen. The same is true inside, as well, where the interior, somewhat dour though it is, is at least built from solid-feeling materials and laid out in a manner that feels intuitive.

To drive, don’t expect great shakes, but the Tiguan steers precisely and rides comfortably, and there’s plenty of space for all five occupants. The rear seats slide back and forth, too, so that you can extend the boot space at the expense of rear seat leg room, should you need to. 

Reliability-wise, the Tiguan isn’t quite as good as some of its rivals, which is its biggest downside. Particulate filter problems dog low-mileage diesels, while the DSG automatics and twin-charged petrols, introduced in 2010 and 2011 respectively, also have issues. Then there’s the diesel emissions fix, which some owners say have made their cars noisier or less reliable. 

However, a good Tiguan is worth dodging these issues for, so take the time to find one in the right specification, with a full history and evidence of careful maintenance, and you won’t regret it. 

Price from: £3,000

We found: 2009 Tiguan 2.0 TDI Sport 4Motion, 86,000 miles, full service history, £4,999

Watch out for: Doddering DSG automatics, unreliable 1.4 TSI 160, rough-running diesels, clogged diesel particulate filters (DPFs).

4. Hyundai Santa Fe (2006-2012)

The idea of buying a used Hyundai might not fill everyone with joy, but don’t write off the Santa Fe just because of its badge. This is an attractive SUV that’s not only immensely practical, but also hugely versatile, with the option of seven seats on offer. 

For one thing, thanks to its heavy weight and sturdy construction, the Santa Fe is a great tow car; if you’re after a cheap SUV to tow a caravan, look no further. It’s also dependable – obviously, these older models will need the occasional repair, but are cheap to service, and a well-maintained Santa Fe should be reliable and inexpensive to fix too.

To drive, you’ll find the Santa Fe comfortable and cosseting, and while it obviously won’t corner with the alacrity of a sports car, it’s nevertheless safe, competent and responsive enough for most SUV buyers’ needs. Inside, the dash is built from some rather cheap-feeling plastics – there’s some odious fake wood, too – but everything’s well laid out, and the Santa Fe is pretty well equipped – particularly in top-spec Premium form. 

Price from: £2,000

We found: 2010 Santa Fe 2.2 CRTD Premium 7-seater, 92,000 miles, full service history, £4,995

Watch out for: Diesel particulate filter issues, chipped/cracked windscreens, head gasket failures on diesels, broken/cracked interior plastics.

3. Nissan Qashqai (2010-2013)

The Qashqai was introduced in 2006, but early models had a harsh ride and a cheap-feeling interior, so we don’t really recommend them. A facelift in 2010, however, improved these issues dramatically, turning the Qashqai into the car it always should have been.

This is the SUV to choose if you don’t want the gargantuan dimensions normally associated with such a thing. The Qashqai is compact – about the size of a normal family hatchback in length and width, but taller, so that you still get the better view of the road and easier entry and access to the rear seats you expect with an SUV.

Inside, the Qashqai is attractive and easy to find your way around, and while it isn’t quite as spacious as a larger SUV, there’s still plenty of room for a family in the rear seats and boot. 

Meanwhile, its surprisingly involving handling means it’s predictable and actually rather good fun to drive – and while the revised suspension of this later model still isn’t the last word in comfort, it should be smooth enough for most people, too. 

Price to pay: from £3,000

We found: 2012 Qashqai 1.6 Acenta 2WD, 70,000 miles, full service history, £4,995

Watch out for: Knocking rear suspension, weak automatic gearboxes, loose exterior fittings, clogged diesel particulate filters, turbo failures and rough running on 1.5 diesels.

2. Skoda Yeti (2009-2017)

Few SUVs can come close to matching the incredible versatility of the Skoda Yeti. Inside it, you’ll find three individual rear seats, all of which can fold and tumble forward individually, leaving a van-like luggage area that’s ideal for carting around mountain bikes, large furniture, or whatever else you might need to chuck in there. 

In the front, there’s a smart, well laid-out interior, and you even get a decent amount of equipment thrown in. And while the ride is a little on the firm side, the pay-off for this is that the Yeti is good to drive, with surprisingly crisp handling and, in spite of its tall stature, a good resistance to rolling around in corners. Around town, that vertical back end also makes it incredibly easy to park. 

You’ll need to choose well, though; there are quite a few tired Yetis out there now; what’s more, there have been some reliability issues with DSG automatic gearboxes and there remain question marks over the diesel emissions fix that will have been applied to some models. 

Petrol-engined versions – with some exceptions – are more desirable and smoother to drive, though harder to find for this budget, and as with any Yeti, you’ll want to look out for evidence of careful maintenance, such as a full service history. 

Price to pay: from £3,000

We found: 2009 Yeti 1.2 TSI SE, 92,000 miles, full service history, £4,195

Watch out for: Dicky DSG gearboxes, stretchy timing chains on petrol versions, scuffed/broken/stained interior fittings, clogged diesel particulate filters.

Best buy: Honda CR-V (2007-2012)

The Honda CR-V has been around for more than 20 years, and this third-generation version is one of the best in the model’s history.

For starters, there’s the way it drives. It steers sweetly and resists the sort of roly-poly behaviour often exhibited by SUVs in this price bracket. What’s more, while it doesn’t waft with the best of them, the CR-V’s well-damped suspension will be comfortable enough for most. 

It feels robust inside, too, with the sort of no-nonsense build quality you’d expect from a Honda, and many CR-Vs come with a long list of standard equipment – especially if you go for the top-spec EX. 

What’s more, there’s a choice of two good engines – one petrol, one diesel – and while the latter’s reputation for reliability isn’t as impeccable as the former’s, neither engine should prove troublesome if well maintained. And all this before we’ve even talked about the CR-V’s trump card, which is its voluminous interior, with space for three adults to sit comfortably in the back and a vast boot. 

Price to pay: from £2,000

We found: 2009 CR-V 2.0 i-VTEC ES, 74,000 miles, full service history, £4,999

Watch out for: Dual-mass flywheel and injector failure on diesels; premature clutch wear.

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