The early SUVs sold in the United States were generally truck-based work vehicles, engineered to haul cargo in an enclosed environment. Today, they are the most popular vehicles in the consumer market, with a huge spread of vehicle types and options from every automaker. While some models can still do hard work, there is an SUV for everyone, from compact to full-sized. There are some larger, truck-based models that fit the traditional SUV definition, but unibody-based models have become a great option for drivers who want all of the functionality in a smaller package. Some call those smaller models crossovers, but they are still a part of the SUV family.
Regardless of the size class, every SUV offers lots of interior space, the ability to go anywhere in any weather condition and an impressive list of available premium features. There is also a full spread of drivetrain options in the SUV segment, ranging from ultra-efficient hybrids and plug-in electric vehicles to high performance, supercharged V8s. The 2021 model year brought the arrival of some exciting new SUVs like the Cadillac Escalade, the Ford Bronco Sport, the Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat and the Ford Mustang Mach E. There are also model year upgrades for some of the bestselling vehicles in the United States, including the Honda CR-V, the Toyota RAV4. There are even more new SUVs coming for 2022, including the Jeep Grand Wagoneer and the GMC Hummer EV.
If you are looking for the best small SUV, there is a deep pool of contenders. Two of the most notable small SUVs are the Toyota RAV4 and the Honda CR-V, each of which are among the top five bestselling vehicles in the United States for 2020. There are plenty of other strong-selling vehicles on the list of the best small SUVs, including the Ford Escape, the Nissan Rogue, the Chevrolet Equinox, the Mazda CX-5 and the Jeep Cherokee. There are also some new models, including the Chevrolet Blazer.
If you are looking for the cheapest SUV, there are five 2021 SUVs that start under $20,000. The Ford EcoSport starts at $19,995, the Chevrolet Trailblazer starts at $19,000 and the Nissan Kicks starts at $19,070. The two cheapest SUVs in the U.S. market for 2021 are the Hyundai Venue, starting at $18,750 and the Kia Soul at $17,590.
Pros and Cons of SUVs
- Roomy passenger compartment with up to seven seats
- Large, adjustable cargo area
- Some models offer truck-like towing capabilities
- Four-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive offer go-anywhere capabilities and snow is no problem
- High seating positions lead to great visibility
- Many premium features at affordable prices
- Wide range of engine options, from hybrids to big V8s
- Lower fuel economy numbers than similarly sized sedans
- Larger vehicles are often harder on things like brake pads, leading to higher maintenance costs
- Higher-riding models may feel unstable at higher speeds
- Not as nimble as cars, especially in tight spaces
What's New in SUVs for 2021?
2021 is a big year for SUVs, with the arrival of some very hot, new models and new versions of long-running favorites in the segment. The new Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban came to market alongside the similarly related GMC Yukon and Yukon XL. The new Cadillac Escalade arrived as well, with all-new levels of premium luxury. For off-roading fans, 2021 brings about the arrival of the new Ford Bronco and Bronco Sport, but Ford is also attacking the all-electric SUV world with the Mustang Mach-E. The Hyundai Santa Fe, the Kia Sorento and the Nissan Rogue all got a new look for 2021. For those SUV fans who enjoy big performance, the Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat model joins the lineup as a 2021-only model with 710 horsepower.
Aston Martin DBXThe Aston Martin DBX marks the first-ever SUV from the British automaker, introducing European luxury and performance to the spacious layout of this high end family hauler. The exterior has been designed to showcase the overall look of the Aston Martin sports cars and the look fits an SUV well. The sharply sloping rear roofline gives the DBX more of a fastback look, so while it is an SUV, it has the silhouette of a larger sport wagon. The interior exactly what you would expect, with premium finishes and technology along with lots of space for passengers and cargo. The DBX is powered by a twin turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 with 542 horsepower being channeled to all four wheels by means of a 9-speed automatic transmission.
Chevrolet Tahoe and SuburbanThe Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban are both all-new for the 2021 model year, introducing the newest generation of the body-on-frame SUVs. On the outside, the Tahoe and Suburban are both larger, leading to more passenger space and cargo space on the inside. A new independent rear suspension system affords a smoother ride while power comes from the buyer’s choice of a diesel V6 or one of two gasoline V8s. The standard engine on most trim levels is the 5.3-liter V8 with 355 horsepower while a 6.2-liter V8 is standard on the new High Country model, offering 420 horsepower. The optional 3.0-liter diesel V6 offers a great mix of power and fuel economy, using the same 10-speed automatic transmission as the V8 engines. On the inside, both the Tahoe and Suburban offer a huge spread of interior features, ranging from the low-priced models with basic features to the loaded, high tech cabin of the premium models.
Mustang Mach EThe 2021 Ford Mustang Mach E technically hit dealerships late in 2020, but this year marks the widespread distribution of the all-electric, four-door crossover. Ford made some waves in the Mustang community in calling this four-door EV a Mustang, but even with the distinctly different shape, the Mach E offers exciting driving dynamics that you would expect from a Ford Mustang. The Mustang Mach E offers up to 305 miles of all-electric range while the GT model can sprint from a stop to 60 in just 3.5 seconds. Add in the roomy, high tech interior and you have the most interesting electric SUV to come to market in years.
Buick EnvisionThe Buick Envision is all-new for 2021 and with this new model comes a distinct shift to compete with European luxury models. The outside features an aggressive, high tech form with slim LED headlights leading the way for a low, wide stance that gives the Envision a very sporty look while a splash of chrome brings in the luxury feel. On the inside, there are standard nicities in all trim levels, but the top-of-the-line models will feature quilted leather and technology that comfortably rivals the best from Europe. All Buick Envision models are powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that sends 228 horsepower towards all four wheels by means of a 9-speed automatic transmission.
Cadillac EscaladeThe Cadillac Escalade has long-been the leading in American luxury SUVs, often rivaling the best from Europe. The 2021 Escalade introduces the fifth generation of the nameplate, showcasing a sharp, high tech exterior. The overall form of the Escalade remains the same, but streamlined LED lighting gives this big Cadillac a very modern look from all angles. On the inside, the Escalade features a long list of standard and optional luxury features, including premium surfaces, an elaborate infotainment system and a booming sound system. The 2021 Escalade is offered with either a 6.2-liter V8 that is carried over from 2020 or a 3.0-liter diesel V6 that is making its debut in the Cadillac SUV. One key feature of the new Escalade that allows it to stand apart from the crowd is the latest version of the General Motors Super Cruise autonomous driving system, which allows you to ride in the lap of luxury while you let the SUV do the driving.
The 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer follows the 2020 introduction of the new Blazer. The Trailblazer is a smaller, less expensive model, aimed at buyers who are looking to get SUV functionality at a low price point. The exterior styling is edgy and aggressive, with contrasting wheel flares that create an off-road-ready look. LED signature front and rear lighting give this compact SUV a sporty, premium look that should resonate well with younger buyers. The Trailblazer is powered by a pair of small engines, with the more powerful of the two being a 1.3-liter turbocharged mill that delivers 155 horsepower. The Trailblazer comes standard with front-wheel-drive and a continuously variable transmission while the optional all-wheel-drive models feature a 9-speed automatic transmission
Dodge Durango SRT HellcatThe Dodge brand has become known for high performance, supercharged engines and for the 2021 model year, the Durango is the latest vehicle to come in SRT Hellcat trim. The 2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat is the most powerful production SUV in the world, offering 710 horsepower, the all-wheel-drive SUV will sprint from a stop to 60 miles per hour in just 3.5 seconds. It will also run the quarter mile in just 11.5 seconds, making it the quickest stock SUV in the world. Best of all, unlike the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk with the same Hellcat Hemi, the Durango has three rows of seats, making this the most capable high performance SUV on the market. Of course, like all of the Dodge SRT models, the Hellcat Durango comes loaded-up inside, with leather sport seats, premium sound and a stunning new UConnect infotainment system.
Ford BroncoWhile component shortages have delayed dealership debut, the Ford Bronco is arguably one of the most anticipated vehicle debuts in many years. The Bronco returns to the lineup as a serious off-road machine, engineered to battle the Jeep Wrangler. Offered in both two- and four-door form, the new Ford SUV features an exterior design that draws inspiration from the classic Bronco, with removable doors and a removable top for complete open-air SUV driving. The standard Bronco engine is a turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder with 270 horsepower, but there is an optional turbocharged V6 with 310 horsepower. A 7-speed manual transmission is standard and a 10-speed automatic transmission is optional. Those who really want to spend lots of time off-roading will want to look into the Sasquatch package, which includes 17-inch beadlock wheels, electronic locking front and rear axles, a high-clearance suspension and the premium four-wheel-drive system.
Ford Bronco SportThe Ford Bronco Sport hit the streets in 2020 as a 2021 model, bringing the Bronco name back to dealerships for the first time in decades. The Bronco Sport is a smaller vehicle than the Bronco, offering off-road capabilities in a smaller, more budget-friendly package. The exterior styling of the Bronco Sport is a bit smoother and more modern-looking than the larger Bronco, but it is offered in a spread of bright colors with contrasting black trim that bolsters the sporty feel. On the inside, Bronco Sport features an impressive collection of technology in every trim level, with an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system that is standard on all models. The standard engine is a 1.5-liter mill that delivers 181 horsepower, but those who want more oomph will prefer the turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 250 horsepower.
Genesis GV80Genesis is the premium luxury brand of Hyundai and for 2021, they are getting into the premium SUV battle with the new GV80. This roomy SUV showcases the aggressive, premium styling that has been found on all Genesis models, with lots of LED lighting and chrome trim. On the inside, the Genesis GV80 screams premium luxury, with premium leather, wood, metal and a large infotainment screen that is tucked neatly into the dash cap. Three rows of seating allows space for up to 6 people. The Genesis GV80 comes standard with a turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder that offers 300 horsepower, but the optional turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 packs 375 horsepower. Rear-wheel-drive is standard, but all-wheel-drive is optional and all models are engineered to deliver an enjoyable driving experience.
Jeep Grand Cherokee LThe Jeep Grand Cherokee L was introduced as the first in the model’s history to feature three rows of seating. The “L” refers to the longer wheelbase of the first-ever three-row Grand Cherokee, but the extra length and added seating is only a small part of this story. This is an all-new model inside and out, with a bold, new exterior that takes styling cues from the Grand Wagoneer Concept. On the inside, the Grand Cherokee L will offer premium features that will comfortably rival luxury brands, including the newest generation of the award-winning UConnect infotainment system. The only aspects of the Grand Cherokee L that aren’t new are the engine options, with the tried-and-true 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 and the 5.7-liter Hemi V8 providing the power.
GMC Yukon and Yukon XL
The GMC Yukon and Yukon XL are both all-new for the 2021 model year, arriving as part of the newest generation of the body-on-frame SUVs. On the outside, the 2021 Yukon models share a front end look with the GMC pickups, featuring distinct LED lighting on a very bold face. The larger exterior dimensions lead to a roomier interior, with a wide variety of standard and optional features for the various price classes. A new independent rear suspension system leads to a smoother ride while power comes from the buyer’s choice of a diesel V6 or two gasoline V8s. The first V8 is the 5.3-liter mill with 355 horsepower while the optional 6.2-liter V8 offers 420 horsepower. The optional 3.0-liter diesel V6 offers monstrous torque with excellent fuel economy and all three of these engines use the same 10-speed automatic gearbox.
See Also: 2021 GMC Yukon Unveiled
Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392Jeep fans have been begging for a Wrangler with a V8 for years and for 2021, the Trail Rated brand has answered the call. Introduced earlier this year, the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 is powered by the 392-cubic inch V8 from the SRT vehicles, delivering 470 horsepower in the new off-road machine. This is the most powerful and quickest Wrangler ever, with the V8 power needed to tackle the toughest obstacles. In addition to the V8 engine, the Wrangler Rubicon 392 comes with all of the toughest off-road suspension and chassis bits that the Trail Rated brand has to offer, making this the ultimate factory-built mud slinger.
Kia SeltosThe Kia Seltos is the newest SUV from the Korean automaker and like most of the brand’s models, this small sport utility vehicle includes lots of premium content at a less-than-premium price. On the outside, the Seltos has aggressive signature lighting across the front and rear, with an array of contrasting black trim pieces bolstering the sporty, rugged look. On the inside, all Seltos models come with touchscreen infotainment systems, but Kia offers an impressive 10.3-inch infotainment screen that rivals the layout in many high-priced luxury vehicles. The standard engine in the Kia Seltos is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder that offers 146 horsepower, mated to a continuously variable transmission. Those drivers who want more can opt for the turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder mill with 175 horsepower, which comes with a traditional 7-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel-drive is standard on all models, but all-wheel-drive is optional.
Kia SorentoThe Kia Sorento is all-new for 2021 and the mid-sized SUV takes an all-new approach at passenger hauling. This new Sorento has a more muscular form, looking more like a rugged SUV with LED lighting front and rear that presents a very upscale look. On the inside, the new Sorento offers a long list of premium features, including a 10.3-inch infotainment screen that is hard to beat in this segment. That big screen is optional, but an 8-inch screen is standard, so every model has a well-appointed cabin. There are three drivetrain options for the 2021 Sorento, all of which are built around a four-cylinder engine. The base engine is a 2.5-liter mill that offers 191 horsepower, but there is an optional turbocharged engine with 281 horsepower, both of which come with an 8-speed automatic transmission. There is also a hybrid package that includes a turbocharged 1.6-liter engine and a total system output of 177 horsepower.
SEE ALSO: 2021 Kia Sorento Review: First Drive
Mercedes-Benz GLAThe Mercedes-Benz GLA is all-new for 2021, but it looks a great deal like the previous version, combining the driving dynamics of a hatchback with the interior space of an SUV. The exterior has only been mildly refreshed, but on the inside, there is more space along with the long list of luxury features that you would expect from a modern Mercedes-Benz. This includes several different screen layouts, starting with a pair of 7-inch screens; one for the gauge cluster and one for the infotainment system. Buyers can opt up to a 7-inch gauge cluster with a 10.25-inch infotainment display or a pair of 10.25-inch screens. The 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA is powered by a new 2.0-liter engine that delivers 221 horsepower, but those who want more performance can opt up to the AMG GLA 35. This model comes with the same engine, but it is modified to deliver 302 horsepower with an 8-speed AMG dual clutch gearbox and all-wheel-drive.
Nissan RogueThe 2021 Nissan Rogue features a sharp new exterior design with styling cues borrowed from the 2018 X-Motion Concept. This new body is quite a bit more muscular, with sharply angled headlights that create a very sporty look while a copious amount of chrome gives the Rogue an upscale feel. The roomy cabin features new levels of technology, including improved safety systems and the selectable drive mode system with five distinct settings. All 2021 Nissan Rogue models are powered by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that delivers 181 horsepower with help from a continuously variable transmission. Front-wheel-drive is standard, but all-wheel-drive is optional on all Rogue models.
SEE ALSO: 2021 Nissan Rogue Review: First Drive
Toyota VenzaThe Toyota Venza is all-new, introducing a far more SUV-like format for the 2021 model year. Whereas the previous Venza was based on the Camry, offering minivan-like driving dynamics, this new Venza has more of an SUV stance, but the appearance is not the big story here. The new Venza is only offered as an all-wheel-drive hybrid across all trim levels. The combination of the 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and a pair of electric motors leads to a total system output of 219 horsepower. In terms of interior technology, the Venza makes a big leap here as well. An 8-inch touchscreen infotainment display is standard on the LE models, but higher-priced models come with a 7-inch gauge cluster screen as well. On the top-of-the-line Limited, a 12.3-inch infotainment screen is standard, offering a very premium look and feel.
SEE ALSO: 2021 Toyota Venza Review: First Drive
What's Coming in SUVs in 2022?
Cadillac Lyriq: The Cadillac brand plans to go all-electric in the near future and the first step towards that effort is the 2022 Lyriq. This roomy, all-electric crossover is expected to offer enjoyable driving dynamics and a cabin chock full of premium amenities, all wrapped up in a sleek, stylish package. This model was originally planned for debut in the United States in 2021, but the global pandemic pushed the launch back to 2022.
GMC Hummer EV: General Motors is reincarnating the Hummer brand for 2022, but with a very different approach. Rather than a massive, gas-guzzling SUV based on a military design, the new Hummer is an all-electric, convertible pickup with up to a thousand horsepower. Right now, the company only has a concept, but when the production version arrives next year, the Hummer brand could bring about a new era of electrified vehicles for the United States.
Jeep Grand Wagoneer: The 2022 model year will mark the return of the legendary Jeep Grand Wagoneer. The Grand Wagoneer was the original luxury SUV in the 1980s, introducing premium features that had previously been unavailable in a sport utility vehicle. The new Grand Wagoneer will follow that form, with the concept featuring an incredible list of premium interior amenities from front to rear. This includes four large screens on the dashboard, three more large screens for the second row and a premium sound system that is unrivaled by any SUV in the world. The Grand Wagoneer Concept is a hybrid, but when the production models arrive next year, we expect a mix of traditional drivetrains in addition to the hybrid.
View All SUV Reviews Recent SUV Reviews
Chevrolet Trax vs Buick Encore: GM Compact SUVs Square Off
While compact SUVs have gotten smaller over the years, making room for new models slotted below the mid-sized SUVs, the segment has grown a great deal.
read full story
Acura MDX vs Lexus RX: Which Japanese Luxury Crossover is Right For You?
When we say that the competition in the crossover market is stiff, we don’t mean that it’s tough only in the compact to mid-size and affordable class.
read full story
Toyota RAV4 vs Toyota Venza: A Boxy and Practical Crossover, or A Stylish and Luxurious One?
Like many automakers, Toyota is continuing to expand its SUV and crossover offerings so that it can appeal to as many different types of vehicle buyers as possible.
read full story
2022 Volkswagen Taos Review: Second Drive
Volkswagen does not want you to call this a sub-compact crossover.
read full story
2022 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross Review: Better, But Too Rich
There’s an important rule that applies to both cars and clothing: never skimp on what touches the ground.
read full story
Jeep Cherokee vs Ford Edge: Off-Road Traction or Paved-Road Performance, Which SUV Is For You?
The car-based crossover SUVs that dominate today’s new-vehicle marketplace were never intended to replace off-road trucks and utilities, but a market is emerging nonetheless for crossovers that can handle some rough going.
read full story
View All Videos Recent SUV Videos
Top 10 Best Future Cars – The Short ListUnquestionably, the automotive industry is one of the most dynamic in the world. New vehicles are constantly under development by manufacturers.
- 2020 Subaru Outback Review More advanced, refined and capable, the 2020 Subaru Outback is better than ever.
- Top 10 Best-Selling Cars – The Short List It’s hard to believe more than 50 percent of 2019 is already gone. Where does the time go?
- 2020 Lincoln Aviator Review – VIDEO Would you ever consider owning a Lincoln?
- Top 10 Best Family Cars – The Short List There’s a car out there for every family
View All SUV News Recent SUV News
2022 Toyota Corolla Cross First Look: A Corolla On Stilts Or Something More?
Now along with a hatch, a sedan, and a special edition, the Corolla will be sold as a crossover as well.
read full story
2022 Infiniti QX60 First Look and Preview
The QX60 gets a complete overhaul after eight years in production
read full story
2022 Porsche Macan Range Adds More Power and Tech
Macan S and GTS now use the same 2.9-liter turbo V6; Turbo model is gone (for now).
read full story
2022 Jeep Compass Hides Revamped Interior With Tweaked Styling
Jeep’s little crossover gets a seriously swanky interior makeover for 2022.
read full story
2022 Infiniti QX60 Commands A Premium Starts From $47,875
Prices in Canada start from $54,995.
read full story
2022 Infiniti QX60 Debuts With Evolutionary Styling, Overhauled Interior
The 2022 Infiniti QX60’s design is inspired by the Monograph concept from last year.
read full story