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Buyer’s Guide: The Best SUVs On The Market In 2021

Hanna Kielar12-minute read
UPDATED: December 12, 2022


Are you looking for an SUV that fits your lifestyle? With so many vehicles to choose from, it can be difficult to find the 2021 SUV model that is right for you. This guide reviews the best SUVs from 2021 to make it easier for you to narrow down your choices.

When putting together the following list of the best SUVs of 2021, we considered key factors including value, technology, cost of ownership, safety and functionality. We also referenced consumer and industry reviews by the U.S. News & World Report and Kelley Blue Book.

Table Of Contents

    The Best SUVs For 2021

    The best-rated SUVs for 2021 offer impressive value, capability and luxury. You can’t go wrong with the Kia Telluride, BMW X3 or Ford Mustang Mach-E.

    1. Kia Telluride

    Best For: Families

    MPG: 20 city | 26 highway

    Rating: 9.4

    The 2021 Kia Telluride was ranked the best 3-row SUV by U.S. News & World Report and received Kelly Blue Book’s Best Buy Award. It offers seating for up to eight, an impressive infotainment system and standard equipment package.

    The Kia Drive Wise safety package includes lane-keeping assist, safe exit assist, forward collision avoidance and a GPS-based smart cruise control system.The Kia Telluride is also the best-rated SUV of 2021 in our three-row category, making it a prime candidate as a family car.

    2. BMW X3

    Best For: Performance and handling 

    MPG: 25 city | 29 highway 

    Rating: 8.9 

    The 2021 BMW X3 is powerful with an available 473 horsepower engine option along with a plug-in hybrid option. Beyond the infotainment industry standard features like iDrive, the X3 also responds to hand gestures in a move to help drivers to keep their eyes on the road. The X3 offers plenty of technology and the available all-wheel drive allows it to handle the road in all weather conditions.The BMW X3 is also our top pick for Best Luxury SUV.

    3. Ford Mustang Mach-E

    Best For: Technology, low cost of ownership and utility 

    MPG: 93-101 MPGe 

    Rating: 8.5 

    The 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E is a new entry to the electric and hybrid SUV segment boasting a sleek and sporty design, 211 to 305 miles of long drive range and the Co-Pilot360 Assist 2.0, which automates every city driver’s pain point: bumper-to-bumper traffic. 

    User reviews highly praised its plastic front truck (frunk) that comes with a drain plug, allowing campers and sports enthusiasts alike to store their dirtiest, smelliest gear that requires a hose to clean it out. It received the Car and Driver EV of the Year Award and was chosen as a Top Safety Pick by the IIHS, making it one of the best new SUVs of 2021.The Ford Mustang Mach-E is also our winner in the Best SUVs for Gas Mileage category.

    Best Value SUVs

    When searching for the best value in SUVs from 2021, we considered the initial price, cost of ownership and value retention for each vehicle. The Ford EcoSport, Hyundai Kona and Chevrolet Trailblazer take the cake.

    1. Ford EcoSport 

    Best For: Low cost of ownership

    MPG: 27 city | 29 highway 

    Rating: 7.1 

    The Ford EcoSport offers standard Intelligent 4WD, ambient lighting and Ford Co-Pilot™. You can seat up to five inside and it offers enhanced connectivity through its available voice-activated infotainment and navigation system. It gets almost as many miles per gallon in the city as it does on the highway. These safety and technology features offer impressive value in a smaller package. 

    2. Hyundai Kona 

    Best For: Safety

    MPG: 28 city | 32 highway 

    Rating: 7.1 

    The 2021 Hyundai Kona received a 5-star safety rating from the NHTSA and is considered the Best Buy among subcompact SUVs by Kelley Blue Book. Its standard Hyundai SmartSense system includes a forward collision avoidance system, driver detection warning, lane-keeping assist and blind-spot collision warning. It also offers a heads-up display and smart cruise control. 

    3. Chevrolet Trailblazer 

    Best For: Teenagers 

    MPG: 29 city | 33 highway 

    Rating: 6.7

    The 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer offers value with its standard safety features and connective technology. Few vehicles come with a factory-installed Amazon Alexa feature, but the Chevrolet Trailblazer base with the technology package is one of them. This value car also comes with some user experience features such as a touchscreen infotainment system that is canted back with a built-in visor to keep out sunlight glare. The Trailblazer is one of the best cars for teenagers with its teen driver technology that allows you to monitor your child’s driving behavior and place limits on what they can do behind the wheel. 

    Best Luxury SUVs

    When shopping for the best luxury SUV, you want value for your money. Comfort, technology and space are what make a luxury SUV stand out among its competitors.

    1. BMW X3

    Best For: Infotainment System

    MPG: 25 city | 29 highway

    Rating: 8.9

    The 2021 BMW X3 is loaded with safety features and technology that’s easy to use. It offers plenty of interior space, and the onboard infotainment system is now compatible with Android Auto. It offers standard sport seats with perforated upholstery that’s both comfortable and easy to maintain. BMW’s Ultimate Care Program also reduces the cost of ownership by covering maintenance for the first 3 years or 36,000 miles.

    2. Mercedes-Benz GLE

    Best For: Autonomous Safety Features  

    MPG: 21 city | 26 highway 

    Rating: 8.5 

    The 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLE is a powerful vehicle offering economy and comfort. It seats up to five people with luxurious headspace and an interior made with high-quality materials. The infotainment system includes an AI experience that will tell you where to find the best sushi in town and guide you there while avoiding traffic with its Traffic Detection System. An available third-row seating option makes it possible to seat an additional two people, and the GLE has up to 74.9 cubic feet of storage space when the seats are folded. 

    3. Cadillac Escalade

    Best For: Futuristic Technology 

    MPG: 14 city | 19 highway 

    Rating: 7.6 

    The 2021 Cadillac Escalade has more space than prior model years — enough to maintain 6 feet of social distance between front and backseat passengers — and offers a tremendous amount of cargo space. Its improved suspension enhances handling and makes the ride smoother and more luxurious while Super Cruise adds an autonomous driving feature. Safety features include enhanced automatic braking, automatic seat belt tightening and side blind zone alert.

    Arguably, the most high-tech component of the Escalade is its augmented reality navigation system that visualizes your next turn, which lane to be in, and even pinpoints your destination in real time.

    Best Compact SUVs

    When looking for the best compact SUV, fuel economy, functionality and utility are all important things to consider. The Mazda CX-5, Hyundai Tucson and Honda CR-V all rank for both Consumer Reports and IIHS.

    1. Mazda CX-5

    Best For: Handling

    MPG: 25 city | 31 highway

    Rating: 8.5

    The 2021 Mazda CX-5 now offers Android Auto and Apple CarPlay as standard features. Optional driver attention monitoring system and reverse automatic braking make it one of the safest SUVs in the crossover segment. The CX-5 is recommended by Consumer Reports and received the Top Safety Pick from the IIHS and a 5-star overall rating from the NHTSA. 

    2. Hyundai Tucson

    Best For: Safety

    MPG: 26 city | 33 highway

    Rating: 8.0

    The 2021 Hyundai Tucson offers comfortable seating for up to five people and optional premium materials for the interior that add both luxury and value. U.S. News & World Report rated the 2021 Tucson 9.9/10 for safety due to its comprehensive standard safety package, and it earned #1 in Quality from J.D. Power. Standard safety features include forward collision avoidance, blind-spot monitoring and lane-keeping assist.

    3. Honda CR-V

    Best For: Cargo Capacity

    MPG: 28 city | 34 highway

    Rating: 7.6

    The 2021 Honda CR-V offers excellent fuel economy, low cost of ownership and a standard Honda Sensing bundle of automated safety features. It also offers plenty of space for passengers to stretch out and up to 39.2 cubic feet of cargo space. You can fold down the rear seats with a single lever pull to increase storage capacity to 75.8 cubic feet. It received the award for Best Compact SUV for the money from U.S. News & World Report and the Best Buy Award from Kelly Blue Book.

    Best Midsize SUVs

    The best midsize SUV offers the ideal balance of functionality, passenger space and safety. Look no further than the Hyundai Santa Fe, Subaru Outback and Toyota Venza for fuel efficiency and adventure.

    1. Hyundai Santa Fe

    Best For: All-Season Drivers

    MPG: 25 city | 28 highway

    Rating: 9.0

    The 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe comes with all-wheel drive (AWD) on both its standard and hybrid models. The material strength of the car and new integration of the navigation system and automated safety features earned this car a “Top Safety Pick” by the IIHS. Drivers especially appreciate the remote temperature control features which allow you to cool down or heat up your car straight from your phone.

    2. Subaru Outback

    Best For: Outdoor Enthusiasts

    MPG: 26 city | 33 highway

    Rating: 8.7

    All seven trims of the 2021 Subaru Outback come with standard symmetrical AWD and Subaru's EyeSight® Driver Assist Technology, which Subaru claims has reduced injuries in rear-end crashes by up to 85%. A simple push of the X-MODE button will maximize traction on slippery surfaces and Hill Descent control. The 8.7 inches of ground clearance and X-MODE make this SUV unparalleled for its class.

    3. Toyota Venza 

    Best For: Fuel Economy 

    MPG: 40 city | 37 highway 

    Rating: 7.6 

    The 2021 Toyota Venza has returned after a 6-year hiatus. Standard all-wheel drive, hybrid technology and a premium interior make it a well-rounded midsize SUV. The available infotainment system offers connectivity through Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and passengers have four USB ports and a phone charger to connect their devices to. 

    Best Full-Size SUVs

    The best full-size SUV offers power, utility and comfort for large families. The Ford Expedition, Chevrolet Tahoe, and GMC Yukon can tow along the whole family and then some.

    1. Ford Expedition

    Best For: Road Tripping

    MPG: 17 city | 22 city 

    Rating: 8.0 

    The 2021 Ford Expedition comes with superior passenger and cargo space and a premium sound and infotainment system. You can seat up to eight people or opt for a two-row trim if you’d like to get the most available cargo space. And with the optional Towing Package, the Expedition can tow up to 9,300 pounds.

    2. Chevrolet Tahoe 

    Best For: Cargo Space 

    MPG: 16 city | 20 highway 

    Rating: 7.6 

    The 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe is redesigned to offer superior passenger space and comfort, reaching up to 122.9 cubic feet of space when the second and third rows are folded flat. On top of that, it includes a glass rear hatch that enables you to open the rear window and allow room for more bulky, longer items. It was ranked a Best Family Car by Kelley Blue Book and received the Editor’s Choice Award from Car and Driver for Large SUVs. The 2021 Tahoe boasts improved handling, more cargo space and an intuitive infotainment system. 

    3. GMC Yukon 

    Best For: Passenger Comfort

    MPG: 14 city | 19 highway 

    Rating: 7.1 

    The 2021 GMC Yukon offers an improved suspension for a more comfortable ride and additional passenger space over previous years. Its new infotainment system includes an unprecedented 12.6 inch rear-entertainment screen and every occupant has an available USB port to charge their devices. The Yukon can carry up to a whopping nine passengers, who will appreciate their separate infotainment system.

    Best All-Wheel-Drive SUVs

    The best all-wheel-drive SUV offers utility and handles well both on and off the road. The Subaru Forester, Mazda CX-9 and Kia Sportage can outperform all-weather obstacles.

    1. Subaru Forester 

    Best For: Safety

    MPG: 26 city | 33 highway 

    Rating: 8.0 

    The 2021 Subaru Forester earned a 5-star safety rating from the NHTSA. It’s safety features include standard adaptive cruise control, emergency braking and lane-keeping assist. It also boasts a robust infotainment system and the ability to tow up to 1,500 pounds. 

    2. Mazda CX-9

    Best For: Comfort

    MPG: 20 city | 25 highway

    Rating: 8.4

    The 2021 Mazda CX-9 can be fitted with its top-performing i-Activ AWD system for an additional $1,900 (AWD is included in the Signature trim). The variety of comfort features makes the Mazda stand out among AWD counterparts. Backseat passengers enjoy two USB ports, built-in sun shades and plenty of storage when the third row is folded down.

    3. Kia Sportage 

    Best For: Affordability

    MPG: 23 city | 30 highway 

    Rating: 8.1 

    The 2021 Kia Sportage provides an affordable option in the AWD space, with a $1,500-$1,700 increase in price for the feature. Every Sportage comes with heated front seats, a power-operated liftgate and dual-zone climate control.

    If you want a bit more luxury, consider the EX trim for its wireless charging features, panoramic sunroof, adaptive cruise control and heated steering wheel. The Sportage earned a five out of five stars NHTSA for safety and passengers agree on its roominess and comfort.

    Best SUVs For Gas Mileage

    If you’re looking for a hybrid SUV, the Ford Mustang Mach-E, Toyota RAV4 Hybrid and Toyota Highlander Hybrid are the best in the industry.

    1. Ford Mustang Mach-E

    Best For: Technology, safety and sporty design 

    MPG: 93-101 MPGe 

    Rating: 8.5 

    The 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E is an all-electric SUV (not a hybrid) that boasts superior power and handling. It delivers an impressive technology package and award-winning safety features that earned its spot in the top three Best SUVs we recommend. 

    2. Toyota RAV4 Hybrid 

    Best For: Smooth Ride 

    MPG: 41 city | 38 highway 

    Rating: 8.0 

    The 2021 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid is well-loved by consumers for its powertrain, smooth ride and low road noise. The hybrid is even faster than the gas model, with a 7.4-second 0 – 60 mph time, compared to the gas-only model’s 8 seconds. Plus, the RAV4 Hybrid comes standard with AWD, enabling a smoother ride on rockier surfaces.

    3. Toyota Highlander Hybrid 

    Best For: People Hauling 

    MPG: 36 city | 35 highway 

    Rating: 7.6 

    The 2021 Toyota Highlander Hybrid is a good option for those who need an extra third row and want to maintain lower fuel consumption. It seats up to eight people, but you can replace the standard second row with captain’s chairs to create easier access for a total of seven passengers. The NHTSA rates the 2021 model an overall five-star rating. 

    Best 3-Row SUVs

    The best 3-row SUVs offer plenty of passenger space and the entertainment features to keep passengers happy. Consider the Kia Telluride, our overall top pick, the Hyundai Palisade and Honda Pilot as you’re car shopping.

    1. Kia Telluride 

    Best For: Towing 

    MPG: 20 city | 26 highway 

    Rating: 9.4 

    The 2021 Kia Telluride boasts an intuitive infotainment system, seats up to eight and has a wide array of luxury options to consider. The Telluride earned our Best SUV overall win and for good reason. While it can’t compete with the Toyota Highlander Hybrid in fuel consumption, it can tow up to 5,000 pounds compared to the Highlander’s 3,500.

    2. Hyundai Palisade

    Best For: Family Entertainment 

    MPG: 19 city | 26 highway 

    Rating: 8.0 

    The 2021 Hyundai Palisade has a comfortable interior cabin that boasts ten large cup holders on all doors and 45.8 cubic feet of cargo space available with the third row folded down. When we say the Palisade is best for family entertainment, we mean that you can drive more safely with a driver talk-in intercom which connects to the rear speaker system. When the family is sleeping, you can set a sleep mode which will quiet the rear speaker system and allow for more targeted music listening.

    3. Honda Pilot 

    Best For: Storage

    MPG: 19 city | 26 highway 

    Rating: 7.6 

    The 2021 Honda Pilot is a versatile and efficient SUV with plenty of creative storage solutions. It seats up to eight and offers an infotainment system with in-car Wi-Fi, navigation and rear cabin temperature control. 

    Which SUV Should I Buy?

    Factors that you should consider before purchasing an SUV include your lifestyle, where you live, your family size and how you intend to use your vehicle. Consider what's most important, such as safety, cost of ownership, utility and off-road capability.

    New Vs. Used SUVs

    You may be considering whether it’s a better idea to purchase a used vehicle with low mileage instead of a brand-new vehicle. You could save thousands with this strategy. The average new vehicle depreciation in the first 3 years is over 38% and accounts for more than a third of annual vehicle ownership costs. Learn more about buying a used car in our handy guide.  

    The Bottom Line

    SUVs have grown in popularity in the United States, and with that demand has come a wide variety of supply. Whether you’re looking for value or luxury, towing potential or fuel efficiency, you have plenty of options. Consider how much you’re willing to pay for that new car smell and how many more features you can afford with a used vehicle. Stay focused on the primary reason you’re considering an SUV and how well it fits your lifestyle.

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    Hanna Kielar

    Hanna Kielar is a Section Editor for Rocket Auto℠, RocketHQ℠, and Rocket Loans® with a focus on personal finance, automotive, and personal loans. She has a B.A. in Professional Writing from Michigan State University.