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Best 2021 SUVs in Canada: Our 12 Top Picks

If you’re in the market for a used 2021 SUV or crossover, here are some top picks to consider. Including 4 top luxury models with premium features, 4 top compact picks with great value and style, and 4 top hybrid SUVs for families looking to save money at the pump:

We’re willing to bet you a large double-double from Timmie’s that, if you’re shopping for a new set of wheels, there are one or more sport utility vehicles on your list. If we’re wrong, we were simply playing the odds. In Canada, and elsewhere in the world, SUVs roughly account for half or more of all new vehicle sales every year.

If the sales numbers aren’t convincing enough, the simple fact that automakers are slowly pulling out of car segments all the while introducing new SUVs should settle the debate. As such, there are dozens upon dozens of different new SUVs to select from, priced from about $20,000 to more than ten times that amount for sale in Canada.

The following three lists cover some of the more popular segments as well our top hybrid picks. With the price of a litre of gasoline nationally hovering around the $2-mark (at time of writing), interest in fuel-efficient hybrid vehicles has never been higher.

Here are our top fours pics in each category:

4 Best Luxury 2021 SUVs

2021 BMW X5

Photo: BMW 

Who is this for? Drivers and technology enthusiasts who happen to spend weekends on soccer pitches or in Costco parking lots.

Why we like it:

  • The X5’s is one of the more entertaining and rewarding sport luxury SUVs available for purchase
  • Its well-appointed cabin is roomy with a large trunk and plenty of space for five passengers
  • There are many powertrain options including a bonkers-powerful X5 M iteration with a staggering 600 horsepower as well as a plug-in hybrid variant

The BMW X5 was one of the first truly premium performance SUVs sold in Canada. In just over 20 years, BMW has honed its on-road skills and abilities to a degree that it matches many sports cars.

Depending on trim and budget, the X5 can be fitted with mild-hybrid engine technology, a wonderful turbocharged inline-6-cylinder engine, or one of two V8s. No matter the version, the X5 handles impressively well allowing passionate drivers to feel as though they’ve not sacrificed the driving experience for a larger trunk.

On the subject of size, the BMW X5’s generously portioned cabin offers plenty of space and comfort. BMW uses top-tier materials and plenty of attention to detail to make every X5 as good as it needs to be.

Visually, the X5 has become the face of BMW and it is positively handsome. No matter the selected trim, the X5 looks premium and powerful. And thanks to a number of options and numerous available colours, it can also be tailored to your specific wants and needs. 

2021 Cadillac Escalade 

Photo: Cadillac 

Who is this for? Families, businessmen, entrepreneurs, or anyone else that is seeking one of the most luxurious full-size SUVs in the country.

Why we like it:

  • Its level of sophisticated technologies and luxury features is matched only by its capabilities
  • On that topic, it can tow up to 8,000 lbs and the ESV version’s trunk is larger and more comfortable than some Toronto apartments
  • The latest generation is more refined than any before it

The Cadillac Escalade is a status symbol. In the past, it was little more than a rebadged Chevrolet Tahoe but the new Escalade benefits from unique styling elements as well as an incredible 38-inch curved OLED display.

The flagship Cadillac SUV also features the finest materials and seriously state-of-the-art technologies such as Super Cruise and Night Vision. It’s also massively roomy, and this applies to the regular wheelbase version. The ESV, also known as the long wheelbase iteration, is essentially a rolling ultra-luxurious downtown Toronto 3-bedroom condo. 

Beyond its majestic appearance and stately demeanour, the Escalade is extremely good to drive. Part and parcel of this is the Four-Corner Air Ride Adaptive suspension with Magnetic Ride Control dampers. Thanks to this combination, the big Caddy is smooth and quiet, much like its main rival, the Lincoln Navigator, we compared here

Powering the beast is one of the creamiest V8 engines in the business. The 6.2-litre unit is aurally notable and happy to get things moving. Cadillac’s done a rare thing with the Escalade and offers a Duramax turbo diesel 3.0-litre inline-6-cylinder engine that is as powerful as it is efficient.

Here’s our look at the entire Cadillac SUV lineup.

2021 Genesis GV80

Photo: Genesis 

Who is this for? Discerning buyers who expect the best of everything, from technology to performance, and who are not bothered by logos.

Why we like it:

  • The Genesis brand’s image has rocketed and so far, they’ve delivered nothing short of excellence
  • The GV80 is assembled with care using the finest materials, and it shows
  • No other premium SUV offers such a strong value quotient mixed in with performance and technologies

Genesis has done the unthinkable and stuck it to the established premium German automakers. Based on design alone, the GV80 is not only a unique-looking SUV but designers were bold and skilled enough to give it a distinct and instantly recognizable style that leaves no one indifferent.

Climbing aboard reveals more elements of design that are unexpected in a vehicle that starts under the $75,000 mark. The materials and craftsmanship along with standard features such as a 14.5-inch display, a heated steering wheel, heated seats in both rows, and a power tailgate, impress, surprise, and please. Higher trims get genuine woodgrain trim, a suede headliner, Nappa leather, and more.

On the road, the remarkable Genesis GV80 continues to well, impress. The “base” models get a turbocharged 300 horsepower and 311 lb.-ft. of torque 2.5-litre 4-cylinder. Others are fitted with a potent twin-turbocharged 375 horsepower and 391 lb.-ft. of torque 3.5-litre V6. AWD is standard meaning the premium SUV is perfectly adapted to Canadian driving conditions.

For something a little smaller, here’s our full review of the 2022 Genesis GV70 3.5T Sport

2021 Lexus RX

Photo: Lexus 

Who is this for? Anyone shopping for a true unpretentious luxury SUV will find everything they are looking for in this midsize SUV.

Why we like it:

  • It is a truly comfortable and luxurious vehicle
  • Available powertrains include an extremely refined and efficient hybrid alternative
  • An “L” version is offered with three rows of seating

The Lexus RX is a pioneer among premium SUVs. Launched in the late 1990s, it quickly swayed luxury vehicle buyers with its unique design, legendary Lexus quality, and the promise of fuel efficiency thanks to its hybrid powertrains.

It continues to be one of the best-selling luxury SUVs, which is a clear indication that massive power, off-road capabilities, or extra-hefty price tags are not indicative of a luxurious experience. Depending on trims and features, the cabin is loaded with a 12.3-inch touchscreen, rich and supple premium leather everywhere, and plenty of room and amenities for all onboard. 

Taking to the road is always a cosseting experience. No matter if the RX is powered by the smooth-operating 295 horsepower 3.5-litre V6 or the same engine mated to Lexus’ Hybrid drive technology and electronically Controlled Continuously Variable Transmission (eCVT), drives will never seem long again. As well, with the latter powertrain, fuel efficiency ranges between 8L and 9L per 100km, or better than some compact SUVs.

If you’re shopping for a luxury SUV, also take a look at our other popular story: Best Luxury SUVs in Canada: Our 12 Top Picks

 

4 Best Compact 2021 SUVs

2021 Honda CR-V

Photo: Honda 

Who is this for? The CR-V is the go-to compact SUV for active families looking for Honda quality, reliability, and plenty of room for everything and everyone.

Why we like it:

  • The driving experience is always satisfying
  • It offers one of the largest trunks in the segment
  • Details like rear doors that open up almost 90 degrees matter to Honda and its customers

The Honda CR-V has been one of Canada’s best-selling SUVs for a number of years. The reasons are simple: Honda’s compact SUV delivers value, safety, and generous amounts of space for busy Canadian families.

The standard for all turbocharged 1.5-litre 4-cylinder engine produces a surprising 190 horsepower and 179 lb.-ft. of torque that, along with the included Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT), provide plenty of power to get around town or to head out to the cottage. The available Real-Time AWD system is efficient and well adapted to snowy Canadian roads.

The list of included features holds heated front seats, a 7-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as numerous active safety features. Upper trims will throw in a power hatch, leather upholstery, and many more luxury niceties.

The Honda CR-V is a real winner for many reasons including its massive trunk. At 1,110 litres or 39.2 cubic feet, it is one of the largest in the segment, more generous than many midsize SUVs to boot.

2021 Mazda CX-5

Photo: Mazda 

Who is this for? For families and outdoor enthusiasts looking for a premium product without paying the price.

Why we like it:

  • It is a very attractive SUV
  • The turbocharged 2.5-litre engine has loads of power
  • Its i-Activ AWD is surprisingly capable

The Mazda CX-5 is a premium SUV that is not priced like a premium SUV. One need not dig too deep to understand why it’s considered high-end. Its exterior shell is elegant while the cabin is replete with clean upscale surfaces.

The standard naturally aspirated 187 horsepower 2.5-litre 4-cylinder engine has everything it needs to get the job done. However, the available turbocharged 2.5-litre 4-cylinder engine and its 227 horsepower (250 horsepower with 93-octane fuel) transforms the Mazda SUV into a rocket. The included 6-speed automatic transmission and optional AWD system combine for a surefooted and refined driving experience.

From the base model, the CX-5 is delivered with an 8-inch infotainment display which features Mazda Connect. Moving up the trim ladder will add amenities such as a power liftgate, wireless Apple CarPlay, Bose audio, navigation, garnet red Nappa leather, and a 10-way power driver’s seat.

A top-trim GT or Signature effortlessly rivals premium German offerings. 

2021 Subaru Crosstrek

Photo: Subaru 

Who is this for? Adventure seekers who prefer the styling and rugged good looks of a utility vehicle that is not a classic or typical SUV.

Why we like it:

  • It features Subaru’s legendary symmetrical AWD system
  • The Crosstrek is far more capable off-road than expected
  • Its styling is unique and sets it apart from all other utility vehicles

Subaru will forever be thankful to the person who thought to give the Impreza hatchback the Outback treatment. In some Provinces, the Crosstrek has become a volume leader for the Japanese automaker and it’s easy to understand why.

As the first modern Subaru product to be assembled on the brand’s global platform, the Crosstrek is at home on paved or unpaved roads. The suspension provides a generous amount of wheel travel, ideal for comfort and light off-roading. The powertrain options include 2.0-litre and 2.5-litre boxer 4-cylinder engines as well as a rare plug-in hybrid variant.

The basic level of equipment includes 17-inch wheels, automatic climate control, and a 6.5-inch touchscreen infotainment display. More features are tacked on as we move up the trim ladder. Look for a heated steering wheel, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, an 8-inch touchscreen, and leather seats.

The Outdoor iteration is especially interesting thanks to its unique cladding, special colours, and interior accents.

2021 Toyota RAV4

Photo: Toyota 

Who is this for? Families who want nothing less than everything in one vehicle without going broke.

Why we like it:

  • There are numerous trims and powertrains to select from
  • It is one of the most reliable vehicles in its segment
  • The hybrid and plug-in hybrid models are some of the most fuel-efficient SUVs available

The Toyota RAV4 is one of the segment’s pioneers and most desirable vehicles. Offered in numerous trims and with a number of powertrain options including two hybrids, there truly is a RAV4 for every buyer.

The entry-level RAV4 is powered by a naturally aspirated 203-horsepower 2.5-litre 4-cylinder engine, one of the most powerful base engines in the segment. Hybrid models benefit from an electrical boost for a total of 219 horsepower and standard AWD. The Prime, or plug-in hybrid model, is a powerhouse with all of 302 horsepower and an electric-only range of up to 68 km on a full charge.

The RAV4 can be fitted with a complete collection of features that includes 7.0- or 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment displays with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, wireless phone charging, Softex simulated leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, a heated steering wheel, a power liftgate, and much more.

The off-road-inspired Trail and TRD Off-Road iterations will please outdoor adventure seekers with its extra drive modes, unique wheels, and extra cladding.

 

4 Best Hybrid 2021 SUVs

2021 Ford Escape Hybrid

Photo: Ford 

Who is this for? Urban dwellers with a busy lifestyle that also involves fuel-efficient jaunts out in the countryside.

Why we like it:

  • It strikes a perfect balance between real-world performance and real-world fuel efficiency
  • The Escape’s road manners are quite good
  • The cabin is nicely appointed and well-equipped

To be honest, the Ford Escape has slipped slightly over the last decade when it comes to sales. Despite this, the hybrid version is an excellent way to combine space, creature comforts, and get great fuel mileage.

The Ford Escape hybrid is a relaxed all-season efficient compact SUV. Its Atkinson cycle 2.5-litre 4-cylinder engine and 88 kW electric motor, as part of the eCVT transmission, combine for a total system output of 200 horsepower. This is plenty enough get-up-and-go for highway cruising. Although it is offered as standard with FWD, the available AWD configuration improves overall driveability and has little to no impact on fuel consumption.

The Escape Hybrid is well equipped and includes a 6.5-inch touchscreen display with SYNC 3, keyless entry and start, and much more. Higher trim lines will throw in an 8-inch display, a power liftgate, a power driver’s seat, a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, and more.

Here’s our full take with drive impressions of the 2021 Escape Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV).

2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Hybrid

Photo: Hyundai 

Who is this for? Design- and efficiency-minded individuals or families looking for the latest in driving aid and infotainment technologies.

Why we like it:

  • Its styling is truly unique
  • The SUV offers a spacious cabin
  • The Hybrid is among the most fuel-efficient midsize 2-row SUVs in Canada

Hyundai rarely puts in half-efforts when developing, designing, and delivering new vehicles. The Santa Fe is one of the best-selling midsize SUVs in the country and the reasoning behind its success is simple to understand: For the price, buyers get innovative technologies, unique design, and an impressive amount of value.

In the Santa Fe hybrid, buyers and owners also get an advanced and spritely turbocharged 1.6-litre 4-cylinder engine mated to a hybrid-electric-tuned 6-speed automatic transmission. The total combined output is 226 horsepower and 258 lb.-ft. of torque which not only makes for an entertaining driving experience but that can average as little as 7.4L/100km.

The Santa Fe’s cabin is quite the premium affair. The Genesis-like look is enhanced by a plethora of features including an 8-inch touchscreen display, wireless Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and a heated steering wheel. Higher trims throw in a 12.3-inch digital instrument panel, wireless phone charging, heated rear and cooled front seats, and more.

2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe

Photo: Jeep 

Who is this for? True off-road adventurers who do not believe in limits and who also enjoy quiet rock-crawling strolls.

Why we like it:

  • It’s a Wrangler that can be driven for 35 km without any fuel
  • Nothing feels or generates as much off-roading passion as a Wrangler can
  • The plug-in hybrid 4xe technology gives this Wrangler some big power numbers

The Jeep Wrangler is one of the greatest living automotive legends. While it has evolved dramatically in roughly 80 years, the formula has always remained the same: The Wrangler is a rugged vehicle designed for serious to extremely serious off-roading adventures.

Of all its available powertrains, Jeep’s 4xe plug-in hybrid technology is quite possibly the best-suited ever to this vehicle. With its turbocharged 2.0-litre 4-cylinder engine that is mated to a pair of electric motors, this Wrangler benefits from an impressive 375 horsepower and 470 lb.-ft. of torque. Although the output numbers make for a quick Jeep, it’s the 4xe’s 17.3 kWh battery that renders this Jeep eco-friendly.

When it is fully charged, it will enable the Wrangler to cover up to 25 miles or 35 km without fuel. Do not, for one second, think that this is a lesser Wrangler. The 4xe powertrain is available with the Rubicon trim meaning that nothing can or will stop it. It can however go about conquering the wilderness without making a sound.

We take a closer look at this all-electric Wrangler in our head-to-head 2022 Ford Bronco Badlands 4-Door vs 2022 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited 4xe Rubicon comparison review.

2021 Toyota Highlander Hybrid

Photo: Toyota 

Who is this for? For larger active families who prefer keeping away from petrol stations as much as possible.

Why we like it:

  • It is the better-sorted most fuel-efficient 3-row midsize SUV on the market
  • The cabin is designed to accommodate real Canadian families with loads of space and storage solutions
  • Right now, no other SUV combines fuel efficiency, affordability, and capability as well as the Highlander Hybrid

The midsize 3-row SUV segment is booming with numerous options however less than a handful of them are available with a hybrid powertrain. Toyota put the word “hybrid” on consumers’ lips a quarter-century ago and where this technology is concerned, the Japanese automaker still leads.

The Toyota Hybrid System uses a 2.5-litre Atkinson engine and two electric motors to generate a total of 243 horsepower. The engine’s power is delivered to the front wheels via an electronically controlled Continuously Variable Transmission (ECVT) which holds one electric motor. The rear axle harbours the second electric motor which has no mechanical link to the front wheels. The AWD configuration is a blessing in the middle of a Canadian winter. 

Settling into the Highlander is easy thanks to the numerous nooks for storing phones and keys. Included with the SUV are an 8-inch touchscreen, intelligent cruise control, and a power tailgate while moving up the trim ladder will add useful and kid-friendly rear window sunshades, a power passenger seat, a moonroof, and more.

Time to buy a used 2021 SUV?

Many of these 2021 SUVs and crossovers in our ‘best of’ list are currently available for sale in our inventory here. Every Canada Drives SUV passes a 150 point inspection and comes with a free CARFAX vehicle history report. We'll bring your SUV to you at a time that fits your schedule, and free delivery is available for many locations we serve. Best part? Take 7 days to test out your new sport utility. If you don't love it, we'll come pick it up and give you your money back.

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