J.D. Power Car Ratings:The Best SUVs of 2021

Christian Wardlaw | Dec 21, 2021

In America, the SUV is king. It’s easy to understand why. From small crossovers that are more like a car than a truck to rugged off-roaders such as the Ford Bronco and Jeep Wrangler, SUVs offer more than just practicality and utility. They hold a promise of freedom and adventure, even when you’re just shuttling kids to school or commuting to an office building.

Naturally, you might be wondering what the best SUVs of 2021 are. No matter what size or price class you’re shopping for, J.D. Power knows the answer. And you’ll find them all in this list of the best new SUVs.

2021 New SUV Ratings

Consumers just like you are among the thousands of verified new-vehicle owners who respond to J.D. Power surveys. They tell us what they like and dislike about their new cars, trucks, and SUVs, and what’s gone right and wrong during the first 90 days of ownership.

We collect and analyze this data and publish our findings in two benchmark customer satisfaction studies called the Initial Quality Study (IQS) and Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study. Below, you’ll find all the SUV models that rank highest in their respective segments for quality and overall appeal for the 2021 model year.

A handful of them also rank highest for both quality and appeal, likely making them the cream-of-the-crop among current SUVs.

What is the best SUV to buy in 2021?

Based only on the results of the J.D. Power 2021 IQS and APEAL studies, these four models are the best SUVs of 2021:

  • BMW X4Top-ranked in its segment for both quality and overall appeal
  • BMW X6Top-ranked in its segment for both quality and overall appeal
  • BMW X7Top-ranked in its segment for both quality and overall appeal
  • Kia TellurideTop-ranked in its segment in both quality and overall appeal

Looking for a different kind of vehicle? Be sure to check out the best cars of 2021 and the best trucks of 2021.

All the Best SUVs of 2021 for Overall Quality

According to the J.D. Power 2021 Initial Quality Study results, ten SUV models receive awards based on what the people who actually own them think of their overall quality. You will find them listed below in alphabetical order by make and model.

2021 BMW X4

2020 BMW X4 M Competition photo

Based on the BMW X3, the BMW X4 is known as an SUV coupe. The formula is simple. Take one boxy SUV, round off the back end, increase the price for the extra “style,” and you’ve got something more aspirational than a typical kid hauler. They have less rear-seat room and cargo space, but with that sleek roofline, who cares? If you think the BMW X4 is for you, it comes in X4 xDrive 30i, sport-tuned X4 M40i, and performance-oriented X4 M flavors.

Learn more about the top-rated 2021 Luxury SUVs in Quality

2021 BMW X6

2021 BMW X6 Front Quarter View 2

Now that you know what an SUV coupe is (see BMW X4), you’ll understand the BMW X6 right away. It adheres to the same recipe but is based on the BMW X5. You can choose X6 xDrive40i, X6 M50i, and X6 M models offering increasing levels of performance and equipment, and then you’ll be driving the latest example of the model that kicked off the whole SUV coupe thing in the first place. Well, not counting the très stylé AMC Eagle Kammback, of course.

Learn more about the top-rated 2021 Luxury SUVs in Quality

2021 BMW X7

2019 BMW X7 photo

Photo: Ron Sessions

BMW’s flagship SUV is the X7. It builds on the same platform that sits underneath the smaller X5 and X6 but is substantially longer and heavier, negatively affecting the SUV’s driving dynamics. Nevertheless, the X7 is the best BMW for carrying up to seven people in its standard three rows of seats. It comes in xDrive40i, M50i, and Alpina XB7 model series, the latter a performance-oriented version from BMW tuner Alpina.

Learn more about the top-rated 2021 Luxury SUVs in Quality

2021 Kia Soul

2021 Kia Soul

Photo: Ron Sessions

At the opposite end of the SUV spectrum from the BMW Alpina XB7, you will find the charming Kia Soul. Offered only with front-wheel drive (FWD) and lacking ground clearance, the Soul is a SINO (SUV in name only). More accurately, it can be called a multi-purpose vehicle. In any case, variety adds some soul to this small crossover. For basic transportation, stick with the LX, S, or EX. For a rugged look, try the X-Line on for size. The GT-Line supplies a sporty look, and the Soul Turbo builds on that with a turbocharged engine and genuine performance.

Learn more about the top-rated 2021 Small SUVs in Quality

2021 Kia Sportage

2021 Kia Sportage Red Front Quarter View Action

With the SportageKia emphasizes the “sport” in “sport utility vehicle.” This is a compact crossover, smaller than the sales leaders in its segment, such as the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4. However, it exudes quality according to the people who own them. Trims include LX, S, EX, and SX Turbo, each offering a specific value proposition. A redesigned 2023 Kia Sportage is coming soon.

Learn more about the top-rated 2021 Small SUVs in Quality

2021 Kia Telluride

2020 Kia Telluride

A runaway hit for Kia, the midsize 3-row Telluride blends size, utility, comfort, and value with an appealing design. Furthermore, in top trim with the top option package, the Telluride displays enough luxury that it can put premium brands to shame. You choose between LX, S, EX, and SX trim. The SX Prestige package adds supple leather, simulated suede, and a package of amenities and technology that are rare from luxury brands, let alone mass-market nameplates.

Learn more about the top-rated 2021 Family SUVs in Quality

2021 Lexus RX

2021 Lexus RX

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

Before the Tesla Model 3 came along, the Lexus RX was the best-selling luxury model in America. Now it must settle for dominating the luxury SUV segment. It offers up to three rows of seats for as many as seven people and marries dramatic design to predictable reliability. You can swap the standard V6 engine for a gas-electric hybrid powertrain if you’d like or add an F Sport package for a racier look.

Learn more about the top-rated 2021 Luxury SUVs in Quality

2021 Lexus UX

2021 Lexus UX

Some people might confuse this SUV’s name with how easy or difficult the Lexus website is to use, but a Lexus UX is actually a small crossover SUV. It offers gasoline or gas-electric hybrid drivetrains and shares a platform with the Toyota C-HR. However, the Lexus demonstrates appropriate doses of wild design and upscale materials to ensure nobody confuses it with the funkadelic Toyota.

Learn more about the top-rated 2021 Luxury SUVs in Quality

2021 Nissan Murano

2021 Nissan Murano

Speaking of funkadelic, the Nissan Murano was once a style leader among midsize SUVs. Today, it still exhibits an unusual personality, and it continues to display an upscale interior at a mass-market price. It has two rows of seats for up to five people, and every Murano comes with a V6 engine and FWD or all-wheel drive (AWD). The gas-fueled Murano’s days might be numbered as Nissan rolls out the new electric 2023 Ariya.

Learn more about the top-rated 2021 Family SUVs in Quality

2021 Toyota Sequoia

2021 Toyota Sequoia

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

When an automaker builds the same SUV for 15 years straight, it comes as no surprise that it gets the quality part of the equation right. Such is the case for the Toyota Sequoia, a full-size SUV that last saw a redesign when George W. Bush was still the president of the United States. Huge inside and out, the Sequoia rides on the same platform as the third-generation Tundra pickup truck, powered by a thirsty but durable V8 engine. A redesigned Sequoia is overdue.

Learn more about the top-rated 2021 Family SUVs in Quality

All the Best SUVs of 2021 for Overall Appeal

In the J.D. Power 2021 Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout Study, ten SUV models receive an award for their overall appeal, based on what the people who actually own them think of them. They are listed below in alphabetical order by make and model.

2021 BMW X4

2021 BMW X4 M40i Brooklyn Grey Metallic Front Quarter View Action

Styling is what sells most new vehicles, and the BMW X4 is about nothing if not style. With its design-driven coupe roofline and emphasis on looks and performance over outright utility, the X4 essentially gives people who don’t need maximum passenger and cargo space the best of multiple worlds, infused with traditional BMW driving dynamics.

Learn more about the top-rated 2021 Luxury SUVs in Appeal

2021 BMW X6

2021 BMW X6

Take the BMW X4’s look and driving feel, apply it to a larger vehicle, and you’ve got the BMW X6. Again, this SUV coupe is for people who emphasize style and performance over outright practicality and utility. Thanks to powerful engines, capable dynamics, and an appealing interior with the latest infotainment, convenience, and safety tech, the BMW X6 is one of the most appealing SUVs of 2021, according to the people who own them.

Learn more about the top-rated 2021 Luxury SUVs in Appeal

2021 BMW X7

2021 BMW X7 Dark Shadow Edition Front Quarter View

In addition to exuding quality, the BMW X7 large SUV expertly plays the part of a flagship model. It has an undeniable design presence, and with its 3-model lineup, the X7 can meet the luxury and performance requirements of almost any luxury SUV buyer. Though you can certainly save some money by adding a third-row seat to a BMW X5, it simply isn’t the same as spending the extra money to get into the more spacious and luxurious X7.

Learn more about the top-rated 2021 Luxury SUVs in Appeal

2021 Chevrolet Blazer

2021 Chevrolet Blazer

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

Inspired by the Chevy Camaro, the Chevrolet Blazer’s distinctive styling and interior go a long way toward making Blazer owners happy with their purchase. Furthermore, a torquey turbocharged 4-cylinder is standard, while a powerful V6 engine is available. Add a set of 20-inch wheels and tires, and a Blazer is nimble on pavement if not very useful on trails. Buy a Blazer and you’ll choose between popular LT, sporty RS, and upscale Premier trim levels.

Learn more about the top-rated 2021 Family SUVs in Appeal

2021 Chevrolet Tahoe

2021 Chevrolet Tahoe Z71 Shadow Gray Front

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

Redesigned for 2021, the Chevrolet Tahoe full-size SUV adopted a new rear suspension design that improved driving dynamics while adding plenty of extra third-row seat and cargo space. Chevy also improved the Tahoe’s interior, upgraded the technology, and offered an affordable diesel engine upgrade supplying lots of torque and high fuel economy. Tahoe owners rewarded Chevrolet for its effort by naming the 2021 Tahoe the most appealing SUV in its segment.

Learn more about the top-rated 2021 Family SUVs in Appeal

2021 Ford Bronco Sport

2021 Ford Bronco Sport

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

A new model for 2021, the Ford Bronco Sport is a small SUV based on the same platform as the Maverick pickup truck. It has classic Bronco styling cues, but we also see some original Ford Escape in this little sport-ute. Made to get farther off the beaten path than most of its competitors, the relatively affordable Bronco Sport is the right small SUV for the right buyer at the right time.

Learn more about the top-rated 2021 Small SUVs in Appeal

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E

Photo: Ron Sessions

Though AWD is available, the Ford Mustang Mach-E is more of a 5-door sportback than a crossover SUV. But SUVs sell, and so do Mustangs. So, Ford married the two concepts in the electric Mach-E. Choose between standard- and extended-range battery packs with rear-wheel drive or AWD, and when you order one, you can plan to wait a while to get your vehicle. Trims include Select, California Route 1, Premium, and GT.

Learn more about the top-rated 2021 Small SUVs in Appeal

2021 Kia Telluride

2021 Kia Telluride

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

Kia’s family-sized SUV delivers more than quality. According to the people who own one, it’s also the most appealing model in its segment. From its stylish exterior and upscale interior to its roomy and comfortable cabin and high-tech equipment, the Kia Telluride is firing on all six of its 291-horsepower engine’s cylinders.

Learn more about the top-rated 2021 Family SUVs in Appeal

2021 Land Rover Defender

2021 Land Rover Defender

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

Resurrected with retro design atop modern mechanicals, the 2021 Land Rover Defender comes in short-wheelbase 90 2-door and standard-wheelbase 110 4-door body styles. Yes, the safari windows are standard on both, and you can get a bench front seat in each one. Naturally, the Defender offers significant off-roading capability, but this doesn’t come at the expense of its on-road ride and handling. Turbocharged 4-cylinder and 6-cylinder engines are available, the latter with mild-hybrid technology.

Learn more about the top-rated 2021 Luxury SUVs in Appeal

2021 Volvo XC40

2021 Volvo XC40

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

Volvo’s smallest SUV is also the one with the most personality. The styling makes obvious connections with the larger XC60 and XC90, but the XC40 goes its own way in many respects. A couple of turbocharged engines are available, or you can get the XC40 Recharge, a fully electric version of the SUV offering more than 220 miles of range.

Learn more about the top-rated 2021 Luxury SUVs in Appeal

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