Best Compact SUVs
Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It may not have been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.
For those car shopping for more room than a traditional sedan or hatchback can offer, but not needing the space of a full-size sport-utility vehicle, a compact SUV might be the perfect balance. The SUV market has become both incredibly popular, and crowded, over the past few years.
Which means the lines are becoming more blurred among manufacturers about what is “compact” or not, though, technically, there are vehicle classifications by both interior volume and weight. For the purpose of this article, we’ll look at those falling into the smaller range of SUVs.
These small SUVs had to receive good marks from Kelley Blue Book (KBB) experts and consumers on Edmunds, which means a few popular models, like the redesigned Toyota RAV4 and the 2019 Jeep Renegade, didn’t make the cut this time. We noted when vehicles received high ratings from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
- Best subcompact SUVs for the money
- Best compact SUVs for the money
- Best luxury compact SUVs
Best subcompact SUVs for the money
- MSRP $19,990
- 30 combined, 27 city/33 highway MPG
- 4.5 out of 5 by KBB experts; 4.7 out of 5 by consumers on Edmunds (10 reviews)
- IIHS Top Safety Pick+
The subcompact Hyundai Kona comes in four trim levels, plus an ell-electric model out in early 2019. But even at the base SE, it comes with a seven-inch touchscreen and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. They’ve made many safety features that were once an upgrade standard, like lane-keeping assist and forward collision avoidance standard, though you’ll have to upgrade to the SEL version to get additional features, including lane change assist and rear cross-traffic collision warning. While competitors may offer slightly more cargo space, the Kona leads in technology. All-wheel drive, another nice option, is available on every trim.
- MSRP $20,520
- 30 combined, 28 city/34 highway MPG
- 4.6 out of 5 by KBB experts; 4.4 out of 5 by consumers on Edmunds (10 reviews)
- 5 stars NHTSA
While it may be a compact, the HR-V makes use of its small footprint well. You’ll notice an array of ways that Honda has maximized the space in this compact SUV, from the flat-folding front passenger seat to the rear flip-up seat for taller items. In addition, it’s got a generous amount of cargo space (24.3 cubic feet) and a decent amount of rear legroom, too. Though it has plenty of space standard, you’ll have to upgrade for many other technology and convenience features — this includes Honda’s suite of driver assistance features, Honda Sensing, standard on the EX trim and above. Honda has dropped the manual transmission option for this model year.
Best compact SUVs for the money
- MRSP $24,295
- 29 combined, 26 city/33 highway MPG
- Not yet rated by KBB experts; 4.4 out of 5 by consumers on Edmunds (48 reviews)
- IIHS Top Safety Pick
Thanks to high ground clearance and standard all-wheel drive, the redesigned Forester has a greater ability to tackle adverse terrain and handle off-road conditions. It sits in between the hatchback Crosstrek and the larger Outback SUV. This year’s redesigned Forester features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality, and a redesigned dash with a touchscreen. Another notable feature is the EyeSight safety suite included standard with this SUV. But if you’re looking for a hybrid option in the Subaru lineup of SUVs, the Crosstrek is your only option.
- MSRP $23,750
- 25 combined, 23 city/30 highway MPG
- 4.4 out of 5 by KBB experts; 5 out of 5 by Edmunds consumers (5 reviews)
- 5 stars NHTSA
The Kia Sportage is ideal for those looking for a comfortable, spacious interior. It’s also worth noting that one big benefit of buying a Kia is the impressive 10-year, 100,000-mile warranty which comes standard. All-wheel-drive is an option, and helpful safety features like emergency braking and front and rear parking sensors are also available. However, one shortfall is that its cargo space lacks for the class.
4.1 out of 5 by KBB experts; 4.8 out of 5 by consumers on Edmunds (4 reviews)
5 stars NHTSA
Though its last overhaul was in 2017, the 2019 Ford Escape has added some nice technology. The catch? You’ll probably want to upgrade to the SE trim for perks such such as the ability to lock, unlock and start the car from a phone, and Sync 3 infotainment system. No matter which trim you choose, the Escape boasts 34 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second row seat, impressive for this class.
28 combined, 25 city/31 highway MPG
4.7 out of 5 by KBB experts; 4.8 out of 5 by consumers on Edmunds (14 reviews)
5 stars NHTSA; IIHS Top Safety Pick+
Though some might argue this five-passenger SUV is a midsize SUV, Mazda describes this five-seat vehicle as a crossover, falling between its larger CX-9 and the smaller subcompact CX-3. Either way, it has a decent amount of space while still maintaining good fuel economy. Redesigned for 2019, Mazda added interior features found on many luxury vehicles, including an auto-dimming rearview mirror to fight glare during nighttime driving, but many are found only on upper trim levels, including leather-trimmed seats, chrome and wood accents, but most of these are available on the higher trim levels — the top-of-the-line all-wheel drive Signature starts at $36,890.
Best luxury compact SUVs
26 combined, 23 city/32 highway MPG
4.5 out of 5 by KBB experts; not yet reviewed by consumers on Edmunds
5 stars NHTSA
Last redesigned for 2016, the X1 is BMW is the smallest of BMW’s “sports activity vehicle” offerings. It comes in a quick-to-react four-cylinder engine with the option of all-wheel drive, what BMW calls xDrive, adding $2,000 to the base price. The brand doesn’t skimp on quality materials, and it made features like rear camera, power seats, rain-sensing wipers and a power tailgate standard. Like other BMWs, you can add M Sport package and convenience, luxury or premium packages.
24 combined, 22 city/28 highway MPG
4.6 out of 5 by KBB experts; 3.7 out of 5 by consumers on Edmunds (99 reviews)
5 stars NHTSA; IIHS Top Safety Pick+
Revamped for 2019 with a new look, the RDX is Acura’s smaller SUV, as compared to the third-row MDX, which also comes as a hybrid. The RDX offers several drive modes standard, allowing drivers to switch between “comfort” mode and modes that adapt to snowy conditions. You could add all-wheel drive (at $2,000) if you regularly face adverse conditions. However, you’ll only have one engine option available, and the standard configuration is front-wheel drive, rather than rear-wheel drive as much of the competition offers. A luxury interior includes standard features including panoramic sunroof, rear camera and touchpad and safety features like adaptive cruise and lane keeping assistance, but you’ll have to upgrade for the navigation system and seat upgrades like power seats and leather options.
24 combined, 22 city/27 highway MPG
4.6 out of 5 by KBB experts; 4.5 out of 5 by consumers on Edmunds (6 reviews)
IIHS Top Safety Pick+
Though slightly larger than many others on this list and Mercedes’ own GLA SUV, Mercedes’ small SUV has done well in terms of safety ratings and expert satisfaction. Updates for 2019 include the addition of standard heated front seats, as well as the addition of available tri-zone climate control. This year also sees the addition of an off-road engineering package, and all-wheel drive is available, too. Two AMG trim levels are available, if you’re seeking high performance; for those seeking better fuel efficiency, there’s also a plug-in hybrid option.
How to finance the best compact SUV
Consider shopping around for your auto loan to find the best rate. Credit unions, banks and online lenders can all help you finance your vehicle purchase. You’ll want to consider several options before heading into the dealership, so you’ll know what rates are available to you. Getting preapproved for an auto loan can help you do that. Then, you’ll be better prepared to get the best auto loan rate possible for you.
For the sake of this article, we’ve chosen SUVs that score at least a 4 from KBB experts or Edmunds consumers. These vehicles also have at least a 4-star safety rating from NHTSA or were named a top pick by the IIHS. The prices listed are for the base trim levels of each vehicle. MSRPs mentioned in the article are accurate as of the date of publishing.