Home Dimensions & Weights Best Small SUV – Which SUV Is The Best Out There?

Best Small SUV – Which SUV Is The Best Out There?

by Kelvin Yates

Are you looking to purchase an SUV and you are looking for the best small SUV? If this is the case, then you are at the right place because we are going to cover everything you need to know when it comes to purchasing a small SUV.

Conducting proper research before you go out there on the market and purchase a vehicle is a really important thing to do. Why I’m saying this? Well, I’m saying this because it is true, you don’t want to purchase a car blindfolded.

Every car has some fair share of issues and knowing these issues, especially if you are purchasing a used model will save you hundreds, or even thousands of dollars on possible repairs. So, this is why knowing how to research in order to get the best possible deal out there is really important. But you shouldn’t worry because we are going to help you out.

First, we are going to learn what is a small SUV and then we will cover the two types of small SUVs that are out there. Later on, we will cover the benefits of owning a small SUV and after that, we will cover all the best small SUV vehicles in different categories. And you don’t want to miss that. So, follow along till the end.

What Is An SUV?

Now before we dive into the best small SUV and learn more about the offering on the market when it comes to these types of vehicles. Let’s take a look first at what is an SUV in general. Knowing what is an SUV will basically help you quite a bit when it comes to looking for the best small SUV and choosing a new car for yourself. So, let’s cover this topic briefly.

So, what is an SUV? Well, the SUV stands for the phrase “Sport Utility Vehicle”. But what does all this means in the first place?

Well, this means that an SUV is a vehicle that is built not only for the road but also for some off-road duties. A genuine SUV is a really capable vehicle that can be driven on and off-road. For example, the Jeep Cherokee or the Toyota Land Cruiser. Both of these vehicles are really capable off-roaders.

Best Small SUV

But there is a segment in the market that is most commonly known as crossover SUV. These SUVs are neither a car nor an SUV. Something like a crossbreed between the two. And they are really popular cars that sell really well.

They have the same characteristics as a car but an increased ride height that makes them look like a genuine SUV. Their looks are well thought out and they have a big presence on the road, which I genuinely like.

And frankly, the market is full of these vehicles. Most of them offer 2WD and 4WD as an option. So, if you are on the market for a vehicle that resembles an SUV and you don’t need a 4WD option, you can go for the 2WD. But what is the best small SUV? More on this in a bit.

Types Of Small SUVs

Now before we dive into the best small SUV. Let’s cover the types of small SUVs that are out there. Knowing the types will make your purchasing decision a lot easier. So, let’s cover them briefly and find out what are their main characteristics.


The first type of best small SUV is the subcompact class of SUVs. The subcompact class is basically the smallest out of the bunch. These SUVs are also known as mini SUVs.

And in the US, there is a whole market for these vehicles. Days, when only huge cars were purchased in the US, are far gone and this mini segment is getting stronger day by day.

Almost every possible carmaker in the US has an offering for these vehicles. About 2.4% of all the vehicles sold in the US fall in the sub-compact class.

This roughly makes 400,000+ vehicles each year sold in the US to be sub-compact SUVs. But what if you want something small. But not the smallest possible? Well, there is also an option for you. And more on this we will cover next.


The next type of best small SUV that we would like to cover is the compact class of SUV. The compact class of SUVs is still small. But considerably larger than the mini SUVs that are covered previously.

This segment is also known as the C-segment. This is the case because a lot of these crossovers are based on a car platform.

This means that they are not genuinely imagined as SUVs with all the off-road features. So, when it comes to these vehicles doing off-road is an afterthought they frankly, are not good performers when it comes to off-road duties.

The typical compact crossover has a length somewhere between 169 and 185 inches.

These vehicles sell really well when it comes to the US market. More precisely 24% of all cars sold in the US are compact crossovers. This is a rather insane number when compared to the mini crossovers that we covered previously. So, it is 2.4% for the mini crossovers, versus 24% for the compact crossovers.

And there are so many makes and models of these cars that some car magazines reported that sorting through all of them can be a very difficult task. But what is the best small SUV? We will get to that in a minute after we learn the benefits of having a small SUV.

Benefits Of Having An SUV

Now before we dive into the best small SUV categories that we chose, let’s first learn what are the benefits of having a small crossover. And frankly, there are plenty of these pros when it comes to these vehicles, even if they are not the best off-roaders out there. So, let’s cover them briefly.

The first pro of having a car like this is the increased ground clearance. These cars sit far higher than your standard sedan.

So, imagine how beneficial would this be since you will have a good perspective of the corners of your vehicle which will be extra useful when it comes to parking.

Not to mention that the increased ground clearance will also improve the safety of you and your occupants. These cars are far better protected than anything that sits low. And frankly, this is one of the prime reasons why many people are going for this type of vehicle instead of a regular sedan.

Best Small SUV

In addition to this, the SUV also is far more comfortable when it comes to accommodation. These vehicles have a ton of leg room as well as a ton of headroom. So, you will never feel like you don’t have enough comfort.

Except with the subcompact SUVs, these are still known to lack room, especially when it comes to the rear seats. The headroom in the rear is definitely lacking in these cars.

And the last pro that we are going to cover is the practicality aspect. Small cars are really practical and can fit anywhere. So, you will never have the trouble of finding a parking spot for this type of car since they are so small. Perfect for beginner drivers who are inexperienced when it comes to parking as well.

Downsides Of Having An SUV

Now let’s cover some of the downsides of having the best small SUV. Everything has downsides and that is the case with having an SUV.

The main drawback of these vehicles is that they are a bit more expensive than your standard sedan. They offer more and they also cost a bit more.

Not a crazy amount though but enough for you to notice the difference when you compare a compact car with a compact crossover SUV. This is why if you are on a tight budget and you want a new vehicle, going for a sedan might be the best option.

The second worst thing about having an SUV is that these vehicles tend to spend more fuel than your standard sedan. But why is this the case?

Best Small SUV

Well, this is the case, because these cars are less aerodynamic. They are really big and when it comes to this, the fuel economy will take a toll. So, watch out when it comes to this aspect and try to get a crossover that has a better gas mileage (more so if you know how to get better gas mileage).

And the last in our list of cons is their lacking off-road capability. Crossovers are probably not the best when it comes to tackling off-road terrains. Especially if you have a 2WD crossover.

It will struggle, this is why we would not recommend you to take these vehicles on extreme off-road adventures. They might tackle small obstacles but will struggle with the bigger ones.

But what is the best small SUV? More on this we are going to cover in the following chapters.

Best Small Sport Utility Vehicle

Now let’s get to business and start covering the best small SUV vehicles that are available for purchase.

In the following chapters, we are going to discuss this aspect in separate categories. Since a ton of people want to get a crossover for a specific purpose. And maybe one of these categories will be the perfect one for you. So, let’s cover these types briefly.

Best Rated Small SUV

When it comes to the best-rated SUV vehicles, the choice is rather simple to make. This award definitely goes to the Hyundai Tucson.

The Hyundai Tucson on many car review websites gets an 8.9 score or 9.0 score easily. Mainly because it delivers a lot and all that for a good price. The AWD model starts at about $31,000. And for this price you get a lot of car, to be honest.

This model comes equipped with a 1.6L turbo inline-4 engine that produces 226hp and 258lb-ft of torque. And this engine is equipped with a 6-speed automatic with overdrive.

Easily one of the best offers out there. The fuel economy is also excellent. It gets a combined fuel economy of 26MPG in the city and 33MPG on the highway.

This is why this SUV is one of the best-rated vehicles out there. And lastly, not to mention the features that you will get inside of the car. Hyundai keeps getting better and better and sells a ton of vehicles year by year. So, they are definitely worth checking out.

Best Hybrid Small SUV

When it comes to hybrid vehicles, the choice is simple, and that is the Toyota RAV4. In this segment of hybrids, frankly, there is no competition for Toyota.

They perfected so much through the years that now they basically offer vehicles that are a few classes better than the rest. And the RAV4 hybrid is one of these vehicles (nonetheless, make sure you do some research on the 2007 Toyota RAV4 problems).

This SUV easily gets the best fuel economy out there from any SUV, period. Without counting the electric SUVs. This hybrid model will get you about 32 MPG in the city, 41 MPG on the highway, and 37 MPG combined. Excellent numbers for a vehicle from this class.

It comes equipped with a 2.5L inline-4 that produces 219hp and 163lb-ft of torque. It also has electric motors as well since it is a hybrid. In terms of transmission, this model comes equipped with a CVT transmission that will make your driving experience perfectly smooth. Now let’s move on to the next category.

Best Small SUV Gas Mileage

When it comes to the best SUV for gas mileage, we will also recommend you the Toyota RAV4. Frankly, this model gets no competition at all in this aspect.

The only alternative that you might want to check is the Lexus UX250h. Which is a rebadged RAV4 under the Lexus name. But this model is more luxurious and has a ton of useful features that will make your driving experience unforgettable.

Another alternative that is worth checking out when it comes to getting a good gas mileage crossover is the Ford Escape Hybrid SE Sport.

This model is also a hybrid and will deliver you an excellent performance. This model easily delivers 30 MPG in the city, 40 MPG on the highway, and 35 MPG combined.

And another model that we would recommend is the Honda CR-V Hybrid EX. This is another very capable crossover in terms of fuel economy. This model will get you about 32 MPG in the city, 37 MPG on the highway, and 35 MPG combined.

Best Small AWD SUV

When it comes to AWD and crossovers, the choice is rather simple, Subaru. Subaru is the only carmaker that produces all its vehicles with the AWD option.

And in this category, we kindly recommend you to check out the Subaru Forester. The Forester is a very capable SUV that is able to tackle rough terrain with no problems.

Not to mention that is really cheap. With an MSRP of $27,000 for the cheapest model. But if you want to go a step ahead, you can also get the Wilderness trim for about $35,000. An excellent value for the money.

This Wilderness package is focused primarily on off-road and easily outperforms a lot of vehicles from the crossover category in any type of test.

The Forester comes equipped with a 2.5L boxer engine that produces about 182hp and 176lb-ft of torque. A really healthy number for a vehicle like this.

In terms of transmission, the forester comes with a CVT automatic transmission with overdrive.

And also, this model has good fuel economy. It easily gets 25 MPG in the city, 28 MPG on the highway, and 26 MPG combined.

Best Small SUV For Towing

When it comes to the category of the best small SUV for towing, we can clearly say which one is the winner. And that is the Jeep Cherokee.

This SUV was the one that basically patented the sport utility vehicle name in 1997. And it can tow quite a bit when compared to competitors. 4,500lbs to be more precise. This is the maximum towing capacity for this vehicle. All this with the powerful 3.2.L V6 engine.

This V6 engine produces 271hp and 239lb-ft of torque. Which is plenty. Also, it is paired with a ZF 9-speed automatic transmission with overdrive.

And on top of that, it also gets good gas mileage. With 19 MPG in the city, 27 MPG on the highway, and 22 MPG combined.

Just to note that these numbers will drop considerably when you tow. But in this category, there is hardly any competitor that is worth mentioning when it comes to the towing ability. This is why the Cherokee is a clear winner here. And the price is also affordable. For the V6 engine with a 4×4 package, you will have to pay about $36,000.

Best Small Luxury SUV

When it comes to luxury, the only two brands that you should really consider are BMW and Mercedes. And frankly, they make really good SUVs in this category. Namely, the BMW X3 and the Mercedes GLC.

These two vehicles are ranked the highest in this segment based on the feedback from customers that have purchased them.

They both start at around $43,000 and with options they can go up to $70,000. So, it depends on how much money you want to spend on this type of vehicle.

There are also some cheaper options that are available as well. Namely, the Infiniti QX50 starts at about $39,000. And a fully loaded model you can get for less than $57,000.

Then there is the Acura RDX which starts at about $40,000. And frankly, if you want to get something really solid, I would go for the Acura. It delivers a lot and also looks amazing in comparison to the competition. You can spec out a good RDX with all the bells and whistles for about $53,000.

Best Used SUV

And our last category in this article is the best used small SUV. Especially in the best used small SUV under $20 000.

And this award easily goes to the Honda CR-V. The CR-V is one of the best sellers in this segment of the market. And also it is a really good value if you purchase one of these models used.

They are really tough built and can withstand anything you throw at them. Especially models with the 1.5L turbo engine. These are the ones that you want to go after.

And when it comes to the best used small SUV under $10 000, we would recommend you a used Toyota RAV4. The older RAV4 models are really well built and extremely durable. So, you cannot make a mistake by choosing one of these models.

Facts about the ranking of the compact crossover SUV segment from Bronco Sport to Tucson include:

  1. Compact SUVs have become more capable and fun to drive, with many of these models offering more cargo space than sedans.
  2. The Jeep Compass Trailhawk is an exception to crossover SUVs not being known for off-road chops.
  3. The Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross’s middling dynamics fail to help it keep up with the best options in the compact SUV segment.
  4. The GMC Terrain’s ride is on the firm side and build quality inside is less than stellar, especially given its base price.
  5. The Ford Escape offers a wide variety of powertrains, including gasoline-electric and plug-in gasoline-electric hybrid forms.
  6. The Subaru Forester is still one of the best all-around compact crossovers and an affordable way to get all-wheel drive.
  7. The Toyota RAV4 offers consumers a variety of powertrain options, including a plug-in hybrid model with 302 horsepower.
  8. The Ford Bronco Sport is the only vehicle on the list with a bottle opener built into the liftgate.
  9. The latest Tucson is available with gasoline-electric hybrid and plug-in hybrid powertrain options.
  10. The Kia Sportage offers expanded powertrain options, including hybrid and plug-in hybrid variants.
  11. The Volkswagen Tiguan is one of the biggest offerings in this segment and has a standard 184-hp turbocharged four-cylinder engine.
  12. The Mazda CX-5 offers a comfortable, well-appointed ride and is actually enjoyable to drive.


In this article, we have covered quite a bit when it comes to the small SUV. First, we covered what is a sport utility vehicle and the two types of small SUVs. These were the compact and the subcompact class.

Then we learned the pros and cons of running an SUV and then we listed our recommendations in a few categories. We chose the most popular ones that people have the most interested to purchase.


Now let’s answer some frequently asked questions.

What Is A Compact SUV

A compact SUV is a vehicle that shares the dimensions with the compact class of cars. These crossovers are basically built on the same platform as the compact cars. Except for the fact that they have increased ride height and higher roofs.

What Is The Smallest SUV

The smallest SUV is the Suzuki Jimny. But unfortunately, this model is not available in the US. But what you can get is a Hyundai Kona or a Toyota HR-V. These are also one of the smallest crossovers that you can get.

What Is The Best Small SUV

The best small SUV definitely is the Honda CR-V. This model has established itself throughout the years as one of the first options for a lot of owners. You just cannot go wrong with this model.

What Is The Most Reliable SUV

The most reliable SUV definitely is the Toyota RAV4. The RAV4 takes this prize easily since it gets most of the recommendations based on this characteristic.

What Is The Best Midsize SUV

When it comes to this category of vehicles, the choice is rather difficult because you need to choose from two of the best cars around. Namely, the Kia Telluride and the Jeep Grand Cherokee.

What Is The Best Luxury SUV

The Best Luxury SUV is frankly the Mercedes Benz GLE. Other models that are comparable to the GLE are the BMW X5, and Genesis GV80.

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