Small SUV Comparison

Small SUV lineup

If you're looking for utility, sporty good looks, and fuel economy, you can't beat a compact SUV. There are lots of great options out there in this class, but it can be difficult to sift through the features and reviews to find the right vehicle for you. Before you decide on your next SUV, take a moment to compare the options.

Compare Small SUVs at a Glance

The following 15 small SUVs are popular with consumers for a number of reasons. Use this chart to see how they stack up against one another.

Model Base Price Available All- or Four-Wheel Drive? Seating Capacity Fuel Economy
Acura RDX $34,320 Yes Five 20 mpg city/28 mpg highway
Chevrolet Equinox $24,155 Yes Five 22 mpg city/32 mpg highway
Ford Escape $22,470 Yes Five 23 mpg city/33 mpg highway
GMC Terrain $26,235 Yes Five 22 mpg city/32 mpg highway
Honda CR-V $22,795 Yes Five 23 mpg city/31 mpg highway
Hyundai Tucson $19,395 Yes Five 20 mpg city/26 mpg highway
Jeep Compass $19,495 Yes Five 23 mpg city/28 mpg highway
Jeep Wrangler $22,195 Yes Four 17 mpg city/21 mpg highway
Kia Sportage $19,000 Yes Five 20 mpg city/27 mpg highway
Lexus RX $39,660 Yes Five 18 mpg city/25 mpg highway
hybrid 30 mpg overall
Mazda CX-5 $21,195 Yes Five 26 mpg city/32 mpg highway
Mitsubishi Outlander $22,695 Yes Five or seven 23 mpg city/28 mpg highway
Nissan Juke $20,280 Yes Five 27 mpg city/32 mpg highway
Subaru Forrester $21,995 Yes Five 24 mpg city/32 mpg highway
Toyota Rav 4 $23,300 Yes Five 24 mpg city/31 mpg highway

Eight Award-Winning Small SUVs

Certain models stand out from the pack in terms of reliability, features, and list of awards or great reviews. If you're in the market for a compact sport utility vehicle, consider one of these models.

Ford Escape

US News and World Report gave the Ford Escape its highest award as the best compact SUV for the money. This popular vehicle received a redesign for 2013, and US News indicates that critic and consumer response has been overwhelmingly positive. A great safety rating, amazing list of impressive technological features, good fuel economy, and a fair price all contributed to the high rankings for this model. However, US News cautions buyers that the engine on the base model is a bit underpowered.

Jeep Wrangler

Jeep Wrangler
Jeep Wrangler

If resale value is a priority in your car-buying decisions, consider the Jeep Wrangler. The 2013 model won the Best Resale Value Award from Kelley Blue Book. Edmunds.com also named this vehicle the "ultimate off-roader." Available in both two- and four-door models, the Wrangler is a popular choice for anyone who loves a rugged vehicle. Although comfort has never been something to associate with the Wrangler, the 2013 model does have available heated leather seats, climate control, and a host of other high-tech features. You can also choose from a removable soft top or a hardtop.

Acura RDX

Consumer Reports lists the Acura RDX as one of the best compact sporty SUVs on the market, praising its excellent reliability, improved fuel economy, comfort, acceleration, and easy-to-use control features. The ride can be somewhat bumpy, especially for a luxury SUV, and handling around corners is less than impressive. The standard V-6 engine is especially peppy.

Kia Sportage

The Kia Sportage also made Consumer Reports' list of the best compact sporty SUVs. The magazine praised the Sportage's attractive style, which stands out from its less graceful counterparts. The fuel economy, handling, and performance were all high points as well, although road noise and visibility were less than stellar. Consumer Report specifically recommended the turbo model for its impressive acceleration.

Honda CR-V

According to USA Today, the Honda CR-V is the best compact SUV you can buy for under $25,000. Reviewers loved the impressive list of standard comfort and technological features, including Bluetooth, a huge storage console, and easy-to-fold rear seats. They also felt that this model was family friendly and had plenty of room for even the largest child car seats. Complaints included the handling, especially around corners, and the less than stylish exterior.

Chevrolet Equinox

The Chevrolet Equinox ranked high on US News and World Report's list of best compact SUVs for the money. The review praised its comfortable ride, affordability, handling, safety, and reliability. Reviewers also loved the spacious and luxurious interior. One major complaint was that this model doesn't have as much cargo room as many other small SUVs on the market.

Lexus RX

The Lexus RX 450h, the hybrid model of the popular Lexus luxury vehicles, received the honor of most fuel-efficient compact SUV of 2013 by Truck Trend. Reviewers on Edmunds.com praised its impressive acceleration, amazing fuel economy for the class, and luxurious comfort features. However, they caution that the $46,310 price tag of the hybrid model may be difficult to recoup in savings at the pump.

Mazda CX-5 SUV
Mazda CX-5

Mazda CX-5

Named one of the top picks by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Mazda CX-5 is new for the 2013 model year. In its review of this model, Car and Driver praised its innovative, all-new design, as well as its sleek exterior, responsive handling, great technological features, impressive safety record, and exceptional fuel economy.

Comparing Small SUVs Based on Your Priorities

There's no single small SUV that stands out as the best in its class for every driver. Instead, it's important to take a look at your priorities before you pick the right compact SUV for you.

Price

If the purchase price is your primary concern, you can see from the following SUVs are the most affordable:

  • Kia Sportage
  • Hyundai Tucson
  • Jeep Compass
  • Nissan Juke

Fuel Economy

With gas prices fluctuating all the time, many car buyers consider fuel economy to be a major priority. Unless you're considering a hybrid like the Lexus RX 450h, remember that you should break down the average fuel economy by city or highway driving.

If you do more highway driving, consider these models:

  • Ford Escape
  • Nissan Juke
    Nissan Juke
    Chevy Equinox
  • GMC Terrain
  • Mazda CX-5
  • Nissan Juke
  • Subaru Forrester

If you spend more time in city traffic, one of these options may be best:

  • Nissan Juke
  • Mazda CX-5
  • Subaru Forrester
  • Toyota Rav 4

Safety

Safety is also a major priority for car buyers. If it's one of your main factors, check out whether a vehicle is recommended by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The following 2013 models are recommended:

  • Subaru Forester SUV
    Subaru Forester
    Ford Escape
  • Honda CR-V
  • Hyundai Tucson
  • Kia Sportage
  • Mazda CX-5
  • Mitsubishi Outlander
  • Subaru Forester

Reliability

The upfront price of a car is only part of its ownership cost. Reliability, or whether a car is likely to need lots of maintenance and repairs, is another major factor. According to Consumer Reports, the following small SUVs are among the most reliable:

  • Subaru Forester
  • Honda CR-V
  • Mazda CX-5
  • Kia Sportage
  • Mitsubishi Outlander

Enjoy Your SUV for Years to Come

As you compare small sport utility vehicles, take some time to read reviews and think about which features are most important to you. That way, you'll end up purchasing a vehicle you know you'll enjoy driving for many years to come.

Small SUV Comparison