First things first, it’s not very unlikely to get confused between a compact and midsize SUV. If you’re looking for a midsize SUV, you can check out our guide on the best midsize SUV.
However, if you’re sure you understand what a compact SUV truly is and want to go for it, let us tell you that the decision is not going to be as easy as it may seem.
There are many factors to consider, and most of them are relative to what you’re looking for. Your best option may very well boil down to what exactly your needs are.
Hence, we decided not to pick one of the options and term it as the best one, but rather give you an insight into what each of the best options offer, so that you can pick one that best meets your needs.
Let us walk you through pretty much all the options you have that are worth considering.
#1 2017 Subaru Forester
The all-new 2017 Subaru Forester seems to be getting a lot of praise from the experts, and that’s for a reason. While a large number of its buyers are attracted towards the Forester due to its standard all-wheel drive, something else seems to have caught the eye of the experts.
The 2017 Forester, for a compact SUV, surprises buyers by also making available the XT trim level for a significantly better performance. The Forester XT comes with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder which pumps out 250 horsepower and 258-ft of torque.
As for the transmission, you haven’t got an option as the continuously variable transmission is all that’s available. However, the Forester XT also boasts a tighter suspension system, as well as a fairly comfortable and spacious interior and a lot of cargo space.
An important update that the 2017 Forester comes with makes it do better on the safety front. Overall, it’s a pretty good option for those looking for the solid combination of efficiency and affordability.
#2 2017 Ford Escape
The 2017 Ford Escape is probably one of the most “complete” options on this list, offering a range of turbocharged four-cylinder engine options. It isn’t something that will draw a lot of attention due to its frugal looks, though, but there’s nothing else to complain about this 5-passenger SUV.
It offers a great ride quality, is very spacious for a compact SUV, as well as comes with many impressive features. Now, when you add in the fact that it boasts a turbocharged four-cylinder with a 2.0-liter capacity that puts out 245 horsepower, you can see why it’s such a tempting option.
#3 2017 Audi Q5
First things first, the 2017 Audi Q5 isn’t an ideal option for everyone. Something that may turn off some potential buyers is that it sports a slightly outdated design and all set to be redesigned next year. It’s also priced a little on the higher side, especially when compared to similar competitors.
That being said, there’s a reason it still made it to this list. When it comes to power, it’s hard to beat the Q5. It’s an absolute beast with a 3.0-liter supercharged V6. It produces enormous power – with a horsepower of 272 and 295 lb-ft of torque.
Its towing capacity of 4,400 lbs is no less impressive, too. Finally, it got plenty of standard equipment and features, which makes it quite a capable option despite the issues outlined above.
#4 2016 Toyota RAV4
The 2016 Toyota RAV4 may certainly turn out to be the best compact SUV when it comes to being dependable. It’s one of the few options on this list that’s capable of handling pretty much everything you throw at it.
Now, we know it doesn’t stuns you with its looks, but it more than makes up for it with its dull but rock-solid reliability and practicality. While it’s pretty comfortable for 5 passengers, the huge amount of cargo space is what gives it a considerable edge over some of its otherwise close competitors.
Although not the latest, the design is still reasonably attractive, especially after the 2016 styling updates.
#5 2016 GMC Terrain
The 2016 GMC Terrain is actually also the best luxury SUV in its own way, as it gives more importance to practicality and comfort of the passengers than having a lot of bells and whistles. It’s one of the few SUVs out there that offers the versatility of an SUV and the handling and sportiness of a sedan.
GMC has apparently put quite a bit of thinking into the Terrain models, helping them offer something that may meet the needs of different types of buyers. The Terrain Denali, for one, tempts potential buyers with an attractive interior and top-notch safety features.
#6 2016 Mazda CX-5
The 2016 Mazda CX-5 has a rather unique advantage over many of the other options on this list. The handling usually isn’t a very strong point of most SUVs, but the 2016 CX-5 manages to be an exception.
Its steering and suspension work together in a pretty innovative way to offer a great handling and control, so much so that it gives most sport utility vehicles out there a run for their money when it comes to the handling.
It also offers a reasonably good fuel economy for an SUV, which is 24 mpg in city driving and 30 mpg on the highway. Finally, it’s 2.5-liter four-cylinder isn’t the strongest with a horsepower of just 184, but the 2016 Mazda CX-5 actually isn’t for the power hungry buyers anyway.
#7 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class
When it comes to SUVs, it’s hard to find “luxury with sense.” However, the 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class does well to offer just that.
Although it doesn’t really compromise on its luxury aspect much, the ride quality is still comparable to a car, with the German manufacturer’s engineering skills helping it be a pretty composed vehicle overall.
It’s very well built with a good deal of focus on safety. The luxury of the CLC-Class also doesn’t come with a compromise on power, with the 2.0-liter four-cylinder boasting 241 horsepower. It’s accompanied by an advanced 9-speed automatic transmission.
Unless you’re looking for pure luxury, the 2016 GLC-Class may turn out to be the best luxury SUV for you.
#8 2016 Honda HR-V
If you’re looking for a great value and are willing to let go off a bit of power, the 2016 Honda HR-V may very well hit the spot for you. It’s actually a pretty affordable SUV for what it offers, though you should expect to be a little disappointed on the power front.
It offers more than enough space for 5 passengers, a lot of cargo space, as well as plenty of standard equipment and features. However, the 2016 HR-V manages just 141 horsepower with its 1.6-liter four-cylinder. The 127 lb-ft of torque isn’t something to be proud of, as well.
The engine is paired to a 6-speed manual transmission, though a continuously variable option is available, too. There’s an optional all-wheel drive, but you get the front-wheel drive as the standard option.
#9 2017 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque
The 217 Range Rover Evoque boasts quite a bit of uniqueness as well. It’s one of the few compact SUVs that comes in a two-door body style.
However, the body style isn’t the only impressive thing about the 2017 Range Rover Evoque. You would be surprised by this little vehicle’s amazing off-road capabilities.
It comes with a unique Terrain Response feature that apparently makes everything work in sync perfectly to help it overcome any obstacle that gets in its way.
There’s no shortage of power as well, with the 2.0-liter turbocharged engine producing an impressive 240 horsepower. The torque of 250 lb-ft is just as impressive, too.
#10 2016 Honda CR-V
The 2016 Honda CR-V offers a great value for money to most buyers. It comes with a lot of things that the average shopper looks for in an affordable and compact SUV.
The spacious interior offers a lot of passenger space, while there is also ample of cargo space. The low load height further adds to the convenience.
Another great feature of the 2016 CR-V that won’t fail to impress average buyers is the great fuel economy. It’s one of the most fuel efficient cars in the segment.
While it doesn’t offer the best of ride quality, it certainly isn’t as bad as some of its previous version. Finally, a fair amount of standard equipment while still being affordable makes the 2016 CR-V a great option to consider.
#11 2016 Ford Edge
This is another compact SUV from Ford that doesn’t fail to overwhelm buyers. However, it also boasts a few things that help it stand out from many of its competitors.
To start with, you would be surprised at the level of comfort and passenger space it offers. Then, you would probably be surprised further with its super smooth ride, luxurious seats, and the peace of mind you get sitting in the exceptionally quiet cabin.
These things are really something hard to come by in this segment, so that’s precisely what gives the 2016 Edge quite an edge over most other options in this segment.
Some of the other important features such as the overall quality of the interior and driving equipment and features, too, don’t disappoint. Finally, you also get a few engine options, with the base one being a turbocharged four-cylinder. The upgrades include a V6 and a turbocharged V6.
#12 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee
Don’t be surprised to see a “jeep” SUV on this list, as the Jeep Grand Cherokee has actually got a well-deserved spot. It’s particularly impressive with its off-road capabilities, though the on-road drive is reasonably comfortable, too.
However, the 2016 Jeep Cherokee is quite a letdown when it comes to spaciousness; both the passenger space and cargo space are a little worrying. That being said, the reliability and handling balance are there, and the interior quality is surprising for a jeep SUV.
All the engine options have got experts’ praise, but the one that has been particularly impressive is the 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6.
#13 2016 Kia Sorento
If you’re looking for a premium option and budget isn’t a problem, the 2016 Kia Sorento is probably built for you. From the cabin to the interior features, everything gives you a “premium” feel.
The styling wouldn’t fail to draw attention of the crowd, either, while the driving dynamics leave little to desire. This translates to an exceptional driving experience overall.
You also get two options with the turbocharged four-cylinder, one offering a fuel economy advantage while the other bringing a lot more power with it.
#14 2017 Hyundai Tucson
Apparently, Hyundai decided to focus on the basics with the Tucson. It doesn’t try to imitate some of the other luxurious models or advanced features, but does well to take good care of the basic requirements.
So it naturally comes with a good amount of cabin space, quite a few impressive standard features and equipment, as well as a safe, smooth and comfortable ride.
It actually turns out to be a better option than many other options in its segment when it comes to the safety, as it scores great in the safety tests.
The 2017 Tucson isn’t about power though, with its 2.0-liter four-cylinder producing an unimpressive 164 horsepower.
#15 2017 Kia Sportage
Many different options on this list have something different, specific to boast of, but the 2017 Kia Sportage manages to stand out by being a pretty much all-round option.
Ranging from the interior quality to the driving dynamics to even the comfort, the 2017 Sportage excels on many important fronts. The interior is well-designed, there are a lot of standard features available, and the ride, too, is pretty comfortable and sporty.
A quiet cabin, sufficient passenger space and great handling are some of the other strong points of the 2017 Sportage. Some of the less-than-impressive things about it include a standard 2.4-liter four-cylinder as the base engine that produces a modest 181 horsepower, and a moderate amount of cargo space.
#16 2017 Chevrolet Equinox
The 2017 Chevrolet Equinox isn’t an all-round option in any way, but it does very well on some fronts and that may turn out to be all that matters for some buyers. This is pretty much why it managed to get a spot on this list.
The spaciousness and comfort of the 2017 Equinox is something that’s hard to find in the class. The ride, too, is pretty comfortable and smooth, and it ticks most boxes when it comes to the safety as well.
However, some of the drawbacks that keep it from being best compact SUV for all types of buyers are a lackluster performance, poor fuel economy, slightly rough handling, as well as the base engine having little to show in terms of power.
#17 2017 Nissan Rogue
The 2017 Nissan Rogue is your average compact SUV. It doesn’t have any elements of surprise, but then it doesn’t have anything too disappointing, either.
It still does offer a solid reliability and decent on-road capabilities. The interior is stylish and has a premium feel to it. The cargo storage comes with an innovative system that helps offer more cargo space without having to lose out on any other features.
However, if there’s anything at all that’s surprising about the 2017 Rogue, it has to be its great fuel economy of 26 mpg in city driving and 32 mpg in highway driving.
On the other hand, there aren’t a lot of “driving” features; the engine isn’t as powerful as some of the other options on this list, and the cabin isn’t exactly quiet.
#18 2017 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid
This is one of the more expensive picks on this list. However, the 2017 RAV4 Hybrid doesn’t really fail to justify the expensive price tag.
It offers an excellent fuel economy, plenty of standard features, and some of the best-in-class safety features. An important point to note here that you have to pay extra for some of the safety features with other options that the 2017 RAV4 Hybrid offers without any extra costs.
Then you also get the all-wheel drive, as well as a decent cargo space. The cabin styling is probably the only obvious disappointment with the 2017 RAV4 Hybrid.
#19 2017 Volkswagen Tiguan
The 2017 Volkswagen Tiguan is more about performance than anything else. It’s expensive, it doesn’t come with many advanced features, and its body styling fails to compete with some of the latest models.
Additionally, its safety features are nowhere near to being top-notch. However, the strong performance, stylish and spacious cabin, as well as simple controls and a decent interior is what the 2017 Tiguan has to justify being disappointing in other aspects.
#20 2017 Jeep Wrangler
The 2017 Jeep Wrangler isn’t what we think is a near-perfect option for most buyers looking for a compact SUV. However, it’s probably something to consider for those that are looking for the sportiness and thrill of a jeep but the versatility of an SUV.
The one aspect at which the 2017 Wrangler outshines almost all the other SUVs in class is off-road capabilities. But if this has peaked your interest, let us tell you that it struggles to compete with most of its rivals at pretty much everything else.
However, the Wrangler is actually a daring offering by the manufacturer, and comes with a powerful V6 engine. But whether or not that’s enough to overlook the fact that it comes with a poor fuel economy, uncomfortable ride, and lack of spaciousness is totally up to you.
#21 2017 Mitsubishi Outlander
The 2017 Mitsubishi Outlander is one of the more unique options out there in the compact SUV segment. One of the reasons we think it’s unique is that it’s one of the rare few compact SUVs that come with a third row. However, don’t get your hopes high on that, as the third row fails to offer enough space for adults, although they are perfect for kids.
The interior of the 2017 Outlander is something that gives some of the more expensive options in the class a run for their money. It also brings an excellent level of safety to the table.
But then there are these things that make this otherwise attractive option a pretty average one. Its performance doesn’t inspire confidence, the ride quality is far from fun or even smooth, and despite the great safety scores, the reliability isn’t really reliable.
#22 2017 Jeep Patriot
The 2017 Jeep Patriot is probably designed to serve a specific purpose. If you’re looking for an off-road beast without breaking the bank, then you’re likely what the manufacturer thinks is their potential customer.
It’s tough and won’t easily give up to rough surfaces or off-road challenges. The four-wheel drive option is available, too.
However, if you’re going to be into on-road driving most of the time, then you certainly have many other options that are much better than the 2017 Patriot.
#23 2017 Jeep Compass
If you’re looking for a new compact SUV for the price of an old one, the 2017 Jeep Compass is going to fit your bill. However, let us warn you that with the ultra cheap price tag, comes some issues that may turn out to be a deal breaker for you.
The 2017 Compass is a fuel hungry vehicle, and also very sluggish. However, it’s reasonably comfortable to drive off the road, and usually pretty composed when it comes to on-road driving.
#24 2017 Jeep Renegade
Just because the 2017 Jeep Renegade appears at the bottom of the list it doesn’t mean it’s one of the least preferable options. In fact, it’s one of the better jeep compact SUVs you would come across.
Unlike most of its counterparts, it offers a great balance of off-road and on-road capabilities. The interior quality, too, is certainly pleasing, especially when you compare it to some of its other counterparts.
On the downside, the fuel economy is a bit of concern, and the limited standard features leaves potential buyers a little disappointed.
#25 2017 Nissan Rogue Hybrid
If you’re after an affordable ride, the 2017 Nissan Rogue Hybrid is what you would want to consider. Its fuel economy is one of the best in class, returning 32 mph in city driving and 35 mpg in highway driving.
The ride is pretty comfortable too and the interior is beyond what you would expect in this price range. The sluggish acceleration and hard-to-handle braking, however, may make you want to reconsider going for this otherwise decent option.