Small SUVs are always in demand, thanks to their practical design and affordable prices. For car connoisseurs who cannot get over their love for an SUV, but also don’t want to deal with the huge midsize or large SUVs, compact/small SUVs are the perfect alternative. They are agile, quick, and super convenient to maneuver. If you pick the right vehicle, you will also get ample boot space and towing capacity.
Small SUVs are primarily available in two variants, two-row, and three-row. In this article, we present to you the top 10 best small SUVs of 2021, ranked by price and type. Each of the vehicles mentioned in the article is affordable and has earned accolades from critics and consumers alike.
Table of Contents
1. Hyundai Tucson
Type: 2-row, Price: $24,885
Why We Picked It: Hyundai Tucson may not offer remarkable fuel economy, but it wins the game with its smooth ride and world-class cabin. As you seat yourself inside this 2-row SUV, you will be greeted with premium stain-resistant and odor-repellent cloth upholstery, and in case you opt for the higher trims Limited or Ultimate, you will get leather-draped interior as a standard feature. This compact SUV proves its mettle in the crash tests, earning praises from both IIHS and NHTSA.
- Engine– Hyundai Tucson offers a choice between two powertrains– one is a 2.0-liter engine producing 164 hp, another is a 2.4 liter with 181 hp.
- Fuel Economy– The vehicle offers a fuel economy of 23 and 28 mpg, in city and highway respectively.
- Cargo– The general cargo space is 31 cubic feet, which goes up to 61.9 cubic feet when the rear seats are folded flat.
2. Kia Sportage
Type: 2-row, Price: $25,265
Why We Picked It: Carrying a stylish body and a sporty demeanor, the 2021 Kia Sportage is an impressive addition to the newly launched compact SUVs of the year. There are four trim levels to choose from, with the highest trim featuring an efficient turbo engine. You can opt for all-wheel drive, but it comes with an additional cost. Standard heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, and power-adjusted liftgate are available for all trims. The interior of the vehicle looks classy and has been designed with practicality in mind.
- Engine- You get to choose between two engine options. The first one is a 181-hp 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, the other is a 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, producing 240 hp.
- Fuel Economy– With AWD, Sportage offers 21 mpg in city, and 25 mpg on highway (Combined 23 mpg).
- Cargo– This vehicle’s cargo area measures 30.7 cubic feet. When in need of more space, you can fold flat the 60/40 folding rear seats.
3. Subaru Forester
Type: 2-row, Price: $25,845
Why We Picked It: If you’re looking for smooth handling and a comfortable riding experience out of your new SUV, the Subaru Forester 2021 is a convenient choice. It may not have the most powerful engine, but the fuel economy it offers is quite amazing. Despite being a compact vehicle, you will get the SUV-like feel as you step inside the car, thanks to the high ground clearance and authoritative seating position. The interior is draped with leather, with plastic trimmings here and there to complement the camel-colored seats. This small SUV can tow up to 1500 pounds.
- Engine– The vehicle runs on a 182-hp 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine.
- Fuel Economy– This compact SUV offers 26 mpg in city, and 33 mpg on highway.
- Cargo– Here you will get 31.1 cubic feet of cargo area, but when the rear seats are not being used, you can extend the boot space to 76.1 cubic feet.
Type: 2-row, Price: $25,990
Why We Picked It: A gorgeous version of traditional truck-like Jeeps, Compass 2021 offers a convenient ride both for off-roading and casual cruising around the town. The lackluster engine is the only complaint we have, but it does offer decent fuel economy on city roads and highways. There are 7 trims to choose from, making the lineup a good fit for buyers with different budgets. The passenger area or the boot space isn’t particularly roomy either, but it’s suitable for small families. It has a seating capacity of four.
- Engine– Jeep Compass 2021 is powered by a 1.4-liter turbocharged petrol engine, producing 163 hp, or a 2-liter turbocharged diesel engine, giving an output of 173 hp.
- Fuel Economy– Compass offers good fuel economy, 22 mpg/ 31 mpg city/highway.
- Cargo– In general, you will get 27.2 cubic feet of area for hauling cargo. When the rear seats are not in use, you can fold them up to maximize the boot space to 59.8 cubic feet.
5. Volkswagen Tiguan
Type: 2-row/3-row, Price: $26,440
Why We Picked It: If you want a 7-seater small SUV, Volkswagen Tiguan would be an amazing choice. The vehicle boasts a stunning exterior, a practical cabin, and a no-fuss infotainment system. The higher trim levels offer a plethora of luxury features, such as a power-adjustable driver and passenger seat, faux-leather upholstery, and adaptive cruise control. All the trims run on the same four-cylinder powertrain and offer considerably good fuel economy.
- Engine– Tiguan is powered by a 2-liter 4-cylinder turbocharged engine, with an output of 184 hp.
- Fuel Economy– This Volkswagen vehicle earns a combined 25 mpg for city/highway (23 mpg/29 mpg city/highway).
- Cargo– For the 2-row variant, the available cargo space is 37.6 cubic feet and 73.5 cubic feet respectively, before and after folding down the rear seats. The 3-row vehicle has cargo space behind the front, middle and third rows, which come to 12 cubic feet, 33 cubic feet, and 65.7 cubic feet, respectively.
6. Honda CR-V
Type: 2-row, Price: $26,575
Why We Picked It: In the brand-new CR-V 2021, Honda offers a power-packed blend of remarkable fuel economy, a host of safety features, and a stylized cabin. The vehicle offers a comfortable ride, and thanks to its large cargo-hauling capacity, going on long trips will become more convenient. With a seating capacity of 5, this compact SUV is available in 6 trim levels, so that the customer never runs out of options. Cozy seats, luxurious accents, and spacious legroom make every ride a treat. It offers a towing capacity of 1500 pounds. Every vehicle comes with standard all-wheel drive.
- Engine– This two-row vehicle is powered by a 190-hp 1.5-liter turbo engine. If you opt for the hybrid variant, you will be greeted with two electric motors, combined with a 2-liter engine producing 212 hp.
- Fuel Economy– Honda CR-V offers an estimated EPA fuel economy rating of 28 mpg/ 34 mpg city/highway, which is quite impressive for an SUV. For the hybrid trim, it goes up to 40 mpg/35 mpg for city and highway respectively.
- Cargo– It has a large cargo space of 39.2 cubic feet at the back of the rear seats, which can be extended up to 75.8 cubic feet if you fold the seats.
7. Nissan Rogue
Type: 2-row, Price: $27,225
Why We Picked It: With its 2021 Rogue lineup, Nissan has successfully entered the list of best compact SUVs this year. The remodeled exterior, jam-packed infotainment system, and comfortable interiors make it a convenient family vehicle. Front-wheel drive comes standard for all Rogue trims, but you can upgrade to all-wheel drive. The second trim offers the best value, featuring a power-adjustable driver’s seat, semi-autonomous driving mode, and rear camera system.
- Engine– Nissan Rogue boasts a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, which produces 181 horsepower. The engine feels a little short of power for a vehicle as sturdy as this one.
- Fuel Economy– With AWD, Nissan Rogue offers a combined EPA rating of 29 mpg, 26 mpg for city, and 33 mpg for highway.
- Cargo– This vehicle has a cargo space of 36.5 cubic feet, which bumps up to 74.1 cubic feet if the rear seats are folded and not in use.
8. Toyota RAV4
Type: 2-row , Price: $27,565
Why We Picked It: Another vehicle that has made it to our list of top small SUVs is the Toyota RAV4 2021. Available in 6 trim levels, Toyota offers a wide price range to choose from, making RAV4 accessible to a wide customer base. Toyota’s exclusive driver-assistance features are available as standard, which is definitely a bonus. The interiors are minimal and ergonomically designed, and the higher trim levels get a host of luxury additions such as ventilated seats, faux-leather upholstery, steering draped in leather, blind-spot monitoring, and push-button start mechanism, to mention a few. Its cargo-hauling capacity is also commendable.
- Engine– Toyota RAV4 is powered by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine producing 203 hp. It comes with standard FWD, but you can also opt for AWD.
- Fuel Economy– The vehicle offers a stellar fuel economy on all roads. You will get 27 mpg/34 mpg city/highway mileage (combined 30 mpg).
- Cargo– Calculating the area located behind the rear seats, the cargo area is 37.6 cubic feet. It can be stretched up to 69.8 cubic feet if you lay the seats flat.
9. Volvo XC 40
Type: 2-row, Price: $34,795
Why We Picked It: Another small SUV that has caught our experts’ eyes this year is the Volvo XC 40 2021. It carries Volvo’s characteristic grand appeal and boasts a massive towing capacity of up to 3500 pounds. The boot area isn’t particularly spacious, but it does the job of hauling cargo for small families. The interiors exhibit an ergonomic build, designed with care to create a sophisticated ambiance. It comes with standard automated emergency braking, available across all trims.
- Engine– You can choose between the 184-hp 2-liter turbo engine or a 248-hp variant. The first one comes with FWD, while the latter comes with standard AWD.
- Fuel Economy– This compact SUV’s fuel economy rating stands at mpg 22/30, city/highway.
- Cargo– The cargo space available in a typical Volvo XC 40 is 20.7 cubic feet. If you require more space for hauling cargo, you can fold the rear row to get around 47.2 cubic feet.
10. BMW X1
Type: 2-row , Price: $36,395
Why We Picked It: BMW X1 proves its mettle on uneven roads, gliding comfortably, and not allowing the turbulence to reach the cabin. It comes with a seating capacity of four, with decent storage space to stuff luggage and other necessities. The interior looks luxurious, but when observed closely, you can find a few cheap additions here and there which take away from its premium vibe. The vehicle comes with standard auto high-beam headlamps, forward collision warning, and lane-departure warning to offer maximum safety for the driver and the passengers.
- Engine– The 2021 BMW X1 is powered by a four-cylinder turbocharged engine producing an output of 228 horsepower.
- Fuel Economy– The EPA-estimated fuel economy is 27 mpg combined– 24 mpg for city, and 33 for highway.
- Cargo– The available cargo space measures 27.1 cubic feet, and it goes up to 58.7 cubic feet if the rear seats are folded.
Difference between regular SUVs and small ones?
Despite belonging to the same sports utility class, there are multiple differences between regular and compact SUVs.
Size– The first difference is their size. Compact SUVs are smaller in height, width, and length than the traditional full-size ones.
Power & Fuel Economy– Large SUVs require more power because of their size, so the fuel economy is low. But for compact SUVs, the fuel economy is considerably better, as they are not as fuel-thirsty as big vehicles.
Off-Road Capability– One of the main reasons behind SUVs’ popularity is their robust build and off-road capability. In this department, large SUVs have an upper hand. They offer a better grip on the road and result in a powerful ride even on the roughest of roads. Compact SUVs, on the other hand, are considered for light off-roading, and not for serious adventurous trails.
Towing Capacity & Cargo– The towing and cargo-hauling capacity is higher in large or full-size SUVs. Compact SUVs, as they are smaller in dimensions, offer a low storage capacity and towing power.
Ease of Use– Compact SUVs are much more convenient to drive, as they offer more agility and ease of handling. This is often an issue with large SUVs– driving and maneuvering them on city roads can be difficult.
What to look for when choosing a Small SUV?
- Make sure the cargo space available in the small SUV meets your requirements.
- Know the fuel economy of your vehicle.
- Choose an SUV that’s easy to handle, and drives well on city roads.
- Understand your off-roading needs, and pick a vehicle accordingly.
- Small SUVs are more spacious than a sedan, but full-size sports utility vehicles offer way more space. Make sure that seating capacity is aligned with your requirements.
Types of Small SUVs
- 2-row seating
These are the most popular kinds of vehicles you will see out there. 2-row small SUVs are perfect for small families of up to 5 people. The cargo space is not huge, but as the area behind the rear seats remains empty, you get considerably better cargo capacity than 3-row SUVs. Compact SUVs are a treat to ride, as they offer more swiftness and agility because of their lightweight body. 2-row compact SUVs offer a maximum seating capacity for 5 people.
- 3-row seating
3-row SUVs are meant for big families. The third seat makes a perfect spot if you have a child, so you won’t have to compromise on space during long rides. However, this third row consumes a lot of potential cargo space. Unless you put down the seat, you won’t be able to haul a lot of cargo in the vehicle. They have a seating capacity of up to 7 people.