Indeed, the market performance of subcompact suv provides insights that value can come in small packages. This market has been on an upward projectile in the last couple of years, and it’s not hard to see why. The vehicles are budget-friendly and perfect for people who don’t need the extra space.
Depending on the trim level, the cabin is often comfy, and its other features, such as infotainment and convenience technology, usually are pretty competitive.
Whether you are looking for something small, stylish, or efficient, the current subcompact SUV market has it all. You only need to know where to look.
To help you choose the best subcompact SUV, we have listed down the highest-rated vehicles of recent times. The base price of all the vehicles is under $30K, which is quite competitive when compared to other segments.
1. 2022 Hyundai Venue
Why We Picked It: Despite being one of the most affordable subcompact SUVs in the market, the 2022 Hyundai Venue doesn’t compromise on content.
As standard features, you get driver-attention monitor, automated emergency braking, forward-collision warning, lane-departure warning, and lane-keep assist, something quite generous for its price.
The engine produces 121 hp, and the fuel economy is quite good. The interior is quite spacious, both for the front and rear passengers. The back seat has a foldable design, which comes in handy in case you need additional cargo space. The infotainment system boasts an 8-inch screen, equipped with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Out of the 3 available trim levels, the highest one gets our vote, as it contains all the best features of the lineup.
2022 Hyundai Venue Specs
- Engine- DOHC 16-valve inline-4 engine
- Fuel Economy- 29 mpg/33 mpg city/highway
- Cargo Space- 18.7 cu ft
2. 2022 Kia Soul
Why We Picked It: The 2022 Kia Soul made it to our compilation of best subcompact SUVs 2021 & 2022 for two main reasons. Firstly, the engine options. The base 2-liter engine produces 147 hp, whereas the most expensive trim Turbo gets a 1.6 liter engine, with an output of 201 hp.
Secondly, the fuel economy is great. Its overall performance is also impressive, on both city roads and highways. The interior is spacious, but as you can’t fold the rear seats, it can become a little inconvenient to carry heavy cargo.
While most subcompact SUVs have a somewhat cramped design, this one sticks to a cube or a boxy design, which makes the cabin more comfortable. It has a seating capacity of 5.
One complaint we have is that the base model doesn’t offer any standard driver-assist features, they are strictly reserved for the higher trims levels S, X-Line, GT-Line, EX, and Turbo.
2022 Kia Soul Specs
- Engine- DOHC 16-valve Atkinson-cycle inline-4 engine
- Fuel Economy- 28 mpg/ 33 mpg city/highway
- Cargo Space- 24 cu ft
3. 2021 Nissan Kicks
Why We Picked It: This diminutive SUV is trendy and boasts a surprisingly spacious cabin. Apart from that, Nissan Kicks also has excellent speeds on the highway, and city driving feels comfortable.
This is especially so with its generous standard equipment and driver assistance features. Even the base trim equipment feels premium.
The 122-hp 4-cylinder engine may not produce the most thrilling performance, especially on the highways, but it is adequate. With the comfort-tuned suspension and direct and accurate steering, Kicks feels more fun when cruising around town and visiting the usual social spots in and around the block.
Kicks has a well-built and user-friendly interior which adds to its pleasant driving experience. And unlike its counterparts, Kicks boasts a spacious and comfortable rear seat for people and cargo. The cargo area stands out, as you can fit in quite a lot in the boot.
The small SUV also takes the less-traveled road with a color-splashed cabin to break the monotony of a black interior.
2021 Nissan Kicks Specs
- Engine- DOHC 16-valve inline-4, direct fuel injection
- Fuel Economy- 31 mpg city and 36 mpg highway
- Cargo Space- 25 cu ft
4. 2021 Hyundai Kona
Why We Picked It: Hyundai Kona’s bold styling is a breath of fresh air in the subcompact SUV market. But far from its handsome demeanor, the SUV has a capable engine and crisp handling. The non-turbo model may be slower but it’s still fun to drive.
Hyundai Kona is beautiful inside out. Its cabin has excellent and comfortable materials, comfortable seats, and brilliant ergonomics. The leather on the steering wheel is well-refined and comfortable on the hands.
Kona’s touchscreen infotainment system has various standard menus for more straightforward navigation and control, and is intuitive. In addition, the SUV has a host of standard driver assistance features that enhance the driving experience and safety.
Typically, the cargo space is not as generous as some of its peers, and its rear seats are not very comfortable.
Another thing, the SE and SEL models have a four-cylinder and a 6-speed auto transmission, which, while having good power, could use some boost.
NHTSA has given Hyundai Kona a five-star rating for safety.
2021 Hyundai Kona Specs
- Engine- turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 16-valve inline-four, direct fuel injection, aluminum block, and head
- Fuel Economy- 28/32 mpg for city/highway
- Cargo Space- 19 cu ft
5. 2021 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport
Why We Picked It: 2021 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport is one handsome fellow, with infotainment features and driver-assist tech to support its claim in the best subcompact SUV market for the 2021 list.
Outlander Sport comes with great techs, such as pedestrian detection as part of the forward collision warning and automatic high beams. And while you can make some good savings with the base model, stepping up to the LE trim level unlocks some premium features, such as the black accents on the exterior.
But the SUV’s greatest undoing is the aging engines and a driving experience that could do with some improvements. Regardless, most people will overlook these shortcomings and appreciate what’s offered, which is an unmatched powertrain warranty and attractive exterior.
Outlander Sport has a little less trouble compared with other subcompact SUVs when driving from one point to the other.
2021 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport Specs
- Engine- DOHC 16-valve inline-four, port fuel injection, aluminum block, and head
- Fuel Economy- 23 and 28 mpg in the city and on the highway
- Cargo Space- 22 cu ft
6. 2021 Toyota C-HR
Why We Picked It: beautiful and bold styling is the staple for the 2021 Toyota C-HR. The subcompact SUV offers good looks for social events and attractions on the city roads.
The 2021 Toyota C-HR’s highway fuel economy is a good veil for the relatively underpowered four-cylinder engine. Other goodies include the premium styling and fitting in the cabin, its host of driver-assist features, and the available all-drive.
Thanks to its updated driver assistance features, C-HR’s safety cred is up there with other premium models. Toyota’s active safety system has come of age with road edge detection, automated emergency braking, and traffic sign recognition, among others.
2021 Toyota C-HR Specs
- Engine- DOHC 16-valve inline-four, port-fuel injection, aluminum block, and head
- Fuel Economy- 27 and 31 mpg in the city and on the highway
- Cargo Space- 19 cu ft
7. 2021 Mazda CX-30
Why We Picked It: This is yet another best rated subcompact SUV you should definitely check out. CX-30 represents high quality and excellent powertrain that beats logic for something so small.
The optional turbocharged 14 has 250 horses under the bonnet and 320 pound-feet of torque. This is pretty impressive, considering that all this power does not come in the way of the overall driving experience. The smooth body movements and crisp steering are good reasons to include CX-30 in our list of the best subcompact SUV for 2021.
CX-30’s 2.5L four-cylinder has enough power, and its six-speed automatic transmission is quite efficient in picking gears based on the driving conditions. It’s safe to say that the CX-30 cabin quickly gives rivals a run for their money.
Despite the striking resemblance to CX-3, CX-30 is more modern and hugely trendy, with an SUV-like suspension. Its host of driver assistance features is also top of the range to enhance your experience and safety behind the wheel.
2021 Mazda CX-30 Specs
- Engine- DOHC 16-valve inline-4, direct fuel injection, aluminum block, and head
- Fuel Economy- 4 mpg city and 31 mpg highway
- Cargo Space- 20 cu ft
Read the full Mazda CX-30 review here.
8. 2021 Ford EcoSport
Why We Picked It: Ford EcoSport is a decent subcompact SUV, and its engine, while relatively underpowered, can tow up to 1400 lbs. The optional 166-hp 4-cylinder engine extends this towing capacity to 2000 lbs.
The subcompact SUV has a good suspension that cushions the passengers from the ravages of poor roads, but this diminishes at higher speeds. The front passenger has good space to ride in comfort, and the car has a competitive cargo space despite its diminutive nature.
EcoSport drives well in traffic, where speed is not necessary. But the overall driving experience could definitely use some improvements. EcoSport is rated four stars for safety by the NHTSA.
2021 Ford EcoSport Specs
- Engine- DOHC 16-valve inline-4, direct-fuel injection, aluminum block, and head
- Fuel Economy- 23/ 29 for city/ highway
- Cargo Space- 21 cu ft
9. 2022 Toyota Corolla Cross
Why We Picked It: The 2022 Corolla Cross is Toyota’s newest addition to the small vehicle segment. It’s spacious, affordable, and the list of tech features is adequate.
The 2-liter 169-hp engine is available for all trim levels. The ride may not be buttery smooth, but it’s still quite impressive. The front-wheel drive option offers best-in-class fuel economy, which drops down a little if you go with all-wheel drive.
Out of the 3 trim levels, we would recommend the highest trim XLE. It’s equipped with beautiful faux-leather upholstery, center armrest, and heated front seats for some added comfort.
The infotainment system is practical, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration. As for the safety features, the standard content includes automated emergency braking, lane-departure warning, and adaptive cruise control.
2022 Toyota Corolla Cross Specs
- Engine- DOHC 16-valve Atkinson-cycle inline-4 engine
- Fuel Economy- 31 mpg/33 mpg city/highway
- Cargo Space- 24 cu ft
Read the full Toyota Corolla Cross review here.
10. 2022 Kia Seltos
Why We Picked It: The 2022 Kia Seltos combines in itself all the features you’d expect a best rated subcompact SUV to have. The handsomely designed body maintains a fine balance between practicality and style, and the roomy interior is ideal to keep passengers comfortable.
The EPA-estimated fuel economy is on the higher side of the range. The basic trim levels get a 2-liter four cylinder engine, which gets upgraded to a turbocharged 175-hp 1.6-liter one.
The best thing about this subcompact SUV is its range of standard driver assist features. You get auto emergency braking, lane-keep assist, and lane-departure warning. Both front wheel and all-wheel drive options are available.
There’s very little to complain about this 5-seater. You get to choose between the 5 available trim levels. If we’re asked to name our favorite, we would pick the middle trim EX or the most expensive SX.
2022 Kia Seltos Specs
- Engine- DOHC 16-valve inline-4 turbo engine
- Fuel Economy- 29 mpg/35 mpg for city/highway
- Cargo Space- 27 cu ft
11. 2021 Buick Encore
Why We Picked It: This one has to be one of the best luxury subcompact suvs in the current automotive market. Admittedly, the 2021 Buick Encore is sweet to the eyes, and anyone wouldn’t mind being seen with it. Under the hood is a turbocharged four-cylinder powertrain, which, while decent, doesn’t seem to be in a hurry.
The interior tries to scramble what is left of its underwhelming power with spacious and relative comfort. Indeed, the upholstery is quite decent and a real show of taste, except for a couple of shortcomings. The lower center console and door panels are hard plastics. This changes when you move to the dash pads and armrests, which have soft-touch parts.
However, the passengers are atop a short wheelbase, which causes more extensive lean around the corners.
Buick Encore does well with well-weighted and accurate steering, making it a good choice for people looking for a comfortable small SUV. But that’s not the only source of comfort for Buick. Its suspension is up to the task as it easily braves up the roughs on different roads.
2021 Buick Encore Specs
- Engine- turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 16-valve inline-four, direct-fuel injection aluminum block and head
- Fuel Economy- 28 and 31 mpg for city and highway
- Cargo Space- 19 cu ft
12. 2021 Jeep Renegade
Why We Picked It: The front-wheel drive-based Italian-made SUV is made for urban driving. While its boxy exterior design is conspicuous, it is pretty adorable nonetheless. But the design is not the only stand-out feature. Renegade has a removable sunroof and comes with a decent off-road capability.
Jeep Renegade may fall short in performance, but it makes up for it with extra torque for improved acceleration from a stop. The all-wheel-drive trims have incredible tow power of up to 2000 lbs. In general, the Renegade’s ride is comfortable and composed.
Characteristic of the best subcompact SUV for 2021, the steering is responsive, the corners have a much-reduced body roll, and its 7.0- or 8.4-inch touchscreen with Uconnect interface support is capable.
The interior is designed to appeal, and most people find it amusing. The trimmings and odd shapes seem like Renegade is trying too hard to differentiate from the competition. Appreciably, the seats fold flat to the ground to reveal a humongous load floor. You can carry much more than expected, thanks to its spacious boot area.
2021 Jeep Renegade Specs
- Engine- turbocharged and intercooled SOHC 16-valve inline-4, direct fuel injection aluminum block, and head
- Fuel Economy- 23 and 29 mpg for city and highway, respectively
- Cargo Space- 19 cu ft
13. 2022 Volkswagen Taos
Why We Picked It: 2022 Volkswagen Taos doesn’t offer any driving thrills, but it’s a good subcompact SUV if you’re looking for a no-fuss ride for your daily commute.
It’s powered by a 1.5-liter turbocharged engine producing 158 hp. Ride can feel firm, but body roll is somewhat controlled. We agree that it’s not an ideal choice for auto enthusiasts, but it does what it’s supposed to, that is, to take you from point A to B. There is very little eye-catching feature in its exterior body, so the SUV fails to make a mark with its design and style.
Despite all of this, it’s an adequately good subcompact SUV– the fuel economy ratings are good, the cargo area is roomy enough, and it comfortably seats 5 people.
2022 Volkswagen Taos Specs
- Engine- Turbocharged inline-four engine
- Fuel Economy- 28 mpg/36 mpg city/highway
- Cargo Space- 27.9 cu ft
Read the full Volkswagen Taos review here.
14. 2021 Nissan Rogue Sport
Why We Picked It: 2021 Nissan Rogue Sport is a slightly larger subcompact SUV with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine mated with a CVT. It has capable handling and a smooth and stable ride, even though it could do with a little more pleasure behind the wheel.
The Rogue does not live up to its name as it runs out of breath during acceleration on highways. But still, it is sufficient for the class. The braking and handling could improve, and the acceleration is not something to particularly brag about.
But despite its shortcomings, Rogue Sports fits the category for people looking for a little more space than a compact SUV. It can pretty much fit in the category of grown SUVs with their associated perks, while still being available at an affordable price.
2021 Nissan Rogue Sport Specs
- Engine- DOHC 16-valve inline-four, direct-fuel injection, aluminum block, and head
- Fuel Economy- 24 and 30 mpg for city and highway
- Cargo Space- 20 cu ft
15. 2021 FIAT 500X
Why We Picked It: 2021 FIAT 500X stands out for its charm in styling, inside and outside. Its turbocharged 1.3-l 4-cylinder engine has enough power to break away from peers on the highway. It is not the fastest or the most fun to drive, but the subcompact SUV is decent on the road.
Admittedly, a lot of thought was put into the layout of the controls on the dash because it easily accommodates different body sizes. Its cabin is stylish, and the Sport version takes it to the next level.
Standard features in all the Fiat 500X trims include the A 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment with a navigation system.
The all-wheel-drive system has three-driver selectable settings to improve traction on different road conditions. FIAT 500X’s suspension system works better on the highway than on curvy and rough backroads.
2021 FIAT 500X Specs
- Engine- turbocharged and intercooled SOHC 16-valve
- Fuel Economy- 21-25/29-33 mpg for city/ highway driving
- Cargo Space- 12 cu ft
What are the features of Subcompact SUVs?
When you enjoy the ease of handling of a small car and the spacious cargo and elevated seating of an SUV, a subcompact SUV is perfect for your taste. The primary features of a subcompact SUV are as follows:
- Subcompact SUVs are smaller than compact SUVs
- They are highly fuel-efficient
- There are usually 2 rows, with a seating capacity of 5
- They are suitable for city rides and are quite easy to maneuver
- They are equipped with more trunk space than regular cars
- They offer smooth driving, with a hint of sportiness
- They are ideal for buyers with a tight budget
How did we rank these subcompact SUVs?
Our experts handpicked the best subcompact SUVs based on their safety features, performance, fuel economy, and cargo space. After listing down the top 15, we ranked them from lowest to highest order of prices.
Subcompact SUV or Compact SUV: Which is better for you?
Compact SUVs are slightly bigger than subcompact SUVs, and often turn out to be more versatile in nature. While subcompacts are a great option within a budget, compact or small SUVs come with a slight price bump and more interior space.
Both the classes ensure the driver has an authoritative seating position, and the fuel economy is more or less similar. You may get an option to choose between front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive in a compact SUV, but subcompact vehicles usually have only front-wheel drive. But of course, there are exceptions.
Both are reliable and comfortable. But when it’s time to make a purchase, the ultimate choice is yours.
|Subcompact SUV||Compact SUV|
|Ease of Handling||Good||Good|
1. Which subcompact SUV is best?
The top 3 best subcompact SUVs are Mazda CX-30, Hyundai Kona, and Buick Encore.
2. What is the most reliable subcompact SUV?
Boasting a 5-star rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Hyundai Kona is the most reliable subcompact SUV.
3. What is the quietest subcompact SUV?
The quietest subcompact SUV is Buick Encore.