Luxury subcompact SUVs
Let's say you're looking for something classier than the models listed above. That's where subcompact luxury SUVs come in. They offer all the same driving and convenience advantages as the previous picks but step it up with more refined interiors, newer tech, more power and added prestige. All for a price, of course.
The GLB may be a little Mercedes SUV but it's made a big impact since its debut for 2020. It earns its top spot in the subcompact luxury SUV class with a spacious interior, decent performance and high levels of comfort. It's also packed with tech, including Mercedes' praiseworthy MBUX infotainment system.
We also like the GLB for its rugged boxy shape that reminds us of the big G-Class that resides on the other side of Mercedes' pricing scale. In some ways, though, being a Mercedes can be a negative. How's that? Well, the price can easily spiral out of control when you start adding options.
The BMW X1 is the least expensive BMW SUV you can buy. Thankfully, many of the attributes you get from those bigger BMWs are present in the little X1. Notably, its sporty handling and turbocharged engine give the X1 an engaging character whether you're running errands around town or navigating a twisty mountain road.
Other highlights for the X1 include high-quality cabin materials and a roomy back seat. But the X1 does come up a little short on comfort. In particular, it has a stiffer ride than many other extra-small SUVs, and it can get a little noisy on the highway.
Searching for a luxury SUV with a sporty look? Check out the GLA. It's related to the Mercedes GLB but has a sloped roofline instead of the GLB's boxy profile. That shape results in reduced rear headroom and quite a bit less cargo space. About a third less than the GLB, actually.
Otherwise, the GLA delivers the same experience as the GLB with decent performance, high scores for comfort, a great infotainment system and a powerful AMG version. If boxy isn't your thing, the GLA might be a good compromise.
Rounding out the field from Germany is the Audi Q3. Like the GLB, X1 and GLA, it's loaded with all the latest tech and features a refined interior. The quiet cabin and comfortable ride also make the Q3 a good pick if you do a lot of highway driving. But on the downside, the Q3 can feel a little slow to accelerate at times and its fuel economy is near the bottom of the class.
Responsive steering and composed handling allow the Q3 to handle curves with confidence, but if you're hoping for something sporty, best stick with the BMW X1.
Closing out the luxury subcompacts is the Volvo XC40. It has a stylish design that doesn't compromise on utility. For example, check out the storage solutions the designers built into the XC40. There's a hook that flips out from the glovebox to hold bags, a handy waste bin in the center console, and one of the most versatile cargo areas around. And since it's a Volvo, safety plays a key role in its appeal.
It could use some suspension tweaks to improve handling, however, and the infotainment system isn't as intuitive as the ones found in its German rivals.