MARK TAKAHASHI: Subcompact or extra small SUVs are rapidly gaining popularity among shoppers, and it makes perfect sense. Most drivers aren't willing to give up the elevated ride height and greater view of the road once they've experienced driving one. But not everyone needs something as big as a Suburban or even a CRV.
The newer class of pint-sized SUVs benefit from a sedan-sized footprint that makes them easy to maneuver and park while also returning strong fuel economy. They also provide a much bigger and more flexible cargo area than the typical sedan. They're not the best choice for growing families, but they're great for almost everyone else, from first-time drivers to empty-nesters.
Before we tear through the list, do us a favor. Hit like and subscribe below and head over to edmunds.com/sellmycar to get a cash offer on your vehicle. Here then are the best subcompact crossover SUVs that have made it through Edmunds' exhaustive evaluations that include track testing and real-world driving. Whether you're looking for something basic or luxurious, we've got you covered.
We're starting with the best here. As we're filming this in July, 2021, we rank the Chevy Trailblazer as the best subcompact crossover. Like any of the vehicles in this class, it's easy to drive and packed with features.
The Trailblazer further distinguishes itself with sharp Camero-like styling and positively spacious rear seats. It's not particularly quick, even with a more powerful 1.3-liter engine upgrade. Handling is pretty far from what we consider inspiring, too. But then again, most shoppers aren't really looking for something sporty in this segment. For them, the Trailblazer would be more than adequate. This new Trailblazer easily exceeded expectations, and we're confident you'll be just as pleasantly surprised by how good it is.
In a very close second place is the Mazda CX-30. Not only does it stand out from the rest with its sleek style, but it continues to impress with an interior that rivals some luxury brands. What's better, it's way more fun to drive. The base engine gets the CX-30 to 60 miles an hour in nine seconds, which is a little quicker than average, while the new turbo-charge option gets you there in only 6.4 seconds.
That makes it the quickest in the class. It's also a Mazda, which means it handles the curves better than rivals, yet the ride quality remains calm and comfortable. Drawbacks are few, forgiveable, and includes some big blind spots and below-average fuel economy.
Frankly, it's been a while since Buick has been in a best of list. But it's good to see them back with the Encore GX. Considering it's related to the top Chevy Trailblazer, it makes perfect sense.
It's in a numerical tie with the Mazda, bolstered by similar levels of sporty handling, ride comfort, and appealing style. It further benefits from a slightly larger cargo space, but it's held back by its loud engine, noticeable road noise, and thick roof pillars that make it hard to see out the back. It can also be a little more expensive than others in this class.
The Hyundai Kona is right in there with an equally impressive Edmunds' rating score. Like the CX-30, it has a punchy turbo engine option, and it's perfectly at home on a twisty mountain road. As with most Hyundais, the Kona earns more points for value as you get a lot of features for the money as well as the longest warranty coverage in the industry. It's pretty likely that the Kona could meet or beat the Mazda with a stronger base engine and smoother shifts in the turbo's transmission. It also gets knocked for the abundance of hard plastics inside and smaller rear passenger and cargo space.
And finally the Subaru Crosstrek isn't easy. Is it a wagon, a hatchback, a subcompact crossover? Whatever you call it, it's in a three-way tie for second place with the Buick and Hyundai. The Crosstrek sets itself apart from the rest with taller ground clearance and standard all-wheel drive, giving it greater abilities off-road or in nasty weather.
We also like it for its spacious rear seats and comfortable ride. The base engine is pretty weak, but a new larger and more powerful 182-horsepower engine in the top trends should solve that. There's quite a bit of body roll when taking turns, though, and the cargo capacity is on the small side.
Let's say you're looking for something a little nicer than the very fine Mazda. That's where we get into the luxury class of subcompacts. They offer all the same driving and convenience advantages of previous picks but step it up with more refined interiors, newer tech, and added prestige, for a price, of course.
The GLB class is relatively new on the scene, but it made a big impact. It debuted as our top pick in the subcompact luxury SUV class, due in no small part to its spacious interior, decent performance, and high levels of comfort. It's also packed with tech, including the 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 the pricing scale. I like to call it the lower case g-wagon. It is still a Mercedes, though, which means the price can easily spiral out of control when you start adding options. The standard GLB-250 is very competent but isn't all that exciting to drive. The good news is there's an AMG version with 302 horsepower that should easily correct that.
If you're seeking a sporty counterpart to the competent GLB without spending another $10,000 for the AMG version, perhaps you should check out the BMW X1. On paper, the X1's 27.1-cubic-foot cargo capacity beats the GLB by about five cubic feet. But that includes the underfloor area that is usually where the spare tire is. With more realistic above-floor usage, the GLB pulls ahead thanks to its boxy shape that can accept bulkier objects.
The X1's sporty handling will keep spirited drivers happy on a twisty mountain pass and the potent turbocharged engine has more than enough power. It'll reach 60 miles an hour in 6.4 seconds, which is only 1/10 ahead of the GLB, but the BMW's sharper responses make it feel quicker. The drawback to that sporty handling is a stiffer ride quality.
Remember the first-generation Mercedes GLA that debuted back in 2015? Well, forget about that one because it was terrible. This new one is great, though. Why? Because it's pretty much the same as a class-leading GLB.
But instead of a boxy throwback silhouette, it has a sleeker, tapered body. That shape results in reduced rear headroom and quite a bit less cargo space, about 1/3 less than the GLB actually. With only 15.4 cubic feet, that capacity is about what we expect from smaller sedans. 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 variant with an overly stiff suspension. If boxy isn't your thing, the GLA might be a good compromise.
Rounding out the German luxury trinity is the Audi Q3, which like the others is loaded with all the latest tech and features a refined interior. It's not terribly fun to drive, though, as it takes 7.8 seconds to reach 60 miles an hour, making it one of the slower picks in the class. On top of that, it also misses the mark slightly when it comes to fuel economy. The responsive steering and composed handling allow the Q3 to handle curves with confidence. But if you're hoping for something sporty, let's stick with the BMW X1.
Closing out the luxury subcompacts is one of my favorites, the Volvo XC40. This funky futuristic alternative is big on design and clever features. And since it's a Volvo, safety plays a key role.
I'm particularly a fan of the many storage solutions the designers built into the XC40. There's a hook that flips out from the glove box to hold bags, a handy little waste bin in the center console, and one of the most versatile cargo areas around. It could use some suspension tweaks to improve handling, though, and the infotainment system isn't nearly as intuitive as the ones found in its German rivals.
Well, that's it for our current list of the best subcompact crossover SUVs. During the course of the year, these rankings may change with the introduction of newer models. So remember to check out edmunds.com for all the latest news, reviews, and information. Thanks for watching and don't forget to hit the like and subscribe buttons below.