Before the age of the subcompact SUV, the term sports utility vehicle referred almost exclusively to tough, large vehicles that drank lots of fuel and wobbled around nervously when confronted with a twisty road. Times have changed, and there are now a plethora of configurations, including those with smaller body styles and thriftier engines that retain the raised ride height and bolder styling that so many shoppers find irresistible. Of course, the other advantage to these diminutive SUVs is cost - many are affordable alternatives to traditional sedans and hatchbacks.
Our reviews of the best subcompact SUVs of 2020 will help you determine which are worth your hard-earned cash. Our assessments include opinions about their driveability, whether they get access to all-wheel-drive, cargo capacity, and their maneuverability within the city - often the natural habitat for this type of vehicle. We also let you know how much you can expect to pay to own one of these delightful little automobiles. Whether you’re on the hunt for a basic machine or something more luxurious, you can trust our best subcompact SUV rankings to help you separate the class-leaders from the rest of the pack.
What Defines Subcompact Crossovers?
A relatively new addition to the automotive market, the subcompact crossover fills a rather complex niche. Naturally, this means that they have to do a few things right to stay competitive.
Size - The first thing you’ll notice about these cars is that they have remarkably small footprints. This allows them to get around town with greater ease than their more sizeable brethren.
Commanding driving position - They are known for their tall bodies and elevated driver’s seats. The extra confidence that comes from having an excellent view of the road is a strength of the style.
Practicality - Even the smallest of these machines will usually boast impressive trunk space and a pretty roomy cabin.
Affordability - While there are certainly a few pricey luxury options out there, these are generally some of the most well-priced automobiles on the market.
Top Subcompact SUV rankings
This burgeoning segment certainly spoils you for choice. There is no shortage of capable options, so you can rely on our detailed reviews and refined scoring system to help you figure out which are the top models.
Kia Seltos - With an appealing starting price of just $21,990, this 2021 entrant comes equipped with a 146-horsepower four-cylinder gas engine that gets gas mileage figures that outshine most competitors.
Kia Soul - The Soul’s boxy design is very much a love it or hate it affair. But you can’t help but love the low starting MSRP of $17,490. With boatloads of passenger and trunk space, the reliable breadbox car is certainly our top pick for 2020.
Mercedes-Benz GLA - The smallest model in the German brand’s line-up, the GLA still gets plenty of power from its turbo-four-pot. Inside, it is as luxurious as you’d expect from the manufacturer, with plenty of standard features.
What to consider before buying
Despite their popularity, these miniature cars are not for everyone. You should definitely consider their strengths and weaknesses before deciding whether buying is the best choice for you.
Size: Due to their slight stature, these types of autos are easy to drive and park and suit the urban environment perfectly
Highly practical: The ability to configure cargo spaces is a boon, with small-item storage and the ability to cart around people and their stuff, included
Decent fuel economy: With less weight to move around, gas usage is lower than in portlier SUVs, meaning you spend less cash at the pumps
Cheap price tag: With less emphasis on superlative luxury and over-the-top features, these cars cost less to produce, and subsequently are more modestly priced
Capability: With less grunt under the hood and less muscle in the metal, subcompacts can’t tow or haul as much as bigger types, and won’t be quite as fast either
Gimmick styling: Presumably to keep it fresh and attractive, many iterations have in-your-face aesthetics that could be divisive
Off-roading no-no: Very few in this segment have true 4x4 prowess and the ability to tackle harsher terrain with confidence
What is the difference between a compact and a subcompact?
The short answer is size. Subcompacts are obviously smaller, but the official description is a vehicle with between 85-99 cubic feet of combined passenger and cargo space. This means that it is actually possible for a compact to be smaller overall, so long as it has more room in the cabin.
What is the best ultra-small crossover?
The Kia Seltos scores top marks in our books, but it is only available in the 2021 production cycle. Kia’s other offering, the Soul, is ranked highest in terms of our 2020 options.
What is the cheapest subcompact SUV?
Many of these machines boast very attractive price tags, but there are still a number of overly expensive models and those that stand out as excellent value for money. Our top pick, the Kia Soul, is actually also the most affordable at just $17,490. The premium nameplates ask for a bit more, but if you look at those dated back a bit between 2017 - 2019, you may be able to find a used model at a great deal.