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Best Small SUVs: Which Is Right For You?

Best Small SUV

Best Small SUV

”Small” is a relative term. In this story, we will use it loosely and present a list of small SUVs that may range in size from one vehicle to the next.

We’ve tested every choice on this list, and our expert opinion is they all deserve to be recognized.

Every vehicle on this list has AWD available or as standard, has towing capabilities, and has real-world utility features.

Check out all our picks for the best SUVs by size >>

Read about how we rank our vehicles >>

What Is Considered a Small SUV?

When discussing small SUVs a quick disclaimer on terms must be presented. All of the sport utility vehicles we discuss here will be crossovers to some. True 4X4 systems are not what these small SUVs come with but rather advanced all-wheel drive systems.

We have created a handy chart so you can easily see how large one is compared to the next.

You will notice we culled the sports-sedan substitutes. While the Mazda CX-30 is one of our favorite sporty crossovers, we hesitate to call it an “SUV.”

Best Small SUV Comparison

Best Family SUVsFord Bronco Sport AWDJeep RenegadeSubaru
Crosstrek
Ford EcoSportKia Seltos
Base Price / Top Trim Price

$27K / $35K

$24K / $31K

$24K / $33K

$21K / $29K

$24K / $30K

Passenger Volume

106 cu. ft.

101 cu. ft.

100.9 cu. ft.

91 cu. ft.

Est.  97 cu. ft.

Max Cargo Volume

60 cu. ft.

50.8 cu. ft.

  55.3 cu. ft.

50 cu. ft.

62.8 cu. ft.

Min. Ground Clearance

8.8 in.

8.7 in.

8.7 in.

7.9 in.

7.3 in.

HP (Top Trim)
250 HP
177 HP
182 HP
166 HP
175 HP
EPA Combined MPG

23 MPG

24 MPG

90 MPGe / 30 MPG / 29 MPG

23  MPG

27 MPG

Tow Rating
2,200 lbs
2,000 lbs
1,500 lbs
2,000 lbs
2000 lbs

1. Ford Bronco Sport

Ford Bronco Sport Small SUVFord’s new Bronco Sport is a rugged, boxy SUV with “Go Over Any Terrain” capability. While it may share a few key bits with the Escape to keep costs manageable, there is little similarity to how they feel and perform. The Bronco Sport is a legitimate off-roader with gobs of utility features.

Ford’s Bronco Sport was recently tested for safety by IIHS and found to be the safest vehicle in its class. With a Top Safety Pick Plus rating, this new Bronco Sport sets the bar for the segment by making every trim with standard active safety systems and top-rated headlights.

Some of the things that make the Bronco Sport unique include a locking rear differential, an optional turbocharged engine with 250 hp, and a top trim with snow-rated all-terrain tires and recovery hooks. We took the Bronco Sport to the wilds of New Hampshire to test its off-road and snow capabilities and came away impressed. This is one SUV that comes ready for any adventure.

Ford Bronco Sport Pros

  • Outstanding off-road capability
  • Strongest engine in this group
  • Highest safety rating in the class

Ford Bronco Sport Cons

  • Fuel economy
  • Price

Current Ford Bronco Sport Deals & Incentives

YearMakeModelCash Incentives (up to)Best Avail. APRLease OffersExpiration
2021FordBronco Sport$1,000 1.90%$299/month for 36 months, $2,925 due at signing10/4/2021

You may qualify for additional deals and incentives, check out this month's Ford deals here.

2. Jeep Renegade

If you view the only “real” Jeep as a Wrangler, that’s a shame. The Jeep line doesn’t include a single poser based on our testing. Every one of them is built to be the toughest vehicle in its class, and the diminutive Renegade is no exception.

The Renegade comes in multiple trims with varying capabilities. If you want the one that can follow a Wrangler around in the woods, opt for the Trailhawk.

One concern we have about the Renegade is the lack of a spare tire. You may want to check before you buy to see if it can be equipped with one. If not, you may need to look at a different model or plan to buy a spare for off-roading.

Jeep Renegade Pros

  • Off-Road capable Trailhawk trim

Jeep Renegade Cons

  • No spare tire

Current Jeep Renegade Deals & Incentives

YearMakeModelCash Incentives (up to)Best Avail. APRLease OffersExpiration
2021JeepRenegade$2,250 0.00%$199/month for 36 months, $3,999 due at signing9/30/2021

You may qualify for additional deals and incentives, check out this month's Jeep deals here.

3. Subaru Crosstrek

Subaru Crosstrek Small SUVSubaru’s Crosstrek wins the “Most well-rounded” contest in this group of small SUVs. Is it a small wagon? A lifted and upgraded Impreza hatchback? A small Forester? We don’t care. We love the Crosstrek, and we have taken it to some extremes off-road.

The Crosstrek is also available as a plug-in hybrid-electric vehicle. This powertrain features a 90 MPGe rating when combining electricity and gas, or 35 MPG when operating as a hybrid. All of the Crosstrek’s three engines deliver outstanding fuel economy.

All Crosstreks are all-wheel drive, and Subaru has a reputation for having the best AWD systems in the market. The X-Mode allows drivers to tackle deep snow or sand, and there are endless videos online of drivers doing exactly that if you need any proof.

Subaru’s commitment to safety is also impressive to us, and the Crosstrek earns the Top Safety Pick rating from IIHS.

Subaru Crosstrek Pros

  • All-weather capability
  • IIHS Top Safety Pick
  • Plug-in Hybrid Option

Subaru Crosstrek Cons

  • Base engine power

Current Subaru Crosstrek Deals & Incentives

YearMakeModelCash Incentives (up to)Best Avail. APRLease OffersExpiration
2021SubaruCrosstrek0.90%$229/month for 36 months, $2,429 due at signing9/30/2021

You may qualify for additional deals and incentives, check out this month's Subaru deals here.

4. Ford EcoSport

Ford EcoSport Small SUVThose looking for a small SUV on a budget who have limited expectations should consider the EcoSport. Ford’s EcoSport combines a low price point with surprising capability. We tested the EcoSport and were amazed at its abilities in snow and on ice. Ford designed the EcoSport to fit a budget. If you want more capability, the company has endless choices that slot in above this entry-level SUV.

There is no spare in the EcoSport, so that is a consideration. IIHS has not tested the EcoSport, so safety is not yet determined. The EcoSport earned a spot in this list by being the very definition of a “small SUV.”

Ford EcoSport Pros

  • Low price point

Ford EcoSport Cons

  • No spare tire

Current Ford EcoSport Deals & Incentives

YearMakeModelCash Incentives (up to)Best Avail. APRLease OffersExpiration
2021FordEcoSport$1,000 1.90%$169/month for 24 months, $2,859 due at signing10/4/2021

You may qualify for additional deals and incentives, check out this month's Ford deals here.

5. Kia Seltos

Kia Seltos Small SUVThe Kia Seltos was quietly added to the Kia line a couple of years ago, and it made quite an impression on us in testing. We took the Seltos off-road up a powerline access trail and were almost stunned by its ability to tackle some gnarly obstacles.

On-road, the Seltos is also a winner. It has a different vibe than the car-like Hyundai Kona and Mazda CX-5, feeling more like an SUV when driven. Its top trim gets a turbocharged engine and a dual-clutch automatic transmission. Together they add a bit of excitement to the drive and provide great low-end torque.

The Seltos earns the IIHS Top Safety Pick award and has the largest cargo volume in this comparison.

Kia Seltos Pros

  • Surprising off-road capability
  • Top Safety Pick
  • Top-trim turbocharged engine with DCT

Kia Seltos Cons

  • Lowest ground clearance in the group

Current Kia Seltos Deals & Incentives

YearMakeModelCash Incentives (up to)Best Avail. APRLease OffersExpiration
2022KiaSeltos1.90%$199/month for 36 months, $2,999 due at signing10/4/2021

You may qualify for additional deals and incentives, check out this month's Kia deals here.

Which Is the Best Small SUV?

Those looking for a small SUV that has the highest off-road capability will find it in the Ford Bronco Sport. The Subaru Crosstrek is a standout all-weather option.

However, each of the vehicles on this list offers real-world utility at a reasonable price point. They all impressed us when we took them off-pavement, and each can tow your small trailer. If you're looking for something bigger in the SUV category, check out our picks for the best full-size SUVs here.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best small SUV on the market?

Our research and testing points to the Ford Bronco Sport as the best small SUV in America. It’s a Top Safety Pick Plus, has amazing off-road capability, and isn’t too small for five.

What are the smallest SUVs?

The Jeep Renegade and Ford EcoSport are among the smallest SUVs on sale in America. Both offer entry-level buyers a lot of utility and all-weather and all-road capability.

What is the least expensive small SUV?

The Ford Ecosport is one of the least expensive small SUVs. It starts at just $21K.

What small SUVs have the most cargo space?

The Kia Seltos has a max cargo volume of 62.8 cu. ft. and the Ford Bronco Sport has a max cargo volume of 60 cu. ft.