Compact SUVs are now the perfect choice for family transportation. In fact, given how popular they are, it’s clear they’ve gone beyond just family duty. With this popularity comes a plethora of competitors, and it can be difficult to know which one might be the best compact SUV for you.
It’s important to note that by “compact SUV” we’re talking about a specific segment. As we described in our more comprehensive “Best Small SUVs” list, there are also small SUVs that vary widely in size among themselves, but are distinctly smaller than the SUVs below. Frankly, today’s compact SUV segment isn’t exactly compact — some have more cargo space than cars that are considered midsize based on their exterior dimensions. They have all grown significantly over the years.
While many of the listings out there review every available vehicle in a segment, we thought we’d be a little more helpful and streamline your shopping process a bit with our recommended top picks reviewed by Autoblog. We’ve included mainstream and compact luxury SUV options.
The best compact SUVs of 2023 and 2024
2024 Honda CR-V
Why it stands out: Best-in-class space; Premium hybrid powertrain; Sharp interior style Honda reliability
Could be better: There are no lower-priced base trim levels; There are no sport or off-road models; There is no plug-in hybrid
Read our full article 2024 Honda CR-V review
Consider the CR-V the foundation of any compact SUV search, and look closely at the impressive CR-V hybrid option. Objectively, they’re hard to beat given their massive cargo capacity, huge back seat, powerful but efficient engines, balanced driving dynamics, competitive pricing and features, and highly regarded reliability. It’s easy to see why it continues to be a best-seller: for the vast majority of compact SUV buyers, especially families, it checks every box. This has been the case for many years now. The all-new 2023 Honda CR-V changes things up by adding more style and character, especially when it comes to its interior and how fun it is to drive in the Sport and Sport Touring hybrid trim levels.
Kia Sportage Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid
Why it stands out: Exceptional hybrid powertrain; Class-leading infotainment and safety technology; Huge cargo area
Could be better: The base gas engine is weak and unrefined. X Line is not available with the Hybrid system
Read our 2024 Kia Sportage review
The Kia Sportage rockets to the top of its class after one of the most radical redesigns in modern automotive history. It’s much larger, going from one of the smallest in its class to the largest. The cargo area in particular is spacious and the back seat is very family-friendly. The bold design also makes it easy to distinguish from other compact SUVs (it may be a bit too bold for some), while the interior impresses with a sharp look, solid quality and the availability of interesting color schemes, even in lower trim levels. Technology is one of its strong suits, with exceptional infotainment features and touchscreen interfaces, as well as the best range of driver assistance technologies in the segment. Finally, the Sportage’s plug-in hybrid and plug-in hybrid powertrains stand out not only by being fuel efficient, but also by being true performance upgrades that operate more naturally than a typical hybrid. As with the CR-V and RAV4, hybrids are definitely the engines to get. In contrast to those engines, the Sportage’s base engine is noticeably less engaging and we wouldn’t recommend it. It is unrefined and results in slow acceleration, even in a sector where fast acceleration is not expected.
Mazda CX-50 2024
Why it stands out: Budget Porsche test drive; Luxurious cabin upgrade powerful turbo engine
Could be better: Less space for cargo, passengers and storage; The infotainment system won’t be available to everyone
Read our 2024 Mazda CX-50 review
The CX-50 is all about style and driving pleasure. It can also be considered an alternative to luxury compact SUVs. It all starts with its muscular, sporty design and moves inside where its handsome design and plush materials are a clear step up from the crowd at its price. Then, when you’re behind the wheel, the CX-50 impresses with the engaging driving style we routinely described as indicative of a “budget Porsche.” What’s more, its turbocharged engine has as much or more power than many similarly sized luxury models. Now, it doesn’t have as much passenger or cargo space as the CR-V or RAV4, so it won’t be for everyone, but it’s definitely something to consider. Much of the above could also be said for the CX-5, but the CX-50’s slightly larger proportions, improved off-road chops, nicer interior and more attractive exterior design make it our favorite of the two.
2024 Toyota RAV4
Why it stands out: An unparalleled variety of models including two hybrid models; Spacious back seat and luggage area; credibility
Could be better: Unduplicated base engine; Old technology interface
Our full Toyota RAV4 2024 review
The RAV4 has more passenger and cargo space than most. It’s comfortable and surprisingly responsive to drive. The interior is well designed with high-quality materials, and offers easy-to-use controls and plenty of storage space. Its resale value and reliability should be better than almost anything on the road. These are all the basics of the RAV4, but the latest version really stands out by offering an unparalleled variety of models. From the regular RAV4 LE or Those last two are especially important, as the RAV4 is the rare small SUV that’s available not only as a hybrid, but as a Plug-in Hybrid (Prime) as well. The Ford Escape, Hyundai Tucson, and Kia Sportage are the others. We like there to be a little something for everyone with the RAV4.
The best compact luxury SUVs of 2023 and 2024
2024 Genesis GV70
Why it stands out: Beautiful interior. Easy-to-use technology; Advanced road etiquette; Electric version available
Could be better: Just average back seat space; Not as sporty as it looks
Read our Genesis GV70 review And review the electrified GV70
The GV70 is a real and genuine contender in its class that includes SUVs from Audi, BMW, Mercedes, and Porsche. In fact, we think it’s stronger than most. Although it’s technically cheaper than German models, this isn’t a value play – it still has a higher price tag than those of Acura, Lexus and Infiniti, and has a more luxurious interior and more advanced engineering to ensure that. Its distinctive looks and beautiful interior really stand out (check out the purple, green, and blue interior options), and its rear-wheel-drive platform can be enhanced by a smooth and extremely powerful turbo V6 engine and a high-tech adaptive suspension that not only reacts to road imperfections but anticipates them. It is now available in an electric version called the Electrified GV70.
Why it stands out: Best Compact SUVs to Drive; Porsche quality and customization potential
Could be better: Expensive Even before you get to the expensive options; Small interior
Read our full 2023 Porsche Macan review and see what you can expect from the upcoming all-new 2024 Porsche Macan Electric
In the literal sense of the word, the Porsche Macan is definitely the ultimate luxury compact SUV. The way it looks, the way it’s built, and most importantly, the way it drives would make it a no-brainer if we were shopping for a compact SUV…and didn’t have to worry about budget. Oh yeah, there’s the rub. Although the Macan is exceptional, it’s still a Porsche, which means it offers pretty dismal content and space for the money. The base four-cylinder model in particular is a questionable value. So, is this the most logical choice? No, but this isn’t a “most sensible luxury SUV” list. It’s about the best. McCann is one of them.
2024 Volvo XC60
Why it stands out: Scandinavian design More space and features for the money; Great plug-in hybrid option
Could be better: Infotainment is not for everyone. Unobtrusive handling
Read our latest Volvo XC60 2024 experience
Well, sometimes it’s about being a little sensible, and the XC60 is much more than that. It’s roomier than usual and (surprise!) Volvo boasts safety credentials that should please anxious parents everywhere. It’s also fuel efficient, and is available with a premium hybrid model called the Recharge. But the XC60 is no utilitarian old Volvo either. The design is timelessly beautiful, and the interior exudes Scandinavian splendor. The quality and feature content are also right in line with the larger, more expensive XC90. Basically, the XC60 is one of the most sensible choices in its class, but it’s also one of the best.