It’s easy to see the appeal of compact crossovers and SUVs—they offer excellent passenger/cargo versatility and all-weather capability in a relatively affordable, economical package. Their not-too-big dimensions make most compact crossovers/SUVs ideal for small families and urban dwellers who still like to get off the beaten path once in a while.

Generally speaking, these vehicles are not nearly as “compact” as they used to be. Most have ample seating room for four—five in a pinch—and two offer a third-row seat for 7-passenger capacity (though that last row is quite cramped). Cargo space varies, but many can hold a surprising amount of stuff.

For many buyers, a compact crossover or SUV is all they really need; moving up to one of the 5-passenger midsize models really doesn’t gain them much room. However, compact crossovers have relatively low towing limits (usually around 1500 pounds) whereas the norm for the midsize class is closer to 3500 pounds. Those midsize crossovers that offer a third-row seat usually also have more cargo space, but they’re decidedly larger overall.

Almost all compact crossovers have a 4-cylinder engine—probably one reason towing limits are generally low—though some are turbocharged. The Ford Escape, Ford Bronco Sport, and Nissan Rogue come standard with turbocharged 3-cylinder engines. The Ford Bronco, Jeep Cherokee, and Jeep Wrangler are available with a V6.


The Hyundai Tucson is redesigned on a larger platform, gaining striking new styling, new tech features, and its first hybrid and plug-in-hybrid models. The Mitsubishi Outlander is redesigned on a new platform that’s shared with the redesigned-for-2021 Nissan Rogue. The new Outlander also inherits its 181-hp 2.5-liter 4-cylinder from the ’21 Rogue, but gets completely different bodywork and a unique interior with a third-row seat. A new plug-in-hybrid version of the new Outlander is slated to appear next year, likely as a 2023 model. After skipping the 2021 model year, the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross returns for 2022 with significantly freshened exterior styling, revised suspension tuning, and a new infotainment system. After its redesign last year, the Nissan Rogue gets a 201-hp turbocharged 1.5-liter 3-cylinder in place of the previous 2.5-liter four.

The Chevrolet Equinox gets an exterior styling refresh, a sporty-appearance RS model, and updated interior trim. The GMC Terrain also gets a styling refresh, along with an off-road-oriented AT4 trim level. The Jeep Compass gets a styling facelift, a redesigned interior, and a new infotainment system. The Mazda CX-5 gets minor styling revisions, updated seats, and a retuned suspension and transmission. Front-wheel-drive models are dropped; all CX-5s are now AWD. The Subaru Forester gets a styling refresh, tech-feature updates, and a rugged Wilderness trim level with a raised ride height. The Volkswagen Tiguan gets a refresh that includes updated exterior styling, a revised interior with touch-sensitive controls, and additional standard equipment.


The Ford Escape, Kia Niro, and Subaru Crosstrek are more carlike than the rest of the segment—the Niro is not available with all-wheel drive, and the Crosstrek is essentially a beefed-up version of the Subaru Impreza compact car. There are only two members of this class that offer a third-row seat: the Mitsubishi Outlander and Volkswagen Tiguan. These third rows are cramped, but are still useful for children and short trips. The Kia Niro is the only entry in this class that is available as a pure EV.

The Ford Bronco and Jeep Wrangler stand out as the class’s most off-road-ready entrants. Both include standard 4-wheel drive, and are available in 2- and 4-door versions with removable doors and roof.