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, compact crossovers and SUVs 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 1,500 pounds) whereas the norm for the midsize class is closer to 3,500 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. Only a few entries offer a V6.

WHAT’S NEW FOR 2019

Two of the compact SUV class’s most popular models—the Subaru Forester and Toyota RAV4—are redesigned for 2019. The new Forester offers a bit more passenger and cargo room than the previous-generation model, and gains an updated engine, several new technology features, and a uniquely trimmed Sport model. The new RAV4 gets slightly beefier styling on a 1.2-inch-longer wheelbase, updated gas and gas/electric-hybrid powertrains, a newly available torque-vectoring AWD system, and new technology features.

The Hyundai Tucson gets an extensive refresh that includes an exterior facelift, updated interior, and an available 2.4-liter engine in place of the previous turbocharged 1.6-liter. Newly available Tucson equipment includes a 360-degree surround-view monitor, adaptive cruise control with stop/go functionality, wireless device charging, and rain-sensing wipers. The Jeep Cherokee gets a redesigned front fascia, a newly available turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine, an available hands-free liftgate, and updated infotainment systems; the Jeep Wrangler is slated to get an available 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6 later in the model year. The Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain both get available adaptive cruise control and front pedestrian braking, along with new appearance packages. The Mitsubishi Outlander gets refreshed front styling, revised front seats, and an electric parking brake, among other minor revisions. Also, Mitsubishi says that the Outlander’s handling, steering, ride quality, and quietness are improved. The Kia Niro gets a pure-electric Niro EV version, and the Subaru Crosstrek is slated to gain a plug-in-hybrid model later in the model year. The rest of the class is either unchanged or sees minor updates such as a shuffling of standard and optional equipment or new appearance options.

MODELS THAT OFFER SOMETHING UNUSUAL

There are a handful of hybrid models available in the class—the Kia Niro, Mitsubishi Outlander, Nissan Rogue, and Toyota RAV4 all offer one. The Jeep Wrangler currently offers a mild-hybrid system, and is slated to add a plug-in-hybrid model for 2020. The Kia Niro and Subaru Crosstrek are more car-like 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. The Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain both offer an available diesel engine, and the Jeep Wrangler is scheduled to get one soon. The Wrangler also stands out as the class’s lone convertible. It comes only with 4-wheel drive and is available in 2- and 4-door versions, both offered with a convertible soft top or removable hard top.

There are only two members of this class that have bodies long enough to offer a third-row seat: the Mitsubishi Outlander and Volkswagen Tiguan. These third rows are quite cramped, not surprisingly, but are still useful for children and short trips.