Over the past few years, the premium compact crossover/SUV class has grown to become one of the most crowded categories in the new vehicle marketplace—and many of the newest entries in the segment have been on the “extra-compact” side. Enough of these pint-sized contenders have recently been introduced that we inaugurated a premium subcompact crossover/SUV class last year.
This category is comprised of the smallest vehicles in the crossover/SUV lineups of their respective makers, but not every luxury brand has an entry in this class—at least not yet. And note that while we categorize them as subcompacts, most of the vehicles in this class are appreciably larger than most mainstream-brand subcompact crossovers. Furthermore, don’t think that “premium” and “subcompact” are incompatible terms—these vehicles come standard with genuinely upscale trim inside and out, and can be optioned up with a dizzying (and pricey) array of comfort, convenience, and technology features just like their larger linemates.
Every vehicle in this category is powered by a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder. Horsepower output ranges between 180-240 on most of them, and all of them are turbocharged save for the Lexus UX. The Audi Q3, Jaguar E-Pace, and Land Rover Range Rover Evoque come standard with all-wheel drive; the rest come standard with front-wheel drive and are available with AWD.
The majority of the class starts at less than $35,000; the Lexus UX is the most affordable, with a starting price of around $33,000. The most expensive is the Range Rover Evoque; the cheapest trim level starts at around $43,000 and the priciest model starts at more than $57,000. As is typical with luxury vehicles, adding on optional equipment can really drive up the bottom-line price—sometimes startlingly so.
WHAT’S NEW FOR 2020
The Land Rover Range Rover Evoque is redesigned on an all new second-generation platform. The previous two-door and convertible body styles aren’t offered, but otherwise the new Evoque sticks closely to the high-style look and feel of the previous-generation model. As before, power is provided by a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine; the base version has 246 horsepower, while the sporty R-Dynamic models use a 48-volt mild-hybrid system to put out 296 horsepower.
After its redesign for 2019, the Audi Q3 is slated to add a Sportback version with sportier bodywork and a lower, sloped roofl ine. The BMW X1 gets a mild refresh that includes a larger version of BMW’s signature “kidney” front grilles, some revised interior trim, and the previously optional 8.8-inch touchscreen as standard equipment. The X1’s style- and performance-focused sibling, the X2, also gets the 8.8-inch touchscreen as standard, and its navigation system is now standard as well. The Jaguar E-Pace gains a Checkered Flag limited-edition model, and the Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class loses its high-performance AMG GLA45 model. The Infiniti QX30 is discontinued.
MODELS THAT OFFER SOMETHING UNUSUAL
Most premium subcompact crossovers are designed as chic urban runabouts that are more focused on street driving than serious rough-terrain capability. The exception is the Land Rover Range Rover Evoque; it offers off-road prowess well beyond the others, thanks in part to standard gear such as hill descent control and Land Rover’s Terrain Response 2 system.
In terms of acceleration, the BMW X2, Jaguar E-Pace, and Range Rover Evoque stand out from the pack—the X2 has an available high-output turbo four with 302 horsepower, and the EPace and Evoque’s step-up engine has 296 hp. On the flipside, the Lexus UX offers the only “full” hybrid model in the class.