Over the past decade or so, 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 newer entries in the segment have been on the “extra-compact” side. We created the premium subcompact crossover/SUV category in 2019 to represent the smallest vehicles in the crossover/SUV lineups of their respective makers. 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, and can be optioned up with a dizzying (and pricey) array of comfort, convenience, and technology features just like their larger linemates.
Except for the pure-electric Volvo XC40 Recharge model, 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. As is typical with luxury vehicles, adding optional equipment can really drive up the bottom-line price—sometimes startlingly so.
HIGHLIGHTS FOR 2022
It’s a rather quiet year for the premium subcompact crossover/SUV class—there are no new entrants, redesigned vehicles, or significant updates in the segment for 2022. The Audi Q3 gets an updated infotainment system and additional standard features, and Premium Plus models get a 360-degree surround-view monitor. The Jaguar E-Pace gets mild styling revisions, and the previously standard 360-degree monitor is now optional. The Land Rover Range Rover Evoque adds a sport-oriented HST R-Dynamic model, which gets black exterior trim, a black-painted roof, black 20-inch wheels with red brake calipers, and a 296-hp P300 turbocharged 4-cylinder engine.
A next-generation BMW X1 is reportedly in the works, and it will likely debut as an early 2023 model. Expect the new X1’s styling to be an evolution of the current model’s look, with carryover powertrains and perhaps the addition of plug-in-hybrid and pure-electric versions.
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, Mercedes-AMG GLA 35 and GLA 45, and Range Rover Evoque stand out from the pack—available on the X2 and standard on the AMG GLA 35 are high-output turbo fours with about 300 horsepower, and the E-Pace and Evoque’s step-up engine has 296 hp. But it’s the AMG GLA 45 with its 382 horsepower and the all-electric Volvo XC40 Recharge with 402 horsepower that are the brawniest of these cute utes. On the flipside, the Lexus UX offers the only “full” hybrid model in the class.