As the compact crossover/SUV class matured, its entrants “grew up” a bit in size and price. Over the past decade, a number of “smaller than compact” crossover SUVs have hit the market, and they now comprise a sizable class of their own. Judging by its quick and continuous growth, the subcompact crossover SUV category is one of the hottest segments in the North American market.
All subcompact SUVs have economical 3- or 4-cylinder engines with less than 200 horsepower, save for the Hyundai Kona N (276 hp), Kia Soul Turbo (201 hp), Mazda CX-30 2.5 Turbo (250 hp), and the performance-oriented plug-in-hybrid and John Cooper Works versions of the Mini Countryman (224 hp and 301 hp, respectively). The “footprint” of most vehicles in this class is no bigger than that of the average subcompact/compact car, but they all have a raised ride height and a tall body structure that provides an upright seating position and easy entry and exit. Save for the front-drive-only Hyundai Venue, Kia Soul, Nissan Kicks, and Toyota C-HR, all of them offer all-wheel drive as well. These traits make subcompact SUVs ideal for shoppers who want the versatility of an SUV, but value close-quarters maneuverability, affordability, and fuel economy over expansive passenger and cargo room.
Speaking of affordability, the average subcompact crossover SUV is typically priced around $2000-$3000 less than a comparably equipped compact SUV. Most subcompact SUVs start around $22K, with top-end models hovering around the $30K mark. The most expensive is the Mini Countryman; the all-wheel-drive Cooper S model starts at around $34,000, and the John Cooper Works model starts at around $42,000.
HIGHLIGHTS FOR 2022
The class gains two all-new contenders this year: the Toyota Corolla Cross and the Volkswagen Taos. Both vehicles reside at the upper end of the subcompact SUV category in overall size and passenger/cargo capacity. The Corolla Cross is built on the same basic platform that underpins the Corolla Hatchback compact car, and the Taos is the de facto replacement for the departed VW Golf compact hatchback.
The Hyundai Kona gets a substantial refresh that includes updated interior styling, a redesigned interior, and a performance-oriented N model with a 276-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder. The 1.4-liter turbo 4-cylinder engine in the Buick Encore and Chevrolet Trax is bumped up to 155 horsepower from 138 hp last year. The Jeep Renegade gets an Altitude Package with blackout trim elements, as well as exterior styling tweaks for its top-line Limited model. The Kia Soul loses its available manual transmission but gains a higher level of standard equipment. The Mazda CX-3 is discontinued; the Ford EcoSport is slated to be dropped soon, but it continues for an abbreviated 2022-model-year run.
MODELS THAT OFFER SOMETHING UNUSUAL
The subcompact SUV class is a fairly cohesive group overall, but a few entrants stand out. The Mini Countryman boasts a notably upscale feel inside and out, and offers the only hybrid model in the class. The Jeep Renegade boasts best-in-class off-road capability when properly equipped. The Hyundai Kona N, Kia Soul Turbo, Mazda CX-30 2.5 Turbo, and Mini Countryman S and John Cooper Works are noteworthy for their acceleration and agile handling.
Vehicles in the Subcompact Crossover/SUV class:
Buick Encore GX
Mitsubishi Outlander Sport
Nissan Rogue Sport
Toyota Corolla Cross