Every 2021 Compact Crossover SUV Ranked from Best to Worst

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Compact Crossover

Here it is, the vehicle segment (other than full-size pickups) that’s dominating vehicle sales in the U.S. Why is America scooping up more compact SUVs than cars? Well, what cars? Today, many companies no longer sell a sedan here, including Ford, which discontinued the Fusion for 2021. Compact crossovers are everywhere, and lucky for all of us, automakers have responded by making them more capable and fun to drive. Many vehicles in this segment offer more cargo space than sedans, and one even has a powertrain with 302 horsepower.

Of the over 100 different SUVs sold here today, the 17 current compact crossovers present a mix of new vehicles with the latest technology and models ready for a totally new generation. It can be overwhelming to shop through this maze of utility, so we’ve made it easier by ranking them from worst to best. Interested in something bigger or smaller? We’ve ranked those too.

More New SUVs Ranked from Worst to Best:

1. Mazda CX-5

Mazda CX-5

Thanks to its luxurious feel without a sumptuous price tag, we’ve voted the Mazda CX-5 a 10Best winner since 2018. But it’s more than just a comfortable, well-appointed ride. The CX-5 handles well and drives how we wish every compact crossover did. Its 10.3-inch infotainment touchscreen is the largest standard touchscreen in the segment, and the rotary dial control gets rid of the mess of buttons used on most other models. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave it a Top Safety Pick+ rating, their highest award yet. A host of standard safety features are included on every CX-5, including automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist, and adaptive cruise control.

  • Base price: $26,545
  • EPA Fuel Economy combined/city/highway: 28/25/31 mpg (FWD 2.5L)
  • All-wheel drive: Optional

 


2. Volkswagen Tiguan

Volkswagen Tiguan

The Volkswagen Tiguan is one of the biggest offerings in the segment—large enough to squeeze in a tiny third-row seat—and it uses that size to deliver a solid driving experience. Its only available engine is a 184-hp turbocharged four-cylinder with an eight-speed automatic that often feels overmatched by the Tiguan’s mass. But the engine is smooth and fuel efficient on the highway. The VW’s ride is comfortable but not sporty. Like most Volkswagens, the interior is businesslike with minimal style and hard plastics. For 2020, the Tiguan received standard Wi-Fi connectivity for the Car-Net system and optional wireless phone charging. Don’t expect to have much cargo room when the third-row seats are in use, but it’s the only compact crossover in the segment to currently offer a seven seats. A refreshed 2022 Volkswagen Tiguan will go on sale later this year with standard LED headlights, digital cockpit, and sharp new looks.

  • Base price: $26,440
  • EPA Fuel Economy combined/city/highway: 25/23/29 mpg (FWD)
  • All-wheel drive: Optional

3. Honda CR-V

Honda CR-V

Honda’s CR-V isn’t the sportiest or sexiest compact crossover around—that’d be the Mazda CX-5—but it is well-rounded. Every nonhybrid CR-V comes with a 190-hp turbocharged four-cylinder and one of the best CVTs available. The CR-V Hybrid combines a four-cylinder gasoline engine with two electric motors for a combined output of 212 horsepower, and it comes standard with all-wheel drive. With 39 cubic feet of rear cargo area and 75 cubic feet with the rear seats folded, the CR-V has plenty of space inside. The base CR-V LX comes with a 5.0-inch display, but all other trims get a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration. There’s also a host of standard safety features on every CR-V, like forward-collision warning and automated emergency braking, lane-keeping assist and lane-departure warning, and active cruise control.

  • Base price: $26,525 (CR-V) $31,735 (CR-V Hybrid)
  • EPA Fuel Economy combined/city/highway: 38/32/35 (Hybrid) 30/28/34 (FWD) mpg
  • All-wheel drive: Optional

4. Toyota RAV4

Toyota RAV4

The Toyota RAV4 is the epitome of a crossover with rugged looks that doesn’t stray too far from its everyday comfort. Every nonhybrid RAV4 is powered by a 203-hp four-cylinder paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. RAV4 Hybrid models have standard all-wheel drive with 219 horsepower. The RAV4 Prime is the most fun: a plug-in-hybrid model with 302 horsepower, it’s quicker than the Toyota Supra 2.0-liter sports car from five to 60 mph. We also pit the RAV4 TRD Off-Road model against a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon to see if it could hang, and although the RAV4 spent plenty of time getting a tow from the Wrangler, it survived all the dumb stuff we did to it. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are now standard. Our only major complaint centers on the RAV4’s relatively loud four-cylinder engine. We think too much noise enters the cabin.

  • Base price: $27,325 (RAV4) $29,675 (RAV4 Hybrid)
  • EPA Fuel Economy combined/city/highway: 40/41/38 (Hybrid) 30/28/35 (RAV4 FWD) mpg
  • All-wheel drive: Optional

5. Ford Bronco Sport

Ford Bronco Sport

As the only vehicle on this list with a bottle opener built into the liftgate, it’s clear that the Ford Bronco Sport is here to party. Its looks match its capability, and though they don’t look similar, the Bronco Sport and Escape both share a platform. A 181-hp turbocharged three-cylinder is standard, and a larger 245-hp four-cylinder engine is available; both come with an eight-speed automatic. An 8.0-inch touchscreen with Ford’s Sync 3 infotainment system is onboard, which includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. A Bronco Sport Badlands placed second in our most recent compact crossover comparison test, where it beat the Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk, but came up short against the Mazda CX-5 due to a lack of comfort and paved-road performance.

  • Base price: $28,315
  • EPA Fuel Economy combined/city/highway: 26/25/28 mpg
  • All-wheel drive: Standard 4WD

6. Mitsubishi Outlander

Mitsubishi Outlander

The 2022 Mitsubishi Outlander is the product of the Reanult-NissanMitsubishi Alliance. And considering the last Outlander was ranked dead-last on this list, this merger has been big news for the Three-Diamond Mark. This new generation Outlander shares its powertrain and chassis with the Nissan Rogue. A 181-hp four-cylinder and CVT is the only way to slice it, and front-wheel drive is standard. All-wheel drive is optional. A plug-in hybrid will be available later, also. On our 75-mph highway fuel-economy test, the top-level Outlander SEL achieved an underwhelming 26 mpg, compared to the Rogue’s 32 mpg. The Outlander offers a third-row the same way food demonstrators give fudge pudding. There’s just not enough there.

  • Base price: $26,990
  • EPA Fuel Economy combined/city/highway: 37/24/31 mpg (FWD)
  • All-wheel drive: Optional

7. Nissan Rogue

Nissan Rogue

The new Nissan Rogue is vastly improved over the crossover it replaces. Nissan has delivered attention to detail and a level of refinement that the last Rogue lacked, with a much better seating position and a nicer interior with lots of standard and optional features. A 181-hp 2.5-liter four-cylinder with CVT is standard, but Nissan announced the addition of a turbocharged three-cylinder option to boost fuel economy. That should arrive later this year. There’s now more passenger volume, and more cargo area with the rear seats folded. Another major improvement is the more refined engine and less obnoxious CVT. The Divide-N-Hide cargo system that splits the rear cargo area into a fits-almost-any situation adjustable area is now only available as standard equipment on upper SL and Platinum trims.

  • Base price: $26,800
  • EPA Fuel Economy combined/city/highway: 32/30/36 (FWD 1.3L Turbo) 30/27/35 (FWD 2.5L) mpg
  • All-wheel drive: Optional

8. Subaru Forester

subaru forester

The Subaru Forester has done little to mess with its winning formula. It offers standard all-wheel drive, excellent visibility, a roomy interior, and a capacious cargo hold. Subaru now throws in several driver-assistance features such as automatic emergency braking, lane centering, and lane-departure warning—as well as a rear-seat reminder system. The 2021 Forester comes standard with LED headlights with automatic high-beams. We’re a little disappointed that the previously optional turbocharged engine is gone, along with the available manual transmission. That said, the 182-hp naturally aspirated boxer-four standard across the lineup pairs well with Subaru’s CVT to deliver smooth, reasonably peppy acceleration. It’s certainly not the quickest in the class, but the Subaru Forester is still one of the best all-around compact crossovers and an affordable way to get all-wheel drive.

  • Base price: $25,845
  • EPA Fuel Economy combined/city/highway: 29/26/33 mpg
  • All-wheel drive: Standard

9. Hyundai Tucson

Hyundai Tucson

We wouldn’t consider the Hyundai’s Tucson a master of one trade, but it’s skilled in many. Shoppers will find a nicely built interior with easy-to-use controls. Passenger and cargo room is about average, and the Tucson comes standard with a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It delivers a comfortable, controlled ride, although the base 164-hp 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine felt slow during our testing. We suggest choosing the optional 181-hp 2.4-liter if you want more satisfying performance. Standard safety features such as forward-collision warning and lane-keep assist add to the Tucson’s already strong value equation. A new more fuel-efficient 2022 Hyundai Tucson is arriving soon, with bold looks, more passenger space in the second row, and an added plug-in-hybrid option.

  • Base price: $24,885
  • EPA Fuel Economy combined/city/highway: 25/23/28 mpg (FWD 2.0L)
  • All-wheel drive: Optional

10. Kia Sportage

Kia Sportage

With its distinctive look, the Kia Sportage won’t be confused for anything else. The Sportage sits mid-pack among Kias six-SUV lineup. It’s bigger than the subcompact Seltos, yet smaller than the three-row Sorento. Standard equipment includes a 181-hp four-cylinder engine, a six-speed automatic transmission, front-wheel drive, an 8.0-inch touchscreen display, and several driver-assistance features. The Sportage SX Turbo starts at nearly $35,000 and comes with a 240-hp turbocharged four-cylinder, LED headlights, a sportier suspension, and 19-inch wheels. All-wheel drive is optional on all four trims. The downside is mediocre gas mileage with a combined rating of 23 mpg for the turbocharged front-wheel-drive Sportage.

  • Base price: $25,265
  • EPA Fuel Economy combined/city/highway: 26/23/30 mpg (FWD 2.4L)
  • All-wheel drive: Optional

11. Ford Escape

Ford Escape

The new Ford Escape looks more carlike than its predecessor. That’s not a surprise, as the latest Escape has to help fill the void left by several discontinued Ford models, including the Focus, Fusion, and Taurus sedans. To give the Escape a wide range of abilities, it’s available with two gas engines, as a gas-electric hybrid, and a plug-in hybrid. The base 181-hp 1.5-liter gas engine delivers adequate performance, while the optional 250-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter engine makes the Escape quite zippy. The hybrid version pairs a 2.5-liter gas engine with two electric motors and delivers an EPA rating of 41 mpg combined. We like the refined ride quality of the Ford Escape as well as its spacious cabin and modern features. Its major drawbacks are inside, with subpar interior materials, and its starting price is a bit overzealous for what base Escapes offer.

  • Base price: $26,130 (Escape) $28,850 (Escape Hybrid)
  • EPA Fuel Economy combined/city/highway: 41/44/37 (Hybrid) 30/28/34 (FWD 1.5L) mpg
  • All-wheel drive: Optional

12. Chevrolet Equinox

Chevrolet Equinox

Like its GMC sibling, the Chevrolet Equinox receives a refresh for the 2022 model year, but until it goes on sale, here’s what the current Equinox offers. Front-wheel drive is standard and all-wheel drive is available as an option. There’s only one powertrain, a 170-hp turbocharged four-cylinder with a six-speed automatic transmission. It matches the Terrain in cargo room, with 29 cubic feet of rear space, and 63 cubic feet with the rear seats folded. Unfortunately for the spacious Equinox, its lack of power and available options doesn’t match competitors like the Hyundai Tucson, which has 11 more horsepower and gets better fuel economy for a lower starting price.

  • Base price: $24,995
  • EPA Fuel Economy combined/city/highway: 28/26/31 mpg (FWD)
  • All-wheel drive: Optional

13. GMC Terrain

GMC Terrain

Of GMC’s current selection of pickups and SUVs, the Terrain is the second best-selling model behind the full-size Sierra trucks. A refreshed 2022 GMC Terrain will go on sale soon, with new front and rear bumpers, LED headlights and taillights, and updated interior bits. The current Terrain uses a 170-hp turbocharged four-cylinder and nine-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive is standard, but all-wheel drive is offered on SLE and SLT trims for extra. The ride is on the firm side and, like its Chevrolet-badged Equinox sibling, the build quality inside leaves something to be desired—at least given the GMC’s price point. A 7.0-inch touchscreen is standard, while SLT trims get a larger 8.0-inch display. While we appreciate the standard touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, including a 4G LTE data connection with a Wi-Fi hotspot, the Terrain interior is too much like a tundra of low-quality plastic and rubber.

  • Base price: $26,195
  • EPA Fuel Economy combined/city/highway: 27/25/30 mpg (FWD)
  • All-wheel drive: Optional

14. Jeep Cherokee

Jeep Cherokee

Unlike other models on this list, the Jeep Cherokee can be tailored from mild to wild across nine different trim levels. Similar to the Compass, the Cherokee can be outfitted for off-the-grid exploration, but the price of an off-road-focused Cherokee Trailhawk is higher than a more capable four-door Ford Bronco Big Bend. Front-wheel drive is standard on most trims, and four-wheel drive can be added for $1500, even on base models. For Latitude, Freedom, Latitude Plus, and Altitude trims, a 180-hp inline-four is standard with a nine-speed automatic. The bigger 271-hp V-6 is standard on Latitude LUX, Limited, and Trailhawk models. Recent updates added cargo room, but the Jeep Cherokee still lags behind the class leaders in terms of fuel economy and driving refinement.

  • Base price: $28,005
  • EPA Fuel Economy combined/city/highway: 26/23/31 mpg (FWD)
  • All-wheel drive: Optional 4WD

15. Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross

Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross

Updated for the 2022 model year, the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross has a new look, a bigger 8.0-inch touchscreen, and a single-window rear hatch that replaces the funky two-glass piece from before. It has the same powertrain, a 152-hp turbocharged 1.5-liter inline-four with a continuously variable transmission (CVT). You can add all-wheel drive to any trim level for $1600. Every Eclipse Cross now comes standard with driver-assistance features including forward-collision warning, automated emergency braking, pedestrian detection, and lane-departure warning. Passenger space is about average, but rear cargo space is somewhat limited at just 23 cubic feet. The Eclipse Cross certainly has a look now, but it needs more than that to really stand out in this highly competitive segment.

  • Base price: $24,590
  • EPA Fuel Economy combined/city/highway: 27/26/29 mpg (FWD)
  • All-wheel drive: Optional

16. Jeep Compass

Jeep Compass

Compact crossovers aren’t typically known for their off-road chops, but the Jeep Compass Trailhawk is an exception. Make no mistake, it’s still not a Jeep Wrangler, but the Compass sits between the subcompact Renegade and the Cherokee and is offered with a low-gear crawler mode in Trailhawk models. The standard 180-hp inline-four doesn’t have much scoot, and the laggy six-speed automatic on front-wheel drive models is dated. Even the nine-speed automatic on the four-wheel-drive Compass feels somewhat sleepy when accelerating. It’s comfortable inside but doesn’t offer cabin materials as nice as what you’ll find in the Honda CR-V or Mazda CX-5. Although the Compass has 27 cubic feet of rear cargo space; if you want that plus two more inches of second-row legroom in a Jeep, go for the Cherokee for a few thousand dollars more.

  • Base price: $25,410
  • EPA Fuel Economy combined/city/highway: 25/22/31 mpg (FWD)
  • All-wheel drive: Optional

17. Hyundai Nexo

Hyundai Nexo

The Hyundai Nexo is the only compact crossover with a hydrogen-powered fuel cell. It’s less like the Mazda CX-5 or Nissan Rogue and more like fellow fuel-cell sedans such as the Honda Clarity and Toyota Mirai. If you haven’t seen one, it’s probably because the infrastructure to support fuel-cell vehicles is limited to only a few areas, mostly in California. The Nexo is refueled with hydrogen which is then fed into the onboard fuel-cell stacks to generate electricity. Thus, the pricey, high-tech Hyundai drives like the electric car that it is, with smooth power delivery and generally quiet operation. Its 161-hp electric motor drives the front wheels only, as all-wheel drive isn’t available. The silver lining here is range. The Nexo Blue has an estimated range of 380 miles, and unlike other EVs sold today, it can be refueled in about five minutes. Hyundai is giving Nexo buyers three years or $15,000 worth of hydrogen fuel for free.

  • Base price: $60,120
  • EPA combined: 61 MPGe (Blue)
  • All-wheel drive: Not available

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