Gas prices annoyingly keep going up. However, you can still get excellent gas mileage with the cargo space and utility you need. Compact crossovers feature maximum features and convenience packed into a small ride. Take a look at this new generation of crossovers hitting the used market.
Buick used to be known for their conservatively designed large vehicles, but their current best-seller is a modern and stylish compact crossover. On sale since 2013 and refreshed in 2017, the Encore is based on the same chassis as the sporty and efficient Chevy Sonic, so it handles well and earns high MPGs, with 27 city and 33 highway. Power comes from a turbocharged 1.4-liter four cylinder, making 138 to 153 horsepower depending on the year. The six-speed auto is smooth, and all-wheel-drive is available for slick commutes. The interior is modern entry-level luxury, with an upscale design and a host of tech. Load it up by looking for one with dual-zone climate control, a large power moonroof, and Android Auto & Apple CarPlay. If you’re looking for a comfortable urban car with excellent handling and cargo functionality, the Encore is it.
Despite the hipster-centric commercials, the Renegade is a sales success because it actually works. Even though it’s a Fiat 500x underneath that cool bodywork, the Renegade is a real Jeep, from its squared off exterior charisma, to the trail-rated capability. The 2.4-liter four cylinder drives 180 horsepower through a nine-speed automatic transmission, which drives either the front or all four wheels. The upright design means more interior space since the windshield and rear cargo area aren’t sloped in the name of faux sportiness. That means excellent visibility and class leading interior room. With 18.5 cu/ft in the hatch, and 51 cu/ft with the rear seats down, the Renegade is comparable to the newer and slightly larger Honda HR-V. The interior looks just as cool as the outside, and the ergonomics actually make sense. Stay off the trails and on the highway, and you’ll be rewarded with 31 MPG.
Slotting in below Mazda’s fan favorite CX-5, the CX-3 is a compact five-passenger crossover that proves this affordable class can be attractive and fun to drive. With a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine making 146 horsepower, you can reach 35 MPG highway with standard front-wheel drive. Opting for the optional all-wheel-drive increases capability, but takes a slight hit to 32 MPG. The six-speed auto has shift paddles that make this way more fun than a CVT equipped crossover. The CX-3 is filled with active safety features, like adaptive headlights, radar cruise control and blind-spot monitoring. The interior is more upscale and fresh looking than most in this class, and while it’s not fast, the optional manual transmission, excellent steering feel, and flat handling make this one fun to drive. When you love the crossover look, but don’t necessarily need all that room, and can’t give up the sports car, you need a CX-3.
BMW’s Mini brand builds character into every vehicle they offer. The not-so-mini Countryman still has the charm of the original classic Mini, but adds usable space out back. Drivetrain depends on the year and trim, but you are looking at anything from a base 1.6-liter with 121 horsepower, up to a turbocharged 2.0-liter making 228 horsepower in the John Cooper Works trim. Want a stick? You can shift your own gears in the Countryman, and the Crosstrek below. The current 2017+ second generation Countryman is built on the same chassis as the BMW X1, so it has a similar quality interior, quiet ride, and safety features. In fact, the Mini Countryman was the only small car to ace the IIHS’s small overlap crash test when it debuted in 2012. The Countryman has the highest “Good” rating in every category, and the EU’s NCAP rating system gave it five stars. If safety is your thing, or you just want street parking/Instagram appeal, or enjoy the BMW/Mini drive quality, look to this largest Mini.
Subaru has arguably been manufacturing crossovers longer than anyone. Their 1980s AWD wagons featured superb off-road handling, and raised suspensions for extra ground clearance. Now that everyone’s doing it, Subaru upped their game with the Crosstrek. Since it’s based on the Impreza, the Crosstrek features Subaru’s hardy 2.0-liter boxer four-cylinder with 27 city, 33 highway MPG, and a rumbly exhaust note. Unlike the Impreza, there’s lots of protective body cladding, and that awesome new Cool Gray Khaki color. Fold the rear seats down, and you have a wagon-like 55 cu/ft of space. Want a hybrid with AWD? There aren’t many, but the Crosstrek did have a hybrid option from 2013 to 2016. Subaru’s intelligent all-wheel-drive and dirt trail ready suspension make for excellent traction and capability in bad weather or Michigan potholes. Based on Subaru’s commercials, the Crosstrek is for people that would like a Jeep Wrangler for outdoorsy stuff, but don’t want their big dogs to have a rough ride.