Compact and subcompact crossovers offer the perfect modern car package of passenger comfort, cargo space, efficiency, and all-wheel-drive. It’s no wonder the segment was exploding by 2016. With a few years under their tires, let’s see how these small SUVs and crossovers have held up. Here are the best small SUVs from the class of 2016.
One of the first near-luxury subcompact SUVs is also a buyer favorite. Buick’s best-selling vehicle, the subcompact Encore, offers premium feel for economy price. The Encore delivers a class-leading interior, with quality materials, luxury styling, and a huge list of standard features. Like a traditional Buick, this crossover has a comfortable and quiet ride. It’s not a brilliant off-roader, but the superior on-road suspension confidently soaks up bumps. It’s a great drive, but it’s no speed demon. The Encore is the most sedated on this list, taking a full 10 seconds to 60. Still, there’s efficiency at 33 MPG highway, and a solid list of standard features. Great safety ratings too, with a full five stars from NHTSA, and five out of six Good scores from IIHS.
The HR-V was brand new for 2016. The CR-V’s little brother, the HR-V, is a funky cool subcompact that works in everyday life. Have a seat inside and you’ll notice the surprising amount of interior space. The second row “magic seats” easily fold flat leaving a voluminous cargo area. The front passenger seat folds down too, giving enough room for carrying long items like a surfboard or fence posts. A 1.8-liter four cylinder is the only engine choice, paired to an auto, CVT, or manual (in front-wheel drive only). The 6-speed stick is fun, but the CVT is sporty too and doesn’t let the engine drone like earlier CVTs. The cabin feels upscale and stylish, with a good use of leather and quality looking plastics. The base trim is alright, but you probably want to shop at least the EX trim for power moon roof, heated seats, and additional safety tech.
The off-roader of the group, the Renegade has trail cred for all your outdoorsy needs. This cool looking Jeep delivers real adventure capability in a fun and efficient package. Lower trim packages come with the 160 horsepower 1.4-liter from the Fiat 500, while option up the Renegade and you’ll have a 2.4-liter with 180 horsepower. Auto is standard, but there’s a manual six-speed transmission if that’s more your thing. The Renegade is kinda the opposite of the Buick Encore, with a Tonka-inspired interior, and a bit rougher ride, but it makes up for it with impressive off-road ability. Taller drivers won’t love the headroom unless you get the optional moon roof that adds a couple inches. Get the Limited trim for leather and chrome interior bits, and a six-inch screen powered by UConnect. The Trailhawk package adds exclusive wheels, lift kit, and real 4WD.
Want to never lose your car in a parking lot? The JUKE (yes, it shouts at you in caps) looks like nothing else on a road. The wild exterior is matched with a solid interior and effective suspension. Rather than off-road supremacy, the JUKE is like a lifted sport compact, delivering a highly praised on-road driving experience. Front-wheel drive and a CVT are standard at most trim levels, but there is optional all-wheel drive and a six-speed manual at higher trims. The 2014+ NISMO RS is the one to get for speed, with a turbo 1.6-liter making 215 horsepower. Zero to 60 passes in an impressive 6.4 seconds, comparable to a base Genesis Coupe. Cargo volume is compromised a bit with the funky styling, but you won’t mind since it’s so fun to drive.
Arguably the vehicle that created this class, the original RAV4 offered a Civic’s fuel economy and agility with SUV styling and practicality. The comfortable seats, large cargo area, nimble handling, and great outward visibility make it an excellent daily driver. The gas 2.5-liter four cylinder offers a comfortable driving experience, and power feels solid when accelerating. If you need a “green” SUV, the hybrid option gets 34 MPG even with AWD and scoots 0 to 60 in 8.1 seconds. Since it’s bigger than most of the others here, mileage suffers a bit, but 29 mpg is still pretty good. One downside is for fans of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as the apps are missing here (you’ll need a 2019 for those). Toyota quality means the RAV4 is the logical choice for the crossover you’re going to keep 20 years, but just in case you don’t, it has excellent resale value too.