50-state Appeal

In the snowier parts of the country, compact SUVs are popular for their available all-wheel drive and added ground clearance.  At lower elevations and further south, the elevated

seating position and cargo versatility are a larger part of the appeal.

What's New

The all-new Hyundai Tucson is the category's only full redesign for 2016, but the Mazda CX-5, Toyota RAV4, Chevy Equinox, GMC Terrain and Mitsubishi Outlander Sport all receive upgrades and enhancements. The RAV4's update includes the addition of a new hybrid model, the first in the class.

10 Best Winners

The compact SUV segment is represented by its best and brightest on our most recent lists of the 10 Best SUVs Under $25,000, 10 Most Fuel-Efficient SUVs and 16 Best Family Cars of 2016.

Compact SUV or Midsize Sedan?

It's an intriguing dilemma worth contemplating because the average prices paid for each are within about $1,000 of each other.

A compact SUV buyer might point to his car's superior cargo capacity — fold down the rear seats in a compact SUV and it turns into a small moving van — the increased visibility afforded by the higher seating position, added ground clearance and maybe all-wheel drive (a couple midsize sedans do offer AWD, but it's available on every compact SUV).

A midsize sedan buyer, on the other hand, might have come to her decision based on her car's superior fuel efficiency, better ride and handling, and roomier back seat. And generally speaking, you get a few more features for your money in a midsize sedan. If it sounds like you might lean the same way, check out your Midsize Sedan Buyer's Guide.

Unleaded Only

Compact SUV shoppers looking for hybrid power will soon have at least one option in the segment, with the scheduled arrival of the new Toyota RAV4 Hybrid. Diesel devotees are out of luck for the foreseeable future. The turbocharged, 200-horsepower Volkswagen Tiguan offers the most standard horsepower in the class, while the Chevy Equinox and GMC Terrain cousins each offer the same available V6 engine good for a segment-leading 301 horsepower. The Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-5 and Nissan Rogue offer the best available fuel economy -- RAV4 Hybrid notwithstanding -- topping out at 33 highway mpg when comparably equipped. The new-for-2016 Hyundai Tucson also offers an Eco trim that matches that number.


If none of the core compact SUVs above are doing it for you, you might want to check out the extremely off-road capable Jeep Wrangler or the Subaru Outback tall wagon, a same-but-different compact SUV alternative. There's also a burgeoning sub-compact SUV segment starting to take shape with the Honda HR-V, Chevrolet Trax and Mazda CX-3 joining the smaller but established Nissan Juke.

First Pics: See the Totally Redesigned 2017 Kia Sportage

Browse photography at Denver.Gallery.