Subcompact SUVs and crossovers are a relatively new segment in the automotive landscape, but it is a fast-growing one. These little cars are more like hatchbacks on stilts, but buyers find the added ride height a worthy feature.
They may not have as much room as a compact SUV, but the smaller size allows these crossovers to handle more like cars and feel more at home in urban settings than their older brethren.
These are our favorite subcompact SUVs for 2016:
1. Honda HR-V
If you want to haul stuff, buy a Honda with a hatch. Like the Fit and the CR-V, the HR-V has a surprising amount of interior room. The HR-V's rear seats fold flat without sacrificing rear comfort, giving the HR-V one of the most spacious interior volumes of the class. The HR-V also packs plenty of rear legroom, so four adults can comfortably fit over long distances.
The interior styling of the HR-V feels very modern, with a sleek looking dash, infotainment screen and available leather seats. The HR-V is offered in both front wheel drive and all wheel drive on all trim levels, but you can only get the manual transmission on front wheel drive models.
Standard features include "Eco Coaching," Bluetooth, and the second row "Magic Seat," while automatic climate control, SMS text messaging, and heated seats remain optional.
The HR-V may be practical and handsome, but it sorely lacks in performance. The CVT automatic transmission especially drones on very unpleasantly, and it really takes away any connection between the driver and the car.
Choosing the excellent manual transmission would prevent the CVT unpleasantness, but it is only available with front wheel drive versions of the LX and EX trims. That being said, many people want a comfortable box that can move itself around, and the HR-V is one of the best comfortable, self-propelled boxes there is.
2. Mazda CX-3
Once again, if you even slightly enjoy driving, choosing the Mazda option in the segment is the way to go. The Mazda CX-3 is very engaging, allowing you to precisely maneuver mountain roads and on ramps with ease. It's also one of the best looking cars in the segment inside and out, with a much more upscale feel than many of its rivals.
The interior is comprised of high quality materials, and it is quite well equipped, with standard features like a six speaker audio system, a large touchscreen display with one of the better infotainment systems on the market, Bluetooth, and push button start. Options include a premium audio system, automatic climate control, a head up display, moonroof and various driver assistance technologies.
Like most other Mazdas, the CX-3 is pretty economical for the segment, getting 29/35 mpg in the city and highway. The CX-3 is also available in both front wheel drive and all wheel drive.
The major downside of the CX-3 is that it doesn't have a ton of room compared to other subcompact SUVs and crossovers, which is a real downside. However, if you want a fun subcompact crossover, the CX-3 is the one for you.
3. Buick Encore
The Buick Encore is a surprisingly great subcompact crossover. Even though it is based on the mediocre Chevrolet Trax, the Encore manages to be more than the sum of its parts.
The Encore prioritizes comfort over everything else, and it is able to do it exceedingly well. The interior is downright luxurious compared to most other subcompact SUVs, with top quality materials and a very quiet cabin that isolates you from the unpleasantries of city driving. The Encore also handles pretty nicely for an SUV, and it is very maneuverable in tight spaces, a perfect quality for a city car. standard features include the Buick IntelliLink infotainment system, satellite radio, Bluetooth, and a WiFi hotspot.
Options include heated seats, driver assistance features, automatic climate control and Bose premium audio. The best part though, is that the luxuries of the Buick aren't all that expensive, with prices starting at $24.065.
The Buick's main drawback is that it feels a bit underpowered, which can take the fun out of driving it. People don't seem to mind though, because the Encore has been a home run for Buick, sales-wise.
4. Jeep Renegade
The Jeep Renegade has something that every other "SUV" in this segment lacks: bona fide off-road capabilities. Built on the same platform as the Fiat 500X, the Jeep Renegade (at least in Trailhawk trim) is actually quite gifted at offroading. The Trailhawk trim gets upgraded suspension, a higher ground clearance, and other off road features that allow it to leave the other crossovers behind.
It's not just the Renegade Trailhawk that's a good option, though. All Renegades have a fun sense of character that often is lost among cars these days. The Renegade is cute, there is an optional removable sunroof for open air freedom, it's got plenty of space, and a pretty nice interior. There's a large number of ways to configure one, so if you want a cute Jeep 'ute in your life, you'll find one that meets your spec.
The Renegade's long term reliability may be questionable based on previous Jeep products. That being said, the happy Renegade is something that we are glad is being built and is worthy of praise.