Kelley Blue Book Best Buys of 2016: Small SUV

By Editors on November 12, 2015 2:50 PM

2016 Honda CR-V

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Our first-ever Small SUV Best Buy is now the category's first repeat winner.

The Honda CR-V is the best-selling SUV in the country, one of our 10 most awarded vehicles of 2015, and now it's been named a Kelley Blue Book Best Buy two years in a row. In this age of Everyone's a Winner, it's nice to see something dominate so many tough competitors and receive all the recognition it deserves.

After topping the Mazda CX-5, Nissan Rogue and smaller, SUV-like Kia Soul in last year's inaugural Best Buy awards, this year the CR-V bested three new-for-2016 models. Although 2016 is the fifth model year for the current generation CR-V, a significant update in 2015 has helped it stay ahead of the pack.

Absurdly practical, expertly engineered and backed by a stellar reputation for reliability, the 2016 Honda CR-V is a Best Buy on almost every level.

Attractively Utilitarian

The 2016 Honda CR-V isn't just one of the roomiest small SUVs money can buy, it offers the most practicality-enhancing features and touches. Lifting the rear hatch reveals a cavernous cargo area with a conveniently low load floor. Need even more room? Simply pull levers on each side of the cargo area and the split second-row seat flips and folds in an impressive ballet of engineering that doubles cargo capacity from 35.3 to 70.9 cubic feet. And don't worry about that important jar of pickles: a small lip at the cargo opening prevents items from falling out of the back when you get home and open the liftgate.

Moving to the forward cabin, each front door features both a large pocket at the bottom of the door and a smaller, more easily accessible shelf in the middle of the door, while a dash-mounted transmission selector opens up more room in the center console. (More space for personal cargo is one of the CR-V's key practical advantages compared to the smaller new Honda HR-V.)

Rife with Refinement

The CR-V is designed well, built well and works well. Not only does it seem to intuit its drivers' precise intentions, it delivers on those aims with a grace unmatched in the category. Every time a editor emerges from a CR-V and exclaims, "It's sooooo good," it's the superior driving feel doing a lot of the talking. The CR-V simply goes, turns and stops around town more satisfyingly than any of its competitors. It's an advantage that pays off over every single mile of ownership, for every single driver.

Comfortable seats are part of the enjoyable experience, too. Front passengers are treated to wide but supportive buckets, while rear seat passengers enjoy reclining seatbacks, a fold-down armrest and more direct cooling/heating via rear vents.

The 2016 Honda CR-V is also a step ahead of the competition from a technology perspective, with an available radar- and camera-based active cruise control system, plus collision mitigation and blind-spot warning systems. The CR-V can even steer itself down the highway for a few seconds if your hands leave the wheel. Functionally it's a more active lane-departure prevention system, but it's also a fun way to impress your friends. While the CR-V's infotainment system is more stable and predictable than many systems, it's not among the category's most user-friendly.

It Has a Reputation

The same attention to detail that makes the CR-V so enjoyable to drive and use also contributes to its proven reliability. That reputation for quality makes the CR-V a hot commodity on the used-car market, and that demand keeps its resale values strong. Those excellent resale values mean that buying the best car in the class costs less after a full buy-own-sell ownership cycle than buying a cheaper, lesser competitor. The best for less? Sounds like a Best Buy Award winner to us.

More 2016 Honda CR-V

Ready to make your move? Build and price your own CR-V to unlock its current Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price, 5-Year Cost to Own and more. If you have more questions, read our 2016 Honda CR-V full review. And if you're ready to explore your other small SUV options, check out our Small SUV Buyer's Guide and you'll be up to speed in no time.

2016 Small SUV Best Buy Finalists

The CR-V remains the MVP of small SUVs, but that doesn't mean it's the top dog in every single aspect. Maybe you want something even more affordable, more stylish, or more fun to drive. Each of the following finalists has its own strengths, and any of them might be the perfect match for your particular wants and needs.

2016 Honda HR-V

2016 Honda HR-V

A Smaller, More Stylish CR-V

The CR-V's toughest competition for this year's Best Buy trophy came from its new little brother. Honda's all-new subcompact SUV is arguably more stylish inside and out, offers a similar level of refinement and starts several thousand dollars less. And while the 2016 Honda HR-V is smaller by design, it's the roomiest subcompact SUV on the market and features Honda's flipping, folding, second-row Magic Seat that adds even more flexibility. Steering feel, brake feel and throttle response are all better than we've experienced in many pricier vehicles, although the HR-V is a tad short on power and a bit noisy when you have to really get on it. Backed by Honda's decades-deep reputation for building reliable, dependable automobiles, don't be surprised when you start seeing HR-Vs all over the road.

Build and price your own 2016 Honda HR-V or read our full review

2016 Hyundai Tucson

2016 Hyundai Tucson

Bigger in Size and Appeal

With a roomier interior, improved driving experience and even better styling, the totally redesigned 2016 Hyundai Tucson is now a more viable and compelling alternative to small SUV standouts like the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4. A stylish, well-thought-out interior is a big part of the appeal, as is the availability of one of the most visually appealing, easiest-to-use infotainment systems in any segment. The Tucson's fuel economy is average at best and power delivery isn't as seamless as it is in the buttery smooth CR-V, but the Honda can't boast a 5-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty and 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty. The 2016 Hyundai Tucson is a comfortable, accommodating, good-looking new entry in one of the market's hottest segments, and is worthy of a long look by every small-SUV shopper.

Build and price your own 2016 Hyundai Tucson or read our full review

2016 Mazda CX-3

2016 Mazda CX-3

Sporty, Stylish and on the Small Side

Like the Honda HR-V, the Mazda CX-3 is a new-for-2016 entry in the burgeoning subcompact SUV segment. Clearly the best-looking of the bunch, with sharp sheetmetal and interior styling that could pass for premium, the 2016 Mazda CX-3 is arguably the most fun-to-drive entry, too. An impressive list of high-tech safety and convenience technologies also evokes European luxury cars. But prospective buyers should be aware that it's much smaller inside than alternatives like the Honda HR-V and Chevrolet Trax, as captured in the notes of editor Keith Buglewicz regarding the CX-3's rear seat: "Hey, Mazda, people sit here you know!" (To be fair, Keith is pretty tall.) Front seat passengers aren't immune, either, as a crowded center console adds to a cramped ergonomic environment. But plenty of car buyers are more interested in form and fun than in practicality and function, and the CX-3 gives those buyers a more affordable choice in SUV form, and with available all-wheel drive.

Build and price your own 2016 Mazda CX-3 or read our full review

More 2016 Best Buys