2016 Subcompact SUV Comparison: A Segment is Born
With five new entries in the past two model years alone, subcompact SUVs blossomed into an actual segment almost overnight. Smaller, more affordable alternatives to wildly popular compact SUVs like the Toyota RAV4 and Ford Escape, the secret formula is the same: elevated seating position, superior cargo versatility, increased ground clearance and available all-wheel drive.
For Kelley Blue Book's first official subcompact SUV comparison test we stuck with a familiar destination. Every year we head to the greater Phoenix area for some Cactus League spring training baseball, a 700-mile roundtrip that's typically our longest comparison test of the year.
Along for the ride this time were three brand-new, first-time models for 2016: the Honda HR-V, Mazda CX-3 and Fiat 500X. And the Jeep Renegade is only a sophomore.
Related: Check out the newest subcompact SUV, the 2018 Ford EcoSport
The Chevy Trax also debuted last year, but it wasn’t available during our test dates. So we invited its fancier cousin, the Buick Encore. Dating all the way back to the 2013 model year, the Encore was the relative veteran of the group, and a bit of an outsider. The only participant wearing a premium badge, the Encore’s starting sticker price is also about $4,000 higher than most of the others.
Our primary judging categories include highway, city and sporty driving, plus interior appeal, infotainment, rear seat room and cargo versatility. We also take a look at fuel economy and resale value, and highlight weak safety ratings when applicable.
While we indeed keep score during our comparison tests, we don't pick overall winners and losers. Especially in a group as diverse as this, the best choice for one buyer can be the worst choice for another. Our mission is not to name the best car for the most people, but to help each car shopper discover the best choice for him or her.
We've listed them here in order of overall scoring, but we encourage you to start with whichever model you find most appealing. The results of our comparison might reinforce those instincts, or they might point you in a different direction entirely. Either way you'll be closer to the right choice, and that's exactly where we're always hoping to guide you.
By the Numbers
Here's a look at how these five SUVs stack up on key specs. Note that the Jeep Renegade and Fiat 500X, cousins in the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles family, share the same powerful but less efficient powertrain. You can also see that the Honda boasts almost 25 percent more cargo volume than even the second roomiest entry.
More Subcompact SUVs
We'd love to include every category entry in our annual segment comparison tests, but it's typically an impractical endeavor for several reasons. Here are the two models that round out the fast-growing subcompact SUV segment.