For many, the best SUVs come in small packages.

For most of the people most of the time, it's not the size of an SUV that delivers the goods, it's the shape. It's about sitting above the traffic, lifting the tailgate and, sometimes, folding the rear seats for even more cargo room. So why pay more up front, pay more at the pump and have a more difficult time negotiating parking lots than you need to? The smallest SUVs are often the smartest SUVs.

And the compact SUV segment has grown into one of the largest, best-selling categories out there. Whether you're focused on efficiency, fun, roominess or even off-roading, there's a small SUV designed just for you. We drove the 2019 Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4 and Subaru Forester on the streets and highways of Southern California as part of our most recent Compact SUV Comparison Test, but here are all 13 of your compact SUV choices in alphabetical order. 

2019 Chevrolet Equinox

Starting Price: $24,795

The Chevrolet Equinox is comfortable, stylish, roomy and loaded with tech. Read More

 

2019 Ford Escape

Starting Price: $25,100

This mainstay of the segment offers a wide range of models, engines and tech features, and the Escape can tow up to 3,500 pounds. Read More

 

2019 GMC Terrain

Starting Price: $25,995

Like its Chevy Equinox sibling, the Terrain was completely rethought for 2018, and has additional safety and tech for 2019. Read More

 

2019 Honda CR-V

Starting Price: $25,345

Honda's practical, well-rounded, refined utility vehicle boasts a roomy interior, an abundance of safety and tech features and strong resale value. Read More

 

2019 Hyundai Tucson

Starting Price: $24,245

The updated and restyled Tucson offers more standard equipment, a refreshed interior, and additional advanced safety features. Read More

 

2019 Jeep Cherokee

Starting Price: $26,135

A thorough refresh gives the off-road-ready Jeep Cherokee a more upscale interior, attractive exterior styling and a new engine. Read More

 

2019 Kia Sportage

Starting Price: $24,745

In a category dominated by me-too metal, the Sportage stands out both for its bold styling and the available 240-horsepower turbocharged engine. Read More

 

2019 Mazda CX-5

Starting Price: $25,325

Like so many of the cars Mazda makes, the CX-5 is arguably the most stylish, most fun-to-drive entry in its segment. Read More

 

2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

Starting Price: $22,725 (w/auto)

The segment's lowest starting price and one of its best warranties are two of the Outlander Sport's main selling points. Read More

 

2019 Nissan Rogue

Starting Price: $25,795

Nissan's Rogue is among the most sophisticated and substantial compact SUVs on the road. Read More

 

2019 Subaru Forester

Starting Price: $25,270

All-new for 2019, the Forester has a roomy interior and a new engine, and its superior all-wheel-drive system -- included as standard equipment -- makes it especially appealing to those who experience traction deficiencies on a seasonal basis. Read More

 

2018 Toyota RAV4

Starting Price: $25,370

The roomy, refined, refreshed RAV4 offers plenty of benefits, and still gets points for originality. Read More

 

2019 Volkswagen Tiguan

Starting Price: $25,290

While big names like Honda CR-V and Ford Escape carve up the compact SUV segment from a sales perspective, the Tiguan is there to carve up canyons with style. Read More

 

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.

10 Best Winners

The compact SUV segment is represented by its best and brightest on our most recent list of the 10 Best SUVs Under $25,000.

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 our Midsize Sedan Buyer's Guide.

Powertrain Choices

Compact SUV shoppers looking for hybrid power now have two options in the segment, with the arrival of the Nissan Rogue hybrid, and an all-new RAV4 Hybrid coming in Spring 2019. Diesel devotees have two choices: both the Chevrolet Equinox and its GMC Terrain cousin are available with a 1.6-liter turbodiesel 4-cylinder. The 187-horsepower Mazda CX-5 offers the most standard horsepower in the class, while the Jeep Cherokee is the only compact SUV available with a V6 engine, which is good for a segment-leading 271 horsepower. The diesel-powered Equinox and Terrain offer the best fuel economy in the segment -- 39 mpg on the highway -- and with 34 highway mpg, the Honda CR-V offers the best fuel economy of a gas-powered compact SUV. The 2018 hybrid Toyota RAV4 offers an excellent 34 mpg in the city, and the Nissan Rogue hybrid's fuel economy strength is 35 mpg on the highway.

What's New/Next

The Jeep Cherokee, Subaru Forester and Toyota RAV4 were all completely redesigned for the 2019 model year, all of which are pictured here:

Alternatives

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. And the subcompact SUV segment continues its rapid expansion with the top-selling Honda HR-V being joined by three new nameplates: Ford EcoSportHyundai Kona and Nissan Kicks.

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