2017-2018 Compact SUV Comparison Badge

The new normal

Compact SUVs are the hottest things on four wheels right now, and the reason for their rise is no mystery. Bigger is still better in America, and now that these car-based crossover SUVs offer efficiency and comfort on par with some similarly priced sedans, buyers can get the added ride height, cargo versatility and presence of an SUV with very little sacrifice. Plus, SUVs are all some younger buyers have ever known.

Fittingly, the 2017 and 2018 model years are big ones for new product in the compact SUV segment. The 2017 model year alone brought us new versions of the Honda CR-V, Kia Sportage, Jeep Compass and Mazda CX-5, all of which were tapped for this comparison test. The 2018 model year will finally bring us an all-new Chevy Equinox and GMC Terrain, plus an even more overdue redesign of the Volkswagen Tiguan. Only the Equinox was available in time for this test, but we drove the new Tiguan shortly after.

The venerable Toyota RAV4 rounded out our comparison test six-pack, a group we took on a 600-mile road trip from our home base in Southern California to Lake Las Vegas in Henderson, Nevada. We traded cars and notes along the way, evaluating each vehicle in key categories ranging from highway driving to infotainment to rear seat roominess. What we learn during our comparison tests informs not only the test itself, but also our popular 10 Best lists and annual awards.

So which compact SUV came out on top? The Honda CR-V probably received the highest overall score, but naming overall winners and losers is not the aim of our comparison tests. Our goal is to highlight the relative strengths, weaknesses and differences among the group, so that you can choose the one that’s best for you. Are you looking for something stylish and fun to drive? Check out the Mazda CX-5. Do you plan to actually go off road, or want to look the part? Put the new Jeep Compass on your list. Are you drawn to a proven track record and resale value? It’s still hard to beat the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 in those respects. Throw a dart and you’ll likely hit a good, recommendable compact SUV. But this comparison test will help you land the very best compact SUV for your wants and needs.

In alphabetical order:

2018 Chevrolet Equinox

Starting Price: $24,475

Resized, redesigned and now competitive with the perennial class leaders. Read more

2017 Honda CR-V

Starting Price: $24,985

One of the perennial class leaders. Read more

2017 Jeep Compass

Starting Price: $20,935

This is the one you want on the trail. Read more

2017 Kia Sportage

Starting Price: $24,095

Our Compact SUV Best Buy of 2017. Read more

2017 Mazda CX-5

Starting Price: $24,985

The driver's choice gets even better looking this year. Read more

2017 Toyota RAV4

Starting Price: $25,370

Still one of the smartest buys in the segment. Read more

More Compact SUVs

Check out our Compact SUV Buyer's Guide to see more of what's new and what's next in the segment, or jump straight to one of your other options below.

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