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In the world of automobiles, compact SUVs emerge as the true unicorns of utility. The best small SUVs are easy to park but still have enough space to pack your blankets and snacks for the next big road trip. Just because these vehicles have a short wheelbase doesn’t mean comfort and safety aren’t at the forefront of the design. Explore these high-quality compact SUVs priced under $40,000 that deliver impressive performance and value from Mazda, Hyundai, and Toyota.

What’s the best small SUV under $40,000?

The best small SUVs include this 2023 Mazda CX-5
A 2023 Mazda CX-5 | Mazda

For the best small SUVs, the 2023 Mazda CX-5 is at the top of the list. Even though U.S. News agrees, there are a few important reasons why this compact Mazda SUV should also be at the top of your list. It offers a good combination of comfort and practicality, with plenty of space for passengers throughout the cabin. Mazda offers two engines: a 2.5L four-cylinder with 187 horsepower and an upgraded turbo version that gets 256 horsepower.

The Mazda CX-5 has 30.8 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats and 59.3 cubic feet with the seats folded. That isn’t class-leading, but it is enough space for most drivers. Pricing for this year ranges from $26,700 for the base model and a fully-loaded 2023 CX-5 is $36,650.

Mazda included many standard driver-assistance features, such as blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert and lane-departure warning with lane-keep assist. Forward collision warning with pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking are also helpful. That was enough to earn the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Top Safety Pick Plus award.

What is a reliable small SUV?

The Toyota RAV4 is one of the best small SUVs
A 2023 Toyota RAV4 | Toyota

There are many reasons why the 2023 Toyota RAV4 is one of the best compact SUVs on the market right now, and its reliability is a major selling point. Even though the RAV4 is a small option, Toyota made good use of what space it does have in the cabin. Thoughtful design choices and layouts mean more space than most vehicles in the segment, and each seat is comfortable. Toyota’s 2.5L four-cylinder gets 203 horsepower.

The 2023 RAV4 has 37.6 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second row and 69.8 cubic feet with both rows folded. That is class-leading space, and there’s even room for a bike. The base trim levels get a manual liftgate and can optionally get an automatic one, which comes standard on higher trim levels. It isn’t a necessity, but it is helpful. Pricing starts at $28,275 for the base RAV4, but it comes pretty well-equipped. A fully loaded 2023 RAV4 is $36,580 and comes with that power liftgate.

Toyota’s compact SUV comes with manual driver-assistance features like lane-departure warning, forward collision warning, and automatic emergency braking. Traffic sign recognition and automatic high-beam headlights also come on all trim levels. This helped earn an IIHS Top Safety Pick award and a five-star overall safety rating from the NHTSA.

Which compact SUV has the best ride quality?

The best small SUVs include this 2023 Hyundai Tucson
A 2023 Hyundai Tucson | Hyundai

Even if the 2023 Hyundai Tucson isn’t the most popular small SUV on the market, it has one of the best ride qualities in the class. Hyundai’s interior is spacious and comfortable, and the cabin is quiet. This compact SUV usually lands at the top of lists for the best SUV for families and the best small SUV for the money. Hyundai only offers one engine, a 2.5L four-cylinder with 187 horsepower.

The Hyundai Tucson has 38.7 cubic feet of space behind the second row and 74.8 with the rows folded. That is one of the better numbers for compact SUVs. A base 2023 Tucson starts at $26,900, while a fully loaded model is $37,660. While the top Limited trim is packed with features, the base SE and SEL models do the job for cheaper.

Hyundai included all of the important safety systems like blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure warning, and forward collision warning. The Tucson also gets automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and automatic high-beam headlights. It earned an IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus award and high marks from the NHTSA. The front-wheel drive version earned a five-star safety rating, while the all-wheel drive model earned four stars.

Don’t expect less from the best small SUVs from Mazda, Toyota, and Hyundai, as seen here. These options are proof that good things come in small (easy to park) packages.


Best Small SUVs for Teens in 2023: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety