Skip to main content

Entrants to the subcompact or compact SUV segment have a better shot at being at the bottom than at the top of the list. Competition is fierce, and there are plenty of extra small SUVs to go around. These sport utility vehicles from Mazda, Kia, and Mitsubishi include the best small SUVs of 2023 and one that you can cross off your list. Sorry, Mitsubishi.

What is the best extra small SUV of 2023?

The best small SUV of 2023 includes this Mazda CX-30
The 2023 Mazda CX-30 | Mazda

The best small SUV of 2023 isn’t going to be uniform across the board, but the 2023 Mazda CX-30 is usually near the top of any respectable list. It is an undeniable class leader, and the CX-30 is no exception to the “Mazda’s are fun to drive” rule. The 2023 Mazda CX-30 starts at $22,950, and a fully loaded model is around $35,400.

The compact CX-30 has good handling and comes with two engine choices, U.S. News says. These are the standard 191 horsepower four-cylinder engine or the turbo four-cylinder with 227 horsepower. That’s with regular gas, but premium fuel gets you 250 horsepower. The 2023 Mazda CX-30 gets good fuel economy, coming in at 26 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway. With the turbo engine, that drops to 22 mpg city and 30 mpg highway.

Some standard driver-assistance features on this compact SUV include forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, and lane-departure warning. Adaptive cruise control and automatic high-beam headlights are also standard. The IIHS made the CX-30 a Top Safety Pick winner, and the NHTSA gave the small SUV a five-star safety rating.

What is a good small SUV for 2023?

The best small SUVs of 2023 include this Kia Soul
The 2023 Kia Soul | Kia

You have to give the 2023 Kia Soul a shot if you need a subcompact or extra small SUV. Looks are deceiving with the Soul, as it actually has one of the more spacious and versatile cabins in the entire segment. Similarly, it somehow lands on the list of best cars for short AND tall drivers because it just works. The 2023 Kia Soul starts at only $19,790 and goes up to $24,090 this year.

The 2023 Kia Soul has 24.2 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second row and 62.1 cubic feet with those seats folded. Not only is that class-leading, but it even beats some bigger vehicles. Kia’s compact SUV in the LX, S, and GT-Line trim levels return 28 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway, which is pretty good. The Soul EX gets 29 mpg city and 35 mpg highway.

Some standard systems included with Kia’s Drive Wise safety suite are forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, and automatic high-beam headlights. Lane-keep assist and rear-seat alert are also standard on the compact SUV. The IIHS gave the 2023 Soul high scores on the six main crashworthiness tests, and the NHTSA gave it a four-star overall safety rating.

Which subcompact SUV isn’t worth your time?

The best small SUVs of 2023 might include this option
A 2023 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport | Mitsubishi

The caboose of the small SUV segment might, unfortunately, be the 2023 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport. Here’s what it does get right: Mitsubishi has a nice warranty for the Outlander Sport, all-wheel drive comes standard, and it has two engine options. The standard engine is a 2.0L four-cylinder with 148 horsepower, while an upgraded 2.4L inline-four offers 168 horsepower. Both feel underpowered, even though the Outlander Sport is relatively small. It starts at $22,995 and goes up to $28,045 for 2023.

The 2023 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport has 21.7 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second row. That increases to 49.5 cubic feet with those seats folded. Fuel economy sits at 23 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway with the base engine. The stronger engine gets 23 mpg city and 28 mpg highway. All of these land the Outlander Sport at the back of the pack.

Mitsubishi included some important systems standard like forward collision warning, lane-departure warning, and automatic high-beam headlights. Some systems like blind-spot monitoring, lane-change assist, and rear cross-traffic alert are only available as add-ons. The small SUV earned some good scores during IIHS testing, but not all. It also earned a four-star safety rating from the NHTSA.

At the end of the day, the best subcompact or small SUV is the one that fits into the lifestyle (and budget) of the driver. Going for a test drive can help alleviate some questions, especially if cargo space is a priority.


Small SUVs, Big Value: 3 Models Under $30,000 You Don’t Want to Miss