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Let’s talk SUVs. When these vehicle models first came on the scene, there really only was one style – beast mode. Remember when it seemed like everyone was driving the behemoth, boxy monstrosities? And they were so cool, too. But over the years, the sport utility vehicle has morphed into a series of different styles, sizes, capabilities, and designs, intending to meet the unique needs of niche consumers. And one of the most popular segments today is the subcompact SUV.

There are certain distinctions to note about the subcompact SUV class. They represent the smallest of all the crossovers. And there are pros and cons, along with which market of consumers is the target for these small but fierce little SUVs. Today, we’ll explore how to determine if the subcompact SUV is the best version for your needs. 

A gray 2023 Honda HR-V subcompact SUV.
The 2023 Honda HR-V | Honda

Plenty of pros with owning a subcompact SUV

The former SUV segment is now broken into two primary categories and several sub-categories. Decide first if you’re in the market for a luxury vehicle. If you are, you’ll choose between a subcompact luxury SUV, compact luxury SUV, midsize luxury SUV, 3-row luxury SUV, or a full-size, 3-row SUV. If you’re not into luxury, you’ll choose from all of those crossover sizes, just without the “luxury” component.

And that might be one of the first pros about the subcompact SUV. You can select the precise size and performance you need in either a luxury or non-luxury variant. But MotorTrend goes on to say that other perks of the subcompact SUV include practicality.

Because they’re smaller in stature, subcompact SUVs are easier to maneuver, present car-like feels, and require less gas to power them. They’re often more unique in styling and versatile in cargo, too. 

Urban drivers, commuters, and budget-conscious crossover owners are perfect fit buyers. 

Some cons worth considering before you buy a subcompact SUV

There are some downsides to owning a subcompact SUV, too. Because they’re smaller and equipped usually with smaller engines, they’re not very capable off-road. Some do come with available AWD, but several don’t offer it at all. You’ll notice less energetic handling and power, too, with their tighter wheelbases and underpowered powertrains. 

So, if you routinely drive in inclement weather, not having AWD could be a deal-breaker. And if you’re adventurous with the need to travel off-pavement, the subcompact SUV might not be the best fit.

Additionally, if you have anything sizable to tow or haul, a small SUV isn’t going to have enough gusto to get the job done.

What are the best options for you?

If you decide the official pros outweigh the cons, and you’re ready to start shopping for a subcompact SUV, there are plenty of contenders. There are more than 20 subcompact SUV models on the market, with nearly every automaker having at least one in their respective portfolios. 

U.S. News rates the top subcompact SUVs for 2023, listing the 2023 Mazda CX-30, the 2023 Kia Soul, and the 2023 Hyundai Kona as the top three.

You’ll also want to test drive the Hyundai Venue, Jeep Renegade, Honda HR-V, and Toyota Corolla Cross, too. But again, create your shortlist of must-haves you’ll need from your crossover before making a decision. Some of these models won’t offer AWD, some offer hybrid considerations, and price ranges will vary between luxury and non-luxury variants. 

The subcompact SUV is a great fit for budget-conscious consumers who crave a higher-than-a-sedan experience without the beefy or break-the-bank size of traditional SUVs. Consider the pros and cons before you buy. And test drive some of those popular and top-rated contenders. 


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