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Compact crossover SUVs have taken the automotive market by storm, with nearly every major automotive brand offering at least one example in their lineup. With this flooding of the market, compact SUVs have left their typical basement pricing segment, and they can now be found in the luxury and performance segment as well.

If you want a cheap compact SUV, you are still in luck, because there are still a surprising amount of cheap compacts to choose from. While there may still be a number of compact SUVs in an affordable price range, not all of them are the best choice. Recently, U.S. News and Kelley Blue Blook (KBB) unveiled their rankings for the top-performing compact SUVs, and only one model came away as a great value across the board.

A 2023 Kia Sportage parked in a mountainous area.
2023 Kia Sportage | Kia Media

The 2023 Chevy Trailblazer could be the most affordable compact SUV

The 2023 Chevy Trailblazer is one of the cheapest SUVs on the market today, starting at around $22,100. The Trailblazer gets away with being that cheap due to its dimensions. In fact, the Trailblazer is 174 inches long, making it only a little over two feet longer than the ultra-compact Chevy Spark.

The Trailblazer comes standard with a 1.2L Ecotec engine, which makes a decent amount of power at 137 horsepower. This small engine paired with a CVT gets solid fuel economy at 29 mpg city and 33 mpg highway.

Where the Trailblazer shines is in its higher trim levels, which offer all-wheel drive and a slightly larger 1.3L engine, taking the power up to 155 horsepower. The offroad-ready Trailblazer, the Activ trim, offers this bigger engine and includes a functional skidplate, LED foglights, dual exhaust, roof-mounted rails, automatic high beam headlights, and gloss black wheels all for under $28,000.

Sadly, this Trailblazer ranked low on KBB’s list at no.9, and no.8 on U.S. News’ list. The Trailblazer’s low-performance engine options and small dimensions make it a tough sell for many consumers.

 The 2023 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross is a cheap compact SUV that falls short

The Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross has been a tough sell since its introduction. The first Mitsubishi Eclipse model was a sports coupe made by Diamond Star Motors, a subsidiary of Chrysler and Mitsubishi. The original DSM Eclipse was a hit in its day and today on the collector market. It was an influential sports coupe that helped bring Japanese tuner culture to the US. However, the Eclipse Cross is everything but influential.

The Eclipse Cross comes standard with a 1.5L four-cylinder engine making 152 horsepower. This powerplant gets around 25 mpg city and 28 mpg highway. The Eclipse Cross starts at around $25,795.

While it is slightly bigger than the Trailblazer, it offers worse fuel economy, a higher price, and lower horsepower than the 1.3L Ecotec. With some build quality issues, this is a tough SUV to recommend, and U.S. News ranks it as the worst SUV in its class in 19th place. KBB refrained from adding the Eclipse to its list of top SUVs at all.

The 2023 Kia Sportage gives you the most for your money

The Kia Sportage is one shining example of how to produce a cheap, yet practical compact SUV. The Sportage starts at $26,290, and for that price, you get a ton of value.

This compact SUV is available in both front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive layouts with a 187 horsepower engine powering all trim levels. In its front-wheel drive format, you can expect to get around 25 mpg city and 32 mpg highway. For the Kia Sportage Hybrid, you can expect 42 mpg city and 44 mpg highway.

U.S. News ranked Sportage in 8th place in its list of compact SUVs due to its cutting-edge interior tech, spacious cabin that is bigger than both the Eclipse Cross and Trailblazer, and solid ride and handling.

KBB ranked the Kis Sportage Hybrid at the top of its list of the best fuel-efficient SUVs on the market today. Dollar for dollar, there isn’t another affordable compact SUV that is worth every penny like the 2023 Kia Sportage.


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