Subcompact SUVs are quickly rising in popularity, and the segment is more diverse than ever before. Some models are built for quick acceleration and responsive handling. Meanwhile, others focus on fuel efficiency. Then there are those that attempt to fuse rugged capability to a small package. But no matter its intended purpose, each model must deliver well-rounded performance to entice buyers.
Manufacturers don’t have to commit to building the fastest small SUV. Instead, industry experts look for smooth rides, comfortable interiors, cutting-edge technologies, long-term reliability, and exciting driving dynamics.
Unfortunately, some SUVs underwhelm in just about every category. Consumer Reports conducted in-depth road tests for nearly every new 2021 subcompact SUV, and three models proved to be the worst in the class. In fact, these vehicles were the only ones in the segment to score less than a 60/100 rating in the publication’s road test.
Which models failed to live up to expectations, and what data did Consumer Reports uncover? Let’s dig deeper to find the failings of these bottom-tier subcompact SUVs.
2021 Jeep Renegade (56 road test score)
Many are shying away from Renegade, as it’s lost its luster in recent years. There’s no denying that the 2021 Jeep Renegade is one of the most off-road-capable vehicles in the subcompact SUV class. However, even its rugged Trailhawk trim isn’t suited for extreme terrain.
Instead, owners are sacrificing handling and long-term reliability for a little extra capability. If off-roading is your top priority, wouldn’t you be better off in a larger SUV?
Consumer Reports lambasted the 2021 Jeep Renegade’s weak powertrain and uncomfortable front seats. These factors significantly damage this small SUV’s potential to be a recommended commuter vehicle.
Additionally, the publication proved how annoying it could be to ride inside the Renegade. Consumer Reports’ review stated, “At idle, this engine quivers more like a spawning grunion, sending its vibrations through the steering wheel and into the seats.”
Meanwhile, the Renegade has the second-lowest predicted reliability and worst ownership satisfaction rating in its class. With problems like this, it’s no wonder that Consumer Reports gave the 2021 Renegade a 37/100 overall vehicle score.
2021 Chevy Trax (55 road test score)
The situation isn’t as bleak for the Chevrolet Trax. It actually earned a higher overall vehicle score (48/100) on Consumer Reports. However, this rating is primarily due to its healthier predicted reliability.
While this subcompact SUV isn’t a long-term headache, it’s a mess during daily driving situations. The 2021 Chevy Trax is small in every sense of the word. It’s short on fuel economy, only achieving 25 MPG combined in Consumer Reports’ testing. Plus, the Trax has a feeble engine, limited driver visibility, and few desirable features compared to its competitors.
Consumer Reports took issue with the 2021 Chevy Trax’s clunky infotainment touchscreen display. It said, “Free of any helpful buttons or knobs, and slow to react, the screen distracts from driving due to its tiny on-screen fonts and multiple menu offerings.”
The Trax appears to be an exciting SUV based on its sleek design. However, lacking any advantages in performance or comfort, shoppers may avoid the 2021 Chevy Trax after taking a test drive. Instead, consumers may look toward other stylish models like the Kia Seltos or the better-performing Chevy Trailblazer.
2021 Fiat 500X (50 road test score)
Consumer Reports has never been a fan of the Fiat 500X, and this trend continues for the 2021 model year. The publication gave this Italian subcompact SUV an overall vehicle score of 31/100 – one of the lowest ratings on the entire site.
There’s not much to like about the 2021 Fiat 500X aside from its distinct Italian styling and tight turn radius. According to Consumer Reports, buyers can expect a noisy, stiff ride and uncomfortable seats. Plus, drivers may need some time adjusting to the 500X’s poor outward visibility and its funky brake pedal.
However, the 2021 Fiat 500X’s largest pitfall is its predicted reliability. Consumer Reports ranked it last in the subcompact SUV segment, with a rating of just 14%. This poor showing doesn’t come as a surprise, as Consumer Reports tends to give most Fiat models abysmal scores in reliability.