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Aug. 26, 2020, 5:04 a.m. EDT

The 15 best compact SUVs—and they’re priced right, too

Need a family vehicle or just a nice commuter? You’ll find something on this list

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By Autotrader


Toyota
The Toyota RAV4

Compact SUVs are hugely popular for combining the driving feel and fuel economy of a compact car with the versatility of an SUV — all with little compromise. Whether you’re looking for a small family vehicle or just a nice commuter, you’re sure to find the right SUV for you on this list. Here are the best compact SUVs of 2020, ranked.

1. Toyota RAV4 — $25,950

The Toyota RAV4 has always been a class leader in compact SUVs, and that’s just as true in 2020 as ever. The RAV4 does just about everything well, with a ton of standard safety and infotainment technology, a fuel-efficient engine and a comfortable, well-designed interior. We love the variety in the RAV4 model range with the exciting TRD Off-Road trim and various hybrid trims available like the XSE, which is both efficient and sporty. Our only complaint is that the starting MSRP is a little high for this class, but the base trim is well-equipped. The current RAV4 is fresh off a redesign, and this version is the best RAV4 Toyota /zigman2/quotes/200537742/composite TM +0.80%   has ever made. 

Check out: A first look at Toyota’s new RAV4 plug-in hybrid

2. Honda CR-V — $24,450


Honda
The Honda CRV

The Honda CR-V comes in a very close second to its longtime Toyota rival, mainly because the RAV4 has a more efficient hybrid model and more sophisticated standard safety technology. Still, you can see our ratings show them to be very evenly matched. The CR-V has many strengths that make the Honda /zigman2/quotes/207173990/composite HMC +1.15%   a better crossover for some drivers, like a lower starting price, a super spacious interior and a more refined base engine. The CR-V got some nice updates for 2020, including standard Honda Sensing safety tech on every trim, revised styling and an efficient new hybrid model. 

See: Comparing the 2020 Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V: Which is better?

3. Mazda CX-5 — $25,190


Mazda
Mazda CX-5

The athletic Mazda CX-5 offers something a little different in the compact crossover segment while still having mainstream appeal. It has a decidedly premium look and feel inside and out that makes it more upscale than its modest price tag suggests. It’s also a blast to drive at any speed, with terrific handling and plenty of muscle from its optional turbocharged engine or its base engine, which is both lively and efficient. Some driver-assist technologies become newly standard for 2020, which helps keep this Mazda /zigman2/quotes/206326885/delayed MZDAY +1.32%   competitive. 

4. Subaru Forester — $24,495


Subaru
The Subaru Forester

The Subaru /zigman2/quotes/200526066/delayed FUJHY +0.77%   Forester is on the rugged side of the compact SUV segment while still being a perfectly pleasant crossover to drive on the street. Some off-roaders compromise road manners for capability, but you get a generous helping of both off-road performance and on-road smoothness with the Forester. The interior is roomy, the safety ratings are strong, and the fuel economy is excellent, especially considering the standard all-wheel drive on every trim. For a practical, small SUV that can get a little adventurous, the Forester is a tough value to beat. 

5. Kia Sportage— $23,990


Kia
Kia Sportage

Value is the name of the game with the affordable Kia Sportage. No matter which trim you go with, from the base LX up to the SX Turbo, you’re getting a tremendous bang for your buck with this Kia crossover. The ride is smooth and comfortable, and the interior space is pretty generous for passengers. Newly standard for 2020 is an 8-in infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple /zigman2/quotes/202934861/composite AAPL -2.97%  CarPlay and more driver-assist features like forward-collision warning with pedestrian detection and a driver condition monitor. 

6. Chevrolet Equinox— $23,800


Chevrolet
The Chevy Equinox

The Chevrolet Equinox is another value choice in compact crossovers. It’s a little tight on space compared with rivals, meaning it’s not the best for families, but if you’re just looking for a small, affordable crossover for commuting and running errands, the Equinox is worth a look. Fuel economy is great from the base engine, but you have the option of upgrading to a bigger, more powerful turbocharged engine that is still pretty good on gas while turning up the fun factor. The Equinox has a generous host of standard driver-assist tech, including automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist and more. 

7. GMC Terrain— $25,000

The GMC Terrain is mechanically identical to the Equinox and has a bit more of a premium vibe, especially in the upper trims like the Denali model. Being so similar to the Equinox, it shares many of the same pros and cons, like an efficient base engine, a strong optional engine, generous standard safety tech and being a little on the smaller side for cargo space. The range-topping Denali trim is very nice but gets into the same pricing territory as crossovers from more prestigious luxury brands. If you like the idea of the Equinox but want something a little different, the Terrain is a handsome alternative. 

Be sure to read: How to choose trim levels and options when buying a new car

8. Jeep Wrangler— $28,295*


Jeep
The Jeep Wrangler.

The Jeep Wrangler retains its status as an off-road icon in 2020. The current JL generation of the Wrangler is the most practical and road-friendly Wrangler ever, but you’re still compromising some on-road manners to pay for off-road performance. The trade-off is worth it if you’re planning on doing some serious off-roading. If your hobby is getting as far off the grid as possible, get a Wrangler no matter what. You get your choice of a naturally aspirated V6, a turbocharged inline four or a torquey turbo-diesel V6, all of which come standard with 4-wheel drive. Take off the doors, take off the top, fold down the windshield, and have some fun. 

9. Volkswagen Tiguan— $24,945


Volkswagen
The VW Tiguan

The Volkswagen Tiguan brings quirky VW /zigman2/quotes/204431732/delayed VWAGY -0.70%   character to a practical compact crossover. It’s one of the few compact SUVs available with three rows of seats, but that third row is tight on legroom and takes up quite a bit of cargo space. The third row is standard on the FWD Tiguan and optional on AWD models. There’s only one engine option, and it’s a bit underwhelming in terms of both performance and fuel economy. This VW gets more standard and available technology for 2020, including available wireless charging and Wi-Fi hot spot capability. An overall premium experience combined with excellent road manners is why we put it just above the Rogue and Escape. 

Also see: 8 affordable new cars priced well below $20k

10. Ford Escape— $24,885


Ford
The 2020 Ford Escape SE Sport Hybrid

The Ford Escape is all new for 2020 and finishes in the middle of our compact SUV rankings. We’re impressed with the cavernous interior space (although some interior materials feel a bit cheap) and the super-efficient new hybrid model. The optional turbocharged 4-cylinder EcoBoost engine is awesome, but we wish Ford /zigman2/quotes/208911460/composite F +1.37%   would give us an ST performance trim of the Escape like the bigger Ford crossovers. The 8-speed automatic transmission can sometimes hunt for gears, but it yields good fuel economy. 

11. Nissan Rogue— $25,300


Nissan
The Nissan Rogue

The Nissan Rogue sits toward the bottom of our compact SUV rankings not because it’s a bad crossover, but because it uses an aging design and just isn’t very competitive with the best compact SUVs. The Rogue is on the bigger side of this segment, which means you get a lot of cargo space for a compact SUV. It’s pretty generous with standard features, which help to make it a strong value. One of our biggest complaints is the Rogue’s weak sole engine option, which feels underpowered at high speeds. If you like Nissan’s /zigman2/quotes/207656007/delayed NSANY +0.74%   vibe but want a little less car and a lower price, look into the Rogue Sport. 

12. Hyundai Tucson — $23,550

The Hyundai /zigman2/quotes/204364212/delayed HYMTF +0.58%   Tucson is a good compact crossover, but it doesn’t have a whole lot to make it stand out. The driving experience is a bit dull — even if you opt for the more powerful optional engine — and the fuel economy is subpar. The Tucson does offer a pretty good value with its list of standard technology, which includes a 7-in infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay plus some modern driver assistance technology like automatic emergency braking and lane-keeping assist. 

Also see: 8 new luxury SUVs for under $50,000

13. Jeep Compass— $22,280

The Jeep Compass straddles the line between compact and subcompact SUV, which is part of the reason why it’s the most affordable SUV on this list. The Compass has a rugged, outdoorsy attitude, especially in the capable Trailhawk trim, but it has its share of drawbacks. Its sole engine option is sluggish, it’s inefficient for its size, and it doesn’t come with much standard safety technology like many of its rivals. If you want to live the Jeep life, the Compass is a good first step into the iconic brand, but most drivers will be more satisfied with one of its rivals or a used Wrangler. 

14. Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross— $22,995


Mitsubishi
The Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross

The Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross is a bold attempt at bringing the name of an iconic sports car to a practical SUV, but it barely misses the mark. This Mitsubishi /zigman2/quotes/205120473/delayed MSBHF -0.28%   has a cool design inside and out, an affordable price tag, great packaging and pretty good fuel economy, but there isn’t much more praise we can give it than that. The Eclipse Cross is a decent value, but the overall execution just isn’t as elegant as some rivals that charge just a little more. If you want an affordable new crossover that turns heads, the Eclipse Cross will get attention, but almost all of its rivals are better SUVs. 

Also see: The 10 best new car models of 2020

15. Jeep Cherokee— $25,840


Jeep
Jeep Grand Cherokee Altitude

The Jeep Cherokee was pretty cool when it was reintroduced in 2014, but it has lost most of its luster since then and is due for a full redesign. As you would expect from a Jeep, it delivers excellent off-road capability when equipped with AWD, especially in the rugged Trailhawk trim. However, if you’re not planning on doing a lot of off-roading, you should look elsewhere. The base engine is weak, cargo space is tight, and it’s just not as upscale or as agile as more modern competitors in this segment, many of which are more affordable. On the other hand, the Cherokee is good-looking. 

Also see: These 3 EVs are the lowest cost to own over 5 years

This story originally ran on Autotrader.com .

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