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Best Compact SUVs | CarMax

What’s not to love about a compact SUV? You’ll get all the roominess and comforts of a larger vehicle without sacrificing on handling and performance. Small and compact SUVs are an excellent choice for growing families and urban commuters. Designed to take on a wide variety of terrains with confidence, compact SUVs offer extra storage and passenger space when compared to a traditional sedan.

While the best small SUV can blend a winning mix of power, maneuverability, and efficiency, there are plenty of options to choose from.  To help you on your search, we’ve compiled a list of compact SUVs that stand out from the rest. Read on to explore our best small and compact SUVs for 2019, based on CarMax vehicle and sales data from November 1, 2018 through April 30, 2019.

  1. Subaru Forester
  2. Jeep Patriot
  3. Hyundai Santa Fe Sport
  4. Jeep Compass
  5. GMC Terrain
  6. Jeep Cherokee
  7. Toyota RAV4
  8. Honda CR-V
  9. Ford Escape
  10. Nissan Rogue


Subaru Forester

Best Compact SUVs: Subaru Forester | CarMax

Nothing says adventure like a Subaru Forester. If you’re looking to journey off-road then the Forester should be at the top of your list. All models come with all-wheel-drive (AWD), making it an excellent choice for almost any climate. You’ll also enjoy its spacious cabin, with 2014 and newer models offering up to 75 cubic ft. of cargo space and a convenient 60/40 split-folding rear seat. On the base model of the 2019 Subaru Forester, you’ll enjoy the following standard features:

  • Symmetrical AWD
  • Standard EyeSight Driver Assist Technology
  • SUBARU STARLINK Multimedia
  • Apple CarPlay® and Android Auto™
  • LED headlights

A power rear gate is also standard on 2019 Limited and Touring models and available as an option on the Premium and Subaru Forester Sport trim packages.


Jeep Patriot

Best Compact SUVs: Jeep Patriot | CarMax

Whether you’re a city dweller or an off-road enthusiast, the Jeep Patriot is equally at home in urban settings and off the road. The Patriot seats up to five passengers in all models and boasts a rugged design. The 2017 Patriot is offered in four different trim options, from Sport to High Altitude. On the 2017 Jeep Patriot, you’ll enjoy the following standard features:

  • Roof rails
  • Fog lights
  • CD Player
  • Bluetooth® capability
  • USB port/auxiliary jack

Higher trims of the 2017 Patriot offer goodies like remote keyless entry, reclining rear seats and an accessory outlet on board (Latitude trim), a sunroof, leather seating, and a power-adjusting driver’s seat (High Altitude trim). The Jeep Patriot was discontinued in the 2017, so you’ll want to take a test-drive soon to see if it’s the right fit for you while they are still on our lots.


Hyundai Santa Fe Sport

Best Compact SUVs: Hyundai Sante Fe Sport | CarMax

If you’re looking for a vehicle with a little more curb appeal, check out the Hyundai Santa Fe Sport. With room for five passengers, this SUV comes standard with front-wheel-drive (FWD) and optional AWD on all models. With new trim options offered in 2018, the Santa Fe Sport comes standard with the following features:

  • 2.4L, I-4 engine
  • five-inch touchscreen
  • Automatic headlights
  • Rear spoiler
  • Power side-view mirrors

If you opt for a Santa Fe Sport with the Value Package (2018 and newer models), you’ll enjoy features like a seven-inch touch screen, Apple Carplay®, Android Auto ™, dual zone automatic climate control, and the Blue Link system.


Jeep Compass

Best Compact SUVs: Jeep Compass | CarMax

The Jeep Compass is more stylish and popular than it’s ever been. Along with off-road capability and a sleek body style, the Compass comes with .4L four-cylinder engine producing 180 horsepower (2017-2019 models). The highest Limited trim of the Compass lineup gets the following features in its 2017-2019 model years:

  • Heated leather seating with eight-way power adjustment
  • 8.4-inch touchscreen
  • SiriusXM TM satellite radio
  • Apple CarPlayTM and Android AutoTM
  • 18-inch aluminum wheels

And if you’re looking for plenty of space for groceries and camping gear, you’ll enjoy nearly 60 cubic ft. of cargo space for your next adventure (2018 and newer models).


GMC Terrain

Best Compact SUVs: GMC Terrain | CarMax

Sporting a surprisingly graceful design for an automaker known for their rugged trucks, the GMC Terrain is a refreshing choice for the used compact SUV market. With a quiet ride and plenty of standard features, the Terrain offers both style and practicality. Redesigned for the 2018 model year, key specs and features include:

  • Seating for up to five
  • FWD (standard), AWD (optional)
  • Base turbocharged 1.5-L, four-cylinder engine
  • 170 hp and 203 lb-ft. of torque (SL, SLE, SLT trims)

Looking to tow a small trailer or boat? The 2018 GMC Terrain with the optional turbocharged, 2.0L gas engine gets a towing capacity of up to 3,500 pounds when properly equipped. 1And, there are also lots of available tech features, such as a rearview camera, surround-view camera, and rear parking sensors for to help boost your confidence on the road.

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Jeep Cherokee

Best Compact SUVs: Jeep Cherokee | CarMax

If you admire the Jeep Grand Cherokee but don't need a particularly large SUV, the Jeep Cherokee is a solid alternative as a compact SUV. Fully equipped for the journey ahead, the rugged Cherokee can get you to your favorite outdoor destinations.

The 2017 and newer models of the Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk are a great choice for adventurous drivers—including tow hooks, skid plates, and other unique features intended for trail-riding fun. This trim comes with a 271-hp V6 for plenty of power, whether you’re on or off the road. Standard features for the 2019 model year include:

  • Choice of seven exterior paint colors
  • FWD (standard), AWD (optional)
  • Premium LED headlamps
  • Seven-inch touchscreen
  • 60/40 split-folding rear seat
  • Nearly 55 cubic ft. of cargo space
  • Seating capacity for up to five passengers

Secure storage space is a safe bet in the Cherokee, too; the Jeep Cargo Management System (standard on 2017-2019 Sport trim) makes it easy to tie down everything from groceries to athletic equipment.


Toyota RAV4

Best Compact SUVs: Toyota RAV4 | CarMax

Toyota RAV4 combines the capability of a conventional SUV with the maneuverability of a smaller vehicle. Despite its compact designation, it gives passengers a surprising amount of head and leg room. Fully redesigned for 2019, the 2019 RAV4 comes equipped with standard features such as:

  • 203 hp, 2.5L four-cylinder engine
  • Seven-inch display
  • Rearview camera
  • Six-speaker audio system
  • 69.8 cubic ft. of cargo space

The 2019 RAV4 offers five trim levels and a hybrid option. The base LE trim comes standard with cool tech features like Apple CarPlay® and Amazon Alexa compatibility. You can also choose the Adventure trim, which adds performance features like Dynamic Torque Vectoring All-Wheel Drive and a multi-information touchscreen. The premium trim (Limited) boasts even more features like heated front seats, a panoramic glass roof for stargazing, and a 360-degree camera system.


Honda CR-V

Best Compact SUVs: Honda CR-V | CarMax

You can really pick up the pace with the sporty Honda CR-V. Starting with the 2017 model, the Honda CR-V entered its fifth and current generation. In 2017 and newer models you’ll get sculpted body panels and dual chrome exhaust tips that will make a statement wherever you go. The CR-V doesn’t skimp on tech features. The Honda CR-V comes standard with Bluetooth® audio streaming, and 2017-2019 models come standard with a multi-angel rearview camera. The Honda CR-V also offers the following standard features:

  • 184 hp, 2.4L four-cylinder engine
  • LED daytime running lights
  • 75.8 cubic ft. of cargo space
  • Remote entry system
  • Push button start
  • Heated front seats
  • 10 exterior color choices

Fifth generation CR-Vs also offer a turbocharged engine, which gives you some kicked-up acceleration and a more thrilling ride.


Ford Escape

Best Compact SUVs: Ford Escape | CarMax

The Ford Escape has been one of our best-selling SUVs for the last few years.

Precise handling and an undeniably athletic exterior set the Ford Escape apart in a category that’s chock full of compact vehicles. The Escape is a good fit for small families and professionals who need both cargo and passenger space, and checks all the boxes for in-town excursions and longer road trips

There are also plenty of convenient tech features on the Ford Escape. In 2017 and newer models for example, there’s a powered liftgate option that you can use with a foot operated switch (Titanium trim). Standard features in the 2019 Ford Escape include:

  • Standard 2.5L engine
  • Rearview camera
  • Roll Stability Control and AdvanceTrac®
  • FWD/AWD (optional)
  • Six-speed automatic transmission
  • Remote start
  • 60/40 split-fold-flat rear seats

With the SYNC 3 system, available on the 2017 Ford Escape and newer models, 2017 allows you to easily pinpoint top restaurants near you and learn about local traffic conditions — all while keeping your eyes on the road and your hands on the steering wheel.


Nissan Rogue

Best Compact SUVs: Nissan Rouge | CarMax

The Nissan Rogue is once again our best-selling compact SUV at CarMax for 2019. The Nissan Rogue is more spacious than you might assume at first glance. If you intend to pack lots of cargo, no worries—with the rear seats folded down you’ll get up to 70 cubic ft. of storage space on 2014 and newer models. That means you have plenty of room for your golf clubs and an ice chest as you prepare to hit the green.

You might add a third-row seat in the back, which is great for families. This is a feature that can be found in the SV trim of 2017 and newer models that’s great for growing families or when you need a little extra room on the weekend road trip. Here are some standard features you’ll enjoy on the 2019 Nissan Rogue:

  • Seven-inch touchscreen
  • Bluetooth® capability
  • Steering wheel audio controls
  • Rearview camera
  • Blind spot monitoring
  • Auto high beams

Given its impressive interior space, you might not expect that the Nissan Rogue has such solid fuel economy numbers. With the 2.5L, four-cylinder engine, the 2019 Nissan Rogue S (with FWD and a continuously-variable transmission) delivers an EPA-estimated 29 mpg combined.2

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Looking for additional information on SUV rankings, small SUV ratings and articles where you’ll find a compact SUV review? Browse these related small SUV comparison articles:

1Various factors may impact towing capacity, including weight of passengers, cargo, and options/accessories.
2Fuel economy figures are based on EPA estimates when vehicles sold as new. Fuel economy may vary for reasons like driving conditions and vehicle history. Unless specified, figures are for vehicles equipped with an automatic transmission. See fueleconomy.gov for details.
Unless otherwise noted, information relating to these featured vehicles comes from third-party sources, including manufacturer information. Product and company names may be trademarks™ or registered® trademarks of third-party entities. Use of them does not imply any affiliation with or endorsement by these entities.