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Best Small and Compact SUVs

10 Best Small and Compact SUVs for 2021: Reviews, Photos, and More: Hero | CarMax

Practical comfort for all.

A compact SUV is a versatile choice with the flexibility to work for a variety of lifestyles. They're great if you have a busy family and don't need all the cargo room of a full-size model, but still want some space for everyone's gear. Have an active lifestyle? Small SUVs are loaded with features and let you enjoy the drive whether you're heading out for a road trip, weekend adventure, or just simply tackling the workday.

To help you on your search, we've compiled a list of the 10 best small and compact SUVs, based on CarMax vehicle and sales data from February 1, 2021, through July 31, 2021.

  1. Volkswagen Tiguan

  2. Hyundai Tucson

  3. Mazda CX-5

  4. Jeep Wrangler

  5. Jeep Compass

  6. Ford Escape

  7. Jeep Cherokee

  8. Toyota RAV4

  9. Honda CR-V

  10. Nissan Rogue


Volkswagen Tiguan

In 2018, the Volkswagen Tiguan got a redesign and its compact size surprisingly has generous space for cargo, making it a solid choice if you've got a lot to lug around. Models from 2018–2020 are built for comfort, with stylish and roomy interiors complete with thoughtful touches. All-wheel drive trims have two rows with seating for five people and 73.5 cu-ft for cargo with the second row folded; that's plenty of room for pets, too. Front-wheel drive trims have a standard third row that allows seating for up to seven people, and you'll also get 65.7 cu-ft for groceries, home improvement projects, and sports equipment with the second and third row folded.

Standard features of the 2018–2020 Volkswagen Tiguan S include:

  • Six-speaker audio

  • 6.5-inch infotainment touchscreen

  • Cruise control

  • Heated side mirrors

  • Rearview camera


Hyundai Tucson

Hyundai's rugged Tucson is a five-person crossover with an upscale interior. For model years 2017–2020, the Tucson is available with a choice of front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive across a range of six well-equipped trims. In addition to a spacious and comfortable cabin, the Hyundai Tucson has plenty of room for cargo. There's 31.0 cu ft behind the rear seats or 61.9 cu ft with those seats folded. The 2017–2020 model can also tow an estimated 1,000 lbs. with the 2.0L, 2.5L, or 1.6L engines, when properly equipped.1

2017–2020 Hyundai Tucsons are well equipped with these standard features:

  • Driver's blind spot mirror

  • Reclining rear seats

  • Five-inch infotainment touchscreen

  • Six-speaker audio

  • Automatic headlights


Mazda CX-5

Mazda's zippy 2017–2020 CX-5 has two rows of seating with room for five passengers. This sleek and stylish choice has great handling that's perfect if you're a driver who enjoys your time behind the wheel. The interior is quiet and comfortable, making it great for longer trips to visit family and friends. There's also space for sporting equipment (think golf clubs, hockey bags, football gear) and more in the 2017–2020 Mazda CX-5. It offers 30.9 cu ft behind the rear seats and 59.6 cu ft with the rear seats folded.

Standard features of the 2017–2020 Mazda CX-5 include:

  • Seven-inch infotainment touchscreen

  • 17-inch alloy wheels

  • Four-speaker audio

  • Two USB ports

  • Cruise control


Jeep Wrangler

A Jeep Wrangler is the go-to choice for off-roaders with the capability to handle challenging terrain. 2017–2020 models are available with two- or four-doors with an option of either a soft or hardtop. There's seating for four or five people with a rugged interior designed to handle open-air driving with the roof and doors removed. Wrangler 2017–2020 models have 12.8 cu ft for cargo behind the rear seats or 55.8 total cu ft with the rear seats folded on the two-door version, and those numbers increase substantially to 31.5 and 70.6 cu ft, respectively, on the four-door model. There are also multiple engine and transmission options with a minimum of 8.2 inches of ground clearance; that means you are much less likely to scrape the underbody when you're roaming rocky roads.

Standard features of the 2017–2020 Jeep Wrangler include:

  • Fuel tank and transfer case skid plates

  • One front and one rear tow hook

  • Eight-speaker audio

  • Removable doors

  • 16-inch wheels


Jeep Compass

The Jeep Compass is a five-person compact SUV that entered its second generation in 2017. Compass models from 2017–2020 are powered by a zippy 2.4L four-cylinder engine with 180 hp and 175 lb-ft of torque. This is paired to either a six- or nine-speed automatic transmission or a six-speed manual, depending on the trim. When you're looking for a roomy choice with plenty of space for passengers, pets, and cargo with no one feeling cramped, a 2017–2020 Compass could be a great fit. You'll get 27.2 cu ft behind the rear seats or 59.8 cu ft behind the front seats in 2017–2020 models with the rear seats folded.

You'll find these standard amenities and more in a 2017–2020 Jeep Compass:

  • Cruise control

  • Power heated side mirrors

  • Five-inch infotainment touchscreen

  • Remote keyless entry

  • Fold-flat front passenger seat


Ford Escape

Ford's five-passenger Escape (2017–2020) is a compact SUV with a choice of three engines. Base trims get a 2.5L four-cylinder while top trims get either a 1.5L or 2.0L turbo, all more than adequate to get you going. There's also a choice of either front-wheel or four-wheel drive, so you can match up your driving needs with the configuration that makes sense. When it comes time to carry groceries, weekend cargo, and more, the 2017–2020 Ford Escape is up to the challenge. It has an impressive 34.0 cu ft behind the second row or 68.0 cu ft behind the first row.

Standard features of the 2017–2020 Ford Escape include:

  • Push-button start

  • Power side mirrors

  • Cruise control

  • Capless fuel filler

  • Power windows and locks


Jeep Cherokee

A 2017–2020 Jeep Cherokee is a quintessential choice if you're up for adventure. It offers two available four-wheel drive systems and has standard Selec-Terrain, which allows you to choose from up to five different traction settings on four-wheel drive models.

A range of four trims on a 2017–2020 Cherokee includes the rugged Trailhawk with unique off-road features for those who like to explore outside of the lines. This capable SUV has a minimum of 8.4 inches of ground clearance and can tow an estimated 4,500 pounds when properly equipped and with the 3.2L V6.1 There's also 24.6 cu ft of space for cargo behind the rear seats or 54.9 cu ft with the rear seats folded.

Interested in a 2017–2020 Jeep Cherokee? These features and more are standard:

  • Eight cargo tie-downs

  • Hill-start assist

  • Trailer sway control

  • Five-inch infotainment touchscreen

  • Six-speaker audio


Toyota RAV4

Both practical and stylish, the 2017–2020 Toyota RAV4 has a responsive 2.5L four-cylinder engine with 176 horsepower (boosted to 203 hp for 2019–2020 models). This is paired to a six-speed automatic transmission with a choice of either front-wheel or all-wheel drive; if you regularly traverse dirt roads or experience inclement weather, consider the AWD version. The Toyota RAV4 from 2017–2020 is a comfortable and fully-featured choice with a wide range of trims. This compact SUV can tow up to 3,500 pounds with the 2.5L engine when properly equipped.1 It also has good interior room for cargo with 38.4 cu ft behind the second row and 73.4 cu ft behind the first row with the second row folded.

Standard features of the 2017–2020 Toyota RAV4 include:

  • 6.1-inch infotainment touchscreen

  • Lane departure alert with steering assist

  • Forward collision warning

  • Cruise control

  • Power side mirrors with blind-spot monitoring


Honda CR-V

Honda's 2017–2020 CR-V is known for its comfortable interior with a smooth, quiet ride that is ideal for families and groups. Whether it's a typical day or a long-distance road trip, the Honda CR-V lets everyone relax and enjoy the journey. It entered its fifth generation for the 2017 model year with a wide range of standard and available features to please even the most discerning driver. Plus, in addition to its roomy interior for passengers, the 2017–2020 Honda CR-V has lots of room for cargo. There's 39.2 cu ft behind the second row or 75.8 cu ft behind the first row with the second row folded, which means even your furry family members will be comfortable along the ride. You'll find features like these in a 2017–2020 Honda CR-V:

  • Automatic climate control

  • Power tailgate

  • Five-inch color infotainment screen

  • Four-speaker audio

  • Rear-seat heater ducts


Nissan Rogue

At the top of our list, the popular 2017–2020 Nissan Rogue has room for five people with lots of elbow room, a well-styled interior, ample cargo capacity, and a choice of two powertrain options. For 2017–2020, you can choose between a 2.5L four-cylinder engine with 170 hp paired to a continuously variable automatic transmission, and there is also a Nissan Rogue Hybrid (2017–2019) with a 2.0L four-cylinder engine with an electric motor that delivers 176 horsepower.

For model years 2017–2020, the Nissan Rogue includes lots of versatility for cargo with an available Divide-N-Hide cargo system with 18 different configurations to keep your belongings undercover while you hike or shop. Overall cargo room is 32.0 cu ft behind the rear seats with 70.0 cu ft behind the front seats with the rear seats folded.

Standard features of the 2017–2020 Nissan Rogue S include:

  • 40/20/40 split-folding second row

  • Five-inch color infotainment screen

  • Four-speaker audio

  • Bluetooth connectivity

  • Cloth seating surfaces

There are so many choices when it comes to compact SUVs that you're sure to find one that perfectly suits your needs. Whether you're planning to head off-road for adventure or simply need something comfortable and capable for getting around town, these SUVs let you take the journey in style.

Want to learn more about SUVs? Check out these related articles:

1Various factors may impact towing capacity, including weight of passengers, cargo, and options/accessories.
* Price excludes taxes, title, registration, and fees. Applicable transfer fees are due in advance of vehicle delivery and are separate from sales transactions.

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