There’s never been a better time than now to buy a compact SUV. The entire segment is booming with eye-catching, thoroughly-equipped models and by combining the best elements of both sedans and utility vehicles, they:
- carry more cargo (and people) than cars
- get better mileage than big SUVs
- work equally well in the city, on the highway, and off road
People are often tempted into buying bigger vehicles than they need. They see the expansive cargo space and powerful engines of large SUVs and pickups and think, “Hey, maybe one day I’ll have four kids, a sick boat, and a cabin in the mountains. This will be the perfect vehicle for me!” In reality, they’d be much better served by a small, fully-capable compact SUV.
If people need to trade up to something larger later–when they actually need it–they can. But now they should be asking themselves, “Do I have four kids? Do I have a sick boat? Do I even know what boat shoes are?”
Here’s a list of our favourite compact SUVs of 2018. We’ve matched them up against their larger options, too. That way, you can make an informed decision as to which option best suits your vehicular needs.
2018 Hyundai Kona
Hyundai made its first jump into the compact SUV segment with the all-new 2018 Hyundai Kona. Sporting a modern look, and filled to the brim with driver assists and active safety features, the Kona is going to be one to watch for many years to come.
Inside, you’ll find the Kona is attractive and well-built with quality materials. But where the real excitement lies inside the Kona is with its premium entertainment options. A 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system comes standard, while an 8.0-inch version is available to the top trim. What’s even more exciting, though, is that Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard to all trims. These systems make everything from listening to music to accessing navigation simple and safe enough for anyone to use.
Another thing you can get is BlueLink connectivity tech. This lets you remotely lock and unlock your car, find your car, and much more, all from your smartphone. Oh, and for you music lovers out there, there’s an Infinity audio system available. It’ll have you belting along to your favourite tunes without a care in the world about the odd looks you’ll get at red lights.
Fast Acceleration & Excellent Fuel Economy
Under the hood, the standard 2.0-litre engine is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with the SHIFTTRONIC manual transmission. This combo manages 147 horsepower. For an even more engaging drive, opt for the 1.6-litre turbocharged GDI engine. This one is paired to a smooth-shifting seven-speed dual clutch transmission, and produces 175 horsepower. Plus, get this, with the turbocharged engine, you can go from 0-100 km/h in 8 seconds.
The Kona sits among the top of its class for fuel economy. At its best, it achieves 8.6 L/100km in the city, 7.0 L/100km on the highway, and 7.9 L/100km combined. With those numbers, you should be able to drive from Edmonton to Calgary and back again on single tank of gas, easy.
For a full review of the 2018 Hyundai Kona, click here.
Reasons to Buy the 2018 Hyundai Kona
- Competitively priced
- Sleek, modern design
- Comfortable seating for five
- Premium infotainment system
- Stellar performance standards
- Go Auto Pricing: $22,804 – $33,604
How it Compares to the 2018 Santa Fe (Sport and XL)
Slotted above both the Kona and the Tucson, the Sante Fe is Hyundai’s largest and most powerful SUV option. It comes in a Sport version, as well as a 7-seater XL version.
With that extra size, comes extra power. The Santa Fe Sport, with its strongest engine, has 240 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. That’s nothing to roll your eyes at. The XL version, in accordance with its size, has even more power – 290 horsepower, to be exact. What’s more, it can tow up to 5,000 lbs.
The Kona, on the other hand, doesn’t have as much muscle, but it’s certainly better on gas. The Santa Fe Sport gets a combined 10.0 L/100km. That’s great for its class, but doesn’t come close to beating the Kona’s 7.9 L/100km. It may not seem like much of a difference, but trust us, your bank account will thank you for it.
Value for your dollar is about equal between the Kona and the Santa Fe. In typical Hyundai fashion, you can get plenty of awesome features at reasonable prices with both vehicles.
For a full review of the 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe, click here.
2018 Mazda CX-3
Next on our list of 2018’s best compact SUVs, we have the 2018 Mazda CX-3. It has outstanding fuel economy ratings, plenty of driver assists, and an upscale interior equal to any luxury option. Plus, with the segment’s most agile handling, the CX-3 will have you seeking out winding roads just for fun.
The two things the CX-3 does best are safety and driving dynamics. It received a five-star (out of five) overall safety rating from the NHTSA, and was named a Top Safety Pick+ by the IIHS. On top of that, it offers tons of advanced driver assists and active safety features, such as:
- Automated emergency braking
- Adaptive cruise control
- Blind spot monitor
- Forward-collision warning
- Lane-departure warning
- Rear cross-traffic monitor
The CX-3 is powered by a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine that produces 146 horsepower. The engine is paired to either a 6-speed manual transmission, or a 6-speed automatic transmission that returns better fuel economy. At its best, it attains 8.2 L/100km in the city, and 6.9 L/100km on the highway.
If you were to drive the CX-3 blind-folded (which we recommend you don’t), you might think you were driving a sporty sedan instead of a crossover. That’s largely thanks to Mazda’s award winning G-Vectoring Control technology. This system automatically responds to road conditions and driver inputs by adjusting engine torque at the right moments. Because of it, you can experience a level control that goes beyond anything you’ll get from a large SUV.
Reasons to Buy the 2018 Mazda CX-3
- Fun to drive
- Well priced
- An abundance of driver assists and active safety features
- Top-notch safety scores
- Intelligently designed, both inside and out
- Go Auto Pricing: $20,040 – $31,945
How it Compares to the 2018 Mazda CX-5
Take the Mazda CX-3, increase its size by about a third, then add a stronger engine. What you’ll end up with is the 2018 CX-5. More size means worse fuel economy for the CX-5, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad on gas. In fact, it’s capable of getting up to 7.4 L/100km on the highway. That makes it more fuel-efficient than several compact SUV competitors.
Not much separates these two vehicles in terms of cargo space, either. At most, the CX-5 might be able to fit a hockey bag and a half more than the CX-3. As well, the driver assists and active safety tech in both vehicles are quite similar. Indeed, Mazda’s impressive list of i-ACTIVSENSE safety features are readily available to most trims on both models.
Finally, the CX-3 is the better commuter car, since it’s smaller and more maneuverable – which is perfect for city driving. The CX-5 is also great for city driving, but if you don’t require the extra space, go for the CX-3.
2018 Honda HR-V
This compact SUV boasts a sleek design, loads of cargo space, and is fuel-efficient to boot. What’s more, it was named one of Edmund’s Best Small SUVs for 2018. That will come as no surprise to those who’ve driven it.
No other crossover in the game can match the 2018 HR-V for cargo space. Its innovative second-row Magic Seat can fold down flat for easy storage of longer items. Just as well, the flat-bottomed cargo space makes for worry-free transportation of flat objects, like flat-screens or paintings. If you pack smartly, you can even fit a couple of bikes without taking off the front tires.
Your dog will love all the extra space. There’ll be no need to worry about your best friend being cramped on the way to dog park. Plus, the Magic Seats can be configured in a bunch of other handy ways. For example, you can fold them upwards. That allows you to pack delicate items up front, separate from objects that could roll around and cause damage in the trunk space.
Aside from cargo space, the HR-V’s other strong point is fuel economy. In this category, it’s among the best-in-class, with only the Mazda CX-3 beating it. At its best, the HR-V attains 8.3 L/100km in the city, 7.1 L/100km on the highway, and 7.7 L/100km combined. Also, an Eco Assist system is presented as standard, and it will coach you to drive more efficiently. It’s a surprisingly helpful tool for people with a lead foot who’d like to save money on gas.
Reasons to Buy the 2018 Honda HR-V
- Class-leading cargo space
- Handsome styling
- Spacious cabin with comfortable seating
- Go Auto Pricing: $26,975 – $33,200
How it Compares to the 2018 Honda CR-V
The 2018 Honda CR-V was named the Motor Trend SUV of the Year. It also happens to be one of Honda’s best-selling vehicles in North America, so you know it’s good. It’s great for growing families, and is set apart by its keen handling, modern design, and unrivaled functionality.
Its fuel economy is excellent, even beating some in the crossover class. But at 8.0 L/100km combined, it still doesn’t beat its younger sibling, the HR-V. The CR-V has a punchy 1.5-litre turbo engine pushing it ahead of the competition with 190 horsepower. That’s considerably more than the 140 horsepower produced by the HR-V. But the point of compact SUVs isn’t to wow anyone with the prowess of their engines. They’re all about cargo space, safety, entertainment tech, and comfort. If you need something with real towing power, look to the Honda Ridgeline.
Comparable Safety Standards & Cargo Space
As far as safety goes, drivers have no cause for concern riding behind either vehicle. However, for access to most advanced active safety and driver assist features, opt for the CR-V. Along with top-notch crash-test scores (it was named a Top Safety Pick+ by the IIHS and received a five-star safety rating from the NHTSA), the CR-V also has the highly-desired Honda Sensing Technologies. And get this, the Honda Sensing tech is standard to all but the very bottom trim. So, while you’d normally pay much more for these features elsewhere, with the CR-V, you get them for a bargain. Honda Sensing tech includes:
- Forward collision warning system
- Collision mitigation braking system
- Lane departure warning system
- Lane keeping assist system
- Road departure mitigation system
- Adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow
Furthermore, cargo space on the CR-V is considerably greater. But don’t be fooled – the HR-V punches up its weight-class when it comes to useable space. For instance, when compared to the Mazda CX-5, a larger SUV, the HR-V has only slightly less storage space. The difference between the two would be a couple golf bags.
Finally, like all the same-manufacturer-matchups in this article, the HR-V slots lower than the CR-V in both size and price.
2018 Nissan Qashqai
Next on our list of the best compact SUVs on the market, we have the all-new 2018 Nissan Qashqai. The Qashqai is smaller and more affordable than Nissan’s other SUVs, the Rogue and the Murano. It’s also better on gas, has plenty of cargo space, and is available with tons of advanced driver assists and entertainment options. Moreover, the Qashqai’s design is a breath of fresh air. Especially on roads cluttered with dull-looking cars, like the Chevy Equinox.
In terms of cargo capacity, the Qashqai is as versatile as any. It has a Divide-N-Hide cargo storage system that can be configured to your precise storage needs. Adjustable panels can be set in various positions for maximum flexibility – great for those days dedicated to running errands. Plus, with the 60/40 split rear seats folded down flat, spontaneous purchases from IKEA are a non-issue. You’ll no longer have to call your friend to come pick you and your things up with their truck.
Advanced Tech & Efficient Engines
Under the hood, you’ll find a spunky 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine that produces 141 horsepower and 147 lb-ft of torque. In concrete terms, it’s quick off the get-go, and can easily merge into highway traffic. At its best, the Qashqai achieves an impressive 8.8 L/100km in the city, and 7.3 L/100km on the highway. Eco Mode is standard, and it helps improve fuel economy by automatically adjusting engine and transmission response.
Another thing the Qashqai stands out for is its generous offering of entertainment options. If you want, you can get a 7.0-inch colour touch-screen infotainment system with NissanConnect technology. This makes for easy use of navigation, music streaming, and so much more. As well, active safety and driver assist features are on par with the best of its class. Standard and available features include:
- Intelligent cruise control
- Rear cross traffic alert
- Moving object detection
- Intelligent emergency braking with pedestrian detection
… and more. To sum up, the Qashqai is a crossover with character. It’s perfect for maneuvering city streets, but is just as handy for transporting you and your friends on weekend getaways.
Reasons to Buy the 2018 Nissan Qashqai
- Abundant storage space
- Plenty of advanced features made standard
- Handsome styling
- Spacious interior
- Go Auto Pricing: $24,148 – $34,383
How it Compares to the 2018 Nissan Rogue
The Rogue is Nissan’s (and Go Auto’s) best-selling vehicle, which is unsurprising when you consider how handy it is. It has top-of-the-line safety features, it’s one of the most fuel-efficient SUVs available, and it looks damn nice, too.
Practical as well as efficient, the Rogue manages 9.1L/100km in the city, 7.1L/100km on the highway, and 8.1L/100km combined. Not only is that exceptional for an SUV of its size, but it even comes close to some rival sedans. That said, the Qashqai still sips gas at a lower rate.
One thing the Rogue does do better than the Qashqai is off-roading. The all-wheel drive model has a locking center differential, hill descent control, and brake-lock differentials for the front and rear. But if off-roading is what you prioritize in your SUV, look to the Jeep Wrangler.
With respect to value for your dollar, it’s a tie. Both vehicles make desirable features available to lower trims, and both vehicles are reasonably priced to begin with. However, due to the Rogue’s popularity and reputation as a best-seller, its trade-in value is typically higher than the Qashqai. Thus, when it comes time to sell or trade-in your vehicle, you’re likely to get more back from your original investment if you go with the Rogue.
For a full review of the 2018 Nissan Rogue, click here.
2018 Kia Soul
A small SUV with a big personality, the 2018 Kia Soul has gone underappreciated for far too long. Sure, it has a boxy exterior that makes some onlookers cock their heads in puzzlement, but it certainly isn’t boring. With a roomy cabin, a powerful set of engines, and endless cargo space, the Soul is one of the best compact SUVs on this list.
There are three engines available to the Soul. The base is a 1.6-liter I-4 with 130 horsepower and 118 lb-ft of torque. After that, there’s a 2.0-liter I-4 rated at 161 horsepower and 150 lb-ft of torque. But for the most power you’ll find on any crossover, go for the turbocharged 1.6-liter I-4. It generates a whopping 201 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque.
Despite being the most powerful engine of the three, the turbocharged 1.6-litre I-4 engine is also the most efficient. It achieves 9.1 L/100km in the city, and 7.7 L/100km on the highway. The only downside to the Soul’s driving configuration is that it doesn’t offer all-wheel drive.
When it comes to safety, there’s no need to worry when sitting inside the Soul. It passed its crash-tests with flying colours, being named an IIHS Top Safety Pick+, and receiving a five-star overall safety rating by the NHTSA. Further to that, standard and available driver assist and active safety features consist of:
- Autonomous emergency braking
- Blind spot detection
- Rear cross traffic alert
- Lane departure warning system
… and much, much more.
Another thing the Soul excels at is entertainment. Bluetooth connectivity is standard, and there are two touchscreen infotainment screens available – one 5.0-inch option, and one 7.0-inch option. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration are also available. With that tech, you can bump your music just like the mice do in the commercial.
Reasons to Buy the 2018 Kia Soul
- Powerful and efficient turbocharged engine
- Cavernous interior
- Unique styling
- Top-notch safety ratings
- Solid infotainment options
- Go Auto Pricing: $20,112 – $28,512
How it Compares to the 2018 Kia Sportage
The Kia Sportage will deliver more space, more speed, and more luxury than the Soul. It’s an IIHS Top Safety Pick, and was awarded a five-star (out of five) overall safety rating by the NHTSA. So, if safety is your priority (as it should be), the Sportage is a good pick.
Granted, the Sportage’s interior is slightly more cramped than its rivals, like the Honda CR-V and the Nissan Rogue. Nonetheless, it still has about one fifth more cargo capacity than the Soul. That means you could squeeze in a couple extra passengers for road trips, as no space will be sacrificed to folded-down seats for packing.
The Kia Sportage was thoroughly overhauled in 2017. Most notably, it gained two rowdy engines, an award-winning design, and several more enhancements to its entertainment and safety equipment. This year, rather than make unnecessary changes, Kia decided to make the best features more available to lower trims.
Cool Features & Powerful Engines
Each Sportage trim is appointed with premium features, but the middle EX trim represents the best value for your dollar. For a modest price increase over the base LX trim, the EX gains:
- 7-inch touchscreen display (and the option of an 8-inch version)
- Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
- Leather seats
- Heated leather-wrapped steering wheel
… and the list goes on.
Still, when you look at the top SX trim and its 237-horsepower turbocharged engine, it’s easy to feel slightly jealous. Combine that power with its Mazda-like handling, and the Sportage is easily one of the most compelling SUVs to drive. The only caveat is that it gets only middling fuel economy. At its best, the base Sportage achieves 10.3 L/100km in the city, and 7.8 L/100km on the highway. That’s almost as good as the Soul – almost.
Finally, both the Soul and the Sportage are brilliant vehicles. The Soul is the least expensive of the two, while the Sportage creeps closer into luxury territory. Both are filled with high-tech gadgets, have standout designs, and are practical tools that make everyday chores a snap.
You’ve Found Your Favourite Compact SUVs, Now What?
Text or call our Go Auto’s automotive experts at 780.777.7777, they’re happy to help you with your every need. You can also go online at GoAuto.ca and check out our massive inventory. With no extra fees, in-house financing, free service loaners, and dozens of other perks, there’s no better place than Go Auto to buy your next SUV.