What are the best compact crossovers? That’s precisely the question we’ve attempted to tackle here, highlighting 10 different models across a range of budgets.
It’s a long and meandering road that has brought us to the current trend for these compact crossovers. The desire for truck utility and car comfort isn’t new, and the first attempt to fill that niche came nearly a century ago in the form of the station wagon, which served families well for decades. But folks are fickle, and the ‘80s saw the wagon fall out of favor, as first the minivan, then the SUV became the go-to choice for families needing to haul kids, groceries, and gear.
Crossing from SUV to Crossover
But SUVs have some drawbacks to go along with their rugged appearance and capability. A vehicle that does well off-road doesn’t usually ride well on pavement, and heavy trucks with aggressive 4-wheel-drive (4WD) systems generally don’t get great mileage. Those are big compromises when the vast majority of SUVs never leave the pavement, and they provided the perfect opportunity for the arrival of a new station wagon in disguise—the compact crossover.
If you want to cross over to crossovers, the market currently offers so many that it can be a daunting prospect. Here, we’ll recommend great buys at a number of price points, so you can ensure you’ll get the most for your crossover cash.
$10,000 and Less
Fourth-generation Kia Sportage (2015 – present)
If you want to grab a compact crossover for less than 10 grand, you’re going to have to go back a few years, making a warranty more important than ever. With its impressive 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty, you’re guaranteed to get more than a few years out of even a well-used Kia Sportage. And while the Sportage can be a little cramped when it comes to cargo space, your passengers will have more than enough room.
The Nissan Rogue has been chastised for its lackluster engine and transmission, but things aren’t as bad as they seem. Auto journalists are notoriously picky about drivetrains, but if you give the Rogue a spin and aren’t bothered, you’ll be rewarded with a crossover that does nearly everything else right.
The Honda CR-V might be the most well-balanced crossover on this list. It’s easy to find vehicles that get better gas mileage, handle better, haul more, or drive faster, but finding one that does all those things as well as the CR-V is a challenge. Look to the turbocharged 1.5-liter engine for a little extra oomph, as the base engine prior to 2020 isn;t strong, especially with a full load.
A Mercedes GLA in disguise, the Infiniti QX30 wraps a Mercedes platform and powertrain in a unique and attractive shape. Its unusual design can make for a tight fit for passengers and interesting rear visibility, but the QX30 slips effortlessly through city traffic and looks great doing it. Discontinued for 2020, deals can be found on some examples from this car’s three model years, but pay special attention to the transmission. It seems neither Mercedes nor Infiniti got the shift points just right.
No crossover at this price point drives better than the Mazda CX-5, but that’s not why it’s being recommended. Mazda has been consistently updating its interiors lately, resulting in cars that look much more expensive than their price. Handsome on the outside, classy and comfortable on the inside, the CX-5 will make you feel like you’re lapping at the edges of luxury.
Subarus have always prioritized safety, from their impressive visibility to their standard symmetrical all-wheel-drive (AWD), and the Subaru Forester is one of the few vehicles available that has maintained the ability to see out the back. That alone would warrant a spot on this list, but the Forester’s ground clearance and capable AWD make it a smart pick for foul-weather journeys.
One of the bigger entries on this list, the Jaguar F-Pace pushes the limits of what can be called a compact crossover, but that means your passengers and cargo will have plenty of room. The fact that your passengers and cargo will get to enjoy one of the best driving experiences you can get in one of the most attractive crossovers on the market is just a bonus.
Volvo’s commitment to style and safety culminates in its XC series of crossovers. The Volvo XC60 offers a wealth of engine options that are largely unrestricted by trim level, meaning the used market should offer lots of potential candidates. The XC60 is one of the best-balanced options on this list, with a level of design often missing outside the luxury segment.
The fact that the Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class has been winning awards shouldn’t surprise you. It has the combination of style, safety, performance, and tech you expect from luxury crossovers. What should surprise you is that it manages to win while competing with the likes of Audi’s Q5 and BMW’s X3. Technology buffs should take note—if you want to sample the new MBUX, you’ll need to go with a 2020 model.
Some dismiss the Porsche Macan as a vehicle for those who prioritize performance over practicality, but if compact crossovers were created for those wanting SUV utility and a car-like driving experience, the Macan may be the ultimate vehicle. Take a drive and you’ll see that Porsche concentrated on more than just performance, with top-notch materials, fit, and comfort. Be savvy when shopping, though, as the options list can make two seemingly similar cars have very disparate prices.