Subcompact Crossover Suv

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Over the past few years, the premium compact crossover/SUV class has grown to become one of the most crowded categories in the new vehicle marketplace—and many of the newest entries in the segment have been on the “extra-compact” side. This category is comprised of the smallest vehicles in the crossover/SUV lineups of their respective makers. And note that while we categorize them as subcompacts, most of the vehicles in this class are appreciably larger than most mainstream-brand subcompact crossovers. Furthermore, don’t think that “premium” and “subcompact” are incompatible terms—these vehicles come standard with genuinely upscale trim, and can be optioned up with a dizzying (and pricey) array of comfort, convenience, and technology features just like their larger linemates.

The Kona continues to prove that a subcompact SUV can be fun to drive. It's certainly not the most spacious model, but its sharp handling, distinctive styling and attractive cabin with. Subcompact SUVs are popular with empty-nesters, millennials, and first-time car buyers. Parents can take the kids to school in the morning, head downtown for dinner in the evening, and haul a. The Volvo XC40 subcompact crossover is the smallest and newest member of Volvo’s SUV lineup and also has the most distinct styling, with a boxier, more youthful design than the larger XC60. After the Blazer SUV, General Motors is ready to bring back another nameplate. The 2022 Chevy Trailblazer will be the compact/subcompact crossover, smaller than Equinox, but larger than Trax. The carmaker is trying to expand the lineup and it is not the first model in this sub-segment. Nissan Rogue Sport is already there. Bigger than the Honda HR-V and Nissan Juke, the 2020 CH-R (Coupe High Rider) is a 4-door subcompact crossover with reduced ground clearance compared to a Toyota Sienna minivan. Granted, it moves slower than cold peanut butter. But, the C-HR’s 4-cylinder engine that is far from peppy produces 144 horsepower.

Except for the new pure-electric Volvo XC40 Recharge model, every vehicle in this category is powered by a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder. Horsepower output ranges between 180-240 on most of them, and all of them are turbocharged save for the Lexus UX. The Audi Q3, Jaguar E-Pace, and Land Rover Range Rover Evoque come standard with all-wheel drive; the rest come standard with front-wheel drive and are available with AWD.

The majority of the class starts at less than $35,000; the Lexus UX is the most affordable, with a starting price of around $33,000. As is typical with luxury vehicles, adding optional equipment can really drive up the bottom-line price—sometimes startlingly so.


The Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class is redesigned, gaining fresh styling, improved interior space, and the availability of Mercedes’s latest high-tech features. The GLA 250 is available with front- or all-wheel drive and is powered by a 221-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder. The high-performance Mercedes-AMG GLA 35 and GLA 45 have tuned-up turbo 2.0-liter fours that are rated 302 and 382 horsepower, respectively. Both AMG models come standard with all-wheel drive and an 8-speed dual-clutch transmission. The Volvo XC40 lineup now offers a pure-electric XC40 Recharge model with 408 horsepower and a claimed 249-mile driving range.

Other members of this class see modest revisions. The Audi Q3 is no longer sold in top-of-the-line Prestige trim, but most of its features are still available in option packages. BMW X1 and X2 get standard satellite radio. The Lexus UX 250h hybrid model gets an adjustable double-decker board for its rear cargo area. Jaguar is working on an updated version of the E-Pace, but as of this writing it’s unclear whether it will be a 2021 or 2022 model.


Most premium subcompact crossovers are designed as chic urban runabouts that are more focused on street driving than serious rough-terrain capability. The exception is the Land Rover Range Rover Evoque; it offers off-road prowess well beyond the others, thanks in part to standard gear such as hill descent control and Land Rover’s Terrain Response 2 system.

In terms of acceleration, the BMW X2, Jaguar E-Pace, Mercedes-AMG GLA 35 and GLA 45, and Range Rover Evoque stand out from the pack—available on the X2 and standard on the AMG GLA 35 are high-output turbo fours with about 300 horsepower, and the E-Pace and Evoque’s step-up engine has 296 hp. But it’s the AMG GLA 45 with its 382 horsepower and the all-electric Volvo XC40 Recharge with 402 horsepower that are the brawniest of these cute utes. On the flipside, the Lexus UX offers the only “full” hybrid model in the class.

Consumer Reports (CR) has published its annual vehicle reliability survey. The survey ranked cars, trucks, and SUV models on 17 potential trouble spots including engine, power equipment, body, and electronics. The cumulative score of a company’s models determines the brand’s overall reliability ranking for 2021 models.

The CR survey, which includes over 300,000 vehicles, determines predicted reliability for new vehicles on a 0-100 scale, with the average vehicle being between 41 and 60 points. The fewer the problems, the higher the score. Due to insufficient data, or brands not having enough vehicles, some brands and models were not included in these ratings.

The Most Reliable 2021 SUV

In the survey findings, the Lexus NX. The NX is the company’s entry-level compact crossover with a starting price under $40,000.

The NX blends interior comforts, with lots of standard safety features, and great reliability. It was just one model that helped push Lexus to 3rd overall in brand reliability ratings.

Overall, the top 5 most reliable SUVs in the reliability survey were the NX, Buick Encore, Lexus GX, Honda HR-V, and Hyundai Kona. These models cover the subcompact, compact, luxury, and full-size SUV categories.

The Least Reliable 2021 SUV

The CR survey found that the Ford Explorer was the least reliable SUV. The Explorer was plagued with problems in its engines, electronics, power equipment, body, and transmission. It scored a paltry 1 out of 100 in the reliability survey.

The Explorer, which was redesigned for 2020, was plagued by a rushed production. More specifically, this caused problems with faulty seats, digital displays with buggy software, and loose wiring harnesses.

“The Ford Explorer, redesigned for 2020, is one of the lowest scoring models from any manufacturer — domestic or foreign — this year” – Consumer Reports

The redesigned Ford Escape compact crossover didn’t perform much better. And the subcompact Ecosport crossover was another downer. Overall as a company, Ford did poorly finishing in the bottom 5.

The other lease reliable SUVs based on the survey were the Subaru Ascent, Volkswagen Atlas, Jeep Compass, and Volvo XC90.

The Least Reliable Car Brand

Subcompact Crossover Suv

Ford’s luxury brand, Lincoln, finished as the lowest-rated brand for reliability overall. However, there were other manufacturers they didn’t have enough data to rank including Fiat, Chrysler, Alfa Romeo, Jaguar, Mitsubishi, and Land Rover.

Lincolns were plagued with similar problems as described with the Explorer with the Aviator and Corsair having poor reliability.

Mazda Has the Most Reliable Cars


Overall, for the first time ever, Mazda ranked first as the brand with the most reliable vehicles. This is a big win for the Japanese automaker to dethrone Toyota and Lexus at the top spot of the annual vehicle reliability survey.

Mazda’s small CX-3, still subcompact CX-30, and compact CX-5 also performed well in reliability ratings, all scoring 85 or better.

These types of consistent results helped push Mazda into the most reliable car brand spot. We recently ranked the CX-30 on our best SUV list.

The Top 5 Most Reliable Car Brands

In 2020, Lexus took the top spot in the survey. The LS model didn’t fare as well this year and that contributed to dropping the luxury automaker to the third spot. Lexus’ parent company Toyota finished second in the reliability survey for 2021 models.

Buick and Honda rounded out the top five most reliable car brands. Honda’s midsize crossover, the Passport, had reported reliability problems.

What Helped Mazda Have the Most Reliable Vehicles?

Based on the survey Mazda’s success with reliable vehicles is due in part to their use of more durable, six-speed automatic transmissions in lieu of continuously variable transmissions (CVTs).

CVT use is growing in popularity among automakers but they tend to be more fragile and less reliable. That means more repairs, more expense, and a lower reliability score.

Mazda has accomplished while still maintaining above-average fuel economy in their vehicles. And with their crisp handling and quality fit and finish, their vehicles are known to be fun to drive.

CR also noted that Mazda takes an iterative approach to vehicle design. Instead of making wholesale changes on models, they take a more gradual approach to change. This has lead to less flaws with defects and other unexpected flaws due to new technology.

Subcompact crossover suv meaning

Despite having less emphasis on cabin tech, Mazda still garners excellent safety ratings. It’s subcompact CX-3 model earned an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Top Safety Pick+ award for its crash test ratings.

However, if you like touch screens, large infotainment systems, or other advanced tech, Mazda may not be the brand for you.

The Most Improved 2021 SUV

Buick was the most improved brand for reliability, jumping up 14 spots to the 4th spot overall among carmakers. Its subcompact crossover, the Encore, showed significant improvements in reliability and came in as the second most reliable crossover model.

Other brands that showed improvement in reliability included BMW, with its midsize X5 model making gains, Volvo, with its XC40 performing well, and Jeep with the Wrangler doing better.

German SUV Reliability

Porsche was the highest-ranked European automaker finishing 9th overall among automotive brands in the reliability survey.

Subcompact crossover suv 2021

Audi was in the middle of the pack. The A5 and A4 models both rated above average. However, its reliability rating was hurt by the subcompact Q3 crossover, the new tech-heavy midsize coupe crossover Q8, and its e-tron electric SUV. These models were found to have below or well below average reliability in the study.

Mercedes may do well on the innovation, comfort, and technology side but they didn’t fare well in reliability. Mercedes finished last among German automakers in the 20th spot.

Tesla Reliability

Tesla’s new Model Y crossover, unfortunately, didn’t fare so well in the CR reliability survey. Reported issues with fit and finish including misaligned body panels and mismatched paint tanked its rating.

The Model Y’s rating was much worse than average. It dragged the electric automaker down to the penultimate spot in the reliability rankings, ahead of only Lincoln.

Best Small Suvs

Keep Reliability in Mind When Buying an SUV

Vehicle reliability is important as not only is it a major headache when your SUV is in the shop, it can be downright costly. Not only can it increase your maintenance and repair costs, but it also can decrease the resale value of your vehicle.

You can learn more about the CR reliability survey and get the overall brand ratings list here. To view how rating have changed over the past year, check out our most and least reliable 2020 SUVs article.

Best Subcompact Crossover 2020

Had a good or bad experience with a 2021 SUV model? We want to hear from you. Please share your experience in the comments below.

Subcompact Crossover Suvs 2019 Consumer Reports

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