11 Best Small SUVs of 2022: Compact, midcompact and subcompact

11 Best Small SUVs of 2022: Compact, midcompact and subcompact

It seems like such a simple question, right? What is the best small SUV? Really, we'd love to provide a simple answer. Buy the _______!

Unfortunately, it's just not that simple, though we'll at least do our best to make it less complicated. First, like most folks, we're defining "SUV" to basically be synonymous with "crossover." We could go into the differences and definitions of those terms, but we doubt you care, so we'll just move on.

Second, it's important to ask how small do you want your small SUV to be? The number of choices has exploded in recent years with many long-standing models growing in size while many new, smaller options debuted. This basically leaves us with three sizes of small SUV: compact, subcompact and the newest growing sub-segment that fits in between them. It doesn't really have a universally accepted name yet, so we're going with the suggestion by Autoblog reader John Prince: the midcompact SUV.

Subcompact SUV | Midcompact SUV | Compact SUV


OK, now with the housekeeping out of the way, let's provide some answers to what are the best small SUVs, including what they're especially good at and what they could do better. Hopefully this will be a helpful place to start your research. All are listed in alphabetical order.

Best compact SUVs

Honda CR-V

Why it stands out: Best-in-class space, strong-yet-efficient base engine, available hybrid, middle lower LATCH anchor
Could be better: Antiquated and glitchy tech interface, a bit dull

Read our 2022 Honda CR-V Review

Consider the CR-V the baseline for any compact SUV search. Objectively speaking, it's tough to beat due to its massive cargo capacity, voluminous back seat, strong-yet-efficient engines (including the CR-V Hybrid), well-balanced driving dynamics, competitive pricing and features, strong safety ratings and well-regarded reliability. It's easy to see why it continues to be such a best-seller: for the vast majority of compact SUV buyers, and especially families, it checks every box. Of course, people don't make buying decisions based solely on objective criteria, so you may find it dull to look at or drive, be frustrated by its tech interface, or some other reason only you can think of. That's why other choices exist, including the next pair of small SUVs that may satisfy those subjective wants a little better.

Mazda CX-5

Why it stands out: Budget Porsche driving experience; luxurious cabin; powerful turbo engine upgrade
Could be better: Less cargo, passenger and storage space; non-touchscreen infotainment won't be for everyone

Our full 2021 Mazda CX-5 Review pictured above and check out what's in store for the updated 2022 CX-5.

Basically, the CX-5 delivers in areas where the CR-V falls short: style and driving fun. However, it can also be considered an alternative to luxury compact SUVs. It all starts with its elegantly sporty styling and carries inside where its handsome design and plush materials are a clear step up from others at its price point. Then, when you're behind the wheel, the CX-5 impresses with engaging driving manners that we've routinely described as being indicative of a "budget Porsche." Furthermore, its available turbocharged engine even has as much or more power as several similarly sized luxury models. Now, it doesn't have as much passenger or cargo space as the CR-V or RAV4, so it won't be for everyone, but it should definitely be considered.

Toyota RAV4

Why it stands out: Unmatched variety of models including two hybrids; spacious back seat and cargo area; reliability
Could be better: Unrefined base engine; antiquated tech interface

Our full 2022 Toyota RAV4 Review

The RAV4 has more passenger and cargo space than most. It's comfortable and surprisingly responsive to drive. Its interior is well built with quality materials, and offers user-friendly controls and abundant storage. Its resale value and reliability should be better than almost anything on the road. Those are all the basics that the RAV4 nails, but the latest version really stands out by offering an unparalleled variety of models. From the run-of-the-mill RAV4 LE or XLE you can go in different directions toward the more rugged Adventure and TRD Off-Road models, or toward the sporty XSE Hybrid and Prime. And those latter two are particularly significant, as the RAV4 is the rare small SUV that's not only available as a hybrid, but as plug-in hybrid (Prime) as well. The Ford Escape is the only other. We like that there's a little something for everyone with the RAV4.

Best Midcompact SUVs

Ford Bronco Sport

Why it stands out: Off-road capability; cargo space; clever storage and cargo features; distinctive style
Could be better:
Fuel economy; some cheap interior bits

Our full 2022 Ford Bronco Sport Review

Although its exterior dimensions and back seat space fall in between the compact and subcompact segments, one of the great things about the new Bronco Sport is that it actually has as much or more cargo space than models that are considerably bigger on the outside. So it can hold a lot of stuff for a weekend away, but the "Baby Bronco" does so much more for those looking for something a little more Swiss Army Knife than the typical small SUV. There are numerous clever features throughout, like zippered map pockets and campsite lighting in the liftgate, plus a vast accessory catalog. Every version is much better than usual off-road (though the Badlands is definitely the one to get for those going further afield) with its standard all-wheel drive, ample ground clearance and "G.O.A.T. Modes" that set the vehicle for a variety of road and terrain conditions. It's also impossible to ignore the Bronco Sport's distinctive style inside and out, plus a driving experience that's a bit more SUV-ish ... and in this case, we do mean that in the traditional, body-on-frame truck-based SUV way.

Kia Seltos

Why it stands out: Surprising space; acceleration from Turbo models; user-friendly tech; distinct design details
Could be better:
Some cheap interior bits

Our full 2022 Kia Seltos Review

The surprisingly good Seltos proves you don't have to spend a lot of money for both function and fashion. Its price and exterior dimensions fall in between the subcompact and compact SUV segments, yet it boasts more interior volume than is expected and an abundance of special design details throughout that successfully counter some of the cheaper bits applied to keep the price down. It also looks pretty good, and the available turbocharged engine produces shocking acceleration for this segment. Basically, it provides even more value beyond Kia's usual extra-long features list and warranty. Like the Bronco Sport and CX-30, we'd actually consider the Seltos before many of the compact SUVs that didn't make the cut above.

2021 Mazda CX-30 Grand Touring in gray
2021 Mazda CX-30 Grand Touring in gray

Mazda CX-30