The small SUV class has rapidly gained in popularity, eclipsing the minivan to the point at which minivans are becoming an endangered species (there are less than ten models currently on the market).
The benefit of such popularity is that each of the many manufactures continues to try and outdo the other with more power, more room, and more of the latest technology, all as standard features.
Here we take a look at this year’s best and worst models.
Best Small SUVs of 2019
1. 2019 Honda CRV
Honda scored a home run last year with the full redesign of the CRV. With an optional turbocharged engine that delivers plenty of power, the 2019 CRV is a joy to drive. It accelerates for passing with ease.
Inside there is plenty of passenger space, comfortable seating, and ample cargo space. Along with a great ride and a comfortable interior, you get class-leading fuel economy.
The CRV is EPA rated at 28 mpg city and 34 highway and is available in front-wheel and all-wheel drive.
2. 2019 Ford Escape
The Ford Escape has been taking the market by storm. This year’s 2019 Escape continues to offer sporty handling and outstanding safety scores with a full five stars in overall safety from the NHTSA.
For those interested in a rock solid small family SUV, the Escape is an excellent choice. It also offers plenty of cabin room with spacious seating for five along with plenty of cargo space which includes up to 67.8 cubic feet with the seats folded down.
All models also feature an onboard hands-free communication system and wireless cell phone connectivity.
3. 2019 Mazda CX-5
What's not to love about the 2019 Mazda CX-5 – it's fun to drive, offers sharp steering, and exceptional dynamic handling. More importantly, driver’s get to enjoy this performance without sacrificing overall ride comfort or exceptional fuel economy.
The CX-5 is the only small SUV to offer cylinder deactivation. At cruising speeds, the 2.5-liter engine shuts two of the cylinders off, helping maximize fuel economy. One thing family buyers or those looking for a vanpool vehicle will love is the number of USB ports scattered around the cabin.
4. 2019 Kia Sportage
The 2019 Kia Sportage offers an exceptionally comfortable high-quality interior, with plenty of headroom for taller drivers at 39.3 inches.
What might surprise you is the amount of legroom for second-row passengers. The Sportage offers 51.2 inches of hip room and 38.2 inches of legroom. The base 2.4L four-cylinder engine produces a healthy 181 HP while the optional 2.0-liter turbo four offers a full 240 HP.
One thing the discerning buyer is sure to like is that even the base LX model comes loaded including both Apple CarPlay and Android compatibility.
5. 2019 Subaru Forester
It’s no surprise to find a Subaru in the top five, and the 2019 Subaru Forester easily holds its own. Still one of the few small SUVs offering standard all-wheel drive, the Forester also manages to achieve an EPA combined 26 mpg.
For those of you who want some serious bang for your buck, the base LX model has a lot to offer. It includes rear privacy glass, automatic headlights, a rearview camera, and a 5-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Bluetooth, a six-speaker audio system, CD player, satellite radio, and a USB port.
Worst Small SUVs of 2019
1. 2019 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross
It would seem as though the 2019 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross was designed for those who prefer form over function.
Inside, you may find the touchpad controls used to control the infotainment system a bit challenging to use. However, you can overcome this in time as you master the necessary skills.
But, where it really comes up short, is in the power department. Under the hood sits a turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder that manages a respectable 152 HP at 5200 RPM. The problem is that once you hit around 5000 RPM, the power seems to bleed off, which requires you to use one of the eight preset ratios to push the limits of this combination.
2. 2019 Nissan Rogue
There is a phrase that goes "beauty is more than skin deep", but in the case of the 2019 Nissan Rogue, it seems that somewhere along the line, Nissan forgot this.
While the body style is very sporty and a pleasure to look at, and the interior is quite comfortable, in this highly competitive market, good looks simply aren't enough.
Not only does the Rogue suffer from body roll in corners and ambiguous steering, the single four-cylinder engine and CVT combination offers you sluggish performance that doesn't come close to the zippy performance offered by its competitors from Mazda, Honda, and Ford.
3. 2019 Jeep Compass
Jeep may have built its reputation on the backs of millions of off-road vehicles, but the 2019 Jeep Compass is not one of them.
Taking the Compass off-road leads to excessive body twist and the sound of squeaking plastics on the inside. However, if you do the vast majority of your driving on paved roads, you will enjoy a smooth quiet ride.
The base four-cylinder 2.4-liter engine offers 180 HP and is paired with an Aisin six-speed automatic that offers lackluster performance at best. Those who think they will get better performance with the all-wheel drive and nine-speed ZF transmission will be sadly disappointed since the transmission seems to continually search for gears.
4. 2019 Toyota RAV4
2019 is expected to be the last year for this incarnation of the Toyota RAV4 and the end of the sixth generation couldn't come sooner.
Slide behind the steering wheel and you will find the RAV4 sadly lacking in the power and performance department. The 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder engine manages a meager 176 HP and lowly 172 lb-ft. of torque connected to a six-speed automatic that needs some serious refreshing.
In comparison to many other small SUVs, the interior seems to be more focused on utility than creature comforts and no Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, or onboard WiFi connections are available.
5. 2019 Mitsubishi Outlander
If you’re in the market for an inexpensive three-row crossover, the 2019 Mitsubishi might be just what you are looking for.
But, while it may be one of the few small SUVs to offer a third row of seats, what you end up with is an antiquated design that lacks in performance and comfort. On top of this, that third row of seats is pretty small and can be hard to get in and out of.
The suspension leaves a lot to be desired, especially if you plan to go out on the backroads, you should be prepared for some pretty queasy stomachs along the way.