Subcompact SUV Challenge
One of the hottest segments in the automotive world right now is subcompact crossover utility. and there has been a sea of new competitors rolling in over the last year. so of course we decided to pit all of these new rides against one another to see which mini-ute delivers to the max.
As is our tradition, the editorial staffs at cars.com and USA Today joined us in this subcompact SUV challenge. And we all found ourselves sifting through the entries in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains at home base Boulder, Colorado.
Our roundup of diminutive new utilities starts with the Chevrolet Trax……followed by the style conscious Fiat 500X……the Fit-based Honda HR-V……the playfully rugged Jeep Renegade……the fun and fashionable Mazda CX-3……the original subcompact SUV, the Nissan Juke……and the “wagon in utes clothing” Subaru XV Crosstrek…
Manufacturers could equip them as they saw fit, as long as they stayed under our $27,000 price cap. So some entries are front, and some are all-wheel-drive. But all come with 4-cylinder power and automatic transmissions.
We also asked the Kruppas [CREW-PUZZ], an SUV seeking local family, to help us in rating these mini utes.
As is sometimes the case, scoring was very tight and it came right down to the wire with our eventual winner on top by less than 30-points. For a full scoring rundown, go to the cars.com website; but for now, here’s a quick run through the top 4-finishers.
There was no debate that the Mazda CX-3, our 4th place finisher, was the most fun to drive and was also one of the most stylish among the group, but interior space was in short supply and it came with the 2nd highest price tag of the group at $26,795.
AARON BRAGMAN: “The CX-3 was actually quite a lot of fun to drive; the big problem with it is that it’s very small, both in front and in back, it feels very narrow and there isn’t a whole lot of cargo room in it as well.”
JOE BRUZEK: “So, the CX-3 is the car that I would want to drive out of all of these; it’s the most fun, it’s the most refined, the steering is great, there’s minimal body roll; but you’re getting a fun to drive car, you’re not getting a very practical one.”
JOHN DAVIS: The Honda HR-V dominates this segment when it comes to cargo space, with only the Subaru coming even close; but as much as its practicality helped it, its noisy powertrain held it back. And much like the CX-3, pricing was very close to our ceiling at $26,720.
JENNIFER GEIGER: “I am not a big fan of the HR-V. I think it looks great on paper with excellent room, stellar fuel economy; but it’s really slow, really loud, and the interior is just boring compared to the rest of this class.”
BRIAN ROBINSON: “The HR-V is typical Honda, very nice interior, a lot of nice features, a ton of space inside way more than most of these vehicles here, but it’s also a little noisy and not as much fun to drive as some of the other cars here.”
JOHN DAVIS: The Fiat 500X is based on the Jeep Renegade, and while its design is perhaps cooler, its practicality falls short. Still those cool looks, a smooth riding chassis, and low price of $25,895 helped it to 2nd place in this contest.
CHRIS WOODYARD: “The Fiat 500X was a big surprise. I wasn’t sure that the Fiat could really match up in a competition with these kinds of other vehicles; but in category after category, it turned out to have been a sound, nice driving, nicely appointed vehicle.”
JENNIFER GEIGER: “…I think the styling is really cute, the interior is really sharp, and its multimedia system is no-nonsense; it’s very easy to use.”
JOHN DAVIS: Going in, the Subaru XV Crosstrek might not have fit anyone’s definition of a proper SUV; but here its combination of space, comfort, features, as well as off road cred pushed it to the top. The lowest price tag of the bunch surely helped as well, coming in at $25,440; and that’s with all-wheel-drive of course.
BRIAN ROBINSON: “You may not think the XV Crosstrek really belongs here, as it’s more of a wagon than crossover, but pricing’s very similar and it’s got way more space inside than a lot of these, and it’s more of an SUV than any of these. So I think it’s going to do really well here.”
JOEL AND CHRISTINE KRUPPA: “…it didn’t have too many features, which I feel like some of the other cars did, it was hard to try and do all the controls while driving; it has a lot of safety features, and it was just comfortable to drive…”
“…I think the space inside, for a small car, was very good; the back seat folding down gave a lot of space, the rear seats have a lot of room; front seats also have a lot of room.”
JOHN DAVIS: Regardless of how you feel about these pint size utilities, they’re not going away any time soon as they are tremendous moneymakers for automakers; having much higher profit margins than typical subcompact car offerings. So while all of these “cute-utes” get the job done in adequate fashion; here in this challenge, the Subaru XV Crosstrek is in a comfortable, spacious, capable class all its own.
2016 Chevrolet Trax
2016 Fiat 500X
2016 Honda HR-V
2016 Jeep Renegade
2016 Mazda CX-3
2016 Nissan Juke
2016 Subaru XV Crosstrek