2021 Compact SUV: The Best Crossovers on the U.S. Market

These days, there is no more competitive segment than the segment of compact crossovers. If you see at the list of best-selling cars in the last couple of years, most of them are compact crossover. Thanks to this extremely fierce competition, we can enjoy all kinds of different designs and the fact is that all models in this segment are really good.

Of course, some are great, others are even better. That’s why we’ve decided to make our list of best 2021 compact SUV models. It includes the 10 best models in our humble opinion. Some are coming completely redesigned, others are still really fresh, but there are also models that have been around for years and still hold their position on the market.

Here is our list of 2021 best compact SUV you can get on the U.S. market these days:

Toyota RAV4

Best 2021 compact SUV Toyota RAV4 Prime

The world’s best-selling crossover SUV doesn’t need some special introduction. It has been around for decades and it proved itself as a perfectly balanced vehicle. The current generation has been around for just a couple of years and it feels very fresh in all aspects. The new model looks better than ever and comes with a well-designed and well-equipped interior. Although it’s not the biggest in the class, the cabin is large enough to accommodate adults in both rows and lots of cargo.

For the next year, the Japanese manufacturer is preparing a completely new thing. For the first time, this small crossover will come with a plug-in hybrid setup. The new model will be called the RAV4 Prime and the numbers look really promising. You may count on more than 300 horsepower, 5.7 seconds from zero to sixty, and 42 miles of pure electric range.

The rest of the lineup is about to carry on in the same way. Standard models will come with a 2.5-liter gasoline engine that puts out around 203 horsepower. If you are looking for something really efficient, there is an excellent hybrid version with around 220 hp. Base models will go around 26.000 dollars.

Honda CR-V

Best 2021 compact SUV Honda CR-V

Although most rivals are younger, the current generation of CR-V is still one of the best choices you can make if you are looking for a versatile and refined crossover. It is a fantastic all-rounder and definitely earns a high place on our list of best 2021 compact SUV models. Of course, the first thing that comes to mind about this model is its spacious cabin. There is plenty of room for passengers, while the cargo area is even more impressive. You may count on nearly 40 cubic feet behind the second row and more than 75 cubic feet of the overall cargo space, which is something you will hardly find in any other model in this class.

For the 2021 model year, the Japanese manufacturer hasn’t prepared any notable updates. You may count on familiar design characteristics, including two very refined powertrain options. The base model comes with a 1.5-liter turbo-four, which puts out around 190 horsepower and returns 28 mpg in the city and 34 mpg on the highway. Once again, some of the best ratings in the class.

If you’re looking for something even more efficient, there is a hybrid version, which uses the same system as the Accord. A 2.0-liter gasoline engine in a combination with two electric motors puts out around 212 horsepower.  This system returns around 40 mpg in the city and 35 mpg on the highway.

Of course, the CR-V isn’t without drawbacks. The biggest complaint goes to the fact that the base model comes with a really modest list of standard equipment. You won’t even get a touchscreen or smartphone integration. Therefore, look for a higher-grade version if you’re buying this crossover.

Mazda CX-5

Best 2021 compact SUV Mazda CX-5

The CX-5 may not be the most practical model on the list but if style and driving experience are your top priority, this is the best you can get in the segment of compact crossovers. The current generation has been around for about three years and we probably won’t see too many updates for the next model year, though there is a chance to see a couple of additions on the list of standard equipment.

This is arguably the best-looking model in the class but that’s not all. It also offers an impressive driving experience thanks to extraordinary handling and powerful optional engine. While the base engine delivers around 185 horsepower and delivers no more than decent dynamics. The real fun starts with the options turbo-four engine, which puts out 227 horsepower, or full 250 if you use premium gasoline. The company has also added a turbodiesel version recently, though we have to say that gasoline units are also among the most efficient in the class.

The cabin of this crossover looks fantastic. The overall quality is at a premium level, though there are some drawbacks. This particularly refers to the interior space, as the rear bench is a little bit tight and the cargo area is among smaller ones in the class. Also, the infotainment system feels a little bit aged.

Ford Escape

Best 2021 compact SUV Ford Escape

The current generation of Escape is pretty fresh. It arrived last year, so it’s hard to believe that the 2021 model year will bring any particular changes. As a new model, it’s no wonder that it takes a pretty high place on our list of best 2021 compact SUV models. Simply, it offers a little bit of everything.

The first thing you’ll notice about this model is excellent handling and pretty good driving experience. It’s not exactly a Mazda CX-5 level of driving experience, but it comes pretty close. There are two potent turbocharged engines, with 180 and 250 horsepower, which ensure excellent driving dynamics but also feature a pretty decent fuel economy. Practically, the only major complaint in terms of driving goes to the 8-speed automatic transmission, which sometimes struggles to find the right gear. Hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions are also available.

On the inside, you will find two spacious rows of seats, which accommodate adults with ease. The cargo area is also spacious, so we can say this model is pretty functional and practical. On the other side, the overall interior quality isn’t particularly great, as there are some areas with low-grade materials. Still, that’s compensated with a long list of standard equipment, which includes all kinds of tech goodies.  Base models go around 25.000 dollars.

VW Tiguan

Best 2021 compact SUV VW Tiguan

The Tiguan has always been a solid all-rounder and the current generation is no exception. There are many things to like about this crossover, starting from the fact that it is among the most spacious models in the class. Both rows of seats are comfortable, while the cargo area is generous with cubic feet too. Besides plenty of space, the cabin is also well-built and offers great overall quality.

Another thing you will like about this crossover is excellent sound insulation, so the ride feels really relaxed. Also, the list of standard equipment is pretty long and includes all kinds of tech goodies. All models come standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, as well as with a  Wi-Fi hotspot. In higher trim levels, you can get a bigger touchscreen, as well as VW”s excellent digital instrument cluster, known as Virtual Cockpit.

When it comes to drawbacks, the biggest complaint goes to the powertrain. There is just one engine option in the offer and it is really unimpressive. The engine puts out around 184 horsepower and most rivals have more powerful engine options in the offer. Besides lackluster acceleration, this unit is also very thirsty. You won’t get more than 22 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway, which is really low for the class.

Subaru Forester

Best 2021 compact SUV Subaru Forester

Subaru Forester is one of the most versatile compact crossovers around. It has so many great things to offer, starting from the company’s legendary AWD system, which is best in the business.  The current generation is very fresh, so this small SUV feels modern in every aspect. One of the first things you will notice is the impressive interior quality. Materials are great, as well as the fit and finish.

Besides great overall quality, the cabin is spacious and offers plenty of room for passengers and cargo. Furthermore, the list of standard and available equipment is really impressive. This doesn’t refer to tech goodies only, but especially to the list of safety features, which is amazing. Another thing we really like is a great fuel economy, which goes around 26 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway. Those are amazing numbers for an AWD crossover.

Still, the Forester isn’t without drawback and that’s the reason for its middle position on our list. The biggest complaint goes to the engine, which would definitely need more power. Therefore, it’s no wonder that various reports suggest a turbocharged option for the future. The company is still quiet on this matter. Another big drawback is the below-average predicted reliability rating. The next year probably won’t bring any bigger change.

Kia Sportage

Best 2021 compact SUV Kia Sportage

After the last-year refresh, we are pretty sure that the 2021 Kia Sportage will come with no bigger changes. To remind you, the recent update has brought changes in various aspects, starting from a new front fascia and other visual upgrades. Therefore, we presume that the current generation will remain in production for a couple of more years.

There are several reasons why Sportage earns its place on our list of best 2021 compact SUV models. First of all, it delivers a smooth and comfortable ride, which comes in a combination of composed handling. Furthermore, the cabin is spacious and features high overall quality, while the list of standard equipment is pretty long. All models come standard with goodies like an 8-inch touch screen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, a six-speaker sound system, Bluetooth, and a USB port. In higher trims, you can also get goodies like wireless charging, satellite radio, navigation, premium audio system and more.

Under the hood, you may on two familiar engine options. Base versions are equipped with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder unit, which puts out 181 horsepower. Such an amount is okay for daily commuting but those who are looking for a little bit sportier ride should definitely pick an optional turbo-four, which puts out around 240 horsepower. Both engines deliver a sufficient amount of power but both engines also feature a slightly below-average fuel economy.

Hyundai Tucson

Best 2021 compact SUV Hyundai Tucson

It’s no secret that the Korean manufacturer is working on the next generation of this successful crossover. However, the next generation will come in the next year, as the 2022 model, so it’s obvious that the 2021 Tucson will be a typical carryover. Practically, the only changes we are about to see new color options – Ash Black, Red Crimson and Coliseum Gray.

The rest of the vehicle remains pretty much the same. This means you may count on a crossover that still has to offer a lot of good things, despite the age. Hyundai still stands out with some of the longest warranties in the business, while the predicted reliability rating is at a pretty high level as well.

On the inside, you will find a decent-looking cabin with the decent overall quality. Although there are some areas with hard plastics, most of the cabin feels nice. The dashboard looks modern, while the amount of passenger room is good. Tucson accommodates adults in both rows with ease, but things aren’t that great in the cargo area, which features below-average volume.

Another aspect that has often been criticized is the lack of a more powerful powertrain option. This crossover comes only with two naturally-aspirated engines, which deliver around 160 and 180 horsepower and those who are looking for sporty driving dynamics should check other models first. Fuel economy is also below-average with both engines.

The base model starts around 24.850 dollars.

Nissan Rogue

Best 2021 compact SUV NIssan Rogue

Nissan’s most popular crossover is coming completely redesigned for the next year. That’s the main reason why we put it in the lower tier of our list, the new model is yet to be tested. Still, we have no doubt that the new Rogue will bring notable improvements and that it will be ranked pretty high.

From what we know so far, the new model continues with a familiar CMF platform, but it will bring significant upgrades in terms of the chassis and suspension design. As a result, we count on a better driving experience, which is the weakest point of the current generation. Better handling and overall comfort are something the new model definitely needs to improve.

The same thing goes to the powertrain. The outgoing model isn’t much fun to drive and one of the main reasons is the lackluster engine. The new model will carry on with the same 2.5-liter unit but it will get a slight power increase, to 181 horsepower.  Of course, it will come coupled with a CVT gearbox, which will send power to either front or all wheels, depending on the version you pick.

The interior design has always been a strong point of this crossover and the 2021 Rogue shouldn’t bring negative surprises in this aspect. We know the model will get a large touchscreen at the center and loads of new tech goodies. From the outside, the new model looks boxier than before, while the front end takes a lot of inspiration from the new Juke.

The pricing details are yet to come but most sources suggest that base versions will go around 26.000 dollars.

Chevy Equinox

Best 2021 compact SUV Chevy Equinox

Despite all the drawbacks, the current generation of Chevy’s compact crossover still manages to keep pace with rivals. It still has a lot of good things to offer and one of the first things that come to mind is an excellent predicted reliability rating. Also, this crossover offers two good engine options. The offer starts with a smaller 1.5-liter turbocharged engine that puts around 170 horsepower. The optional 2.0-liter turbo-four is good for pretty respectable 252 horsepower.

Besides lots of power, both engines offer an above-average fuel economy.  Furthermore, the list of great things about this crossover includes easy-to-use infotainment system, spacious cabin and lots of standard equipment, especially when it comes to tech goodies.

When it comes to drawbacks, the first thing that comes to mind is interior quality, which is at a lower level compared to most competitors. Many areas feature hard plastics, while the dashboard is characterized by some pretty odd aesthetical solutions. Another complaint goes to the ride quality. On one side, most rivals feel more athletic. On the other, the Equinox isn’t particularly comfortable either.

The base model should go around 25.000 dollars.