The subcompact SUV segment is as hot as it gets as many shoppers are trading in their compact sedans in favor of a hatchback model that offers more utility but still gets excellent fuel efficiency. Subcompact models like the 2020 Subaru Crosstrek, Honda HR-V, Mazda CX-3, Hyundai Kona, and Kia Soul make great urban commuters. How do the five models compare and which model is best for your lifestyle?
If you want a “go-anywhere” vehicle, the 2020 Subaru Crosstrek is your model. It comes standard with Subaru’s Symmetrical all-wheel-drive, 8.7-inches of ground clearance, and X-Mode for more extreme off-pavement adventures. The 2.0-liter engine produces 152 horsepower and the subcompact SUV gets up to 33 miles per gallon on the highway.
2020 Subaru Crosstrek fits those with more active lifestyles well
The standard raised roof rails allow you to put on a cargo carrier for your gear. Inside you’ll find a spacious cabin with 121.6 cubic feet of interior volume and 55.3 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear folded flat. The Crosstrek gets the highest safety ratings from the IIHS.
The Honda HR-V is a top pick for shoppers with its flexible and versatile cabin thanks to its “Magic Seat.” Inside it comes with 58.5 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats folded down, and the bottom cushions can also be flipped up to allow room for larger items.
It features a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine (141 horsepower) with front-wheel drive standard and all-wheel drive is available ($1,500). The HR-V gets an EPA estimated 34 highway with FWD and 31 mpg with AWD.
Mazda CX-3 tops the fun-to-drive meter
The Mazda CX-3 is the most fun-to-drive of all the subcompact SUVs. It’s sporty handling and driving dynamics make it a top choice for urban commuters. The CX-3 four-cylinder engine produces 148 horsepower and gets 34 highway mpg with FWD and 32 mpg with AWD. Front-wheel drive is standard, and all-wheel drive is available.
The 2020 CX-3 now comes standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Its cabin remains nicer than others in the class and the infotainment features are easy to use. While there’s plenty to like about the CX-3 and it has been a solid seller for Mazda, its backseat is admittedly a bit more cramped than rivals in the class. It also doesn’t offer as much cargo space as some competitors.
Check out our full review of the all-new 2020 Mazda CX-30 here.
The Hyundai Kona offers compact SUV buyers a high seating position, good ground clearance, split-fold rear seats, and a rear liftgate for easy cargo loading. Kona has a lot of potential to take the lead. Its exterior style may be somewhat polarizing, but it offers plenty of utility and offers all-wheel-drive like most of the competition. It also delivers a lot for the money and checks all of the boxes that shoppers want in this type of vehicle.
The optional 1.6-liter turbocharged engine produces 175 horsepower over the base engine’s 147 horsepower and comes paired to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. The peppy turbocharged engine and athletic handling make the Kona particularly fun to drive. The Kona Ultimate comes with a comfortable leather interior, extra safety features, and one of the strongest warranty coverages. Read our full review here.
The Kia Soul has been fully redesigned for the 2020 model year. New exterior styling features include boomerang-shaped taillights and C-pillars designed to resemble airplane wings. The 2020 Soul receives newly-available safety features along with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. A 2.0-liter four-cylinder with a six-speed manual or Intelligent Variable Transmission serves as the new base powertrain.
While the Soul gets more personality with its new exterior styling, it will be even more fun if you opt for the 1.6-liter turbo. It’s super nimble, has a responsive engine, and will get you in and out of tight parking spots. On the open road, the 2020 Kia Soul delivers equally crisp handling and responsive steering. You can up the Soul’s fun factor by getting the GT-Line with its punchy, turbo engine and a sport-tuned suspension.
Why did we exclude the 2020 Toyota C-HR subcompact SUV? The model from Toyota is on Consumer Reports 2020 Popular Cars To Avoid list.
The 2020 Subaru Crosstrek has a lot of competition and is our top pick for those with the most active adventurous lifestyles. All models come standard with Symmetrical all-wheel-drive, X-Mode for off-pavement excursions, and 8.7-inches of ground clearance for tackling trails. Throw on a roof-top tent and you have a ready-made cool campsite setup.
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Denis Flierl has invested over 30 years in the automotive industry in a variety of roles. All of his reports are archived on our Subaru page. Follow Denis on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Subaru Report. Check back tomorrow for more Subaru news and updates at Torque News!
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Photo credit: Subaru, Outdoorsy, Mazda