16. 2023 Jeep Compass
We do like the exterior styling of the Jeep Compass, and the interior is just as straightforward and appealing. However, it has below-average reliability ratings, so even the affordable price point may turn into a more expensive investment in the long term. It also features underpowered engines, humdrum handling, and tight cargo space.
The Jeep Compass offers a standard 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that generates 180 horsepower and comes with a six-speed automatic transmission with front-wheel drive. If you want a nine-speed automatic with four-wheel drive, you have to pay more. Fuel economy estimates are at 22 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway.
15. 2023 Mitsubishi Outlander
The Outlander does have three rows, something the majority of these competitors don't. That makes it affordable for a three-row SUV but the problem is that the seats are cramped. But since it has a dull engine, low-quality interior materials, and doesn't rank very well for reliability, buyers' money is best spent elsewhere.
The newly redesigned Outlander has a 181 horsepower engine that gets 24 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway which is a decent fuel economy and certainly a trade-off you'll have to consider in terms of performance. It's decent on its number of features though, getting modern essentials like an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system with smartphone integration and a six-speaker stereo. There are also plenty of standard driver assistance features and dual-zone automatic climate control.
14. 2023 Nissan Rogue Sport
One great thing about the 2023 Nissan Rogue Sport is that the Safety Shield 360 driver assistance suite of features now comes standard as of last year. And that long list of standard tech and safety features at this price point is something buyers shouldn't overlook. What they won't be impressed by, however, is the underpowered engine options and below-average cabin material quality.
The 2023 Nissan Rogue Sport offers no major changes for this year but you can expect a spacious cargo area and a plethora of standard features. You'll get 61.1 cubic feet with the rear seats folded down. Interior features include a 7-inch display, smartphone integration and four-speaker stereo. Most features can be upgraded, albeit at a higher price. For example, you can opt for an eight-speaker Bose stereo or dual-zone climate control, and add features like a moonroof or navigation.
13. 2023 GMC Terrain
We are fans of the exterior look, and it's getting an even better mini-refresh in 2023. However, the tricky space between the C- and D-pillars offers an essentially unusable window which makes rear visibility troublesome. The GMC Terrain's cabin is comfy, and the ride is smooth. Yet, there aren't enough upgrades from the mechanically identical Chevrolet Equinox to justify the higher price tag.
The 2023 GMC Terrain offers refreshed styling this year as well as wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. But there are no significant improvements upon the powertrain nor its below-average cargo space. There is a new AT4 trim but that just adds all-wheel-drive, sport tires and off-road driving modes.
12. 2023 Jeep Cherokee
Like its other Jeep siblings, the Cherokee has a well laid out, if not simple, infotainment dash. It also truly holds its own off-road. Maybe that off-road focus contributed somewhat to the lowest fuel economy ratings in the class. This year, the Cherokee does offer an improved base engine - a new standard V6.
The 2023 Jeep Cherokee boasts a new 3.2-liter V6 with 271 horsepower. Getting nearly identical horsepower, you can instead opt for the turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Either way, you get a nine-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel-drive with the option for four-wheel-drive. Interior features are the usual infotainment system and speaker system, but that's about it.
11. 2023 Chevrolet Equinox
The Chevrolet Equinox fell just behind its corporate cousin. It's affordable and has good reliability ratings. The cabin is comfortable and roomy, and the infotainment dash is intuitive. The build quality materials could be amped up a bit, but it does have a diesel model that offers stellar fuel economy. At least that's a differentiator from competitors.
The new Equinox has discontinued the 2.0-liter engine and L trim which was the most basic of the bunch. But now the base trim is the LS, which offers a ton of standard features including some driver assistance features - of course, it all comes with a slightly higher price tag. The engine is a 170-horsepower turbocharged model.
10. 2023 Volkswagen Tiguan
Sure the Tiguan has a funny name, but there's nothing funny about the driving experience. It floats down the road with the sure-footedness of a mid-size luxury sedan. It also has a great warranty and good reliability ratings, which means that it's a safe investment for the long haul. The rear cargo area is also particularly spacious.
The new Tiguan a plethora of standard features and refreshed interior. The 6.5-inch touchscreen is on the small side compared to competitors but there's also an 8-inch digital driver display. Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and Mirror link are standard, as well as a Wi-Fi hotspot and two USB ports among other things.
9. 2023 Kia Sportage
The Kia Sportage offers the typical South Korean value proposition. The Sportage is also smooth-riding with taut handling. It doesn't have the most cargo space behind the rear seats, however. It also has a pretty poor fuel economy, getting 23 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway - at best.
And should you opt for the turbocharged engine with all-wheel-drive, you are looking at fuel economy ratings of 19 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway. And that's with an engine that outputs a maximum of 240 horsepower. And as for features, they are pretty light with this model, as they are fairly basic: an 8-inch touchscreen, smartphone integration and a six-speaker stereo.
8. 2023 Ford Escape
The 2023 Ford Escape was newly redesigned last year. This new version comes with the addition of hybrid and plug-in hybrid models. We aren't the biggest fans of this new car-like design. Things are a little bland on the outside and the inside. On the plus, the dash is laid out in an intuitive and clean way.
If you prize cargo space, the Ford Escape is one of the class leaders, providing up to 65.4 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats. Standard features are minimal and include a 4.2-inch touchscreen and 4.2-inch digital gauge cluster, which is definitely on the small side so hopefully your eyesight is good.
7. 2023 Hyundai Tucson
The Hyundai Tucson is related to the Kia Sportage and has, essentially, the same pros and cons. Its smooth ride is counterbalanced by middling fuel economy ratings and smaller cargo capacity than some rivals in this class. This year it comes fully redesigned with a premium-quality cabin and a well-balanced ride.
Standard equipment with the Tucson includes wireless smartphone integration, remote keyless entry, six-speaker audio and an 8-inch touchscreen. There are also standard safety features like automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning and forward-collision warning. The 187-horsepower four-cylinder engine provides strong acceleration, while its eight-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly in most conditions. It's a perfect commuter vehicle.
6. 2023 Nissan Rogue
Even though the Nissan Rogue comes near the bottom of the pack in our rankings, it's one of the best-selling vehicles in the country. It's affordable and comes loaded with a large array of standard features. It's also surprisingly roomy for a compact SUV. This year the Rogue also boasts an improved powertrain.
The 201-horsepower three-cylinder engine generates an impressive 201 horsepower. Front-wheel drive is standard or you can purchase it with all-wheel-drive for additional cost. The fuel economy is certainly nothing to scoff at, getting an estimated 30 mpg in the city and 37 mpg on the highway. Overall, the Rogue provides a comfortable ride even if it isn't as powerful as the Rogue Sport.
5. 2023 Ford Bronco Sport
Ford has brought back its celebrated Bronco nameplate. The 2023 Ford Bronco Sport is a smaller unibody crossover version that appeals more to urban dwellers. We are fans of the design and the clean interior (although the C-pillar is a bit strange). The driving dynamics are promising, but it is a bit more expensive than competitors.
The Ford Bronco excels when it comes to off-road ability. Its turbocharged 300-horsepower four-cylinder engine is manageable enough, but if you really want off-road ability, the 400-horsepower V6 engine in the Raptor is where it's at. That has a pretty hefty pricetag with it though, so be ready to splurge. We will say that the Bronco is fairly generous when it comes to features.
4. 2023 Subaru Forester
The venerable Forester (a lifted station wagon "disguised" like an SUV) has been selling like gangbusters for Subaru. It's easy to see why. The Japanese automaker's cars typically have great safety scores and solid handling with a comfortable ride. All of that applies to the Forester, plus it comes standard with all-wheel-drive. Not many other competitors in this class can say that.
Subaru offers an all-new trim for the 2022 Forester, the Wilderness trim. This model features a front-facing off-road camera, water-repellant upholstery, and all-terrain tires, making it the ideal model for outdoor lovers as the name suggests. An 8-inch touchscreen, dual-zone climate control and reverse automatic emergency braking are standard as well.
3. 2023 Toyota RAV4
Toyota's top seller was completely redesigned in 2019, and we are fans of the more aggressive styling (at least compared to something like Ford's Escape). The RAV4 has spacious dimensions throughout the interior, and it comes with an array of standard driver assistance features. Plus, the very fuel-efficient hybrid model is only slightly more expensive and comes standard with AWD. There really isn't a reason not to opt for it.
The 2022 Toyota RAV4 offers a terrific fuel economy, getting up to 27 mpg in the city and 35 mpg on the highway, which is impressive when you consider its 203-horsepower engine under the hood. Standard features are loaded in this model including the infotainment system with satellite radio, voice recognition and a Wi-Fi hotspot.
2. 2023 Honda CR-V
While the CR-V may not have won us over on the looks depart from the outside, once you sit in the cockpit you can't help but appreciate the obvious care and precision with which Honda appointed its vehicle. It has the most space in the class, great fuel economy, an upscale interior, and a smooth-as-can-be ride. No wonder it's a perennial best-seller.
Indeed, there's a reason you see plenty of CR-Vs on the road. The 2023 model doesn't offer much new in the way of features or even performance, but if you haven't owned a CR-V before, there's certainly no problem starting here. Offering up to 75.8 cubic feet of space with the rear seats folded, it's plenty spacious for your outdoor adventures or weekend family trips.
1. 2023 Mazda CX-5
Mazda's CX-5 outsells the rest of Mazda's lineup combined. It's easy to see why. Both the exterior and interior are gorgeous. The sheet metal shines in classy waves, and the minimalist interior looks like it was pulled straight out of the luxury class. The powerful engines provide a pleasant and engaging driving experience, and it doesn't come at the expense of fuel economy. What is there not to like?
Under the hood is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that gets up to 24 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway. All-wheel-drive is standard with the CX-5 and that's not typical for a car in its class. It generates up to 187 horsepower, providing robust acceleration on the highway.