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Published November 01, 2023

The best small SUV in 2023

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Hyundai Tucson

Are you looking for a new small or compact SUV in 2023? SUVs offer enhanced power and driving capabilities, making them the perfect choice for outdoor enthusiasts, families, or anyone who drives in difficult weather conditions or terrain frequently.

There is a huge range of SUV options available out there, which is why it’s important to browse different models and discover what features and styles there are. At EchoPark Automotive, we’re here to help make your car buying experience easier, thanks to our wide selection of SUV models and our friendly, professional Experience Guides, who will help you find the perfect car, with the right financing, and the right protection plans.

Keep reading this article to learn more about small-sized SUVs, the features they offer, and how to choose the right model for you!

Ford Escape
Ford Escape

What are some of the main benefits of a compact SUV?

A compact SUV can offer many benefits, providing a perfect balance between the power of traditional SUVs and the versatility of a smaller car. Here are some of the best benefits of driving an SUV!

Fuel efficiency

Larger SUVs don’t tend to be as fuel-efficient as smaller vehicles. This is mainly due to their size, as it requires more fuel to move a heavier vehicle. Smaller SUVs provide a solution to this, retaining the enhanced driving features that SUVs are known for while reducing the size to preserve fuel economy. This makes smaller SUVs much better from a cost-savings perspective for use commuting and running errands when compared to the larger SUV models out there.

All-Wheel drive options

Another great feature that SUVs typically offer is all-wheel drive (AWD) or 4WD capabilities. AWD or 4WD are known to help enhance traction and overall stability while on rough terrain or extreme weather conditions. AWD works by automatically sending power to all four tires, which provides improved traction while driving. 4WD allows you to actually engage all four wheels manually, which aids driving capabilities.

Spacious interiors

While compact SUVs can look quite small from the outside, they often include spacious and flexible interiors! These can be ideal for busy families who have children who play sports or who love travel, providing ample space to store luggage or sports equipment. Compact SUVs are also wonderful for any outdoor enthusiasts, allowing them to load up all necessary gear without sacrificing comfort or driving performance.

Higher driving position

Another feature of SUVs that helps them stand out from the typical vehicle is their higher driving position. SUVs have higher ground clearance than sedans, providing improved visibility while you drive, as well as a sense of safety and security. It allows you to see and be seen farther down the road than you normally would, allowing you time to make adjustments or safety corrections quickly, should you need to.

Kia Sportage
Kia Sportage

Who should buy a smaller-sized SUV?

Compact SUVs offer both versatility and practicality while driving, making them an excellent choice for many people. They offer improved fuel economy compared to full-sized SUVs and have ample room for storage, should you require it.

Wondering if a small SUV is the right car for you? Here are six situations in which a small SUV can be an ideal driving solution for you!

1. You’re a city dweller

If you live in the city, a compact SUV can be a great compromise between a sedan and a full-sized SUV. Compact SUVs are significantly easier to maneuver around and park, thanks to their more narrow body frame. Many larger cities and urban environments have rather limited parking or have mostly compact parking spaces. A compact SUV can be quite practical in this environment, allowing you to park and navigate through the city with ease.

2. You’re a commuter

As more people return back to the office after the COVID-19 pandemic, many are looking for better ways to commute or obtain better fuel economy. Small and compact SUVs generally offer improved gas mileage compared to their larger counterparts, so they can be a great commuter option. The extra seating also provides ample space for passengers, should you ride-share or carpool with others.

3. You have a small family or frequently carpool

Compact SUVs are also ideal for smaller families, families with pets, or couples with occasional passengers or carpoolers. Your family, friends, and even pets can enjoy a smooth, comfortable ride with plenty of space for cargo while still reaping the many benefits that a smaller-sized vehicle can offer, like great fuel economy.

4. You and your family have active lifestyles

SUVs are made for people with active lifestyles, like camping, hiking, biking, and kayaking. If you’re one of these people, then you know how important it is that there is enough cargo space for your equipment and gear. With a small-sized SUV, you’ll never be cramped or crowded and can enjoy the versatile storage options available.

SUVs are also ideal for those with active lifestyles since activities like hiking or camping can often involve having to traverse more difficult terrain. With AWD or 4AWD, you’ll be able to easily navigate whatever challenge might present itself on your next outdoor expedition.

With rising gas prices and inflation, a small SUV can also help save you money, thanks to its improved fuel economy. Enjoy the power and functionality that an SUV can offer you without the gas bill!

5. You’re a budget-conscious buyer

If you’ve had your heart set on a particular kind of vehicle for a while, it can be frustrating when it doesn’t fit into your budget. Compact SUVs tend to cost less than larger SUVs, so they can be a good economic option for those car shopping on a budget. You’ll also enjoy better fuel economy, so you’ll keep saving money even after you purchase your vehicle.

6. You’re a first-time SUV owner

If you’re curious about SUVs or haven’t owned one before, their power and size may be more than what you’re typically used to in a vehicle. A smaller-sized SUV model can be a great way to get a feel for the features of an SUV without having to commit to the full size. They provide an excellent segway between sedans and full-sized SUVs without ever compromising style or power.

Mazda CX-5
Mazda CX-5

What to look for in a great small SUV

Now that we’ve covered some of the top benefits a smaller-sized SUV can offer let’s discover some of the features that make them so amazing. Here’s what to look for in a great small SUV:

1. Reliability

Whatever SUV you end up purchasing, it’s important that it be reliable. Without a trustworthy vehicle, you may find yourself unsatisfied with your purchase and will likely have to spend money frequently on repairs and maintenance. Some factors that contribute to a car’s overall reliability include:

• It’s from a trusted brand

• It’s built with high-quality materials and manufacturing techniques

• It hasn’t been recalled

• It has a wide array of safety features

• It’s been well-cared for and received regular maintenance (if pre-owned)

• It has good consumer reviews and ratings

Conducting ample, high-quality research before you go shopping for a car is the most effective way to ensure you get a reliable vehicle. Just as important is purchasing from a reputable dealer, who can provide you with all the proper documents and information related to the car.

2. Average annual maintenance costs

Cars do require regular maintenance to keep them in good working order. As you search for your next new car, you must factor in the average annual repair costs for the vehicle. Typical yearly maintenance for a car includes:

• Oil changes

• Tire rotations

• New lights

• New filters

• Detailing and cleaning

Some brands (such as foreign ones) can be more expensive or complicated to repair than others. The year and condition of your vehicle also play a huge role, as certain makes and models may be more prone to issues or recalls than others.

3. Annual cost of insurance

Insurance costs can be an overlooked consideration when purchasing a used car but should be researched carefully to determine the total monthly cost. These costs vary based on the type of car, the engine, where the car will be parked, what state it will be insured in, and several other factors.

4. Exterior size vs. interior space

Another key feature to look for in your new SUV is extra storage and seating. SUVs can be great cars for those who have families, pets, or frequent passengers, offering space to stow extra items or luggage. However, it can also sometimes be tough to tell the interior size based on the exterior size alone. Watching online reviews or walkarounds of vehicles, as well as researching their dimensions, can give you a better idea of the size of a particular car.

5. Comfort and performance

Your new car should also be comfortable for both the driver and the passengers! Taking a car for a test drive is a great way to see how it performs and judge whether or not it’s the right fit for your lifestyle. Be sure to look up consumer reviews online and ask friends, family, and coworkers with SUVs for suggestions or if you can test drive their cars. This can give you a much better idea of the features and driving capabilities that you’re looking for in an SUV.

EchoPark has a convenient Test Drive Scheduler for you to book the day/time that best fits your schedule. You can book test drives using the “test drive” button on any of the EchoPark vehicle pages.

6. Interior details like seats, legroom, and fabric

Power and handling are important, but don’t forget about the overall appearance of the car too! Interior details like leather, heated seats, and extra legroom can add a sense of luxury and style to your car. After all, you want to be comfortable while you’re driving, so make sure that your interior has all the details you desire for an amazing ride.

We strongly recommend all buyers book a test drive not only to test the “fit” in the driver's seat but also the passenger and rear seats to make sure it’s a perfect match.

7. Included features and accessories

What accessories and features are included with your SUV can also help you pick the right one. For example, perhaps you prefer AWD over 4WD or desire a premium sound system. Other popular features that you may want to consider include:

• Keyless Start

• Extra safety features like Lane Departure Warning or Adaptive Cruise Control

• 3rd row seats

• Heated seats

• Heated steering wheel

• Advanced climate control options like cooled seats

• Heads up display

• Sunroof or moonroof

• Towing hitch

• Backup camera

8. Fuel type and gas mileage

Gas mileage can play a huge factor in helping you decide what SUV is best for you. If you’re a commuter or more frequent driver, for example, you may want to opt for a smaller-sized SUV, as they tend to get better gas mileage. There are also hybrid and electric options that are increasingly available for drivers to choose from.

9. Safety rating and technology

Your car’s safety rating and crash-prevention technology should also play a pivotal role in helping you select a vehicle. Newer SUV options tend to have higher safety ratings and more advanced features (like forward collision warning, cross traffic alert, and adaptive cruise control) that can actually help drivers prevent crashes while on the road.

10. Infotainment features

Infotainment features can add a serious boost of luxury to your ride! Some of the most common ones you can expect to find in an SUV include:

• Touchscreen displays

• Smartphone integration (such as Apple CarPlay or Android Auto)

• GPS navigation

• Bluetooth connectivity

• Music streaming

• Voice commands

• Wireless charging

• Wi-Fi hotspot capabilities

Infotainment options can enhance driving whether you’re the driver or a passenger by helping keep you informed and entertained during your trip.

11. Visibility

Visibility is an incredibly crucial feature in a car, especially larger ones such as an SUV. Luckily SUVs offer wonderful visibility, thanks to their higher clearance level which provides the driver with an expansive view of the road. SUVs also tend to include features like larger windows and smaller blindspots due to their build, which can further boost safety while driving.

Headlights and lighting is often an overlooked consideration when it comes to visibility. Now many SUVs offer LED lighting that improves outward visibility, both during the day and at night, and makes it easier for oncoming traffic to detect the vehicle.

What is the best compact SUV?

Now that we’ve broken down some of the best features to look for in an SUV, let’s take a look at what is the best small SUV. Here are some of our favorite models here at EchoPark Automotive:

1. Nissan Rogue

The Japanese-manufactured Nissan Rogue is Nissan’s best-selling vehicle in the United States (as of 2023). It’s known for its excellent safety features, fuel efficiency, and spacious interior.

• Styling interior and exterior

• More standard safety features than some competition

• Great value for the mix of features and cost

2. Toyota RAV4

The Toyota RAV4 was the first compact crossover SUV. RAV4 stands for “recreational active vehicle with 4-wheel drive", emphasizing its potential for amazing handling both on and off-road.

• One of the most reliable options

• Not flashy, but practical and fuel efficient

• Spacious interior

Toyota RAV4
Toyota RAV4

3. Honda CR-V

The Honda CR-V is a crossover SUV. CR-V stands for “comfortable runabout vehicle”, a direct reference to this car’s comfort and functionality. It’s Honda’s best-selling vehicle and offers affordability combined with a variety of excellent features.

• Reputable brand when it comes to reliability

• Very practical and well equipped with features

• Comfortable seats and overall interior

4. Mazda CX-5

The Mazda CX-5 is another terrific SUV option. This crossover SUV was launched in 2012 and features a lightweight body and Mazda’s Skyactiv technology for amazing fuel efficiency and increased eco-friendly performance.

• Upscale interior for a more premium ride experience

• Sporty drive compared to the competition

• Better fuel economy than most of the competitors

5. Ford Escape

The Ford Escape is an excellent SUV crossover option for commuters and outdoors lovers alike. It also includes hybrid options and was the first-ever SUV hybrid produced.

• Spacious cabin for both front and rear passengers

• Very good safety ratings

• Good fuel economy

6. Volkswagen Tiguan

The Tiguan is one of Volkswagen’s more medium-sized SUVs. It’s a solid choice for anyone looking for a middle ground between a smaller SUV and one that is full-sized. It’s also Volkswagen’s best-selling car, as well as the most-sold SUV in Europe!

• Simple and functional interior

• Nimble handling and responsive steering

• Slightly more luxurious interior

Volkswagen Tiguan
Volkswagen Tiguan

7. Hyundai Tucson

Another great crossover option, the Tucson is one of Hyundai’s best-selling SUV models, equipped with a wide range of features that are renowned for safety and reliability.

• Competitive pricing compared to some competition

• Packed with technology and safety features

• Sporty exterior appearance

8. Kia Sportage

Depending on the make and model you select, both compact and crossover options are available for the Kia Sportage. This SUV has multiple hybrid options available, making it perfect for commuters and families alike.

• Top of the list for technology features

• Affordable pricing compared to some competition

• Snazzy cabin on new models

9. Mitsubishi Outlander

Another Japanese-made option, the Mitsubishi Outlander consistently sees great sales in the U.S. thanks to its reputation as an all-around reliable compact SUV. The 2021 model shares the same 2.5 liter, 4-cylinder engine as the Nissan Rogue.

• Competitive pricing

• One of the largest SUV options we’ve included

• Some models include a third row

Mitsubishi Outlander
Mitsubishi Outlander

10. Subaru Forester

The Subaru Forester comes with both compact crossover and crossover options, depending on the year that it is purchased. The Subaru Forest is excellent for off-road uses and has even been adapted for use by the National Ski Patrol, thanks to its features.

• Top safety features

• Slightly more off-road capable than competitors

• Great visibility while driving

At EchoPark Automotive we are proud to offer our 190-point inspection, an intensive quality inspection that is a comprehensive look at how the car operates and looks to ensure each vehicle we sell meets the highest standards.

Subaru Forester
Subaru Forester


1. What does SUV stand for?

SUV is an abbreviation for a Sport Utility Vehicle. It’s an umbrella term for any vehicle with a higher clearance and all or four-wheel drive that is designed for more rugged driving.

2. What is an SUV?

SUV doesn’t refer to one particular model of car. Rather, it describes a certain body style of vehicle that is equipped with sports modes and designed for rough terrain driving. Some of the most common features of SUVs tend to include:

• All or four-wheel drive

• Improved off-road driving

• A long, broad frame

• A higher vehicle clearance

• A longer wheelbase

3. What are the different types of SUVs?

There are several different types of SUVs available, which vary in size and features according to consumer needs. They include:

• Compact SUVs

• Crossover SUVs

• Mini SUVs

• Mid-size SUVs

• Full-size SUVs

• Extended length SUVs

• Coupe SUVS

4. How does a full-sized SUV differ from a crossover SUV?

Crossover SUVs are smaller than full-sized ones and are usually built on a normal-sized car’s chassis. Full-sized SUVs are mounted on a truck chassis and tend to be larger and heavier than crossovers. They also tend to use more fuel.

5. What are the advantages of driving an SUV?

Choosing an SUV for your next vehicle can offer many advantages over a traditional sedan, including:

• Increased power and performance

• AWD or 4WD

• A higher clearance level

• Improved visibility

• Off-road capabilities

• Extra cargo and storage room

6. Are SUVs safer than other types of vehicles?

SUVs tend to be safer for the driver due to their larger size, especially in the front. Newer SUVs also include extensive safety features and sometimes even driver assistance technology, which can play a key role in reducing crashes. It also should be noted that SUVs are easier to roll due to their height and size, which makes them top-heavy. However, at the end of the day, both have strong crash protection for drivers and passengers alike.

7. What is the fuel economy of SUVs?

Fuel mileage for SUVs can vary, but most SUVs get around 25 to 35 miles per gallon (MPG). In general, smaller and more compact SUVs tend to be more fuel-efficient than larger ones.

8. How many passengers can most small SUVs accommodate?

Smaller-sized SUVs offer just as much seating room as full-sized options. There are two rows of seats, one in front and one in the back, that usually offer up to five spaces for passengers to ride.

9. Are there hybrid or electric SUV options available?

If you’re looking to further maximize your fuel economy or are simply interested in a more eco-friendly alternative, you may be wondering if there are any hybrid or electric vehicle options available. There are several models currently, including:

• Kia Sportage Hybrid

• Honda CR-V Hybrid

• Hyundai Tucson Plug-In Hybrid

• Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe

• Ford Escape PHEV

• Hyundai Santa Fe Plug-In Hybrid

10. How do SUVs perform in terms of off-road capability?

SUVs vary in off-road capability but offer stronger performance than sedans. Traditional SUVs with 4WD systems tend to excel off-road, while crossover SUVs may sometimes have more limited capabilities, especially because of their construction and lower ground clearance.

The terrain and weather conditions will also influence the car’s performance, as will its unique make and model.

11. What is the towing capacity of smaller SUVs?

In general, most compact SUVs are able to tow around 1,000 and 4,500 pounds, though this can sometimes be more or less depending on your particular vehicle. Always consult your owner’s manual before towing, use proper towing equipment, follow the rules of the road, and never tow more than what your vehicle is rated for.

12. Are SUVs more expensive to maintain and repair than other vehicles?

Sedans do tend to be cheaper than SUVs, both in terms of initial purchase price and overall maintenance costs. However, many small and crossover models have a similar price point to sedans while still boasting the features of full-sized SUVs.

13. Do SUVs have better cargo space compared to sedans and hatchbacks?

Typically, yes. SUVs generally have a larger cargo area compared to sedans and hatchbacks due to their larger interior space. They’re a great vehicle for travel and recreation, offering both practicality and increased space.

Shop the best compact SUVs at EchoPark Automotive

If you’re looking for the most comfortable SUV or most reliable small SUV on the market today, visit us at EchoPark Automotives. We offer extensive vehicle availability, and our friendly team is available to help assist with any questions or concerns you may have. Book a test drive with us today!

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