Gone are the days when sport utility vehicles (SUVs) were considered gas-guzzling, ozone-depleting behemoths. Today such vehicles (particularly the newer brands of crossover and hybrid SUVs) are highly sought-out, thanks to better fuel consumption and higher mileage. Small SUVs particularly offer themselves as excellent and practical town-vehicles as well as decent off-road runners.
Thanks to the ever-increasing number of vehicle choices available, selecting a small SUV that best fits your needs can be difficult. To help you make your decision, below are the top 5 best small SUVs on the market today.
1. 2012 Chevrolet Equinox
Recognized by U.S. News as the “Best Affordable Compact SUV”, the 2012 Chevrolet Equinox represents good value for money as well as ranking high in fuel efficiency tests. With a typical showroom price of $24,000, it may be more expensive than some of its competitors, but it is considered more advantageous in a number of categories, including performance and reliability.
This crossover SUV gets approximately 32MPG whilst driving on the highway. Despite having an optional V6 engine, the Equinox isn’t the fastest SUV on the road. It is however highly maneuverable and is roomier than some other compacts.
As well as being highly regarded in all of the above, recent models of the Chevrolet Equinox has been rated ‘Good’ – the highest rating – in all categories tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). As such, the Equinox is a suitable family vehicle – its adjustable interior seating arrangements are also ideal – and is also suited for those looking for a vehicle to take grocery shopping.
Read more: 2012 Chevy Equinox Overview
2. 2012 Honda CR-V
In a study carried out by ConsumerReports.org, the Honda CR-V was determined to be one of the most reliable of all small SUVs. This ‘comfortable runabout’ vehicle – hence the CR-V name – has continually impressed in reliability tests since being introduced in 1995, and the newly remodeled 2012 class is expected to fare equally as well.
Not only is the CR-V reliable but it is also safe. As with the 2012 Chevrolet Equinox, the IIHS found this model to be ‘Good’ in all aspects of safety testing. The 2012 model has been redesigned to get better mileage from its four-cylinder engine. As such, it is considered a suitable family vehicle, particularly with its spacious interior and new as-standard features, which includes Bluetooth and iPhone connectivity as well as a multi-view camera for reversing.
With a starting price of $23,000 and 31MPG highway (23MPG in the city) efficiency, the CR-V is on par with the Chevrolet Equinox in both categories, as well as offering a similar town-vehicle feel.
Read more: 2012 Honda CR-V Overview
3. 2012 GMC Terrain
For those that like a little power to their SUV, the 2012 GMC Terrain offers perhaps the best off-road capabilities for any small or midsized SUV on the market. This vehicle simply isn’t satisfied with a trip to the mall.
Starting at $26,000, it’s a little higher in price than its counterparts, but it does anything but bite the hand that feeds. The 2012 model comes with a plethora of extras, including Bluetooth connectivity, reversing cameras, and a sliding row of seats to make room for additional cargo or long legs.
GMC’s vehicle comes with a similar highway mileage potential (32MPG) as the Chevy and Honda, but has a slightly inferior engine in terms of power, even when a six-cylinder engine is added to your order. Still, if you’re not planning on hauling heavy loads you’ll find this is a suitable vehicle, not just for off road duties but also as a family ride.
Again, the IIHS has awarded this vehicle a rating of ‘Good’ in all tested categories, making this one of the safer SUVs on the road.
Read more: 2012 GMC Terrain Overview
4. 2012 Kia Sportage
Starting at around $18,500, the Kia Sportage is one of the least expensive compact SUVs on the market. Despite its relatively low price, the vehicle is still respected by reviewers and consumers alike. As such, it is considered one of the better value utility vehicles out there.
Those looking for a smart ride may enjoy the Sportage’s exterior design, one that can best be described as cute. Its rounded edges and sleekness make for a pretty machine. This machine can keep up with the big-boys as well, getting about 32MPG on the highway, a figure that is more than comparable with other SUVs in its class.
The 2012 model has been improved in terms of riding experience, but what this model lacks in comfort it makes up for in cost – or lack of it. This is a town-friendly vehicle with a nippiness about it that is sure to make it a popular choice with consumers.
The Sportage is also one of the safest SUVs around. All tests carried out by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety for the 2011 and 2012 models were deemed ‘Good’. Thankfully, Kia has revamped its roof safety that had been considered ‘Poor’ prior to 2011.
Read more: 2012 Kia Sportage Overview
5. 2012 Toyota RAV4
No list of compact SUVs would be complete without mentioning the almost iconic Toyota RAV4, the vehicle that almost single-handedly introduced the idea of compact SUVs to the U.S. The 2012 model sells for about $22,000 putting it in line with the other models we’ve looked at, although it does slightly under-perform when it comes to mileage, managing to squeeze out about 28MPG on the highway and 22MPG in the city.
Where the vehicle stands up is its history, reliability and practicality; having been on the U.S. market since 1996, you know what you’re going to get from the RAV4, and you know that all of the little niggles have already been tweaked long in advance. What’s more, this model comes equipped with a six cylinder engine making it both practical and a high-performer.
Both frontal offset and side impact tests carried out by the IIHS were rated ‘Good’. Roof strength however was considered ‘Acceptable’ – the second highest rating available – which you would expect Toyota to work on ahead of its fourth generation to be released later in 2012.