The incredible shrinking SUV

The incredible shrinking SUV
[![The Chevrolet Trax is one of many smaller SUVs to consider. Photo courtesy GM Media.](]( Chevrolet Trax is one of many smaller SUVs to consider. Photo courtesy GM Media.
You want an [SUV]( crossover, but you are thinking they might be too big.

Well, there is a new class of crossover that fits this exact need. They are small enough for the tightest places, but large enough inside to carry you, your family and enough of your goodies for a weekend getaway. These are small wonders, but mighty in what they can do. It is not about horsepower here, but how you use it.

On, you will find these small wonders under the SUV category. You could also search under Advanced for four-wheel or all-wheel drivetrains, or under specific make and model.

Are you ready to tackle the globe with one of these small wonders? Get ready for your next adventure!

Audi Q3: To join Audi’s popular Q5 crossover, the new Q3 arrives to give consumers a solid choice to consider. In turn, they get an all-wheel drive runabout with space for a family of four and a lot of Audi’s signature style. A 2.0-liter turbocharged engine is the only choice of power, connected to a six-speed Tiptonic transmission. You also have a choice of going front-wheel drive or Audi’s Quattro all-wheel drive system. For high style in town, the Q3 is a looker to choose from.

BMW X1: With BMW’s X3 Sports Activity Vehicle growing in stature, the door was open for a smaller SAV—the X1. You get all of the good things BMW offers its SAVs, such as high-end interior, active safety and honest performance. It is also the only vehicle in this class with a six-cylinder engine, the xDrive35i. The X1 may surprise you with its gumption and Bavarian charm—another standard feature on BMW.

Buick Encore: General Motors originally developed this small crossover for Asian markets. However, the idea of a premium small crossover translated extremely well on these shores. In fact, it is the fastest selling Buick today. You get plenty of utility in a small package, including seating for four to five people, an efficient turbocharged four and a nice ride. The Encore has the best feature of all: Buick style and luxury.

Chevrolet Trax: Though it is the same as the Buick, the Trax was designed for someone who wants one, but at a lower price. The Trax is toned down from the luxury of the Encore, embodying a lot of Chevy interior design and made more for comfort and adventure. There is a choice of three trim levels, but you will find a lot of tech on board, including OnStar’s 4G LTE hotspot connection. That alone would be a great reason to buy a Trax over everything else on this list.

Honda HR-V: This is the latest entry in this class and it comes from a company you would expect to be competitive in this category. Based on the Fit, the new crossover offers the highly versatile rear seat that folds many ways for better cargo management. It actually appears to have a lot of space compared to the Fit. Though slotted underneath the hugely popular CR-V, the idea of offering a spacious option in this class has found the right moment to debut.

Jeep Renegade: With the help of Fiat, we now have a capable small four-wheel drive that has earned the Jeep name. The design is utilitarian, the interior is of high quality and there is a choice of trim levels and four-wheel drive systems. The Trailhawk offers true four-wheel drive capability designed to cross creeks and get through the muddiest trails. As we said before, this is the only true Jeep in this crowd.

Kia Soul: The Hamstars have lost weight. The latest edition of their beloved car might have gained a few pounds. Still, the latest Soul is designed to be as funky as the original. There is a choice of two engines, transmissions and three distinct trims. There is a definite improvement in drivability from before, along with a larger cabin and cargo hold than before. You could also get an electric version in select markets. Besides, you still want to roll with the Hamstars, right?

Mercedes-Benz GLA: The newest addition to the Three-Pointed Star’s fleet of crossovers and SUVs is the smallest offering in this country, next to the B-Class electric vehicle. You start with a GLA250 and its turbocharged four-cylinder engine, 4Matic drive and all of the equipment you’d expect from Mercedes-Benz. Coming later is the GLA45 AMG with a high performance engine and dynamics unlike most of its class.

MINI Paceman: Within this small-vehicle class, this is the only two-door model. It looks like a MINI Cooper Hardtop, but made a bit larger to accommodate people, cargo and some ground clearance. However, it resembles your everyday MINI inside and out—a big bulldog, if you will. The engines remain as in the last edition, with a choice of a normal four-cylinder in the Cooper and a turbocharged version in the S. It also employs MINI’s first all-wheel drive system that gives the Paceman a chance to dig in for traction.

MINI Countryman: The Paceman sounds great, but you probably want four doors instead of two. With space for four and the same engines as in the Paceman, the Countryman looks more like a traditional SUV/crossover than a MINI. Still, it has that big bulldog look, but with higher ground clearance. Both the Paceman and Countryman offers performance upgrades, including a John Cooper Works edition that looks like a rally car. In fact MINI uses both of these models on the world rally circuit. That is probably reason enough to buy these MINIs.

Mitsubishi Outlander Sport: Built off of the Lancer platform, this CUV was made for adventure. Though it only has a single 2.0-liter engine to offer, the Outlander Sport added a new continuously variable transmission (CVT) to it, along with a choice of going two- or all-wheel drive. With two trims available, the Outlander Sport is well equipped for every lifestyle. Inside, there is plenty of room to stretch out or load up wherever the adventure takes you. Not to mention, it remains one of the better values in the segment.

Nissan Juke: You either love or hate this design. You also found it useful, fun and cool all at the same time. The funky hatchback is offered in various forms – all the way up to the NISMO RS. Regular Jukes come with a turbocharged engine, a choice of transmissions, two- or all-wheel drive. Inside, you get a youthful, funky interior to match the exterior. If that is not enough, step up to the NISMO with a bit more horsepower, a sportier interior and some suspension modifications. The NISMO RS ratchets it up a few notches and is more track-inspired than the regular Juke. No matter which flavor you choose, the Juke will definitely give you a new personality.

Scion xB: Though it retains the box shape it had 10 years ago, the xB has grown over time. Some might say that the xB has gotten too big. It still fits within this class, despite the larger four-cylinder engine and huge cabin. The instrumentation still sits in the center, slightly canted to the driver. There is still a funky look that is Scion’s signature. Not to mention, it is still priced to move and is the highest value vehicle in this class.

Subaru XV Crosstrek: Is this an Impreza? In truth, it is. However, Subaru wants to promote its compact-based crossover—complete with an eight-inch ground clearance—as something completely different. The XV Crosstrek starts with a boxer four-cylinder and symmetrical all-wheel drive. Subaru also added a hybrid version for more efficiency and some added power. In all, the package is accommodating, while designed to take on everything on- and off-road.

—By Randy Stern, automotive freelance writer

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