Best 2018 Compact SUVs in Canada
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Best 2018 Compact SUVs in Canada: Our Top 8 Picks

The used-vehicle marketplace is the domain of the frugal car shopper, no matter whether that frugality is a choice or a budgetary requirement.

But budget-oriented shoppers of all kinds still deserve the peace of mind offered by warranty coverage. If you’re shopping the pre-owned market for a compact crossover or SUV, a 2018 model will be affordable, and many vehicles with low or average odometer readings will still have some powertrain warranty coverage left (assuming the five-year, 100,000-km warranty offered by most mainstream automakers).

Here are eight compact crossovers from the 2018 model year we think are worth looking for.

2018 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross

2018 Eclipse Cross | Photo: Mitsubishi

Standout feature: 

A well-executed and underrated small crossover with standard all-wheel drive and a generous warranty.

Key specifications: 

  • 1.5L turbo four-cylinder engine
  • 152 hp/184 lb-ft
  • Continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT)
  • All-wheel drive

Even if you’re familiar with the Mitsubishi name, it’s quite possible you’ve never heard of the Eclipse Cross. It’s the company’s newest model, introduced in 2018 to slot in between the subcompact RVR and the larger Outlander.

AWD comes standard

The Eclipse Cross is one of only two vehicles on this list that comes standard with AWD. Mitsu calls its system “all-wheel control,” and it’s notable for being able to shift power between its left and right wheels, in addition to the front-to-back split most systems are limited to.

An automatic continuously variable transmission (CVT) is standard. It mimics a more traditional eight-speed automatic to avoid the droning engine noise that CVTs often generate, and it works well with the engine’s generous torque to provide good city performance and fuel economy. Handling is nothing special, but the Eclipse Cross’s smooth ride makes it one of the more comfortable vehicles in its class.

In 2018, Mitsubishi covered the Eclipse Cross’s powertrain for 10 years or 160,000 km, which is among the most generous warranties available that year. Like any new-car warranty, that coverage is transferable to subsequent owners, so if you bought a used Eclipse Cross today, you’d have as much as six years of powertrain warranty left.

2018 Honda HR-V

2018 HR-V | Photo: Honda

Standout feature:

A cleverly designed small SUV with lots of interior space.

Key specifications: 

  • 1.8L four-cylinder engine
  • 141 hp/127 lb-ft
  • Six-speed manual/continuously variable automatic transmissions
  • Front- or all-wheel drive

The Honda HR-V owes a lot to the now-defunct Fit, the subcompact hatchback that was a favourite of small-car fans for its efficiently designed interior. In fact, we’d argue that Honda, in creating the HR-V, took the best parts of the Fit and made an even better vehicle.

As in the Fit, the HR-V’s fuel tank lives under the front seats, opening up space under the rear floor that Honda used to create a low load surface. As a result, the HR-V is more spacious inside than you’d expect for such a small vehicle.

HR-V LX FWD trim offered a 6-speed manual transmission

The HR-V’s 2018 model was the last to offer a six-speed manual transmission in the entry-level LX FWD trim. It turns this little crossover into a fun city driver. Meanwhile, the HR-V’s size and weight make it a better highway vehicle than the featherweight Fit, which gets blown around more easily than we like.

If you opt for AWD – which only comes with the automatic – you get excellent foul-weather traction from a drive system that just digs in and goes for it.

And no matter how you option a 2018 HR-V, you get the promise of thrifty fuel consumption, rated as low as 8.3/6.9 L/100 km (city/highway) with front-wheel drive and the automatic transmission.

Note: the 2023 Honda HR-V enters its next generation with a complete redesign, inside and out. 

2018 Hyundai Kona

2018 Kona | Photo: Hyundai 

Standout feature: 

A subcompact crossover whose styling stands out from the crowd.

Key specifications: 

  • 2.0L and 1.6L turbo four-cylinder engines
  • 147-175 hp/132-195 lb-ft
  • Six- and seven-speed automatic transmissions
  • Front- or all-wheel drive

Few vehicles in the subcompact crossover class appeal to buyers looking for more than A-to-B transportation, which makes the Hyundai Kona one of the more interesting options among small SUVs.

Introduced as an all-new model in 2018, the Kona instantly stood out for its unconventional styling. It also differentiated itself from most other subcompact utilities for its available turbocharged engine and dual-clutch transmission. You won’t find this much performance in any other subcompact crossover from the 2018 model year.

Turbo engine and AWD come as a pair

That turbo engine comes standard with an effective all-wheel drive system that turns the Kona into a capable winter warrior: At low speeds, you can lock the front and rear axles together to help get yourself out of sticky situations.

If you’re not particularly concerned with performance, choose the Kona’s base 2.0L engine, which comes with a six-speed automatic transmission and a choice of front- or all-wheel drive. 

Either way, the Kona drives more like a small car than some of its competitors, which may make it easier to live with if you’re hesitant about jumping on the SUV bandwagon.

2018 Nissan Qashqai

2018 Qashqai | Photo: Nissan 

Standout feature:

A handsome small SUV that’s easy to live with.

Key specifications: 

  • 2.0L four-cylinder
  • 141 hp/147 lb-ft
  • Six-speed manual or continuously variable automatic transmission
  • Front- or all-wheel drive

Introduced in 2017, the Nissan Qashqai was a key part of the brand’s push into the small-SUV marketplace. That was the last year for the quirky-but-popular Juke, which Nissan replaced in 2018 with the more conventional Kicks.

Thus, the Qashqai became Nissan’s least-expensive AWD model and one of the most popular vehicles in the subcompact crossover segment.

Inside its tidy footprint, interior space is closer to that of some compact models than the subcompacts the Qashqai was priced to compete against. When it was new, the Qashqai was also one of the strongest values in its price class. 

Range-topping Qashqai SL offers premium features

That advantage has eroded somewhat in the four years since the 2018 Qashqai was new, but you can still get some upscale features in a used model, especially if you look for one in the top-line SL trim level. At the time, the Qashqai SL was one of the few vehicles in its class that came with 360-degree parking cameras, one of the most useful modern safety features, in our opinion.

The Qashqai offered a manual transmission in 2018, but the CVT automatic is much more common. The CVT was also the only transmission offered with AWD. Fuel economy is mid-pack, but still very reasonable at 8.8/7.3 L/100 km (city/highway) with the CVT and FWD.

2018 Ford Escape

2018 Escape | Photo: Ford 

Standout feature:

Combines a smart design with available turbocharged performance.

Key specifications: 

  • 2.5L four-cylinder
  • 1.5L turbo four-cylinder and 2.0L turbo four-cylinder engines
  • 168-245 hp/179-275 lb-ft
  • Six-speed automatic transmission
  • Front- and all-wheel drive

If you were shopping for a new budget-priced compact crossover in 2018 and wanted something sporty, you wouldn’t have found much to choose from. Then, as now, the Ford Escape stood out for an optional 2.0L turbo engine with 245 hp and 275 lb-ft of torque, whose brisk throttle response works well with the chassis’s entertaining handling. An Escape with the 2.0L engine and an optional towing package can handle trailers up to 1,600 kg.

Escape with 1.5L turbo engine blends fuel economy and performance

If fuel economy is more important to you than performance, look for an Escape with the 1.5L turbo engine, which still delivers useful low-end power and could be had with FWD for more thrift. The Escape’s most basic configuration used a 2.5L four-cylinder that could only be combined with front-wheel drive.

Fans of technology will appreciate the Escape’s Sync infotainment system, which by 2018 had become one of the better touchscreen interfaces you could get.

No matter which engine you choose, the Escape’s practical interior boasts good space for four adults, plus a roomy cargo area you can expand by folding down the back seats, which form a flat load surface from the tailgate all the way to the front seatbacks.

Shop our used Ford Escapes here.

2018 Subaru Crosstrek

2018 Crosstrek | Photo: Amee Reehal 

Standout feature: 

A go-anywhere small crossover that’s also nicely sized for city driving.

Key specifications: 

  • 2.0L four-cylinder engine
  • 152 hp/145 lb-ft
  • Six-speed manual/continuously variable automatic transmission
  • All-wheel drive

The Subaru Crosstrek is the very definition of a vehicle that’s more than the sum of its parts. Based directly on the ho-hum Impreza, the Crosstrek’s only visual differences from that car model are its lifted suspension and a bit of black body cladding. Yet somehow, those changes transform this little vehicle.

Redesigned in 2018 with a nicer Outback interior

The 2018 model year marked the debut of the second-generation Crosstrek, which looked better and offered a nicer interior with more useful space than the 2017 version. 

A 2.0L four-cylinder engine provides adequate power, but you don’t need big speed when you’ve got a capable AWD system and all kinds of ground clearance underneath you, all of which work with some useful structural enhancements to help the Crosstrek perform better off-road. 

An X-mode AWD setting sounds gimmicky, but actually works to improve traction on muddy or snowy surfaces, and hill descent control – a rare feature in this class – works like cruise control for off-roading, automatically keeping the car’s speed in check on steep descents.

The Crosstrek also stood out in 2018 by being one of the very few crossovers you could buy with a manual transmission, and the only one that let you combine that stickshift with AWD.

2018 Mazda CX-5

2018 CX-5 | Photo: Mazda 

Standout feature:

A sporty and stylish small crossover with upscale intentions.

Key specifications: 

  • 2.0L and 2.5L four-cylinder engines
  • 156 hp/150 lb-ft and 187 hp/185 lb-ft
  • Six-speed manual and automatic transmissions
  • Front- and all-wheel drive

Introduced in 2013, the CX-5 was the first crossover that Mazda designed entirely in-house after years of collaborations with Ford. We’d argue it was also the best SUV the company had come out with to that point.

By 2018, the CX-5 was into the second year of its second generation, following a 2017 redesign that moved this compact utility upscale despite its affordable starting price.

2018 CX-5 saw an improved engine with better fuel economy

The 2018 Mazda CX-5 got engine revisions that improved fuel efficiency, including a cylinder deactivation option for its 2.5L motor, and Mazda made a few driver safety assists standard for the first time.

Those changes improved an already well-done vehicle: The 2018 CX-5 has a firm suspension that provides sharp handling, and the nicely finished interior looks like it belongs in a more expensive vehicle.

This was the last year for the CX-5’s 2.0L engine and six-speed manual transmission, which is satisfying to use. And while the CX-5 is less roomy inside than some of its compact SUV competitors, we think that’s a fine trade-off for driving enthusiasts looking for crossover practicality.

2018 Acura RDX

2018 RDX | Photo: Acura 

Standout feature: 

A sweet V6 engine and a compact footprint make for engaging performance.

Key specifications: 

  • 3.5L V6 engine
  • 279 hp/252 lb-ft
  • Six-speed automatic transmission
  • AWD

Introduced in 2013 and refreshed in 2016, the RDX was nonetheless one of the oldest designs in the compact luxury crossover class in 2018 – but that’s no matter, because this upscale model was so good to begin with.

One of the only small SUVs with a V6 engine in 2018

By 2018, most of the RDX’s competitors had adopted turbo four-cylinder power (and the RDX would follow in 2019), but to this point Acura had stuck with a proven 3.5L V6 known for great power delivery and a satisfying soundtrack when driven hard. The six-speed transmission has two ratios fewer than many of the RDX’s 2018 competitors, but it works well nonetheless and executes sporty rev-matched downshifts when you use the manual-shift feature.

If you do a lot of night driving, you’ll appreciate Acura’s multi-beam LED headlights, especially when you use their fantastic high beams.

When it was new, the RDX’s strong value was one of its most compelling characteristics. On the used market, the price difference between the RDX and its European competitors will be less significant, but it should still cost less than a BMW X1 or Mercedes-Benz GLC in similar condition.

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