Best Compact SUVs in Canada
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Best Compact SUVs in Canada: Our 10 Top Picks

It’s no secret that the compact SUV has replaced both compact and mid-size cars. It’s easy to understand why. These vehicles offer much more cargo space than the cars on which they’re based, while adding the high ride height and all-wheel drive capability of a sport utility vehicle.

They’ve become so popular, that pretty much all car makers now offer one, and the selection has never been this good. 

Here are our 10 top picks for compact SUVs in Canada. They're all available in our used small SUV inventory here, if you're ready to start shopping now.

10) Jeep Cherokee

Who is this for? Families looking for an SUV that can tow more than the competition and offer the off-road capability of a Jeep.

Why we like it:

  • More capable off-road than main rivals
  • The best towing rating in its class
  • Proven drivetrains

Great option for towing those small toys to the weekend cabin

Jeep’s Cherokee may often be overlooked for being a bit rough around the edges, but there’s no denying what it brings to the party. For starters, it’s a Jeep, which means its trail-rated all-wheel drive system is the most capable in a beaten trail. A Trailhawk model adds even more gear to enhance outdoor adventures.

Then there’s the Cherokee’s 4,000-pound towing rating for the four-cylinder and 4,500-pound capacity with the V6. No other compact SUV offers can pull this much. As a matter of fact, none of its rivals offer the option of a V6 engine.

We’ll add that the Cherokee’s drivetrains, whether it be the turbocharged 2.0L four cylinder, or the 3.2L V6, have proven themselves many times over from a reliability standpoint.

For something a little larger in mid-size form, here’s our first drive review of the 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee.

09) Chevrolet Equinox / GMC Terrain

Who is this for? Young families looking for a rational compact SUV that won’t let them down and offer decent cargo space.

Why we like it:

  • Impressive reliability record
  • Shift on the fly AWD system
  • A lot of standard equipment at a decent price

An underrated pair of small SUVs offering great value

In this segment, it’s easy to forget that the Chevrolet Equinox and the GMC Terrain twins still exist. It’s a shame, since these two American compact SUVs both boast an impressive reliability record and decent equipment at a reasonable price.

Chevrolet recently trimmed down the engine hierarchy to only one option: a turbocharged 1.5L four-cylinder engine that’s good for 170 horsepower and 203 lb-ft of torque. While not as engaging to drive as the old 2.0L unit, it’s a solid drivetrain that not only lasts a long time but allows these SUVs to be rather frugal at the pump. 

This engine is mated to either a six-speed automatic transmission in the Equinox or a nine-speed unit in the Terrain, allowing these twins to tow up to 1,500 pounds.

Those looking for a bit more customization from their GM crossover can opt for the off-road ready GMC Terrain AT4 or surprisingly premium Terrain Denali.

Take a look at our full 2022 GMC Terrain review here.

08) Nissan Rogue

Who is this for? Families looking for a very rational SUV that won’t cost them an arm and a leg.

Why we like it:

  • Well priced and cheap to own
  • Tried and proven drivetrain
  • Class-leading cargo space

Despite its smaller size, the Rogue can haul a lot

The Nissan Rogue brings nothing innovative to this segment, but its 2.5L four-cylinder engine is simple, costs very little to repair and has proven itself many times over from a reliability standpoint.

Those looking for something even more fuel-efficient can opt for a 1.5L turbocharged three-cylinder engine. In any form, the Rogue is sophisticated, well put together, comfortable and loaded with neat technology, like a WiFi hotspot and wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. It also boasts the highest cargo rating in the segment, besting even the almighty Toyota RAV4 (1,976 litres) 2,064 liters.

You can read our full impressions and review of the Nissan Rogue here.

07) Ford Bronco Sport

Who is this for? Families looking for an SUV that’ll follow them in their craziest outdoor adventures.

Why we like it:

  • Impressive off-road capability
  • A choice of fuel-efficient engines
  • Witty storage solutions, ready for all sorts of adventures

For the Ford Escape fans seeking adventure

Yes, the Bronco Sport is essentially a rebadged Ford Escape, but there’s nothing about it that looks nor feels like its corporate twin. That’s because Ford really wanted it to be a baby Bronco next to its burlier Bronco Raptor and Bronco Everglades siblings, meaning it was injected with a slew of technology and accessories that allow it to go further than the competition in a beaten trail.

No matter which Bronco Sport you choose, you can be sure it’ll get up that steep incline or that it won’t get you stuck in that snowbank. Whether you opt for the 181-horsepower turbocharged 1.5L three cylinder or the more interesting 250-horsepower turbocharged 2.0L unit, the Bronco Sport simply delivers. View more Bronco engine options here.

While it can tow less than an Escape (2,200 pounds versus 3,500 pounds), the Bronco Sport is geared for adventure thanks to its massive 1,840 liters of available cargo, witty storage solutions scattered around its cabin and an available bike rack that allows you to stow your bike inside the vehicle. It’s just the most hardcore compact SUV of the bunch.

Before buying Ford’s new crossover, read our full 2021 Bronco Sport review here.

06) Mazda CX-5

Who is this for? Families who are willing to sacrifice a bit of cargo space in favour of a sporty driving experience and low running costs.

Why we like it:

  • Well put together
  • Fun to drive and quick off the line (Turbo model)
  • Fairly priced and bulletproof reliable

A sporty crossover with style and reliability

With the arrival of the CX-50 within Mazda’s lineup of SUVs this year, it’s easy to dismiss the aging CX-5 updated in 2022. But the truth of the matter is that although it offers absolutely nothing technologically more advanced than its rivals (no hybrid or plug-in hybrid option), this is still a wonderfully capable SUV. 

For starters, it’s arguably the best-looking compact utility vehicle currently on sale. It’s also supremely well built, with high quality paint, tight panel gaps and an upscale interior.

Then there’s the way it drives. No matter which engine you choose whether it be the naturally aspirated 2.5L four-cylinder, or the turbocharged version of that same engine, the CX-5 is fun, spirited and sporty. 

You’ll want to go out for long drives in this one, a rare characteristic for a class of vehicles that typically focuses on safety and fuel-efficiency. Oh, one more thing: the CX-5 is reliable. Very reliable. Stories of owners stacking up kilometers versus minor maintenance are frequent. It’s just a darn good vehicle. 

05) Subaru Forester

Who is this for? Families looking for a compact SUV that has the surefootedness and the reliability of a Subaru.

Why we like it:

  • Subaru’s renowned all-wheel drive system
  • Capable Wilderness trim
  • Well put together, comfortable and reliable

The long-running, reliable crossover with standard AWD

The Subaru Forester brings nothing innovative to the segment, yet it deserves the fifth spot on this list due to its ability to perform in the areas that matter. 

Its 2.5L Boxer flat four-cylinder may not be the most powerful one of the bunch with its 182 horsepower and 176 lb-ft of torque, but the fact that it sits so low in the engine compartment helps considerably lower the Forester’s center of gravity. When coupled with the company’s renowned symmetrical all-wheel drive system, the Forester does miracles during a tough Canadian blizzard.

Highly comfortable, well put together and impressively frugal at the pump, the Forester offers a more extreme Wilderness version for consumers that have a thirst for adventure. Fortified by way of skid plates, a slightly lifted suspension, off-road tires and a retuned rear differential, the Forester Wilderness is surprisingly capable over a beaten path.

Read our full Forester Wilderness review here.

04) Ford Escape

Who is this for? Families looking for an SUV that can tow more than the competition, or simply an SUV that’s super fuel efficient.

Top features we like:

  • Class-competitive towing rating
  • A wide range of drivetrains to choose from
  • Available hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions

Canada’s top-selling compact SUV for a reason – now with hybrid powertrain

It’s easy to understand why the Ford Escape has long been a Canadian favourite, ranking among one of the best-selling compact SUVs in the country. That’s because it does a bang-up job of adapting to different types of consumers.

For the current generation model, which was introduced for the 2020 model year, Ford pushed that ethos a step further. Consumers can opt for a 181-horsepower 1.5L turbocharged three-cylinder engine, a 250-horsepower 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder, a 200-horsepower hybrid 2.5L four-cylinder or a plug-in hybrid model that’ll drive about 60 km on pure electricity on a single charge.

Above all that, when the Escape is equipped with the turbocharged 2.0L engine, it will tow up to 3,500 pounds, which is higher than most compact SUVs in this category. 

If you’re interested in the hybrid, here’s our full Ford Escape PHEV review.

03) Honda CR-V

Who is this for? Young families seeking a sensible, reliable and fuel-efficient SUV that’ll offer the most cargo space in its class.

Top features we like:

  • The largest cargo space in the segment
  • Available hybrid powerplant
  • The expected Honda reliability and resale value

Gains bigger dimensions and new hybrid option (finally)

Entirely built in Canada, the Honda CR-V is a juggernaut of an SUV. Not only is it among one of the best-selling models in North America, but it has also proven itself from a reliability standpoint many times over, all while recording a fabulous resale value.

The 2022 model year brings a sixth generation CR-V that’s larger than ever before and that finally offers a hybrid drivetrain, a feature the Canadian market never got in the last generation model. 

Thanks to its increased dimensions, the new CR-V walks all over the competition in terms of cargo space thanks to a total of 2,166 litres when all seatbacks are folded down. That’s a full 20 litres more than the model it replaces.

While the hybrid powertrain is the one to opt for if you’re trying to lower your expenses at the pump, the turbocharged 1.5L four-cylinder is rather fuel-efficient as well. Its 190 horsepower and 179 lb-ft of torque are also ample to get this compact SUV up and running in a jiffy. 

02) Hyundai Tucson/Kia Sportage

Who is this for? Families looking for a sophisticated compact SUV that also offers hybrid and plug-in hybrid possibilities.

Top features we like:

  • Available hybrid and plug-in hybrid drivetrains
  • Spacious and comfortable
  • Sophisticated and loaded with technology

Loads of style, engine options, and more

The Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage have come a long way in only two decades. What were once alternatives to a second-hand vehicle have now become serious contenders in the compact SUV space. 

The latest generations of these South-Korean twins bring sophistication and technology to the segment. Both are impeccably well put together, comfortable, and spacious, boasting 2,119 litres (Tucson) and 2,098 litres (Sportage) of total cargo space. 

Consumers can choose between three available drivetrains: either a naturally aspirated 2.5L four-cylinder that’s good for 181 horsepower and 178 lb-ft of torque, a hybrid 1.6L turbocharged four that pumps out 227 combined horsepower, or a plug-in hybrid layout that develops 261 combined horsepower and can drive up to 50 kilometers on pure electricity. 

Add to that a lot of equipment for the price and an interior that could be mistaken for a premium vehicle, and it’s easy to see why these twins have landed second on our list.

Take a look at our 2023 Kia Sportage first drive review here.

01) Toyota RAV4

Who is this for? Families looking for a tried and tested compact SUV that’s proven itself many times over from a reliability standpoint and that offers a wide range of available versions.

Top features we like:

  • A wide range of models to choose from
  • The expected Toyota quality and reliability
  • Available hybrid and plug-in hybrid powerplants

A top Canadian crossover that simply checks most of the boxes

The Toyota RAV4 is the Alpha compact SUV. It simply covers all areas of the segment, allowing it to stand tall over the rest. Consumers can choose between 10 different models, kicking things off with a base LE FWD model at $31,379 all the way to the almighty $47,039 plug-in hybrid RAV4 Prime. 

That one, by the way, offers the best electric range in the segment at 70 km. It’s also eligible for all EV incentives. This means that if you live in the province of Quebec, for example, you’ll get a full $10,000 off the price of your RAV4 Prime.

If your budget’s a little tighter, Toyota also offers the RAV4 hybrid. Kicking off at $35,739, it’s a bargain considering it’ll average about 5L/100 km. And if adventure is more your thing, the RAV4 has that covered as well in its Trail version that adds torque vectoring all-wheel drive for improved off-road capability. Oh, did we mention that the Trail version will tow 3,500 pounds? The RAV4 TRD Offroad is definitely a top mud-slinging small SUV for families.

Is there something the RAV4 cannot do? We think not, which is why we ranked it first on this list. 

If you’re comparing this compact SUV with others, check out our Toyota RAV4 vs Mazda CX-50 review here.

Ready to buy a used compact SUV from this list?

View all our pre-owned small SUVs from this guide hereEvery vehicle from Canada Drives has completed a 150 Point Inspection, comes with a no-charge 30 Day / 1,500 km warranty, and is covered by our 7-Day money back return policy.

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