Small SUVs are hard to beat when it comes to practicality, affordability, and versatility. These family rides are capable of filling a number of roles, whether you are looking for a comfortable commuter, a cargo-hungry hauler, or simply a people mover with decent room for all of life's assorted accessories. A few of the best small SUVs out there even offer decent fun from behind the wheel, which is a huge improvement over what was on the market five years ago.
Let's take a quick look at 10 of the best small SUVs for 2014.
Best Small SUVS 2014 - 01 - 2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek
The 2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek is a relative newcomer to the small SUV scene and it brings to the table Subaru's famous all-wheel drive as standard equipment. At its core the Subaru XV Crosstrek is the hatchback version of the Impreza compact car, with additional ground clearance and more aggressive styling. This is a good thing, as the Impreza has long been a desirable entry-level automobile, and when ordered with its available continuously-variable automatic transmission the XV Crosstrek's 148 horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder motor returns fuel mileage of 25-mpg in city driving and 33-mpg on the highway.
Best Small SUVS 2014 - 02 - 2014 GMC Terrain Denali
The 2014 GMC Terrain Denali offers small SUV shoppers with a chance to sample traditional luxury in a competitively-priced package. The GMC Terrain Denali is the top trim level for the brand's compact SUV, and as such it offers features like additional safety gear, up to 19-inch rims, heated leather seats, and unique exterior styling that sets it further apart from the standard Terrain. For the full premium experience, make sure to specify the Terrain Denali's optional 3.6-liter V-6, which offers up 301 horsepower and 272 lb-ft of torque. All-wheel drive is available with the GMC SUV.
Best Small SUVS 2014 - 03 - 2014 Nissan Juke NISMO
The 2014 Nissan Juke NISMO is the sportiest edition of one of the most uniquely-styled small SUVs on the market. The Nissan Juke NISMO provides an aggressive exterior treatment compared to the base model, and it also installs a stiffer suspension system, special seats with additional bolstering up front, and 18-inch rims. Under the hood the Juke NISMO's 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine sees its turbocharged tuning turned up to 197 horses and 184 lb-ft of twist, which is a decent upgrade over the stock motor. A continuously-variable automatic transmission is standard with the nimble Juke NISMO if you select all-wheel drive on the options sheet, but front-wheel drive models can be had with a six-speed manual.
Best Small SUVS 2014 - 04 - 2014 Honda CR-V
The 2014 Honda CR-V has been appearing on best small SUV lists almost since it first came out. What makes the Honda CR-V so attractive? For starters, it's got a great reputation for reliability, with 300,000 mile examples common on the used market. Buyers also like its roomy interior, which can seat up to five passengers as well as accomodate 70.9 cubic feet of cargo with the rear row folded forward. Honda's part-time all-wheel drive system does its best to offer decent fuel mileage while also providing additional traction when needed, and the CR-V's 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine can be relied on to produce 185 horsepower and 163 lb-ft of torque.
Best Small SUVS 2014 - 05 - 2014 Toyota RAV4
It's impossible to discuss the CR-V without at least mentioning its longtime rival, the 2014 Toyota RAV4. The Toyota RAV4 was redesigned for the previous model year, and although it might have lost its third-row seating option it remains a compelling choice for those seeking a small SUV appliance. Interior room is just as enormous in the Toyota as it is in the Honda (up to 73.3 cubic feet of available cargo space), and its 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine pushes out 176 horsepower and 175 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission sends that output to either the front or all four wheels if optional all-wheel drive is selected.
Best Small SUVS 2014 - 06 - 2014 Mazda CX-5
The 2014 Mazda CX-5 is one of the few compact SUVs that delivers a sporty ride at an affordable price, all while sipping fuel at a relaxed rate. The Mazda CX-5's suspension system has been thoroughly massaged so as to embody the handling that driving feel that are part and parcel of almost every Mazda automobile. Even better, Mazda's Skyactiv engine technology ensures good power without forcing buyers to pay a penalty at the fuel pump: the entry-level 2.0-liter four-cylinder puts out 155 horses and returns 29-mpg combined, while the top-tier 2.5-liter mill produces 184 ponies and still manages 27-mpg in combined fuel economy. All-wheel drive is of course available with both models.
Best Small SUVS 2014 - 07 - 2014 Ford Escape
The 2014 Ford Escape is a small SUV that has been dogged by mechanical issues with its mid-range EcoBoost drivetrain. Fortunately, the base Ford Escape's 168 horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder and 240 horsepower, 2.0-liter turbocharged EcoBoost option have been trouble-free, which is great news for anyone seeking a well-rounded family ride. The Escape is big inside (five passengers / up to 68.1 cubic feet of cargo space), rides far more like a car than a truck, and can be loaded with a surprising amount of premium features including a self-parking system and the MyFord Touch interface.
Best Small SUVS 2014 - 08 - 2014 BMW X3
The 2014 BMW X3 is a small luxury SUV that has been designed to maintain the performance feel of the BMW 3 Series sedan on which it is based. Think of the BMW X3 as a 3 Series wagon (especially considering its 63.3 cubic feet of available cargo space), and you get the picture. There's a 240 horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that serves as the base motor, but a lot more grunt is available in the form of a 3.0-liter, turbocharged six-cylinder that is available as an option. All versions of the X3 come with standard all-wheel drive, as well as a smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission.
Best Small SUVS 2014 - 09 - 2014 Jeep Cherokee
The 2014 Jeep Cherokee is a surprisingly competent all-new small SUV effort from the domestic brand. Built on a platform borrowed from corporate parent Fiat, the Jeep Cherokee serves admirably as a family commuter, but with three different four-wheel drive systems available it can also pass muster in an off-road environment - particularly when ordered in Trailhawk trim. The Cherokee's base four-cylinder struggles somewhat with the heavy Jeep, but its optional 3.2-liter Pentastar V-6 delivers a potent 271 horsepower 239 lb-ft of torque. A new nine-speed automatic transmission handles the shifting duties for the sport-utility vehicle.
Best Small SUVS 2014 - 10 - 2014 Mercedes-Benz GLK250 4MATIC
The 2014 Mercedes-Benz GLK250 4MATIC is one of the few small SUVs offered with a turbodiesel engine. The Mercedes-Benz GLK250 4MATIC's 2.1-liter, four-cylinder turbodiesel mill provides 200 horsepower and a stunning 369 lb-ft of torque, but even better is its fuel economy of 24-mpg around town and 33-mpg on the highway. Match this efficiency with the GLK250 4MATIC's standard four-wheel drive, excellent road manners, and sleek styling, and you have a recipe for success in the small sport-utility segment.