Though minivans are on a small resurgence recently, they're still not as popular as they once were, and sedans simply don't offer the usefulness buyers need. This continues to fuel the compact SUV segment. Everyone from Audi to Chevrolet to Jeep has jumped into the segment, capitalizing on the growing demand. Even luxury SUVs entered the realm from upscale manufacturers like Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Lexus, and Volvo.

Today, the compact SUV market is flooded with options, making it hard to choose the right one. Below, we outline what to look for in a high-quality model and the nine best compact SUVs in Canada for 2024 to help start your search.

What to Look for in a Compact SUV

The compact SUV segment is interesting, as these vehicles combine the size and drivability of a sedan but with certain traits found in the SUV and crossover segments. So, what types of things should buyers look for when choosing the right small SUV for them? Let's review.

Seating and Cargo Room

Compact SUVs immediately have one thing going against them. Their smaller footprints impact their interior roominess, so they can't quite match midsize or full-size SUVs. However, this doesn't mean they can't have a spacious interior. Automakers will make certain compromises to their compact SUVs to help them excel in certain areas to fit buyers' needs.

For example, some compact SUVs position the rear seats further back, allowing for ample rear legroom to accommodate adults and older teens. Typically, this results in 940 or more mm of rear legroom, but it eats into the cargo room with the seats upright. However, you can often fold the rear seats and unlock ample cargo room.

On the other hand, some people prefer a small SUV focusing more on cargo room, as they either have no plans to use the rear seats regularly or have very young children. In this case, a compact SUV with the rear seats positioned forward to open more cargo room with the rear seats upright may be in order. These compact crossovers and SUVs typically have 860 mm or less rear legroom but 550 litres or more cargo room with the rear seats upright.

Front Seating Position

One of the biggest benefits of driving an SUV is its higher seating position. This gives you a better look at the road and the traffic ahead. But not all SUVs are created equal in this area. When test driving, always adjust the seat to a position that gives you a high seating position without pulling your legs or hands too far from the pedals and steering wheel. This is the sign of a well-designed front seating position.

Powertrain and Capability

For many years, compact SUVs' powertrains and capabilities were a sore spot. However, with modern turbocharged engines, the tide has changed. These new four-cylinder engines now have more horsepower (hp) and low-end torque than many V6 engines from yesteryear. Even non-turbocharged engines have come a long way with numerous four-cylinder engines cresting the 200-hp mark, though they often lack the lower-end torque of turbo engines.

Because of this power and new materials, like high-strength steel, leading to more sturdy construction, towing has become a new focus for these SUVs. We often see compact SUVs capable of towing at least 680 kg. Some even have towing capacities reaching the 2,250-kg range.

Off-road trekking has also become popular among compact SUV buyers in Canada. Due to the snow and ice we encounter in the winter, most SUVs come standard with all-wheel drive (AWD) or four-wheel drive (4WD), so you're covered in terms of traction. However, some compact SUVs now have optional off-road packages with higher ride heights, enhanced skid plates, off-road tires and wheels, and advanced drive modes to further enhance their abilities off the beaten path.

Fuel Economy

SUVs weren't traditionally built for fuel economy, but the arrival of hybrid and electric technology and eco-friendly internal combustion engines (ICE) has changed this. Add this tech to the lighter compact SUV segment, and you can see some impressive fuel economy numbers. Hybrid compact SUVs have fuel consumption rates as low as 6 L/100 km combined, while many ICE-powered compact SUVs are in the 8 L/100 km combined range.

Advanced Technology

While compact SUVs are significantly less expensive than their full-size and midsize counterparts, many still have a range of great features. Today, certain tech features should always be standard on a small SUV, including things like Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, a touchscreen infotainment system, power windows, and power door locks.

Compact SUVs should also include certain standard safety features. These include automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, a rearview camera, anti-lock brakes, and electronic stability control. Many may also include adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist.

The 9 Best Compact SUVs in Canada

Now that you know some of the key things to look for when searching for the best compact SUV in Canada, let’s review some of the best small SUVs that fit the bill. Here are the 9 best compact SUVs in Canada for 2024.

Source: Car and Driver

9. 2024 Subaru Crosstrek

The 2024 Subaru Crosstrek's exterior styling is a neat combination of SUV and station wagon, giving it a unique and sleek design that stands out on the open road. And at 4,480 mm long, it's the second-smallest compact SUV on our list.

Unfortunately, its compact footprint hampers its interior roominess a bit, giving it the least rear legroom (926 mm), minimum cargo room (564 litres), and maximum cargo room (1,555 litres). This drives it down to the bottom of our list, but it makes up for this by tying for the highest towing capacity (1,588 kg) in its higher-riding Wilderness trim. But remember that all other 2024 Crosstrek trims can only tow 680 kg.

The Crosstrek has all the standard features you'd expect from a compact SUV today, including a seven-inch touchscreen, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and more. It also features plenty of standard safety and driver-assist tech, including adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, automatic emergency braking, and more.

If there's one overall sore spot for the Crosstrek, it's the powertrain options. Its base 2.0-litre engine delivers just 152 horsepower, and its optional 2.5-litre engine has just 182 horsepower. However, its standard all-wheel drive is a huge benefit, and its fuel consumption is decent at 8 to 8.8 L/100 km.

Why Buy the Subaru Crosstrek?

The Crosstrek is last on our list, but it's still a top-notch compact crossover SUV. Its standard symmetrical all-wheel drive ensures you can go just about anywhere in any conditions, while its wagon-like body makes it easy to maneuver. And with its surprising towing capacity in the Wilderness trim, it's a great match for those looking to haul a small trailer or boat.

Source: Ford

8. 2024 Ford Bronco Sport

With the return of the Ford Bronco came the arrival of the smaller Bronco Sport. The 2024 Ford Bronco Sport is next on our list of the best compact SUVs in Canada. The Bronco Sport has the smallest footprint on our list, measuring just 4,386 mm long. Like the Crosstrek, which it ties in overall score, the Bronco Sport's small footprint impacts its interior room, making it tighter than most on our list.

Its rear legroom is the second-tightest behind the Crosstrek at 936 mm, but its cargo room is not nearly as small as the Crosstrek at 920 litres with the rear seats upright and 1,703 litres with them folded. Towing sits around the middle of the pack at 997 kg with the optional 2.0-litre engine.

The Bronco Sport has a pair of available engines, starting with a 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder unit that delivers 181 horsepower and 190 pound-feet of torque. The Badlands trim gains a 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder with 250 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque. Fuel economy is about middle of the pack at 9 L/100 km combined with the base engine and 10.2 L/100 km combined with the 2.0-litre engine.

The Bronco Sport also has all the features you'll need, including Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, SiriusXM, and more. It also has standard automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, blind-spot monitoring, and more.

Why Buy the Bronco Sport?

The Bronco Sport may be low on our list, but it's still among the best in a large segment. It's great for buyers with young kids or no kids who have little need for a back seat. It really shines in its off-road prowess, thanks to its standard all-wheel drive, off-road-ready chassis, and more.

2023 Mazda CX-5
Source: Mazda

7. 2024 Mazda CX-5

The Mazda CX-5 has been around for many years and continuously lands among the best compact SUVs in Canada. The 2024 CX-5 comes standard with a capable 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine that pushes 187 hp and 186 lb-ft of torque through a standard AWD system. Buyers can upgrade to a turbocharged 2.5-litre engine with 256 hp and 320 lb-ft of torque for a more engaging driving experience. Across the board, the CX-5 tows up to 907 kg, the third lowest on our list.

Fuel economy is decent at 8.5 L/100 km combined with cylinder deactivation to 9.3 L/100 km combined without it. The turbo engine checks in at 9.8 L/100 km.

Inside, the CX-5 is fairly roomy, offering 1,007 mm of rear legroom, about the middle of the pack. Its cargo space is tighter than all but a few models at 871 litres with the rear seats up and to 1,680 litres with them folded. But that's not a surprise since it's the third-smallest model on our list at just 4,575 mm long.

The two main reasons it ranks so low on our list are its limited cargo space and meagre towing capacity.

Standard features are plentiful on the CX-5. It includes a 10.25-inch infotainment screen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, a 7-inch digital instrument cluster, heated front seats, LED headlights, and more. Safety and driver-assist technology are also robust, including standard blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist, automatic high-beam headlights, and more.

Why Buy the Mazda CX-5?

The Mazda CX-5 is at the bottom third of our list, but it's still a fine compact SUV. It's best for buyers who don't necessarily need tons of cargo room but prefer an SUV with some sportiness to it. Also, the CX-5 is quite luxurious in its top trim levels.

Source: Subaru

6. 2024 Subaru Forester

Subaru makes our list again, with its slightly larger Forester model coming in at number 6.

This Scooby is 4,640 mm long, making it the third-largest model on our list. The Forester flexes its roominess muscles with 2,101 litres of maximum cargo space, which is the third roomiest on our list. However, its minimum cargo room is just 818 litres—the second-worst on our list. The Forester finds some balance in the rear seats, with 1,000 mm of legroom.

The Forester's powertrain isn't overly impressive, as its 2.5-litre engine only musters up 182 horsepower. However, despite its lower power, the Forester is the third best in towing at 1,360 kg in the off-road-ready Wilderness trim. Plus, it comes standard with Subaru's legendary all-wheel-drive system. 

Fuel economy is about average, with a consumption rate of 8.2 L/100 km in most models. The Wilderness trim drops to 9 L/100 km.

The 2024 Subaru Forester has plenty of standard features to satisfy most buyers, including a 6.5-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, SiriusXM, lane-keeping assist, automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and more.

Why Buy the Subaru Forester?

The Forester isn't overly impressive in any one area, but it does a few things very well. It's a rock-solid option for towing. Plus, its 2,101 litres of max cargo capacity without the rear seats makes it great for empty-nesters who haul a lot.

2023 Toyota RAV4
Source: Toyota

5. 2024 Toyota RAV4

The Toyota RAV4 has been a best-selling compact SUV in Canada for ages and for good reasons. It has always perfectly blended many desirable attributes, and it's recently become even better. The 2024 Toyota RAV4 features a bold SUV-like design inside and out and combines this with a standard 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine that delivers 203 hp and a respectable 7.9 to 8.5 L/100 km rating combined.

The RAV4 takes this further with its plug-in hybrid (PHEV) and hybrid options. The RAV4 Hybrid's 2.5-litre powertrain delivers 219 hp and is fuel-efficient at 6 to 6.4 L/100 km combined. The RAV4 Prime PHEV delivers a stunning 302 hp, 6.0 L/100 km in hybrid mode, and 68 km of all-electric driving range. With this 302 hp, the RAV4 Prime delivers one of the more engaging driving experiences in the compact SUV market.

The RAV4 also caters to the off-road crowd with the RAV4 Trail model. This upgraded compact SUV includes dynamic torque vectoring, rear driveline disconnect, Multi-Terrain Select, a 1,588-kg towing capacity (tied for first on our list), 5mm additional ground clearance, and more for enhanced off-road capability.

The Toyota RAV4 is the third worst on our list for rear legroom at just 960 mm. However, it makes up for that with middle-of-the-pack cargo capacities of up to 1,977 litres of cargo room with the rear seats folded. It also delivers a spacious 1,059 litres of cargo space with the rear seats upright.

This is in addition to the Toyota RAV4's plethora of advanced technology, intuitive infotainment system, and numerous safety features.

Why Buy a Toyota RAV4?

The Toyota RAV4 checks so many boxes it's hard to pinpoint one great reason to buy it despite only ranking fifth on our list. But the biggest selling point for the RAV4 is its powertrain, which you can have as a traditional internal-combustion setup, a hybrid option, or even a plug-in hybrid variant.

2023 Ford Escape
Source: Ford

4. 2024 Ford Escape

The Ford Escape has been through lots of changes throughout its life, beginning as a compact body-on-frame SUV before becoming the crossover SUV we know today. The 2024 Escape comes standard with a 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine that delivers 180 hp and 199 lb-ft of torque through an eight-speed automatic transmission and out to the front wheels or all four wheels. Buyers looking for more pop can upgrade to the turbocharged 2.0-litre engine with 250 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque for a more engaging driving experience.

Looking for fuel efficiency? The 2024 Escape has hybrid and PHEV models too. They both pair a 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine with an electric motor. The Hybrid delivers 192 hp to the front or all four wheels, while the PHEV delivers 210 hp only to the front wheels.

Fuel consumption checks in at up to 8 L/100 km with the 1.5-litre, 9.1 L/100 km with the 2.0-litre, and 6 L/100 km in the hybrid model. The PHEV rings in at 5.9 L/100 km in hybrid mode and offers up to 60 km of all-electric driving.

Towing in the Escape varies by powertrain, ranging from 680 kg in the hybrid and PHEV to 907 kg with the 1.5-litre to 1,587 kg with the 2.0-litre. That peak towing capacity is third-best on our list.

Inside, the Escape is roomy, with 1,035 mm of rear legroom (4th best), and cargo space ranging from 1,062 (974 hybrid and PHEV) to 1,852 (1,722 hybrid and PHEV) litres. And this is all in a body that's only 4,585 mm long (4th smallest on our list). It's this balance of size and roominess that helps get the Escape in the top four on our list.

The 2024 Escape comes pretty well-equipped. It includes a standard 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, an 8-inch digital instrument cluster, LED headlights, and more. Safety and driver-assist technology are also robust, including standard blind-spot monitoring, automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist, automatic high-beam headlights, and more.

Why Buy the Ford Escape?

With its roomy cabin, small footprint, range of powertrain options, and two electrified powertrains, the 2024 Escape is likely the most balanced model on this list.

2023 Honda CR-V
Source: Honda

3. 2024 Honda CR-V

Right up there with the RAV4 in popularity is the Honda CR-V. This compact SUV went through a full redesign in 2023, giving it a more upright, SUV-like design, but it retains its standard 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine that delivers 190 hp and 179 pound-feet (lb-ft) of torque paired to a continuously variable transmission (CVT). With this engine and front-wheel drive (FWD), the CR-V delivers 7.8 L/100 km combined fuel consumption (.8.4 L/100 km with all-wheel drive).

The 2024 CR-V also comes in a hybrid model, which pairs a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine with an electric motor to produce 204 hp and 247 lb-ft of torque. The CR-V Hybrid comes standard with AWD and delivers combined fuel consumption as low as 6.4 L/100 km.

Honda SUV lacks an off-road-ready variant, but it can still tow relatively well, topping out at 680 kg. The CR-V Hybrid is a little less capable, with a 453-kg tow rating, but it makes up for this with its smooth ride.

There's no shortage of safety features on the 2024 CR-V, as it comes standard with advanced safety features, such as automatic emergency braking, automatic high-beam headlights, forward collision warning, lane-departure warning, hill-start assist, road-departure mitigation, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, and more. There's also lots of other tech, including a standard 7-inch touchscreen with a user-friendly infotainment system, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, SiriusXM, and more standard. Buyers can also upgrade to a 9-inch touchscreen, wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and others.

Like the RAV4, the CR-V strikes a solid balance of rear roominess and cargo space, offering up to 1,042 mm of rear legroom (3rd best) and 1,113 (2nd best) to 2,166 litres (best) of cargo space. This roomy interior and ample cargo space come with one downside -- the CR-V is the largest of our compact SUVs at 4,695 mm long.

The 2024 CR-V's manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP) starts from $37,247.50 for the ICE model and $50,897.50 for the CR-V Hybrid. If you're willing to go back to the last-generation model, which has many of the same features as the 2024 model, just with a different design, you can get a used Honda CR-V from the 2021 model year at a much lower cost.

Why Buy the Honda CR-V?

The Honda CR-V is one of the longest-running compact SUVs on the market, so it's been tried and tested for many years. Plus, its roomy interior has space for passengers and cargo, so nothing stays behind. Unless you plan to tow with it, the CR-V checks just about every box.

2023 Kia Sportage
Source: Kia

2. 2024 Kia Sportage

Like the CR-V, the Kia Sportage was all-new for the 2023 model year, bringing in a bold design with eye-grabbing LED headlights and large rear wheel wells standing out the most.

Like the CR-V and RAV4, the Sportage has multiple powertrain options to fit buyers' needs, starting with the base 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine with 187 hp and 178 lb-ft of torque paired with standard AWD and eight-speed automatic transmission. This affords it a 1,134-kg towing capacity and as low as 8.3 L/100 km combined.

Moving to the Sportage Hybrid pairs a 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine with an electric motor for 227 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. This setup delivers a 6.2 L/100 km fuel consumption rate.

The Sportage PHEV has the same engine as the Hybrid model, but the electric motor is more powerful, pushing its output to 261 hp. Combined fuel economy checks in at 6.7 L/100 km in the PHEV in hybrid mode, and it also delivers 55 km of electric-only driving.

Wonder what your car is worth?

Technology is not in short supply in the 2024 Kia Sportage. Its key features include an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, Drive mode Select, and more. On the safety side, it includes standard automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, lane-following assist, rear occupant alert, downhill brake control, and more. Buyers can also add more driver-assist features, like adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, and more.

Inside, the 2024 Sportage impresses with 1,050 mm of rear legroom (tied for 1st). But it also has loads of cargo room: 1,121 litres (1st) with the rear seats up and up to 2,098 litres (4th) with them folded.

Why Buy the Kia Sportage?

The Kia Sportage and Hyundai Tucson are almost mechanical carbon copies of one another. They have small dimensional differences, but they are minuscule. Really, if you're opting for the Sportage over the Tucson, it's likely just because its styling fits you better.

2023 Hyundai Tucson
Source: MotorTrend

1. 2024 Hyundai Tucson

Topping our list as the best compact SUV is the Hyundai Tucson, though it eeked out its Kia cousin by just one point overall.

The Hyundai Tucson may look nothing like the Kia Sportage, but they are actually closely related. In fact, they share the same three powertrains: ICE, hybrid, and PHEV. Despite their mechanical similarities, the Tucson tows a bit more at 1,587 kg (tied for 3rd).

The Tucson also has the same 1,050 mm of rear legroom but different cargo volumes. It ranges from 1,095 litres (3rd) with the rear seats upright to 2,119 litres (1st) with the seat folded.

The 2024 Hyundai Tucson's MSRP starts from $36,881, and the hybrid and PHEV models start from $43,281 and $52,181, respectively. If you are willing to go into the previous generation, you can pick up a used Hyundai Tucson from the 2021 model year and save some cash.

Shop for your next SUV online.

Save Thousands on the Best Compact SUVs at Clutch

You have plenty of options when searching for the best compact SUV in Canada. Why not save thousands by opting for a used small SUV instead of a new model? Clutch, Canada's premier online automotive retailer, has a wide range of models in the small SUVs segment in stock and ready to roll.

Are you unsure about buying a compact SUV online? Rest assured that our high-quality pre-owned SUVs have been through a 210-point inspection and reconditioning process to ensure they are ready for the road.

When you order your pre-owned compact SUV online with Clutch, you can skip the dealership and haggling process. At Clutch, you always get a great price, and no negotiation is necessary. Plus, you have the option of our 10-day or 750-km test-own period. If you don't love your new Clutch SUV during that period, you can return it for a refund or exchange it for another vehicle.

Trading up into a newer small SUV with more features? Clutch can also handle trade-ins, and you can get your offer online . If you're satisfied with our offer, we can pick up your trade-in vehicle and apply the trade-in value to your purchase.