Subcompacts with Great Space

by Chris Chase

SUVs and crossovers have become so common that it’s easy to forget these vehicles were originally created to be utilitarian above all else. But despite many SUVs having evolved into stylish and refined daily drivers, you should still be able to expect some utility from them.

If generous interior space is at the top of your small SUV shopping list, we’ve assembled two top-five lists to help you find the right vehicle.

First, we’ve ranked the five subcompact crossovers with the maximum cargo space available behind the front seats with the rear seats folded down. But if you’ll use your small crossover to move more people than stuff, check out our second list, which ranks the models with the most total passenger volume. A few models appear in both lists, and you can count on them to be solid all-rounders.

Top five subcompact SUVs with the most cargo space

1. 2022 VW Taos – 1,866L

Topping our cargo volume ranking is the new-for-2022 Volkswagen Taos, the brand’s newest and smallest crossover model, which slots in below the Tiguan. The Taos boasts a class-leading maximum 1,866L of cargo space behind the front seats.

Under the Taos’ hood is a 1.5L turbo four-cylinder engine that makes 158 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. You can get a Taos with front- or all-wheel drive, and with either an eight-speed automatic transmission (FWD) or a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox (AWD). The Taos’ pricing starts at $26,695 in Trendline trim and tops out at the Highline’s $36,695.

2. 2021 Kia Seltos – 1,778L

2021 Kia Seltos

Next up is the Kia Seltos, a subcompact SUV the South Korean brand added to its lineup in 2021. Fold the rear seats down in a Seltos and you get 1,778L of cargo space, which is good enough for second place in our ranking.

Entry-grade Seltos models use a 2.0L four-cylinder engine with 146 hp and 132 lb-ft of torque, which comes with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) and front- or all-wheel drive. The top-end SX Turbo trim gets a 1.6L turbocharged engine generating 175 hp and 195 lb-ft, which is standard with AWD and a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. The Seltos’ price range is $23,394 to $32,995.

3. 2021 Nissan Qashqai – 1,730L

2021 Nissan Qashqai

Since its introduction in 2017, Nissan’s Qashqai has boasted impressive interior space for a subcompact crossover. As you can see, its capacity has been eclipsed by a couple of newer designs in this class, but 1,730L of cargo volume (with the rear seats folded down) is still laudable.

All Qashqai trims are powered by a 2.0L engine with 141 hp and 147 lb-ft of torque and a CVT. Front-wheel drive is standard and AWD optional, depending on trim. Nissan Qashqai prices start at $21,998 for S FWD trim, and the top SL AWD model comes in at $31,998.

4. 2021 Honda HR-V – 1,665L

2021 Honda HR-V

The Honda HR-V is the second-oldest nameplate in this ranking, introduced to Honda’s lineup in 2016. It owes its generous cargo capacity to a low cargo floor created by moving the gas tank forward under the front seats.

Performance comes from a 1.8L four-cylinder engine that generates 141 hp and 127 lb-ft of torque. All HR-V trims are standard with a continuously variable automatic transmission. AWD is optional in the base LX trim, but standard in Sport and Touring. 2021 Honda HR-V prices range from $25,200 to $33,700.

5. 2021 Subaru Crosstrek – 1,565L

2021 Subaru Crosstrek

Rounding out our top five subcompact crossovers with the most cargo space is the Subaru Crosstrek. This is one of the longest-running models in this comparison: Subaru introduced the Impreza-based XV Crosstrek in 2013, and dropped the XV from the name in 2016.

Notably, the Crosstrek is the only vehicle in this list that comes standard with AWD, and it’s one of very few SUVs of any size you can still get with a manual transmission. New for 2021 is an optional 2.5L engine with 182 hp/176 lb-ft – making the Crosstrek one of the most powerful vehicles in its class – while the base engine is a 2.0L with 152 hp/145 lb-ft. The 2.0L comes with a six-speed manual gearbox that options to an automatic CVT, which is included when you step up to the 2.5L.

Crosstrek pricing ranges from $23,795 (Convenience 6MT) to $34,495 (Limited CVT).

The top 5 subcompact SUVs with the most passenger space

1. 2021 Subaru Crosstrek – 2,857L

2021 Subaru Crosstrek

From its number-five finish in our cargo space ranking, the Subaru Crosstrek jumps to top spot for passenger volume. No engineering tricks here: The Crosstrek succeeds because its design doesn’t try to disguise its purpose. Along with its useful interior space, the Crosstrek has generous ground clearance and one of the most capable AWD systems in its class.

2. (tie) 2021 Jeep Renegade – 2,835L
2. (tie) 2021 Honda HR-V – 2,835L

2021 Jeep Renegade

The Honda HR-V moves from fourth place in our cargo volume ranking to second spot for passenger space, where it ties with the Jeep Renegade. Where Honda ditched standard design practices to create the HR-V’s roomy interior, the Renegade largely owes its cabin space to its tall roof, which creates more headroom than many of Jeep’s competitors can boast.

Jeep Renegade pricing ranges from $27,595 to $34,745. Engine offerings include a 2.4L four-cylinder (180 hp/175 lb-ft) and a 1.3L turbo four-cylinder (177 hp/210 lb-ft). The Trailhawk trim is an off-road all-star in this class with its all-terrain tires, underbody protective skid plates, and a 4×4 system with low-range gearing.

3. 2022 VW Taos – 2,818L

2022 Volkswagen Taos

The Volkswagen Taos also manages a mid-pack finish on our list of the subcompact crossovers with the most passenger volume. Credit for its roomy cabin goes to a wheelbase 25 mm longer (2,689 mm) than that of the Crosstrek, and a body that stands a relatively tall 1,636 mm.

4. 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer – 2,781L

2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer

The good-looking Chevrolet Trailblazer’s dimensions are solidly average for the subcompact crossover class, so it’s not surprising that its passenger volume ranks near the bottom of our top five list. However, the Trailblazer proves that an eye-catching exterior doesn’t have to come at the expense of a sensibly designed cabin.

Chevrolet offers the Trailblazer with a choice of two turbocharged three-cylinder engines. A 1.2L unit powers front-wheel drive models with 137 hp and 162 lb-ft and an automatic CVT. Meanwhile, AWD models get a 1.3L with 155 hp/174 lb-ft and a nine-speed automatic. Trailblazer prices start at $23,898 and end up at $30,598.

5. 2021 Mitsubishi RVR – 2,761L

2021 Mitsubishi RVR

The Mitsubishi RVR (also known as the ASX in some markets) has been around for more than 10 years, introduced in 2010 as a 2011 model. While today’s RVR is not much different mechanically than the original, its basic design set it up for long-term success: Its 2,670-mm wheelbase is among the longest in this class, which contributes to its useful passenger volume.

Mitsu has made meaningful improvements over the years to help keep the RVR current in this competitive segment, like the 2020 model year’s addition of a standard 8.0-inch infotainment display and LED headlights. A 2.0L four-cylinder engine (148 hp/145 lb-ft) powers entry-level RVR trims, while uplevel versions get a 2.4L with 168 hp and 167 lb-ft. Front- and all-wheel drive are available, and all trims use an automatic CVT. Pricing ranges from $23,198 to $34,198.