When you think of off-roading, you probably think about big, boxy SUVs with massive tires and tough names like the Wrangler or Bronco. But the Subaru Crosstrek is a small car that packs a big punch. Where most subcompact SUVs are essentially big, four-door hatchbacks or extra-tall sedans, The Crosstrek keeps the utility in sport-utility-vehicle. It comes standard with all-wheel drive, 8.7 inches of ground clearance, and a base engine with plenty of power for such a small car.
Some upgrades like the Sport trim make it even more capable off-road with an even more powerful engine, while the Limited trim offers some luxurious touches like leather seats and premium speakers to make a more luxurious ride in the city. If you are looking at a subcompact SUV, most of your options will be geared towards cities and suburbs full of paved streets, but not all of them. If it is the Crosstrek’s versatility you want, it will be hard to find an alternative, but these other subcompacts each have their own strengths and weaknesses to consider.
1. Kia Soul
If you don’t really intend to take your car off-road, the Kia Soul is an excellent option. While it is a subcompact vehicle, it is surprisingly spacious with enough headroom and legroom for real adults. It has similar fuel efficiency to the base engine on the Crosstrek but beats the more powerful 2.5L engine offered by Subaru, with a rating of 28mpg city and 33mpg highway, and it comes with an excellent 5-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty and a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty.
It isn’t the sportiest ride available or the fanciest cabin, but it can be plenty of fun to drive and has a great infotainment system with comfortable enough seating and a clean design. It is a great, more city-oriented alternative to the Subaru Crosstrek.
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2. Jeep Renegade
The Renegade is the only subcompact SUV that can compete with the Crosstrek off-road and the only one that can beat it in ground clearance. Sitting a towering 9.7 inches off the ground at its lowest point and bearing the iconic Jeep name and grille, the Renegade is the most capable member of its class.
This is especially true of the Trailhawk edition, which features an upgraded suspension, air intake, and transmission, and is ready to take on any terrain you throw it into. Inside, it is an impressively spacious ride for such a small vehicle, and it manages to look rugged yet feel comfortable. It doesn’t seem as premium as some competitors, but none of them can match the Renegade’s off-road abilities.
3. MINI Countryman
Somewhere between the likes of the Crosstreks and Renegades of the world and their HR-V and Kicks competition is where the Countryman lies. It is MINI’s most off-road capable offering, though that isn’t the highest bar to cross. Its strong engine options suit it well on roads or off of them, while its sophisticated interior feels very premium and well-designed.
While the base model is small, it is powerful enough to make even the largest MINI feel snappy with a light press of the gas pedal, and it maintains the classic go-kart style handling that makes MINIs, so fun to drive. And if you really want some power under the hood, the John Cooper Works edition packs a 300 horsepower engine into that small package. But this premium vehicle does come at a premium cost, with the base model’s MSRP even higher than that of the top-of-the-line Crosstrek Limited trim.
4. Mazda CX-30
The Mazda CX-30 might be a little bit smaller and less rough-and-tumble than the Crosstrek, but what it lacks in cargo space it makes up in its attention to detail and quality. Unlike most cars at a similar price point, it features more premium materials with almost no hard plastics that can make some competitors feel cheap.
Its design is minimalistic and feels very natural, and it comes with intuitive controls that work nicely alongside the (now standard) CarPlay/Android Auto infotainment system. Its base engine isn’t that exhilarating, but the optional turbocharged engine helps to remedy this. The performance of the CX-30 shines more in curves, where the handling is sharp and responsive, which is made even more impressive by how comfortable the ride is. Where the Crosstrek excels on dirt and gravel, the Mazda CX-30 was made to wow passengers on the well-paved roads of cities and suburbia.
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5. Hyundai Kona
The Kona is one of the newest offerings in the subcompact SUV segment, and it was designed to fit modern tastes and needs from the ground up. Its engine is fuel-efficient yet still thrilling to drive (especially with the optional turbocharged engine), its handling is tight, and the suspension makes for a smooth ride to boot. Inside, it feels premium at a budget price, with a modern design and quality construction.
It has many advanced safety features, including forward collision prevention and lane-keeping assistance. It even comes with convenience features like CarPlay, Android Auto, and remote keyless entry, with options such as automatic climate control and a sunroof available. It is a great option to consider if you’re looking at the Subaru Crosstrek.
6. Honda HR-V
You might not guess from looking at the outside, but the HR-V has plenty of cargo space to offer impressive room for passengers. The engine isn’t the strongest, but it offers good efficiency in front-wheel or all-wheel drive, and it pairs well with a lively suspension system that can make the HR-V fun to drive. As the spiritual successor to the Honda Fit, this subcompact SUV won’t be able to hit the trails or dirt roads like the Crosstrek can, but it comes with Honda’s reputation for reliability and offers all you’ll need if you’re driving around the city.
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7. Nissan Kicks
Nissan’s entry into the subcompact SUV market sets itself apart with its great fuel economy. Offering 31mpg city and 36mpg highway, it is a very efficient ride, though if you’re looking for something with more power, you’ll have to look somewhere else.
This surprisingly spacious subcompact only comes with a 122-horsepower engine in front-wheel drive, so if you’re looking for something you can take off-road like a Crosstrek, this one isn’t for you. But if you like to keep all four tires on solid pavement, the Kicks is an efficient, spacious ride with many safety and convenience features included on the base model at a very reasonable price.
8. Hyundai Venue
The Venue is one of the best values on the subcompact SUV market, with a starting MSRP under $19,000. But you aren’t sacrificing much to save this money. The interior isn’t the most spacious, but it is well designed to make the most out of its limited space. Its small engine isn’t the most powerful, but it provides good fuel efficiency, and the tight, spry handling makes the driving experience fun anyway. Off-roading isn’t really going to happen with this car, but for most applications, this is a great budget alternative to the Subaru Crosstrek.
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