Posted on October 20, 2023
Source: Car And DriverBy: Alex NishimotoPublished: Mar 12, 2023
Compact SUVs check a lot of boxes for a lot of people. They’re small enough to maneuver through a congested metropolitan city, yet still offer a reasonable amount of space for hauling people and cargo. They’re also relatively fuel-efficient by nature. But if you need maximum fuel savings on your commute and are willing to pay a modest premium, a number of compact SUVs are available with even more miserly gasoline-electric hybrid powertrains. These electrified sport-utes deliver all the same practicality as their non-hybrid counterparts with the added bonus of an electric motor (or two or three) that can assist the gas engine, subsequently improving fuel economy and, in some cases, performance. Read on to discover the best mainstream compact hybrid SUVs.
6. Ford Escape Hybrid and PHEV
The Ford Escape receives an exterior refresh for 2023, trading its previous friendly but somewhat uninspiring look for a more aggressive and upscale design that fits right in with the rest of the Blue Oval’s current lineup. Look past the updated design, though, and you’ll find the 2023 Escape is largely the same as last year (with the exception of a new and improved infotainment system). As before, the Escape is available with two gasoline-electric powertrain options: a traditional hybrid that pairs a 2.5-liter inline-four with an electric motor or a plug-in hybrid (or PHEV) powertrain that includes a larger capacity lithium-ion battery pack, granting it an EPA-estimated 37 miles of electric range. Regardless, both powertrains churn out 210 horsepower. Whereas the traditional Escape hybrid is available all-wheel drive, the plug-in is front-wheel-drive only. The Escape is a decent choice in the segment, but if you crave an engaging driving experience, you’re better off going with one of its rivals.
Base price: $35,335C/D rating: 7.5/10
5. Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV
The current-generation Mitsubishi Outlander shares much of its hardware with the Nissan Rogue compact SUV. A key difference between the two models is the Outlander comes standard with three rows of seating, though that third row is too small to be of much use. Just like the prior Outlander, Mitsubishi’s newest generation of its compact SUV is available as a plug-in hybrid. Producing a combined 248 hp from a four-cylinder gas engine and three electric motors (two up front, one at the rear), the all-wheel-drive-only 2023 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is more potent than its predecessor. It’s also more efficient. A larger battery pack allows this plug-in Mitsu to travel an estimated 38 miles on battery power alone—a big increase over the prior model’s 24 miles. The Outlander PHEV is also reasonably entertaining to drive thanks to its all-wheel-drive system that delivers a slight bias to the rear motor. Unlike past iterations, the new Outlander features a modern interior that uses more premium materials. If the included third-row bench doesn’t add any value for you, Mitsubishi sweetens the deal with one of the most generous warranties in the business: a 5-year/60,000-mile basic plan and a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty.
Base price: $41,190C/D rating: 8/10
4. Toyota RAV4 Hybrid and Prime
In spite of its lack of driving engagement, the Toyota RAV4 is one of the bestselling vehicles in America. Part of this can be chalked up to the tremendous reputation for reliability the Toyota brand enjoys, but it can also be attributed to the fact the RAV4 is simply a pleasant, well-rounded compact SUV. Two hybrid variants of the RAV4 are available: The traditional RAV4 hybrid and the RAV4 Prime PHEV. Both are quicker than the non-hybrid RAV4, and in our testing, the plug-in even beat the Toyota GR Supra sports car to 60 mph (the four-cylinder version, but still). Like other plug-in hybrids on this list, the RAV4 Prime can be driven short distances on battery power alone. In this case, the EPA estimates the Prime can travel a healthy 42 miles on a full charge of its battery pack. The RAV4’s interior is a bit bland, but it’s comfortable and well-built. It’s also available with niceties such as a 10.5-inch touchscreen infotainment system and an 11-speaker audio system. All gasoline-electric RAV4s come standard with all-wheel drive. While this compact Toyota SUV looks pretty butch with its 4Runner-inspired design (especially in the hybrid’s Woodland Edition guise), don’t expect it to conquer Moab or the Rubicon Trail. The RAV4 is better suited for mall crawling than it is for rock crawling.
Base price: $32,060C/D rating: 8.5/10
3. Hyundai Tucson Hybrid and Plug-In Hybrid
Fully redesigned in 2022, the Hyundai Tucson is now one of the most distinct-looking compact SUVs available today. From its sculpted body panels to its unmistakable headlight signature, the Tucson is anything but boring. Its base engine, however, is not a strong point, as the gas-fed four-cylinder delivers underwhelming acceleration and sounds thrashy at higher revs. A bit more oomph (as well as solitude) can be found in the two different gasoline-electric powertrains: a traditional hybrid and a plug-in hybrid. Both use a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine. Though neither will light your hair on fire, both electrified Tucsons offer straight-line performance that’s superior to the non-hybrid 2.5-liter four-pot. The plug-in even offers an EPA-estimated 33 miles of electric driving range. The standard hybrid, meanwhile, returns EPA-estimated combined fuel economy of 38 mpg, although we saw just 28 mpg in our real-world 75-mph highway fuel-economy test. Still, if you want an efficient compact SUV that looks great inside and out, comes with loads of standard tech and convenience features, and offers an outstanding warranty, then both the Tucson hybrid and PHEV are solid picks.
Base price: $32,685C/D rating: 8.5/10
2. Kia Sportage Hybrid and PHEV
Like its corporate sibling, the Hyundai Tucson, the Kia Sportage separates itself from the rest of the class with a bold exterior design and an attractive, high-quality interior. Mechanically, the Sportage is very similar to the Tucson, with the Kia offering both a regular hybrid and plug-in hybrid options that are essentially the same as those employed by the Tucson. That said, the plug-in Sportage’s electric range is slightly better than its Hyundai counterpart’s, with the EPA estimating the Kia can go up to 34 miles on a fully charged battery pack. There are other differences between these two Korean compact SUVs, too. For one, the Sportage features an entirely different look inside and out. The Kia PHEV also pushes a more off-road-oriented theme, as all plug-in Sportages come equipped with the brand’s tough-looking X-Line exterior design package. The traditional Sportage hybrid, on the other hand, forgoes this kit. Regardless, we think the latest Sportage is a head-turner. That said, others may favor the more traditional looks of other gasoline-electric vehicles in this segment.
Base price: $28,815C/D rating: 8.5/10
1. Honda CR-V Hybrid
Given the 2023 Honda CR-V is a 10Best Truck and SUV winner, it should come as no surprise that the CR-V hybrid takes our top spot in the rankings of compact hybrid SUVs. Like its strictly gas-powered counterpart, the CR-V hybrid is comfortable and spacious. It also handles reasonably well for an SUV, yet still delivers a comfortable ride. Though the CR-V hybrid may not be the powerhouse the plug-in RAV4 Prime is, it still provides dynamic enhancements missing from its gas-only kin. With a total of 204 horsepower, the CR-V hybrid packs 14 more horses than the turbocharged four-cylinder that serves as the SUV’s base engine. The hybrid is available with front- or all-wheel-drive, and returns an EPA-estimated 43 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway. If you want the most well-rounded compact hybrid SUV, this is it.
Base price: $33,695C/D rating: 10/10
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