Sign In Join
 

Source: Autocar

Top 10 best compact crossovers 2023

May 26th, 2023

ford puma top 10 Jacked-up small superminis are big business these days, so which compact crossover makes our top 10 in this crowded sector?

It would be no understatement to suggest that the compact crossover segment is one of the most important in the UK car market. With the continued decline in sales of traditional supermini hatchback models, these high-rise alternatives are proving ever more popular with buyers seeking affordable and relatively practical transport on a budget.

In many respects, it's not hard to see the appeal of these machines. That jacked-up suspension confers just a little extra visibility, while the tough-looking externals give them more than a smidge of active lifestyle street cred. And because many compact crossovers sit in a slightly bigger footprint than existing small car alternatives, there's even a little more space inside for people and things. In fact, many encroach upon the class above when it comes to family friendly versatility.

As a result, there are plenty of models to choose from, with pretty much every major player offering a small five-door hatch with a distinctly SUV flavour. There's even a wide ride of powertrains too, from old internal combustion to all-electric.

Until recently, however, there weren't many that would get a keen driver's juices flowing - the combination of a higher centre of gravity and the modest margins in a small and affordable car meant that the emphasis was usually on everyday usability rather than emotional uplift. Yet as new arrivals hit showrooms this is changing, with a handful of compact crossovers proving genuinely entertainingSo, here are our ten favourites of this increasingly popular breed.

1.Ford Puma

Ford wasn't exactly late to the compact crossover party, but its first offering, the EcoSport, felt like a half-hearted toe-in-the-water exercise. Designed and built in Brazil for emerging markets, this gawky machine felt a little cheap, featured some glaring packaging flaws and was fairly tardy to drive, despite being based on the same platform as the sharp handling sixth generation Fiesta.

So Ford took no chances with its replacement, even if using the Puma name resulted in fans of the brand's pert late Nineties coupe getting their knickers in a twist. And while there's no denying a compact crossover can't tug at the heart strings like a sleek driver focussed pocket rocket, the reimagined Puma distils enough of its namesake's dynamic sparkle to forgiveFord's marketing department's choice of moniker.

Once again, it shares its underpinnings with the Fiesta (the current seventh generation machine), which means quick steering, surprising agility and faithful grip, allowing you to slice through corners with surprising accuracy and poise. Better still, on cooking versions the damping is particularly fluent and skilfully tuned, allowing for strong comfort and refinement. Power comes from a trio of 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol engines, with 48V mild-hybrid technology enabling the top-level version to produce up to 125bhp.

Most intriguing is the flagship ST, which infuses a hot hatch spirit to the small SUV. Taking the 197bhp turbocharged 1.5-litre motor and six-speed manual from the fastest Fiesta, it's a genuine hot to drive, provided you can live with the stiff-legged ride. Be aware that the automatic version looks the part but uses the lower powered 1.0-litre engine.

Elsewhere, the Puma gets the family transport basics right, with an interior that's just about roomy enough and smartly designed, even if it lacks the premium appeal of others. It's also well equipped and packed with storage solutions, including the novel Megabox that's underneath the boot floor and is a large, easy clean compartment for wet clothes or muddy boots.

Save money with new Pumadeals from What Car?

2.Volkswagen T-Cross

Volkswagen has watched and waited as its rivals have rushed to cash in on the popularity of cars like this - and the firm's first compact crossover, the T-Cross, feels very much like the sort of car that has been judged and executed with care.

Sitting right in the middle of the class on size and price, the T-Cross rises higher than some of its rivals and has more SUV-typical styling than others. And while perceived cabin quality isn't quite as good as you might expect from Volkswagen, the T-Cross is easily good enough to be our class-leading recommendation

The engine range consists of a pair of 1.0-litre turbocharged three-pot petrols and a 1.5-litre turbo four-pot with 148bhp. We've driven both 94bhp and 113bhp tunes of the 1.0-litre TSI, and while the 113bhp model is a little bit faster and more drivable (thanks in no small part to having an extra cog in its manual gearbox than the 94bhp model), neither version feels slow.

Refinement is good, economy likewise (both cars are well capable of 50mpg on a longer out-of-town trip) and ride and handling are nicely resolved, with a sense of pragmatic compliance and low-speed cushioning to the ride that should endear the car to owners.

Practicality is very good for such a compact car, a standard-fit sliding rear bench adding versatility when you need to carry bulkier items. If you want to cut a little more of a dash, then the Taigo is essentially the same car but with a splash of coupe style. Sort of.

Save money with new T-Cross deals from What Car?

3.Renault Captur

The second-generation Renault Captur edges out its Alliance sibling, the Nissan Juke, for several reasons. It has a more flexible and slightly roomier interior with sliding back seats; it has a surprisingly classy level of perceived quality, with plenty of ritzy in-car tech to drive up the richness of the ambience; and it has a much broader engine range, which increases your chances of finding just the right car to suit your needs.

Fine styling and great value have been Captur strong suits since the first-gen car, of course, as they remain now. The car's entry-level 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine has strong torque and is pretty drivable and reasonably refined, although it doesn't raise eyebrows for outright performance. The mid-range 1.3-litre TCepetrol is smoother at low revs but a bit noisy when revving, and it's not a great deal quicker.

There are a couple of diesel versions, too, and the range-topping E-Tech plug-in hybrid, which may be only a bit-part player in the range, atmore than 30,000,and which has decent drivability but doesn't ride or handleas well as other derivatives.

Save money with new Captur deals from What Car?

4.Hyundai Bayon

The second-generation Renault Captur edges out its Alliance sibling, the Nissan Juke, for several reasons. It has a more flexible and slightly roomier interior with sliding back seats; it has a surprisingly classy level of perceived quality, with plenty of ritzy in-car tech to drive up the richness of the ambience; and it has a much broader engine range, which increases your chances of finding just the right car to suit your needs.

Fine styling and great value have been Captur strong suits since the first-gen car, of course, as they remain now. The car's entry-level 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine has strong torque and is pretty drivable and reasonably refined, although it doesn't raise eyebrows for outright performance. The mid-range 1.3-litre TCepetrol is smoother at low revs but a bit noisy when revving, and it's not a great deal quicker.

There are a couple of diesel versions, too, and the range-topping E-Tech plug-in hybrid, which may be only a bit-part player in the range, atmore than 30,000,and which has decent drivability but doesn't ride or handleas well as other derivatives.

5.Seat Arona

The Seat Arona beat the related T-Cross to the UK market by a year and was our top pick of the class for a while. Now, albeit only in comparison to the T-Cross, its interior doesn't seem quite as accommodating as it once didand its driving experience isn't quite as well rounded.

The Arona's interior is a little bit staid and its handling more bland than that ofSeat's other sportier-than-the-norm models, but it's better than some rivals. The car has strong refinement and drivability and a fairly broadrange of engines -although there's no diesel option, which you might find in other cars in this class.

In a class pitched for style, convenience and practicality, the Arona offers more than most of its rivals, with slightly higher pricing than the class average offset by top-notch infotainment and solidity of tactile feel.

Save money with new Arona deals from What Car?

6.Peugeot 2008 and Peugeot e-2008

Peugeot's second-generation 2008 is without question a better crossover-class contender than its first. With smarter styling, significantly improved passenger space and an interior of comparable material appeal to the likes of the 3008 and 5008, this car is now one to consider seriously if you think a high-rised supermini might suit you better than a conventional family hatchback.

Peugeot's iCockpit control regime gives the car a small, low-sprouting steering wheel, high-set instruments and a driving position that may not suit every size and shape of driver, but the cabin is otherwise roomy and quite well finished. Second-row space is now good enough for adults and taller teenagers, despite the fact that Peugeot has chosen a slightly lower-profilebody design for this generation of the 2008.

For propulsion, you can choose between a 1.2-litre petrol turbo engine or a fully electric option, the latter boasting a 134bhp motor that delivers predictably zippy acceleration and a claimed range of 212 miles on a charge - although with a price tag starting the wrong side of 35,000 it's a hefty 10,000 more than its petrol counterpart. A mildly facelifted version is on the way, but expect the same mix of style, comfort and decent versatility.

Save money with new 2008deals from What Car?

7.Nissan Juke

The original Juke was the reason we've got a compact crossover class at all. Its late-2000s market success proved there was a market for jumped-up superminis with SUV-themed styling, and it managed to remain an unconventional choice throughout its life, even though it had so many imitators.

The second-generation version corrected the biggest flaws of the first while retaining most of its funky, off-beat styling appeal - although it's not quite good enough to challenge for the top ranks here. Interior space is now pretty class competitive, with room in the back seats for adults as well as kids and a good-sized boot now present and correct.

The Juke is more firmly sprung and sporty feeling to drive than the average crossover, with tidy and composed handling and a ride that can sometimes feel a little bit busy and restive, but it's settled enough for the most part.

The engine range runs to115bhp 1.0-litre petrol and the same 141bhp 1.6-litre hybrid that's availble in the closely related Renault Captur and Clio. Neither is a star performer, but the latter copes better when keeping up with faster flowing traffic.

Save money with new Juke deals from What Car?

8.Honda HR-V

For the latest incarnation, Honda has reinvented the HR-V with an all-new exterior design and the fitment of but one powertrain: a petrol-electric hybrid setup that uses engine power, electric power or both, depending on the circumstances.

It's a charming car by the standards of the class and rolls along nicely, with good forward visibility, fine ride quality and easy-going driving controls. However, the new powertrain, which works slickly around town, easily becomes strained if you need to make good progress, and that somewhat ruins the ambience. The chassis also makes few concessions to what you might term 'enjoyment', although in fairness it isn't entirely devoid of character.

The cabin is much-improved, with nice materials and plenty of light and space. Honda's 'magic' seats also make an appearance for the second row, making the HR-V one of the most adaptable cars in the class, even though it's not the most spacious outright.

Save money with new HR-V deals from What Car?

9.Vauxhall Mokka

From frumpy to fashionable, the Mokka was transformed when Vauxhall launched the second-generation model in 2020. One of the early beneficiaries of the brand's new design language under the ownership of Stellantis, the compact crossover is a much sleeker and more distinctive machine than before.

And it's not just the styling that's bang-up-to-date, because the Mokka is also available with an electric powertrain alongside the familiar petrols and diesels. It's the same effective set-up as the closely related Peugeot e-2008, which means a 134bhp motor, 50kWh battery and claimed range of just over 200 miles.

Whichever motive power you choose, the Vauxhall is an easy-going companion with handling that's faithful rather than fun, which is unfortunate because the firm suspension settings suggest that engineers were aiming to deliver rather more of the latter. It's true that there's less body roll than you would expect, but the stiff-legged ride is harder to justify given the lack of dynamic sparkle.

What's more, in turning on the style for this car, Vauxhall has reduced its versatility compared to its predecessors. Not only is there less room in the back for passengers, the boot has shrunk from 360 to 350-litres. Still, the interior at least looks smart and there's plenty of kit, plus the driver sits high with a good view out.

The Mokka looks the part and the EV model adds some interest, but the rest of the car can't quite match the promise of that elegant exterior.

10. Toyota Yaris Cross

As it says on the boot lid, this is a crossover version of Toyota's Yaris supermini. The Japanese brand is no stranger to mix-and-match genres, the original Nineties RAV4 arguably kick-starting the whole concept with its off-roader looks and family hatch driving dynamics and running costs, but Yaris is a relative latecomer.

The good news is that, like the standard Yaris, it's based on the brand's TGNA platform. That means its steers crisply, clings on gamely and rides with commendable smoothness for one so small. It's no fun in the traditional sense, but there's a nicely honed slickness to the major controls and a sense of composure that means the Toyota is rarely wrong footed. Power comes from a petrol-electric hybrid unit, which is mated to a CVT transmission for smooth and surprisingly brisk progress. It'll even allow short squirts in EV only mode around town.

A stretch in length means the Yaris Cross is a little more practical than its hatchback brother, particularly when it comes to boot space (397-litres plays 286-litres). It's also solidly built, if a little plasticky, and generously equipped. It looks distinctive too, with its angular wheelarch treatment and a high-riding stance that gives it more of a rugged SUV vibe than its rivals.

There are crossovers that are more fun to drive, offer greater practicality and feel more upmarket, but the Yaris is cost effective to run, decent to drive and will prove as dependable as a lump of granite. One to consider.

What car new buying red 362


Loading...
#overlay-actions

Top