If it seems like most vehicles in traffic today look like a stick of butter, it's because … well … they sort of do. Last year SUVs commanded an overwhelming majority of new car sales. Just as they did the year before. And the year before that. And as time goes by, these machines are due to continue dominating the automotive landscape, vacuuming up customers left behind from discontinued sedans and hatchbacks. To cover every nook and cranny of consumer interest, from small baskets to big boxes, automakers continue to diversify the range of SUVs in their lineup, offering models that cater to the frugal-minded among us, the most performance-focused buyers, and every consumer in between. As a result, the competition is forcing changes to these types of vehicles. The dull crossovers and SUVs of yesterday still exist, but there are also a number of delightfully engaging alternatives, as well.
Finding the best option in a field this large is a lot to chew through. We've split the more than 200 new crossovers and SUVs for sale today across 13 segments to find the ones that dare to be good. Our editors have put every SUV sold today through our comprehensive testing regimen to filter out the pretenders. We've driven them all to decide which ones deserve a spot on our 2023 Editor's Choice list, not to mention naming a few of the very best of these vehicles to our 10Best Trucks and SUVs of 2023.
Subcompact: Hyundai Kona
Whether you call it a low-riding SUV or a tall hatchback car, the diminutive 2023 Hyundai Kona is a practical and fun-to-drive vehicle, which makes it one of our faves. The entry-level engine is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder that makes only 147 horsepower, but the optional turbocharged mill dials in some spiciness that better matches the Kona's nimble handling. Like other Hyundai models, the Kona comes packed with a generous list of standard features—including driver assistance and infotainment technologies—at a reasonable price. More than reasonable, actually. Considering that rivals such as the Kia Seltos and the Volkswagen Taos cost thousands more to start, you may find it easy to justify splurging on a higher-trimmed Kona model even if you're on a budget. The Kona may not have as much passenger or cargo space as some of its larger rivals, but when it comes to driving satisfaction it's a bundle of spunky, funky fun—no matter whether you think it's a car or an SUV.
Subcompact: Kia Niro
With a bold new look, the 2023 Kia Niro is set to add a dose of cool to its eco-friendly image. The base hybrid model comes with a 139-hp four-cylinder, while the perkier plug-in-hybrid model adds a more powerful electric motor that bumps output to 180 horsepower. The cabin, which is lined with sustainable materials, matches the extroverted exterior styling and looks fairly upscale for what will be one of Kia's entry-level models; it's positioned next to the boxy Soul at the small end of the lineup. A novel 'Green Zone' drive mode will be standard and uses navigation data to automatically switch the Niro into EV mode when driving in neighborhoods, near schools and hospitals, and by frequently visited places such as a driver's office or home.
Subcompact: Kia Soul
Choosing to drive a 2023 Kia Soul says a lot about a person, as its unconventional, stylized-toaster design and memorable ad campaign—featuring hamsters bopping out to dance music—imbue it with a certain whimsy. While it's true that the Soul looks like nothing else on the road, its boxy body hides a particularly practical cabin, with plenty of room for both people and cargo despite its small footprint. It's also a great value, with a price tag that starts thousands less than rivals such as the Chevrolet Trailblazer, Jeep Renegade, and Kia Seltos. It's not the most exciting car to drive, and its 147-hp four-cylinder only comes mated to a continuously-variable automatic transmission and front-wheel drive, but the Soul delivers a compliant ride and multiple virtues that make it pleasant to live with.
Subcompact: Mazda CX-30
Handsomely styled and surprisingly fun to drive, the 2023 Mazda CX-30 is the small SUV to buy if you've got taste and tact. It has nearly all the same moves as the excellent Mazda 3 hatchback with slightly more practicality. It wears Mazda's latest design language quite well and also sports a cabin that's lined with class-above materials, so you can pretend you spent more money than you really did. Uplevel models could even be said to compete with rivals such as the Audi Q3 and the BMW X1, even if their prices align more with similarly equipped versions of the Hyundai Kona and the Volkswagen Taos. While it has a higher ride height than the Mazda 3, the CX-30 is certainly no off-roader, and its base engine delivers only mediocre performance. Upgrade to the optional turbocharged engine, however, and the CX-30 becomes the driver's choice it was engineered to be.
Subcompact: Volkswagen Taos
Subcompact SUVs feed a hunger for space, affordability, and a certain sense of belonging—since almost everyone drives an SUV these days. Among 20 other competitors, the Volkswagen Taos quenches an additional, more recent consumer craving for parsimonious fuel economy. Available in front- or all-wheel drive, every Taos hums along getting exemplary real-world fuel mileage thanks to a stingy, 158-hp 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. The Taos doesn't offer a hitch to tow with, so we'd suggest moving up to the larger Tiguan SUV for that, but there's plenty of cargo space inside, even with the rear seats in use, to easily handle grocery duty. It's a close fight among the best in this class, so the Tiguan's low starting price and capacious cockpit make it a tempting choice among others such as the Kia Seltos and Chevrolet Trailblazer. Beating its EPA estimate by 4 mpg, an all-wheel-drive Taos SEL we tested managed an awesome 40 mpg during our 200-mile, 75-mph highway fuel-economy test loop. Copious amounts of interior plastic help keep the Taos's price down while making the more richly-appointed Mazda CX-30 cabin feel like a miniature luxury condo in comparison with the VW.
Subcompact Luxury: BMW X1
BMW's entry-level SUV, the X1, has been a favorite of ours for some time thanks to its agile handling, eager nature, and practical shape. The 2023 model has received a complete redesign that looks to be a comprehensive upgrade over last year's model, with improvements to its chassis, powertrain, and interior. A new 241-hp turbocharged four-cylinder engine is under the hood and is paired with standard all-wheel drive and a seven-speed automatic transmission. Unlike its main rival, the Mercedes-Benz GLB-class, the X1 remains a two-row SUV, but its slightly larger exterior dimensions have translated to extra space inside the cabin according to BMW. Speaking of the interior, it's updated with a more modern design and the latest tech features, including the brand's iDrive 8 infotainment setup.
Subcompact Luxury: Volvo XC40
The spunky little sibling in the Volvo lineup is the 2023 XC40 SUV, which blends Volvo's safety-first ethos and upscale ambiance with a more youthful character. The XC40's cabin is practical and nicely trimmed, and the seating position is much higher than that of rivals such as the BMW X1 and the Mercedes-Benz GLA-class. A host of technology features is at the ready as well, including Volvo's advanced driver-assistance tech and a new Google-based infotainment system. Two four-cylinder powertrains are available—both with a 48-volt hybrid system—but only the more powerful of the two has all-wheel drive. An electric version is also available if you're looking for a more eco-friendly option, but we review the XC40 Recharge separately.
Compact: Honda CR-V
The 2023 Honda CR-V arrives with a whole new look inside and out, the better to do battle in the brutally competitive compact-SUV segment. With grander proportions and more passenger space, the newly designed CR-V has already impressed us, earning another 10Best Trucks and SUVs award for 2023. Its interior has an attractive design inspired by the Civic compact car and is complemented by modern tech, including an infotainment system with an available 9.0-inch touchscreen that has wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Of course, every CR-V also has a host of standard driver assists that include adaptive cruise, blind-spot monitoring, and lane-keeping assist. A 190-hp turbo four is the standard engine; a 204-hp hybrid powertrain is optional. Both can be paired with front- or all-wheel drive, and no matter which engine you choose, the CR-V delivers a comfortable ride and confident—if not exactly exciting—road manners.
Compact: Hyundai Tucson
The 2023 Hyundai Tucson struts a cutting-edge style that stands out among its more sober-looking compact SUV competitors. That doesn't mean that the Tucson sacrifices practicality or affordability. It boasts both. Hyundai has taken the blanket approach with the Tucson, offering a wide variety of trims and powertrains—including a hybrid and plug-in hybrid—giving it broad appeal. The entry-level powertrain is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder but the hybrid and plug-in hybrid models use a turbocharged 1.6-liter four that's buttressed by an electric motor—a combination that provides more pep. Entry-level models of the Tucson are nicely equipped while higher-end trims cross the line from mainstream to premium, giving it an edge over rivals such as the Honda CR-V, the Toyota RAV4, and the Volkswagen Tiguan.
Compact: Kia Sportage
The 2023 Kia Sportage separates itself from the throng of compact crossovers with its extroverted styling. The Kia's unconventional face features a set of alien-looking headlights and a distinct grille design. Its bolder bodywork is also dimensionally bigger than before, which translates to more cargo space and a roomier interior. Inside, the new Sportage is both attractive and packed with tech that includes a massive dash-mounted screen. Motivation comes from a 187-hp four-cylinder, a 226-hp hybrid powertrain, or a more powerful plug-in-hybrid model with an estimated electric range of 34 miles. Competition is tough from segment stalwarts such as the Mazda CX-5 and the Honda CR-V, but the 2023 Sportage proves it has more to offer than just a wild-looking exterior.
Compact: Mazda CX-5
Not only does the 2023 Mazda CX-5 deliver on the brand's reputation for athletic handling, but it also offers a near-luxury experience for mainstream money. It's this particular blend of nimble road manners and interior refinement that makes the CX-5 one of our favorite small SUVs, especially higher-end models that come with the optional 256-hp turbocharged four-cylinder engine. The entry-level engine is a pokier 187-hp four, but all-wheel drive is standard on all models—as is the CX-5's lithe handling, which will satisfy regardless of your choice of engine. The CX-5 isn't perfect—although, that depends on who you ask—as it's not as spacious as rivals such as the Honda CR-V or the Toyota RAV4. Few compact SUVs can match the Mazda's panache, though, and in a segment full of pragmatic options the CX-5's charms are alluring.
Compact: Mazda CX-50
A new nameplate has joined Mazda's lineup in the form of the 2023 CX-50 SUV, which is well-equipped to take on compact crossover rivals such as the Hyundai Tucson, Nissan Rogue, and Toyota RAV4. The CX-50 is available with either a naturally aspirated 187-hp 2.5-liter four-cylinder or a turbocharged version of that engine making 256 horsepower. All models come with a six-speed automatic and all-wheel drive. A hybrid model is also in the works that will use a powertrain from Toyota. The CX-50 shares a platform with the subcompact CX-30 crossover and the Mazda 3 compact car so it offers athletic handling similar to those two winners. Although it's barely larger than the company's CX-5 SUV, the CX-50 wears more rugged styling, which is a departure from the more refined, upscale designs found elsewhere in the Mazda lineup.
Compact: Volkswagen Tiguan
Among compact crossovers, the 2023 Volkswagen Tiguan is the only one that offers a distinctly European flavor, with crisp handling and elegantly tailored styling. The only engine choice is a smooth, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder, and while performance is merely adequate, it does deliver on fuel efficiency. A host of tech features is included in every model, including a digital gauge display, contemporary infotainment connectivity, and driver-assistance features. The cabin, while sedately styled, is spacious for people and cargo; a third row of seats is available as an option, something only the Mitsubishi Outlander matches in this segment. More than anything, though, we like the Tiguan because it's sporty and fun to drive.
Compact Luxury: BMW X3
Traditionally, sports sedans have been the vehicles that best projected the spirit of the BMW brand. Not so much anymore. The 2023 X3 SUV edges in on its four-door brethren's territory with a satisfying blend of refinement and driver engagement. As its name implies, the X3 is the crossover equivalent to the renowned 3-series sedan, and it shares its powertrains with that car. Entry-level models are powered by a 248-hp turbo-four while M40i models get a boost from the company's revered 382-hp turbo six—an engine that never ceases to amaze us with its velvety muscle. A handsome exterior design gives the X3 enough curb appeal to fit in among style mavens such as the Genesis GV70 and Volvo XC60. The X3's spacious interior is soberly styled but lined with premium materials and desirable technology. But it's the X3's frisky handling that endears it most to enthusiast drivers like those on our staff and, as an added bonus, its athletic road manners don't compromise its genteel nature when cruising nor its all-around SUV practicality.
Compact Luxury: Genesis GV70
Genesis's unique take on luxury is evident in each of its offerings, particularly so in the 2023 GV70 SUV, which earned a spot on our 10Best Trucks and SUVs for 2023. Instead of creating a low-cost value-player that feels cut-rate, Genesis has created a compact luxury SUV that's, in many ways, nicer and posher than similarly priced rivals, such as the BMW X3 and the Volvo XC60. It may not have the brand-name recognition of those other SUVs, but the GV70 makes up for it with a splashy look and a beautiful interior that are undeniably upscale, so even if people can't name it, they'll know it's high-end when they see it. A turbo four or twin-turbo six provides more than enough power, and all-wheel drive is standard on every model. Handling is nimble, if not exactly Porsche Macan–crisp, and the GV70's ride is comfortable when you just want to cruise in peace. The rear seat could be more spacious, so if you're regularly toting passengers, it might be better to upgrade to the larger and even more luxurious GV80.
Compact Luxury: Porsche Macan
Porsche's SUV lineup began with the mid-size Cayenne, but the compact Macan delivers a heartier helping of the brand's sporting ethos while still offering more space for people and cargo than a sports car. The Macan's snappy shifts and exciting ride earned it a place on our list of 10Best Trucks and SUVs for 2023. A turbocharged four-cylinder is standard, but the S model is equipped with a significantly more powerful twin-turbo V-6 engine. The high-performance GTS trim is even more powerful, but we review that one separately. Handling is crisp, and all Macan models provide a joyful driving demeanor that even the most hardened SUV detractors will appreciate. This is why it's one of our favorite crossovers. Rivals such as the BMW X3 or Genesis GV70 offer more luxury equipment as standard, but the Macan stands alone as an upscale, compact SUV that satisfies its driver first and fulfills its other missions second.
Compact Luxury: Volvo XC60
Elegant design and purposeful engineering combine in the 2023 Volvo XC60, and the result is a distinctive option in the luxury-SUV class. Along with its tastefully styled exterior, the XC60's cabin is an exercise in well-tailored minimalism—think Prada meets IKEA. A trio of four-cylinder powertrains is offered—the 247-hp B5, the 295-hp B6, and the 455-hp T8 plug-in hybrid. All of are reasonably fuel-efficient and feel good from behind the wheel, with performance that ranges from perky to downright quick depending upon which powertrain you choose. Technology is prioritized too; Volvo includes popular driver-assistance and safety features standard. We don't love the XC60's Google-based infotainment interface, but it works well enough even if it doesn't look particularly appealing. Other compact SUVs are more practical, especially the Audi Q5 and the BMW X3, which both offer more cargo space. But the Volvo's interior room isn't far off, and its strong curb appeal makes up for these minor shortcomings.
Compact Performance: Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio
If you want to simply transport people and stuff from one place to another quietly and unobtrusively then don't buy an Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio. But if you want something that'll accomplish those everyday tasks while delivering performance and handling that'll make you want to sing a Puccini opera, then the 2023 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio and its 505-hp twin-turbocharged 2.9-liter V6 could be your ride. The Stelvio QF offers the attractive aesthetics and visceral driving experience of the superb Giulia Quadrifoglio super sedan crossed with the rational attributes of all-wheel drive and crossover practicality. While it excels in performance, it's by no means the most spacious, most comfortable, or most luxurious of compact luxury SUVs. The Mercedes-AMG GLC-Class, Genesis GV70, and BMW X3 all offer more passenger room, more cargo room, substantially nicer interior materials, and better fit-and-finish. That said, the Stelvio QF can still be the right choice for someone whose primary concern is sorrisi per miglio with practicality and usability as secondary requirements.
Compact Performance: Porsche Macan GTS
Porsche has more than a half-century of sports-car development to draw from. The company's expertise culminates in the sports-car-esque 2023 Macan GTS, making it one of the most exciting SUVs to drive. With a 434-hp twin-turbo V-6 under its hood, the all-wheel-drive GTS is potent enough to rocket to 60 mph in only 3.5 seconds. Should the compact luxury ute encounter coiling roads along the way, it'll remain planted on each one, rewarding its driver with agile handling that's not only rare among most SUVs, but also among many cars. For those in the market for a high-riding high-performance machine, there is none better than the Macan GTS. Of course, those seeking maximum utility might find boxier rivals such as the BMW X3 M and Jaguar F-Pace SVR more useful. Still, to us, there's no greater utility than the 2023 Porsche Macan GTS's unmatched driver involvement.
Mid-Size: Ford Bronco
Whether it's crunching through dense forest trails or quietly idling up to a Wendy's drive-through window, the four-wheel-drive Ford Bronco is arguably the most exciting off-roader since the Jeep Wrangler. A winner of our 10Best Trucks and SUVs award, the Bronco comes in both two- and four-door body styles, and it was designed to do everything a Wrangler can—and it does that and more. Yes, you can remove the doors on the Bronco just like you can on a Wrangler, but only the Ford retains its mirrors. Both brands' SUVs cater to the big muddy, but the Bronco suffers from noticeably less road noise when traveling the highways between puddles. It has more base horsepower too, with output ranging between a 300-hp turbocharged 2.3-liter inline-four and a 330-hp twin-turbo 2.7-liter V-6. If you're after more than that, feast your eyes on the swollen fenders of the 418-hp Bronco Raptor, reviewed separately. With a dizzying array of models, trims, and optional equipment, the Bronco offers vast configurability that allows it to fit a wide range of needs—even for those die-hards (like us) who want to shift gears with the help of a clutch pedal.
Yes, he's still working on the 1986 Nissan 300ZX Turbo project car he started in high school, and no, it’s not for sale yet. Austin Irwin was born and raised in Michigan, and, despite getting shelled by hockey pucks during a not-so-successful goaltending career through high school and college, still has all of his teeth. He loves cars from the 1980s and Bleu, his Great Pyrenees, and is an active member of the Buffalo Wild Wings community. When Austin isn’t working on his own cars, he’s likely on the side of the highway helping someone else fix theirs.
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