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10 Most Popular Sub-compact SUVs for 2020

Once limited to full-size, truck-based vehicles, the SUV genre has migrated to all automotive segments, from high-end luxury off-roaders to minivan-like 3-row versions to the best-selling compact and now even smaller, sub-compact SUVs.


Compared to a traditional sedan or wagon, an SUV’s taller ride height and cabin, hatchback practicality, and light off-road driving capabilities are the main appeals for many consumers. To get caught up on one of the fastest-growing automotive segments with Canadian buyers, here are the 10 most popular new sub-compact SUVs in Canada in 2020*.


10th place: 2020 Toyota CH-R (3,235 sold in 1H 2020)

Introduced for the 2018 model year, the Toyota CH-R has quickly become a favourite with buyers looking for a Toyota SUV in a smaller package. With a Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price of $23,650 CDN, the front-wheel-drive, 5-passenger CH-R fits just under Toyota’s compact $28,090 CDN RAV4 and is powered by a 144 horsepower and 139 pound-feet of torque 2.0-litre 4-cylinder engine with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). Because the CH-R rides on the mid-size Toyota Camry platform, the sub-compact SUV has plenty of interior room, with 538 litres of cargo rear in the back. Available features include Connected Services by Toyota, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and the Toyota Safety Sense of standard driver assists.


9th place: 2020 Mazda CX-30 (3,281 sold in 1H 2020)

New this year, the front-wheel-drive 2020 Mazda CX-30 is a roomy, upscale, small SUV with a mainstream badge and $23,950 CDN starting price. With all-wheel-drive a $2,000 option, a trio of engine options are available, ranging from a 155 horsepower 2.0-litre 4-cylinder to a 186 horsepower 2.5-litre 4-cylinder and a version of the 2.5 unit with cylinder deactivation that is standard with the topline $33,850 CDN GT AWD trim. A 6-speed automatic is the only transmission. The rear cargo hold offers 504 litres of space. The 5-passenger CX-30 comes with a long list of standard safety features and advanced driver assists, as well as plenty of options for upgraded creature comforts and connectivity.


8th place: 2021 Kia Seltos (3,383 sold in 1H 2020)

All-new this year, the 5-passenger 2021 Kia Seltos joins the existing Soul in the brand’s sub-compact SUV stable. Front-wheel-drive models start at $22,995 CDN, with all-wheel-drive a $2,000 extra. The base powertrain is a 146 horsepower and 132 pound-feet of torque 2.0-litre 4-cylinder engine with a CVT, while the $32,595 SX Turbo trim gets a turbocharged 1.6-litre 4-cylinder that makes a healthy 175 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque mated to a 7-speed automatic. For adverse driving conditions, AWD versions benefit from a torque-vectoring system that splits torque between the front and rear wheels and a center differential lock. Moreover, the Seltos has full-size sedan-like rear-seat legroom and a large, 752-litre rear cargo hold.


7th place: 2021 Buick Encore (3,618 sold in 1H 2020)

Arriving for 2013, the 5-passenger Buick Encore is a relative veteran in the sub-compact SUV class. Sharing a platform with the $24,098 CDN Chevrolet Trax, front-wheel-drive Encores start at $24,598 CDN with all-wheel-drive adding $2,000. A turbocharged 1.4-litre 4-cylinder engine making 138 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque with a 6-speed automatic transmission is the lone powertrain. As Buick’s smallest and least expensive SUV, the 2020 Encore still manages to feel somewhat upscale, with only a few cheaper-looking plastics inside. The ride quality is composed but never harsh. The cabin is also hushed, thanks to active noise cancellation, and there are 532 litres of rear cargo room.


6th place: 2021 Kia Soul (3,642 sold in 1H 2020)

If venturing off-pavement is not one of your sub-compact SUV needs, the Kia Soul is a nice-driving, spacious and inexpensive vehicle to propel you in style. All-new for 2020, the third-generation, front-wheel-drive, 5-passenger Soul can be had for as little as $21,195 CDN. A 147 horsepower and 132 pound-feet of torque 2.0-litre 4-cylinder engine and CVT combination is standard. The all-electric $42,595 CDN Soul EV offers 201 horsepower, 291 pound-feet of torque and 383 kilometres of range. Due to the Soul’s upright design, headroom for rear passengers is virtually the same for those upfront. Rear legroom is also generous, and there’s up to 685 litres of rear cargo space.


5th place: 2020 Honda HR-V (4,155 sold in 1H 2020)

With prices starting at $24,290 CDN for front-wheel-drive versions, since 2016, the 5-passenger Honda HR-V has been an excellent choice for buyers who don’t need the extra room and cost of Honda’s larger $27,940 CDN CR-V compact SUV. A 1.8-litre 4-cylinder engine producing 141 horsepower and 127 pound-feet of torque mated to a CVT is the sole HR-V powertrain. All-wheel-drive costs an additional $2,000. Based on the Honda Fit sub-compact hatchback, the HR-V’s suspension is pleasantly taut, adding to the vehicle’s agility. With its flip-up Magic Seat in the back, the HR-V can hold taller items that need to stand upright, plus there’s up to 688 litres of space behind the rear seats.


4th place: 2020 Nissan Qashqai (4,929 sold in 1H 2020)

Primarily a shorter version of Nissan’s $27,498 CDN Rogue compact SUV, the 5-passenger sub-compact Qashqai is designed for those who don’t need a big vehicle but still desire the cargo-carrying capacity and tall ride height for which SUVs are known. Front-wheel-drive, 6-speed manual transmission versions start at $21,598 CDN, CVT versions start at $24,298 CDN, CVT with all-wheel-drive at $26,298 CDN. All Qashqais get power from a 141 horsepower and 147 pound-feet of torque 2.0-litre 4-cylinder engine, and one of the most comprehensive sets of standard driver assists in the segment. Inside the Qashqai, you might think you’ve accidentally chosen the larger Rogue, only in three-quarter size. The Qashqai benefits from its bigger sibling, with up to 622 litres of space behind its rear seats.


3rd place: 2020 Subaru Crosstrek (5,085 sold in 1H 2020)

The junior sibling to the $28,695 CDN 2020 Subaru Forester compact SUV, the Crosstrek starts at $23,795 CDN with all-wheel-drive and a 6-speed manual gearbox standard. You’ll need to pay $2,000 more for a CVT. The lone Crosstrek powerplant is a 2.0-litre 4-cylinder engine making 152 horsepower and 145 pound-feet of torque. The $42,495 CDN Crosstrek plug-in hybrid is currently only available in the province of Québec. All Crosstreks impress with generous front and rear head- and legroom, and 588 litres of rear cargo space. With its extra ground clearance, torque-vectoring system, and Hill Descent Control, the smallest Subaru SUV excels on cottage or ski hill backroads.


2nd place: 2020 Nissan Kicks (5,278 sold in 1H 2020)

Another new arrival for 2020, the front-wheel-drive Nissan Kicks is the automaker’s smallest and most affordable SUV with a starting price of $19,398 CDN. A 122 horsepower and 114 pound-feet of torque 1.6-litre 4-cylinder engine and CVT is the Kicks only powertrain choice. Around town and in everyday driving, the Kicks does just fine. Its nimble attitude, tight turning circle and taut suspension make quick work of twisting turns and impresses with its standard Safety Shield 360 that includes a range of automated driver assists. The 5-passenger Nissan SUV has a comfortable and roomy interior. With its rear seats up, there are up to 716 litres of storage room.


1st place: 2020 Hyundai Kona (9,408 sold in 1H 2020)

With standard active-safety features like emergency braking, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, available turbo engine and all-wheel drive, plus the all-electric Kona, it’s no surprise the Hyundai is Canada’s favourite sub-compact SUV. Starting at $21,249 CDN, front-wheel-drive versions get a 147 horsepower and 132 pound-feet of torque 2.0-litre 4-cylinder engine and 6-speed automatic powertrain. All-wheel-drive and a 175 horsepower 1.6-litre turbo 4-cylinder can be had for $27,149 CDN. The $44,999 CDN Kona electric offers 415 kilometres of range. With 543 litres of cargo space behind the rear seats, the Kona is at its best in urban environments, where it can slip through traffic and slide into small parking spots, but we have no qualms using it for highway treks.

*Vehicle sales based on manufacturer-supplied information between January 1 and June 30, 2020.


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