Top-Rated 2018 Small SUVs in Performance and Design

Christian Wardlaw | Jul 25, 2018

The annual J.D. Power Automotive Performance, Execution, and Layout (APEAL) Study measures what new-vehicle owners like the most and the least about their new cars, trucks, SUVs, and vans. Survey respondents have owned their new vehicles for at least 90 days, and share their opinions about the design, interior layout, and performance of the vehicles.

Based on this data, J.D. Power generates Power Circle Ratings that visually summarize the findings of the study. Consumers can use these ratings as a guide when shopping for a new vehicle, helping them to understand which makes and models people find to be the most appealing after having owned them for a period of time.

2018 Chevrolet Equinox front quarter right photo This buyer’s guide highlights the top-rated 2018 Small SUVs from the J.D. Power 2018 APEAL Study. Each model listed in alphabetical order below receives a Power Circle Rating of 4 or 5 out of a possible 5 for overall appeal.

2018 Chevrolet Equinox

Chevrolet’s overdue redesign of the Equinox arrived for 2018, and owners immediately rewarded it with a top ranking in the J.D. Power 2018 APEAL Study. Though smaller than before, the 2018 Equinox is offered with three different turbocharged engines (two gas and one diesel), and in a range of trim levels from basic to luxurious. Be sure to choose one from dealership stock that got all 5-star crash-test ratings, as earlier versions did not.

The 2018 Chevrolet Equinox receives an APEAL Power Circle Rating of 5 out of 5, and is the award recipient in the Compact SUV segment.

2018 Honda CR-V

One year after a complete redesign, Honda makes no changes to the hot-selling CR-V. It comes in LX, EX, EX-L, and Touring trim levels, with the LX using a tried-and-true 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine and other models employing a turbocharged 1.5-liter 4-cylinder. All CR-V models have a continuously variable transmission (CVT), and all-wheel drive (AWD) is optional.

The 2018 Honda CR-V receives an APEAL Power Circle Rating of 4 out of 5.

2018 Hyundai Tucson

Though it’s a little smaller than many of its competitors, the Tucson is big on value. For 2018, Hyundai shuffles trim levels and equipment. The lineup includes the SE, SEL, and SEL Plus, all powered by a 160-horsepower 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine. The Sport gets a 181-hp 2.4-liter, while the Value and Limited benefit from a torque turbocharged 1.6-liter making 175 hp. All-wheel drive is optional.

The 2018 Hyundai Tucson receives an APEAL Power Circle Rating of 4 out of 5.

2018 Kia Niro

Kia markets the Niro as a crossover SUV, but it does not offer AWD. What it does offer is standard hybrid power for great fuel economy combined with the look and utility people seek from a crossover. For 2018, the Niro line expands with the addition of a new plug-in hybrid version that provides up to 26 miles of electric driving range before it operates as a traditional hybrid getting 46 mpg.

The 2018 Kia Niro receives an APEAL Power Circle Rating of 4 out of 5.

2018 Kia Sportage

One year after a complete redesign, Kia adds value to the Sportage lineup by installing new standard equipment for all three trim levels: LX, EX, and SX. Furthermore, driver assistance and collision avoidance technology is more broadly available. The LX and EX have a 181-hp, 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine while the SX boasts a 240-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter generating a ton of torque (260 lb.-ft.).

The 2018 Kia Sportage receives an APEAL Power Circle Rating of 4 out of 5.

2018 MINI Countryman

You’re looking at the biggest MINI ever made. Redesigned for 2017 and offered in Cooper, Cooper S, John Cooper Works (JCW), and S E ALL4 model series with Classic, Signature, and Iconic trim packages, there is something for every small SUV buyer in the Countryman. A turbocharged 3-cylinder is standard, while Cooper S and JCW trims use a turbocharged 4-cylinder in different states of tune. The S E ALL4 is a plug-in hybrid supplying 12 miles of electric range before reverting to gas-electric operation.

The 2018 MINI Countryman receives an APEAL Power Circle Rating of 5 out of 5, and is the award recipient in the Small SUV category.

2018 Subaru Crosstrek

Subaru redesigned the popular Crosstrek for 2018. Now sitting on the same new platform as the latest Impreza, the Crosstrek is safer than before while retaining the characteristics that owners like such as standard AWD and 8.7 inches of ground clearance. Standard, Premium, and Limited trim levels are available, each equipped with a 152-hp 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine and a CVT.

The 2018 Subaru Crosstrek receives an APEAL Power Circle Rating of 4 out of 5.

2018 Toyota C-HR

A new model for 2018, the front-drive-only Toyota C-HR (Coupe, High Roof) was originally destined to become a Scion. The Scion brand’s death required a switch to Toyota, but owners only care that they find their new quasi-crossovers quite appealing. For 2018, the C-HR comes in XLE and XLE Premium trim, and the only drivetrain is a 144-hp 2.0-liter 4-cylinder paired with a CVT.

The 2018 Toyota C-HR receives an APEAL Power Circle Rating of 4 out of 5.

2018 Volkswagen Tiguan

The J.D. Power APEAL Study has found the Tiguan appealing in the past, and the redesigned and much larger 2018 version cements the trend. Offered in S, SE, SEL, and SEL Premium trim, every Tiguan has a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine making 184 hp and 221 lb.-ft. of torque. An 8-speed automatic powers the front or all four wheels, and there is enough cargo room to house an optional, and tiny, third-row seat.

The 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan receives an APEAL Power Circle Rating of 5 out of 5.

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