Top-Rated 2021 Small SUVs in Quality According to Consumers

Christian Wardlaw | Aug 31, 2021

Small SUVs are among the most popular vehicles in America. At an affordable price, they provide a higher driving position, available all-wheel drive for bad weather and weekend adventuring, and the extra utility inherent in an SUV. So if you’re wondering what the best new small SUVs are according to the consumers who own them, J.D. Power has the answer.

2021 Kia Sportage Teaser

The annual J.D. Power Initial Quality Study (IQS) surveys tens of thousands of verified vehicle owners who bought their car, truck, or SUV new. Survey respondents have had their new vehicles for at least 90 days and tell J.D. Power about their problems with them. A ‘problem’ can be anything from a minor issue to a major failure.

From this consumer-provided data, J.D. Power can assign each make and model with a ‘problems per 100 vehicles’ (PP100) score. The lower the PP100, the higher the vehicle’s quality. 

Below, you’ll find the ten highest-rated 2021 small SUVs in quality according to the people who own them. This list includes models from the Small SUV and the Compact SUV segments, presented in descending order by PP100 score, putting the vehicle with the highest quality at the end.

10. 2021 Buick Encore GX - Find the best Buick deals!

2021 Buick Encore GX ST White Front Quarter View

Buick sells two different Encore models. One is slightly larger than the other and carries the GX designation. The Encore GX arrived for the 2020 model year and offers a choice between two turbocharged 3-cylinder engines and front-wheel drive (FWD) or all-wheel drive (AWD). A continuously variable transmission (CVT) is standard with FWD, while the AWD versions use a 9-speed automatic transmission. 

For 2021, Buick adds satellite radio and wireless smartphone mirroring for all Encore GXs, and adaptive cruise control debuts with Preferred trim.

The PP100 score for the 2021 Buick Encore GX is 144. 

9. 2021 Buick Encore - Find the best Buick deals!

2021 Buick Encore Black Front Quarter View

The smaller of Buick’s two Encore models is simply called Encore. It was an unexpected hit for Buick when it first went on sale for the 2013 model year, and today’s Encore isn’t much different from the original. Easy to enter and exit, easy to park, and good on gas, the upscale but small Encore is a just-right package for many buyers.

Encores have a turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, an automatic transmission, and FWD or AWD. Standard and Preferred trim are available. For 2021, a new Safety Package II is available, adding driving assistance and collision avoidance technology.

The PP100 score for the 2021 Buick Encore is 142. 

8. 2021 Jeep Cherokee - Find the best Jeep deals!

2021 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk Blue Front Quarter View

One of three small Jeep SUVs, the 2021 Cherokee is not the box on wheels of yesteryear. Today, it’s a modern crossover SUV, with a Trailhawk version providing the Trail Rated off-roading capability you expect. 

Engine choices include a 4-cylinder, a turbocharged 4-cylinder, and a V6. They all use a 9-speed automatic to power the front or all four wheels. Numerous trim levels and special-edition models are available, including a new-for-2021 Latitude LUX version with upscale amenities at an attractive price.

The PP100 score for the 2021 Jeep Cherokee is 141. 

7. 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer - Find the best Chevrolet deals!

2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer Activ Brown Front Quarter View

Using an old name on a new SUV, the Chevrolet Trailblazer debuted for 2021 as a new small SUV that’s a little larger than the Trax but significantly smaller than the Equinox. Equipped with a choice between two turbocharged 3-cylinder engines, FWD or AWD, and a CVT or automatic transmission, the Trailblazer is styled, sized, equipped, and priced for youthful and young-at-heart buyers alike.

The PP100 score for the 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer is 140. 

6. 2021 Buick Envision - Find the best Buick deals!

2021 Buick Envision Dark Blue Front Quarter View

Buick completely redesigned the Envision for the 2021 model year, adding significant improvements in refinement, sophistication, amenities, technology, and driving dynamics. From its more upscale design and newly standard advanced driving assistance systems (ADAS) to its next-generation infotainment, more powerful standard engine, and luxurious new Avenir trim level, the new Envision is a better SUV than it used to be.

The PP100 score for the 2021 Buick Envision is 135.

5. 2021 Chevrolet Trax - Find the best Chevrolet deals!

2021 Chevrolet Trax Front Quarter View

The 2021 Chevrolet Trax is a little bit smaller than the new Chevy Trailblazer, but in an odd twist, it has a higher base price. 

Underneath its bodywork, the Trax is the same thing as a Buick Encore. Therefore, it has the same turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, automatic transmission, and choice between FWD and AWD. You choose between LS and LT trim, but spiffy Midnight Edition and Sport Edition models are newly available for 2021.

The PP100 score for the 2021 Chevrolet Trax is 132.

4. 2021 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport - Find the best Mitsubishi deals!

2021 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport Orange Front Quarter View

Despite a program of continuous improvement, the Outlander Sport is one of the oldest designs in the Small SUV segment, dating back a decade to the 2011 model year. However, its generous warranty, low price, and consumer-rated quality remain popular with people seeking an affordable path to new-SUV ownership. For 2021, the Outlander Sport offers more standard safety features and new Limited Edition and Black Edition trim levels. 

The PP100 score for the 2021 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport is 131.

3. 2021 Kia Soul - Find the best Kia deals!

2021 Kia Soul Turbo Red Front Quarter View

In the Small SUV segment, the Kia Soul is the top-ranked model for quality. Unlike most other SUVs, the Soul comes only with FWD. An AWD system is unavailable. Six trim levels are available, though, most of which employ a 147-horsepower 4-cylinder engine and a CVT. Choose the Soul Turbo, and you get a spunky 201-hp turbocharged 4-cylinder engine paired with a dual-clutch automatic transmission (DCT).

For 2021, Kia adds a standard rear-seat reminder system, makes remote engine starting more accessible, and re-tunes the suspension on X-Line and GT-Line trims.

The PP100 score for the 2021 Kia Soul is 121. The Soul receives a quality award from J.D. Power in the Small SUV segment.

2. 2021 Hyundai Tucson - Find the best Hyundai deals!

2021 Hyundai Tucson Silver Front Quarter View

In its final year before a complete redesign, the Hyundai Tucson ranks as one of the highest-quality Compact SUVs you can buy. Available in six trim levels with a choice between two 4-cylinder engines, each paired with an automatic transmission, the Tucson offers FWD or AWD. For the 2021 model year, Hyundai made no changes to the Tucson.

The PP100 score for the 2021 Hyundai Tucson is 121.

1. 2021 Kia Sportage - Find the best Kia deals!

2021 Kia Sportage SX Turbo Red Front Quarter View

Offering genuinely sporty driving dynamics in a compact package, the Kia Sportage is the top-ranked model for quality in the Compact SUV segment. By PP100 score, it offers the highest quality of any small or compact sport/utility vehicle.

Sold in four trim levels, the Sportage features a standard 181 hp 4-cylinder engine. Choose the SX trim, and a 240 hp turbocharged 4-cylinder is standard, delivering speedy acceleration. For 2021, new Nightfall Edition and Nightfall Premium Edition versions of the Sportage S are available, featuring blacked-out exterior trim.

The PP100 score for the 2021 Kia Sportage is 117. The Sportage receives a quality award from J.D. Power in the Compact SUV segment.

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