I suppose I’ve matured. I’m still really into hot hatches and fancy roadsters, but I’m also currently in love with the onslaught of small utility do-almost-anything vehicles. It probably has to do with the fact that I’m on the cusp of starting a family.
I’ve heard that having kids will change your life; and I believe it. I’m not quite there yet and already my mindset has evolved. What it hasn’t done is flip on its axis -- so to speak -- so that I think the girlfriend and I need a Chevrolet Tahoe because space, space, and more space! No, it has switched to “right size” is the right size. The current crop of small utility and family vehicles is just right. The latest additions are exemplary.
If there was ever a time to purchase a new family vehicle to replace the current compact car, this is it. I say this as subcompact and compact CUV buyers likely come from subcompact and compact car buyers. Is your Suzuki Swift or Pontiac Pursuit no longer making the cut, and you’re on a “decent” budget? The world is now your oyster.
2015 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagon
The least utility of the utilities is my tied-for-first choice, Sportwagon. This compact station wagon is huge on personality, class, and interior space. In fact, its got the largest boot in this category, the 2nd biggest if we include the Scion xB.
Refined, frugal, and classy, the Sportwagon will fulfill all small-family requirements. Driving enjoyment is guaranteed thanks to a well sorted chassis and available TDI engine and dual-clutch transmission.
Find out more by reading our review on the Golf Sportwagon.
2016 Mazda CX-3
If you are shopping for a small hatchback, the Mazda3 Sport is surely on your list. Now that the CX-3 is in the house, you’re probably going to be tempted to reconsider the 3 (it is likely to be the most affected in Mazda showrooms by the arrival of the CX-3).
The CX-3 is incredibly stylish and packed with impressive kit and value. It drives very well, and is my other tied-for-first choice. At $22,695, it is one of the least expensive ways to get an AWD vehicle.
This one was highly anticipated. Here’s what we think of the all-new CX-3.
2015 Jeep Renegade
The Jeep was my top choice until I spent time with the Mazda and VW. In actuality, I remain a huge fan of the Renegade, but I think as much as its brand will help with sales, it’ll have the exact opposite effect on those shopping in the segment because they don’t expect this type of product from Jeep. I guess it’s my job to get the word out.
Fun to drive, spacious enough and well, cute, the Renegade should not be overlooked.
Again, it’s a Jeep so it’ll go off-road, too.
2016 Fiat 500X
The Fiat is probably going to hold the smallest number of sales in this segment. The Jeep Renegade may be a niche product, but nowhere near as much as this Fiat will be. If potential buyers give it a whirl, they’ll discover a vehicle that is not only good looking, but one that also handles the road quite well.
As with the Renegade, ideally one should seriously avoid the 9-speed automatic transmission. Check out what we're going on about in our 500X review.
2016 Honda HR-V
The Honda HR-V is more “MPV” than the other newbies in the segment, and this will likely play in its favour. As well, the exterior and interior design is very much “modern Honda.” Its best asset is Honda’s signature Magic Seat that can transform the vehicle’s cargo handling abilities.
It’s not the best driving Honda, but its main goal is to provide transportation for a few humans and gear and it excels in these tasks.
I don’t seem to appreciate the HR-V much, but it’s still worthy. Find out more in our HR-V review.
And now, the others.
The Chevrolet Trax (luxo-twin Buick Encore) is in desperate need of some serious attention if it ever wants to truly compete with the above mentioned players.
The Kia Soul is no underdog. I am a true fan -- especially of the EV version, the only one available in this category.
The Mitsubishi RVR is a compromise, in my opinion, especially when one considers the breadth of viable options in this segment.
One of the originators of the genre is the Nissan JUKE. Because it’s so out there design-wise, you either want one or know you don’t. Period.
The Scion xB is well, available, at your friendly neighbourhood Scion dealership.
And lastly, the Subaru XV Crosstrek. Of all the “others,” this car and the Soul are the only ones that belong on your shopping list (minus the hybrid version). The Subie is great at many things, including riding out bad weather and safely hauling everything that is most precious to you.