In the three years since we tested members of a growing class of the smallest SUVs, the class in question has only heated up, adding new models and shedding few old ones. So we gathered three newcomers — the Ford EcoSport, Hyundai Kona and Nissan Rogue Sport — and pitted them against a newly redesigned version of our previous winner, the Subaru Crosstrek.
We set a price cap of $26,000 (including destination charges), as equipped, and required automatic transmissions and the availability of all-wheel drive, but left drive type to the manufacturer’s discretion, which led to a 50/50 split of front- and all-wheel drive among our contestants. All were 2018 models except the oddly characterized 2018.5 Nissan Rogue Sport, so named for the late addition of several active-safety features as standard equipment. Test vehicles included the Ford EcoSport SE FWD, Hyundai Kona SEL AWD, Nissan Rogue Sport SV FWD and Subaru Crosstrek 2.0i Premium AWD.
Three judges individually awarded points in 13 categories: interior quality, front-seat comfort, backseat comfort, in-cabin storage, multimedia features, convenience features, handling, powertrain, ride quality, noise, visibility, city friendliness and worth the money.
Each model was also awarded points based on our measurements of its cargo volume and assessment of associated factors, the advanced active-safety and driver-assistance features with which the test vehicle was equipped, and its grades in our Cars.com Car Seat Check, which gauges the accommodation of various child-safety seats (see our methodology in the How We Tested article above). All categories combined for a possible maximum score of 1,000 points.
Our Challenge judges were:
- Kelsey Mays, Cars.com senior consumer affairs editor
- Fred Meier, Cars.com Washington, D.C., bureau chief
- Brian Wong, Cars.com Los Angeles bureau chief
This Challenge resulted in a considerable divide between the top two and bottom two finishers. As is often true in these contests — and perhaps more so for the smallest examples of a body style — models that provide more space at a comparable price reap some benefits. Read on to see how the contestants ranked, as well as the strongest and weakest aspects of each — and don’t miss the scorecards at the end for the big picture.
4 2018 Ford EcoSport SE FWD, 498 out of 1,000 points