Which Compact SUV Has the Most Features for the Money?

2017 Compact SUV Challenge

CARS.COM — When Cars.com compared seven compact SUVs in three days of expert testing for our 2017 Compact SUV Challenge, the redesigned 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan squeaked by the 2017 Honda CR-V in a photo finish of two contenders with supersized utility. The Tiguan had the lowest as-tested price ($32,625) but offered many crowd-pleaser features for the money, cementing its value position — one of 14 categories Cars.com evaluated. Other contenders, by contrast, had seemingly modest features despite a high as-tested price.

The 2017 Compact SUV Challenge
Results | What You Get | Family Features | Video

The 2017.5 Nissan Rogue took honors as the most expensive at $34,715, which meant a narrow spread between the lowest and highest priced. The priciest SUV was just 6.4 percent more than the cheapest, with a group average of $34,087. Despite the similar pricing, some SUVs had missing features that were head-scratchers (one didn't even have all-wheel drive at this price); others, like the Tiguan, floored us with what you get for the money. SUVs tested also included the Mazda CX-5, Ford Escape, Chevrolet Equinox and Jeep Compass.

Which cars had what? Here's a lay of the land.

Every SUV we tested had:

  • Alloy wheels
  • Touchscreen stereo with steering-wheel audio controls, Bluetooth and at least one USB port
  • Power driver's seat
  • Dual-zone automatic climate control with backseat console-mounted air vents 
  • Split, folding backseat with center armrest and cupholders
  • Blind spot warning system, backup camera and cross-traffic alert

Beyond that, features varied.

2018 Volkswagen Tiguan SE 4Motion

As-tested price: $32,625 ($1,462 less than group average)

Above and beyond: Warranty coverage. The Tiguan gives you an impressive six years or 72,000 miles of transferable bumper-to-bumper coverage (including powertrain). That's twice as long as the bumper-to-bumper provisions in most cars.

Dude, where's my ... power liftgate? It comes on more expensive SEL and SEL Premium trim levels, but our SE was the only car in the test with a manual liftgate.

Other features on our test car: 8-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and three USB ports; all-wheel drive; backseat sliding, reclining and center pass-through; cargo-area seat releases; dynamic lines for backup camera; forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking; heated front seats; height-adjustable passenger seat (manual); keyless access (front doors and liftgate) with push-button start; vinyl seats; moonroof (panoramic); one-touch windows for both rows

2017 Ford Escape SE 4WD 2.0T

As-tested price: $33,615 ($472 less than group average)

Above and beyond: Power and traction. Our Escape combined the top optional engine (a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder) with AWD, which made for wheelspin-free starts and swift passing power.

Dude, where's my ... moonroof or keyless access? The Escape offers both, but our SE test car had neither. It was the only SUV with old-school keyless entry and no moonroof — panoramic or regular, one of two without forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking

Other features on our test car: 8-inch touchscreen with navigation system, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and two USB ports; AWD; backseat reclining; dynamic lines for backup camera; household outlet; leather and cloth seats; one-touch windows for both rows; power liftgate; sunglasses holder

2018 Chevrolet Equinox LT 2.0T FWD

As-tested price: $33,980 ($107 less than group average)

Above and beyond: Connectivity and charging. Our Equinox had onboard Wi-Fi with 4G LTE connectivity (subscription eventually required) plus six USB ports and a household outlet. Bring on the mobile devices; this Equinox could handle them.

Dude, where's my ... AWD? It's available, but our test car was front-drive — a limiting factor to its otherwise excellent 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, which often issued more tire spin than acceleration off the line. Also missing was a forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking (one of two without the safety feature).

Other features on our test car: 8-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto; backseat reclining; cargo-area seat releases; dynamic lines for backup camera; heated front seats; height-adjustable passenger seat (manual); keyless access (all doors and liftgate) with push-button start; moonroof (panoramic); one-touch-down windows for both rows (one-touch-up for driver only); power liftgate; remote start; sunglasses holder

2017 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD

As-tested price: $34,380 ($293 more than group average)

Above and beyond: Luxury features. The CX-5 had niceties like heated rear seats and a power passenger seat with height adjustment. Some competitors offer such options, but none of them came thus equipped. In terms of quality and features, this CX-5 could pass for an entry-level luxury SUV.

Dude, where's my ... Apple CarPlay and Android Auto? Mazda says they're coming and can retroactively install in its Mazda Connect multimedia system, which our CX-5 had. Still, both must-have features were missing in our test car.

Other features on our test car: 7-inch touchscreen with navigation system and four USB ports; AWD; backseat reclining and center pass-through; cargo-area seat releases; forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking; heated front seats; heated steering wheel; keyless access (front doors and liftgate) with push-button start; lane departure warning with steering assist; leather seats; memory driver's seat; moonroof (standard); one-touch window for driver; power liftgate; sunglasses holder

2017 Honda CR-V 1.5T AWD Touring

As-tested price: $34,635 ($548 more than group average)

Above and beyond: Family features. From a conversation mirror and mammoth center console to Latch anchors for the center rear seat (not just the outboard positions), Honda snuck minivan-sized practicality into its compact SUV.

Dude, where's my ... Premium features? The CR-V had no glaring omissions, but a few small luxuries — like a heated steering wheel and panoramic moonroof — aren't available.

Other features on our test car: 8-inch touchscreen with navigation system, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and four USB ports; AWD; backseat reclining; cargo-area seat releases; dynamic lines for backup camera; forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking; heated front seats; keyless access (front doors and liftgate) with push-button start; lane departure warning with lane-centering steering; leather seats; memory driver's seat; moonroof (standard); one-touch windows for front seats; power liftgate; power passenger seat with fixed height; remote start; sunglasses holder

2017 Jeep Compass Limited 4x4

As-tested price: $34,660 ($573 more than group average)

Above and beyond: Versatility for longer cargo. A fold-forward front passenger seat means the Compass can carry long items from ladders to lamps. It was the only SUV in the test to have it.

Dude, where's my ... backseat adjustment? Reclining rear seats are ubiquitous among compact SUVs, and a few competitors even have sliding functions. But the Compass' fixed bench offered neither.

Other features on our test car: 8-inch (approximate) touchscreen with navigation system, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and two USB ports; AWD; dynamic lines for backup camera; forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking; heated front seats; heated steering wheel; height-adjustable passenger seat (manual); household outlet; keyless access (front doors and liftgate) with push-button start; lane departure warning with steering assist; leather seats; memory driver's seat; moonroof (panoramic); one-touch windows for front seats; power liftgate; remote start

2017.5 Nissan Rogue SL AWD

As-tested price: $34,715 ($628 more than group average)

Above and beyond: Cameras and cargo. Our Rogue had surround-view cameras to help with parking, plus a cargo organizer with 18 possible configurations. Chalk it up for top practicality when it comes to stuff and scuffs.

Dude, where's my ... connectivity? Our Rogue had just one USB port — three competitors had four or more — and no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Nissan is beginning to offer the smartphone integration in some cars, but the Rogue isn't among them yet.

Other features on our test car: 7-inch touchscreen with navigation system and one USB port; AWD; backseat sliding, reclining and center pass-through; dynamic lines for backup camera; forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking; heated front seats; heated steering wheel; keyless access (front doors and liftgate) with push-button start; leather seats; memory driver's seat; moonroof (panoramic); one-touch window for driver only; power liftgate; remote start; sunglasses holder

 

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