Originally published October 2, 2015

Chevrolet Trax vs Fiat 500x vs Honda HR-V vs Hyundai Tucson vs Jeep Renegade vs Mazda CX-3 vs Mitsubishi RVR vs Nissan Juke vs Subaru XV Crosstrek

Review by Jacob Black, Peter Bleakney, Ronnie Fung, Lesley Wimbush, Jeff Wilson, Jonathan Yarkony
Photos by Ronnie Fung and Jeff Wilson

Introduction, Jacob Black

Everything in the automotive kingdom these days is getting bigger it seems. Cars and SUVs especially are growing, expanding and bloating like so many Christmas revelers. The bloat has become so substantial that an entire new size category has opened up at the bottom: one for subcompact SUVs and crossovers.

In the last 12 months the segment has doubled in size; where before there were five or six that could be classed within, now there are ten.

The divisive but fun-to-drive Nissan Juke was arguably the first true subcompact SUV blazing a trail here in Canada, with the popular Mitsubishi RVR and often underestimated Chevrolet Trax and its Buick Encore twin joining the fray. And then along came the Subaru XV Crosstrek – which is a tall wagon, but it’s quite tall and comes to the party with Subaru’s vaunted AWD system.

Yet this quartet played in pretty much its own niche for the last few years – with the Mini Countryman also part of the party depending on who you spoke to.

Mismatched in some areas, the oddballs found comfort in one another and, more importantly, they sold half well. Better than half, actually.

It wasn’t long before other manufacturers saw an opportunity for a city-size SUV for those who like the height and the style, plus the easy ingress and egress without the bulk.

Since the bloom in offerings, the segment has grown. Year-to-date in 2015 mini-SUVs are up almost 40 percent – 21,908 units were sold by the end of August in 2014, while 30,556 have gone out the door this year according to GoodCarBadCar.net.

We’ve got them all here with only two exceptions: The Buick Encore, which wasn’t available and is a pricier clone of the Trax, and the Mini Countryman – which was likewise unavailable. One could make a case for the Kia Soul, but lacking all-wheel drive in any form kept it out of this crossover comparison.

The Subaru XV Crosstrek is our reigning champion from the last time we tested these mini-crossovers, but there’s a flood of new competition now and a sharpened focus on the segment. The Crosstrek, meanwhile, remains about the same. Still, it and the Nissan Juke are the only two of the existing players that have gained sales this year, up 18 and 15 percent respectively.

Enter: The newbies.

The critically acclaimed 2016 Mazda CX-3 is our long-term test vehicle at the moment. It’s a looker, but can its focus on driving dynamics overcome its diminutive stature?

The 2016 Honda HR-V is brand new too, and packs many of the innovative, fun, downright brilliant packaging tricks from the Fit.

The 2016 Hyundai Tucson is fighting down a weight range here, having grown even more for the new model. Its price has come up too.

Joining Hyundai in the near-$40,000 range is the Jeep Renegade – we landed the Trailhawk trim, the toughest and most capable mini-SUV money can buy. But is “cool factor” and “toughness” enough in this market?

Jeep’s FCA cousin, the Fiat 500x, popped its little blue pill and sauntered down to the ring all prepped and ready to box. The little Italian turned on the charm, but it takes more than a wink and a smile to win over our testers… or does it?

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