When Small is Right-Sized, the Options are Plentiful in SUVs
The competition among the small SUV segment is fierce,
with each automaker striving to stand apart by its subtle differences.
Like all Jeeps, the Compass is set apart by its off-road capabilities. Jeep’s 2022 Compass got a host of updates include a new exterior design and more refined interior and tech upgrades inspired by the brand’s luxury-level line-up. All Compasses come with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder gas engine good for 177 horsepower and 172 lb-ft of torque getting 22 city/30 hwy. Our Limited AWD nine-speed automatic tester is second in trim level only to the Trailhawk. With a base price of $32,195, the test car sported Velvet Red Pearl paint, a dual-pane panoramic sunroof and a premium Alpine® speaker system, putting it at $36,280 delivered.
Ford’s commitment to electric vehicle production includes the 2022 Ford Escape. Our tester was the SE, one step up from the base, with the optional 2.5-liter plug-in hybrid powertrain. Together, that makes a 221 total system horsepower. It is paired to a continuously variable automatic front wheel drive transmission (CVT). The battery is good for 37 miles of electric-only driving. With gas only, it ranks at 40 MPG. Ford packs every Escape with a healthy amount of included safety features. When choosing the hybrid powertrain, you also get the bonus of dual-zone automatic climate control and an upgraded instrument cluster display. MSRP including $985 in options that added 18” machined ebony aluminum wheels and upgraded tires, a convenience package, power liftgate, leather-wrapped steering wheel and power driver seat, put its price tag at $35,305.
It you’re looking for entry level luxury in the small SUV segment, the Lexus UX 250h starts with an attractive base price of $35,200 and lots of standard features. Its exterior is sporty, and the interior satisfies our high expectations from Lexus. UX represents one of the few luxury automakers that offer a hybrid powertrain in a compact SUV. The 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and hybrid system with CTV get 181 horsepower and deliver a 42 mpg combined rating. Every UX 250h comes with the Lexus Safety System+2.0 package. The Premium package on our tester added automatic wipers, a moon roof and heated and ventilated front seats, (another rarity in this class) for $1,175. It can be loaded up for about another $5,600 with a nav package, hands-free liftgate, auto-leveling headlights, heated steering wheel, wireless charging pad, head-up display, and parking sensors were options, which would make the price close to $42K.
Infiniti adds a new SUV for 2022 to compete in the small luxury level SUV segment. The QX55 is essentially a QX50 with a sportier profile including a sloped roofline giving it a coupe-life appearance and standard 20-inch wheels with short tire sidewalls. All-wheel drive is also standard on the newcomer. Little was changed on its interior, which was already top rated in the class. None of the contenders reviewed here are going to make your list if you’re looking for sports performance; that would include the QX50 with turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and CVT. Like others with CVTs, shifting tends to be rough and handling is lackluster. But the good news is that while both engine and the transmission on the QX55 are the same as on the QX50, they’ve both been retuned for better performance (268 hp) with a fuel economy rating of 22 MPG. This positions QX55 in closer competition with the Audi SQ5, BMW X4 and Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class Coupe it aims to compete with. It also comes with a price entry point similar to these rivals. We drove a mid-trim level Essential model which added $5,100 for AWD, leather upholstery, a Bose premium sound system and some additional comfort and safety feature add-ons to the entry level Luxe model starting at $46,500. An $800 Pro-Assist add-on with more safety features, plus destination charge, put our tester at $53,425.