Those of us with a love of SUVs and crossovers may dream of owning something like a Mercedes-Benz GLB, but luxury vehicles are not always all they’re cracked up to be. Often, they sacrifice a lot in the areas that make the body style so desirable in an attempt to make it more like a pampered sedan or coupe. These generally include fuel economy and cargo capacity, though they normally make up for this with upscale materials and a lot more standard features.
However, when you’ve got a car full of children and their school bags and suddenly realize you need to do some grocery shopping for dinner, a surround-view camera and quad-zone automatic climate control won’t do you much good. In such situations, you’d be much better off shopping from a brand that better understands the needs of the Asian market. These priorities include an affordable MSRP, a spacious cabin, high dependability ratings, and unassailable practicality. Some of the biggest names in this segment that deliver on every front, include the:
- Kia Soul
- Mazda CX-30
- Hyundai Venue
- Honda HR-V
But, how much, exactly, do you get for you money when you purchase one of these Korean or Japanese vehicles?
Not the most aesthetically appealing car on the road, the Soul places a lot more emphasis on function that form. Its most attractive feature is definitely its low starting price. In exchange, you get compact crossover with a chunky design that lends itself to optimal levels of passenger and cargo capacity. Behind the back seat, 24.2 cubic feet of space is made available. The ability to pack taller items all the way up to the roof is also a boon, especially if you fold to the seats down to make extra room.
The base powertrain is a 147-horsepower four-cylinder engine that returns 30 mpg combined when you opt for the CVT automatic transmission. However, you can trade this power plant out for a turbocharged four-pot with 201 hp and significantly better performance without sacrifice much in terms of mileage. And while the small Kia may not have all that much in the way of driver-assistance tech, it does boast a high safety rating.
Slotting between the CX-3 and CX-5 this Japanese crossover supplies the best of both worlds. Thanks to its slightly larger size, it can more easily accommodate five passengers and 20.2 cubic feet of cargo. However, it is still small enough to easily maneuver around busy streets or jam itself into a packed parking lot. Its interior is also a bit more upscale than many rivals, which is not uncommon in the latest line of vehicles from Mazda.
This includes a decent list of standard features, such as an 8.8-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, paired with an eight-speaker sound system. Standard safety tech comprises lane tracing, driver attention alert, and a rearview camera, although blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert are just a single step up the trim ladder.
Another really cheap option, the Venue goes for a steal. It’s a little sparsely outfitted and does not offer an all-wheel-drive option, which limits its usefulness in areas where roads are a little less reliable. The four-pot under the hood is efficient, though, returning 31 mpg combined, even if driving feels as exciting as sanding a wooden table. Comfort is not too bad, considering the price, but you wouldn’t want to take any particularly long trip without plenty of breaks.
Rear-seat passengers may find legroom lacking a little, and the trunk is subpar with only 18.7 cubic feet provided. It makes up for these shortcomings with a comprehensive standard safety suite, including forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking. Even fully equipped with more advanced features like rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot monitoring, leatherette upholstery, and heated seats, the top-tier Venue still costs less than most rivals.
One of the most popular subcompacts in the USA, the HR-V has a slightly higher starting price. However, it certainly warrants it with its comfortable ride quality and upscale materials, including available leather upholstery. The 23.2 cubic feet of trunk space is nothing to scoff at, either, growing to 57.6 cubic feet when you fold down the easy-to-use Magic Seats.
The 1.8-liter four-cylinder is paired with a CVT and can be had with either FWD or AWD, depending on your needs. However, this weak engine, combined with the height and awkwardness of the crossover mean that it doesn’t handle overly well, especially at higher speeds. Despite its relatively high starting price, it is also rather sparsely equipped, with many desirable features restricted to the pricey top-tier trims.