The compact luxury crossover segment has become one of the auto industry’s biggest moneymakers, so there was a lot of competition for the Best Compact Luxury SUV prize in this year’s AutoTrader Awards.
To separate the best from the rest, our jury of 20 auto industry experts considered every single vehicle in this category and voted on the best ones they thought best combined practicality, performance, and, of course, luxury. These vehicles are all compact luxury crossovers our experts feel confident recommending and they represent the best of the best in this segment.
Making a good first impression goes a long way, which is how the Genesis GV70 has ended up a winner in both of its two model years on the market. The 2023 Genesis GV70 is this year’s Best Compact Luxury SUV after taking the same prize last year, along with the Best Overall SUV honour in the 2022 AutoTrader Awards.
Genesis was confident enough in the GV70’s goodness that it made no changes for 2023, though there’s a fully electric model joining the lineup this year.
AutoTrader Road Test Editor Dan Ilika found lots of space for his tall frame behind the wheel, and praised the generous cargo compartment and strong value for money. He also liked the GV70‘s nicely weighted steering, and felt that the car’s base 2.5L turbo four-cylinder engine is a perfect fit. That entry-grade engine is more powerful than the other finalists’ standard powerplants, but if you want more performance, there’s a turbo V6 with 25 per cent more power.
AutoTrader Editor-in-Chief Jodi Lai liked that the GV70 looks like nothing else in its class. Her tester was a V6-powered model that she thought sounded as quick as it felt. She also liked the GV70’s “confident and athletic” feel – important attributes for a vehicle going up against European competitors.
Sami Haj-Assaad pitted the GV70 against a Mercedes-Benz GLC and wrote that the Benz felt like a lifeless appliance compared to the Genesis, which he said “accomplishes its journeys with confidence,” “feels sturdy and robust . . . and responds to inputs with obedience.”
Despite carrying over unchanged, the 2023 Genesis GV70 is $1,500 pricier than the 2022 model, coming in at $51,000 and topping out at $77,500. Our experts praise the GV70’s unique design, attention to detail, premium driving dynamics, and value-packed pricing.
At its 2015 introduction, the Macan opened up the concept of Porsche ownership to a whole new class of car buyer with its combination of crossover practicality and relatively affordable price, while also appealing to Porsche purists with its enthusiast-pleasing performance.
The Macan is a repeat finalist in this year’s AutoTrader Awards Compact Luxury SUV category. It rolls into 2023 with a new T trim level that builds on the base model with an adaptive suspension, a Sport Chrono package, extra drive modes, and a launch control function.
Dan Ilika thought the base 2.0L turbo four-cylinder engine and its 261-hp provided “almost appropriate punch,” even if the Macan boasts a lot more of it in its 375- and 434-hp S and GTS trims. Jodi Lai reviewed the GTS last year and was smitten by its “strong, unrelenting acceleration,” and the “explosion of sound” you get from the variable exhaust system.
Ilika noted that even the base suspension is on the firm side, but is “comfortable in its own way.” Lai’s more stiffly sprung GTS shone with confidence in “sports car-level” driving, but was harder to like over broken roads, even in the suspension’s softest setting. Both Lai and Ilika noted the Macan’s heavy steering, which Lai said left her arms exhausted after a day of driving and parking around town.
Value is not the Macan’s strong suit, with its MSRP – which ranges from $60,800 to $88,300 – coming in about $10,000 more than the Genesis GV70. However, both of our reviewers concluded that the Macan is worth the cost for how effectively it packages the brand’s sports-car performance in a practical compact SUV package.
The Lexus NX did a lot of growing up when it was redesigned into its second generation, and that newfound maturity helped make it this year’s only new finalist in the Best Compact Luxury SUV category.
Making the new NX extra special is that it’s built locally in Cambridge, Ont. It was introduced as a 2022 model but went on sale too late to be eligible for last year’s awards.
Contributing to the NX’s appeal is its array of four different powertrains – two gas and two hybrid, including a plug-in model. So far, our jury has reviewed the two hybrids, dubbed NX 350h and 450h+.
Jil McIntosh and Jodi Lai both reviewed the NX 350h and found plenty of power under their respective right feet, despite the gas-electric powertrain’s modest 240 hp output. Lai praised the continuously variable transmission (CVT) for the way it “got the job done quietly in the background.” McIntosh’s only powertrain complaint was the 2.5L gas engine’s “growly disposition on acceleration that’s . . . at odds with the fact that this is a premium vehicle.”
All three of our test vehicles returned impressive fuel economy: Both Lai and McIntosh saw an average of 6.8 L/100 km in their NX 350h and NX 450h+ testers, and McIntosh said the 450h+ covered more than 500 km on $5.70 worth of gas.
Comfort is a strong suit, with both Lai and McIntosh praising front seats that were supportive during long drives. The new NX’s infotainment system is a big improvement over the old car’s touchpad-based setup. Lai appreciated the combination of physical and touch-based climate controls, all of which were intuitive to use.
In the end, Lai spoke for all of our jurors when she described the NX as a “well-rounded luxury crossover with no deal-breakers.”
The 2023 Lexus NX’s pricing starts at $47,950 for the NX 250. The hybrid NX 350h starts at $50,450, and a gas-powered NX 350 comes in at $55,450. The NX 450h+’s plug-in powertrain, with a promised 61 km of electric range, starts at just under $60,000.
The Acura RDX has long been a well-liked entry in the compact luxury crossover category for its blend of value and driver engagement. It doesn’t boast a high-performance variant like some of its European competitors, and there’s no hybrid option, but the RDX’s success as an all-rounder puts it on our list of Best Compact Luxury SUV finalists for another year.
Reviewer Chris Tsui found the RDX boasted more rear-seat legroom than many of its competitors, and comfort was enhanced by a ride “clearly calibrated for cushy, everyday motoring” without feeling floaty. He praised the RDX for being “one of the easiest vehicles to live with day-to-day” with a quiet interior enhanced by the extra sound-deadening Acura added as part of the RDX’s latest refresh.
Tsui also appreciated the RDX’s generous list of standard features, which gets a bit longer this year, as Acura has lopped three trims from the bottom of the range. The new entry-level A-Spec trim ($54,700) comes with a panoramic roof, rain-sensing wipers, wireless phone charging, and a 16-speaker stereo, while the $60,100 A-Spec Platinum Elite model adds a head-up display, surround-view cameras, and heated rear seats.
By the same token, Tsui thinks the RDX is actually a less-strong value than it used to be, arguing that those now-defunct lower-end trims were the best deals. The new base price is about $8,000 richer than last year’s model.
You can sense BMW’s dedication to performance starting with the X3 and X4 M40i variants, which extract 382 hp from a turbo 3.0L inline six-cylinder engine. Chris Tsui surmises the X3 M40i is “among the quickest accelerating entries (if not the quickest) in its class” with a 4.5-second zero-to-100 km/h acceleration sprint. However, if you’re looking for driver engagement, Tsui thinks you’ll find more of it for less money in the Genesis GV70.
Jeff Wilson thinks you also get it in the 503-hp X3 M Competition he reviewed, but that the M40i is a better all-rounder than his “unhinged” tester, which is “ferociously quick” and accelerated “like a cartoon character.”
Wilson thinks the Porsche Macan accomplishes its speed with more finesse, but the X3 M Competition gives you “the option of using brute force to do it. Subtle it is not.”
Wilson liked the X3’s tall greenhouse, which helps make the cabin “bright and airy.” Both Wilson and Tsui both noted a firm driver’s seat, but praised its comfort and high level of adjustability.
Both reviewers liked BMW’s iDrive infotainment platform, with its combination of a large, touch-sensitive display and console-mounted rotary controller. Wilson, in his test of an X4 M, called out the “bright, crisp touchscreen” and suggests that “two decades of evolution . . . have helped craft a well-sorted operation.”
If you don’t need the power of the X3/X4 M or M40i models, the range starts with sub-$60,000 xDrive30i versions powered by a 248-hp turbo four-cylinder engine. M40i variants come in at $70,500 for the X3 and $74,000 in X4 form. The X3 M starts at $95,600, and the X4 M carries a $97,300 starting tag.