SUVs, also known as Sports Utility Vehicles, are undoubtedly a hit among automakers and consumers alike. These versatile vehicles are a perfect choice for both city dwellers and adventure seekers who love the great outdoors. In this guide, we will dive into the realm of smaller SUVs that excel in towing capacity, setting the benchmark in their class.
Starting MSRP (maximum towing capacity): $41,295
The Jeep Cherokee, being the largest among Jeep’s lineup of small-ish crossovers, stands out from its showroom siblings, especially the similarly sized Compass, thanks to its off-road capabilities and impressive towing capacity. In fact, the Cherokee takes the crown for towing the heaviest load on our list.
For the 2023 model, the Jeep Cherokee is offered in two trim levels: Altitude Lux and Trailhawk. Although there isn’t a barebones base-level trim, the Cherokee’s starting price is higher compared to its competitors.
All-wheel drive comes standard across the Cherokee lineup. The Altitude Lux trim is equipped with a 180-horsepower 2.4-liter inline-four engine, providing a towing capacity of 2,000 pounds. If you opt for the Trailhawk trim, you’ll get the exclusive 270-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine. That powertrain, when paired with the optional Class III Trailer-Tow Group package, increases the towing capacity to an impressive 4,000 pounds.
The package includes heavy-duty engine cooling, a transmission oil cooler, a Class III hitch receiver, and 4- and 7-pin wiring harnesses. Trailer sway control is also standard. In addition to its towing prowess, the Trailhawk package equips the Cherokee with commendable off-road capabilities, setting it apart from the others in its class.
However, if you desire even greater towing capacity, you have the option of choosing a used Cherokee with the 271-horsepower 3.2-liter V6 engine. This powertrain, when combined with the optional tow package, offers an incredible towing capacity of 4,500 pounds.
Opting for a used Cherokee also makes sense since this compact crossover hasn’t undergone significant changes since its debut in 2014. Furthermore, production for the current Cherokee is scheduled to end in 2023.
Find good-condition used Cherokee models here.
Starting MSRP (maximum towing capacity): $34,040
The Escape offers a diverse range of powertrains, translating into a variety of towing capacities. Let’s begin with the base and Active trims, which exclusively come with a lively 181-hp turbocharged 1.5-liter three-cylinder engine, allowing you to tow up to 2,000 pounds.
Ford also provides two hybrid options for the Escape, including a plug-in variant. These hybrids feature a combination of a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and two electric motors. However, the towing capacity for these hybrid models is limited to 1,500 pounds.
For those seeking a compelling upgrade, the 250-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine is the way to go. Not only does it deliver a more spirited and seamless performance, but it also significantly enhances the towing capacity. The most cost-effective means of accessing this powertrain option is by opting for the ST-Line trim and selecting the coveted select package. The select package equips the vehicle with the 2.0 L Ecoboost engine featuring Auto Start-Stop Technology, all-wheel drive, and sport handling suspensions and tuning.
With this combination, you can unlock the maximum towing capacity of 3,500 pounds, all at an approximate cost of $34,000. To maximize your ability to transport heavy loads, Ford recommends obtaining the available Class II Trailer Tow Package. This package includes various safety and control features, such as trailer sway control and a receiver hitch.
As one of the most popular compact SUVs, the Ford Escape enters the 2023 model year with a significant refresh. The Escape not only boasts an appealing exterior but also offers a roomy cabin, providing ample space for both passengers and cargo.
It may seem surprising to see the Equinox on the list, given its ordinary towing capacity of 1,500 pounds for the 2023 model. However, if you’re in the market for a used small Crossover SUV with excellent towing capability, the 2020 Chevy Equinox is a solid choice.
While the standard 1.5L Turbocharged Engine offers a towing capacity of 1,500 pounds, the 2020 model also offers the option of a gutsy 2.0L turbocharged engine. When paired with the Chevy Equinox towing package, this combination allows the Equinox to achieve an impressive maximum towing capacity of 3,500 pounds.
But towing capacity isn’t the only aspect that makes the Equinox a standout choice. Its practical utility factor is also worth mentioning, as the Equinox is one of the most spacious vehicles in its class. With its roomy interior, comfortable seats, and a host of convenient amenities, the Equinox proves to be a reliable choice for long-distance family trips.
Let’s not overlook the 252-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, which delivers exhilarating acceleration that can even make the wheels chirp with excitement. Furthermore, Chevy has equipped the Equinox with an abundance of standard features, including a user-friendly infotainment system and a comprehensive set of driver-assistance systems.
Starting MSRP (maximum towing capacity): $34,470
The Toyota RAV4 stands out as a practical and fuel-efficient SUV, solidifying its position as one of Toyota’s top-selling vehicles. It offers a 203-hp 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, which delivers respectable power, albeit being slightly noisy.
What you might not be aware of is its impressive capability. The RAV4 can confidently tow up to 3500 pounds, making it ideal for various towing needs.
However, there’s a small catch. The maximum towing capacity of 3500 pounds is exclusive to the Adventure and TRD Off-Road trims, which do come with a slightly higher price tag of around $34,000 and $38,000 respectively. These models offer a range of features designed to facilitate safer and easier towing. One such feature is the Dynamic Torque All-Wheel Drive, capable of shifting up to half of the vehicle’s weight to the rear axle. Without this package, the towing capability is limited to 1500 pounds.
For those interested in an eco-friendly option, the plug-in hybrid RAV4 Prime showcases an impressive towing capacity of 2500 pounds. The regular hybrid trims, on the other hand, offer a maximum towing capacity of 1750 pounds.
Furthermore, the RAV4 includes a standard trailer sway control system, assisting you in maintaining control over the trailer’s trajectory. It’s important to note that Toyota no longer offers a dedicated towing package. Therefore, you’ll need to separately purchase a hitch kit.
Starting MSRP (maximum towing capacity): $37,150
Introducing the latest addition to Mazda’s lineup, the 2023 Mazda CX-50! Despite its compact size, this SUV packs a punch by sharing its platform with the sporty CX-30 crossover and the stylish Mazda 3 compact car.
With all-wheel drive as standard, every model of the CX-50 boasts a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, but there are two different power options to choose from. For those seeking maximum towing capacity, the turbocharged variant with 256 horsepower is the way to go. The cheapest way to unlock that impressive power is to opt for the Turbo trim, which starts at around $37,000.
But here’s the exciting part—even when you’re not towing anything, splurging a little extra on the CX-50 won’t leave you disappointed. Mazda has infused this SUV with exhilarating handling, and when combined with the spirited turbo powertrain, it delivers a thrilling driving experience. The accurate steering adds to the fun, while the comfortable ride ensures you’re cruising in style. And let’s not forget, the CX-50 truly stands out with its upscale cabin, offering one of the most sophisticated interiors in its class.
Starting MSRP (maximum towing capacity): $34,320
Last year, the Subaru Forester underwent a refresh, but its essence as a compact crossover with rugged, outdoorsy appeal remains intact.
If you’re aiming for the Forester’s impressive maximum towing capacity of 3,000 pounds, the Forester Wilderness trim is your ticket, starting at approximately $34,000. Other Forester trims can handle up to 1,500 pounds of towing weight. Additionally, you have the option to add an accessory Class II hitch receiver.
While the 2023 Subaru Forester boasts a rugged and robust appearance, its true focus lies in utility rather than flashy style. Its boxy design and smart utilization of space contribute to its class-leading cargo capacity of up to 74.2 cubic feet. Both rows offer comfortable seating, and the vehicle excels in crash-test ratings. Not to mention, it comes equipped with a comprehensive suite of advanced driver-assist systems as standard.
Although the 182-horsepower flat-four engine may not provide the Forester with blazing speed, all-wheel drive comes standard. Furthermore, Subaru’s offering delivers better fuel efficiency compared to its AWD competitors.
Starting MSRP (maximum towing capacity): $37,645
The Volvo XC40 is one of the top-rated vehicles in its class. It blends Volvo’s safety-first ethos and upscale ambiance with a more youthful character.
Now you might think this luxury compact SUV might be out of your budget. However, the fact is while most other vehicles in the list are from the affordable class with a low starting price, they require you to upgrade to a higher horsepower engine model to get the full benefits of the towing capacity as the base models usually come with a lower towing capacity.
That is not the case with the Volvo XC40. Here, you do not need to spend anything extra to take advantage of all the power that the engine offers. As long as you have the proper towing hitch, which can be installed by a dealer, your Volvo SUV can haul up to 3,500 pounds.
So, the XC40 does not cost much more than the mid-range SUVs that have far lower towing capacities. Not to forget, you get all the luxury that you would usually associate with a Volvo, including an upscale driving experience and a quality interior.
Two four-cylinder powertrains are available—both with a 48-volt hybrid system. Power ranges from 187 to 247 hp, but even the base model could tow your payload with ease.
Starting MSRP (maximum towing capacity): $26,290
The 2023 Kia Sportage marks the beginning of a new generation and shares its platform, technology, and powertrains with the redesigned 2022 Hyundai Tucson. There’s also a notable improvement in towing capacity (500 pounds) over the previous model year. This compact crossover can now pull up to 2,500 pounds, provided the trailer has a braking system. Impressive, considering the Sportage is equipped with a 187-horsepower engine.
While there isn’t a dedicated towing package for the 2023 Kia Sportage, there are various towing accessories available to enhance your towing experience. Some notable options include a tow hitch with a harness, a towbar wiring kit, a 13-pole and 7-pole socket, a retractable tow bar, fixed tow bar, and a bike carrier for the towbar.
Setting itself apart from the crowd of compact crossovers, the 2023 Kia Sportage boasts eye-catching, extroverted styling. Its unconventional face features uniquely designed headlights that give it a distinctive, almost alien-like appearance. The bold bodywork is also larger in dimensions, resulting in increased cargo space and a more spacious interior.
Step inside, and you’ll be greeted by an attractive cabin loaded with tech. The Sportage also rides on a new platform with an extended wheelbase compared to its predecessor, translating to improved ride comfort.
This list focuses on compact SUVs in the market segment, ranking them based on their maximum towing capacity as specified by the manufacturers. It’s important to note that not all models within a vehicle range have the same towing capacity. To make things easier for you, we have provided information on the specific configuration that offers the highest towing capacity for each model, along with an estimated cost for that configuration.
While not included in our ranking, there are compact SUVs with a 2,000-pound towing capacity, which is above average for a small crossover. These include the Jeep Compass, Jeep Renegade, Mazda CX-30, Mazda CX-5, Ford EcoSport, Fiat 500X, Mitsubishi Outlander, and Hyundai Tucson.