Top 10 Best Compact SUVs For Towing

July 1, 2015 5:48 AM

8 v2 Top 10 Best Compact SUVs For Towing

(Illustration courtesy of Paul Dolan at Cars.com)

This article is sponsored and provided by Cars.com.screen shot 2015 06 25 at 11 39 00 am Top 10 Best Compact SUVs For Towing Compact SUVs are flying out of dealer showrooms. These popular, car-based utility vehicles provide a great combination of efficiency, a high seating position, comfort and versatility. And unlike their truck-based predecessors, they’re not too big or unwieldy. One thing they’re not typically good at, in contrast to their larger ancestors which were, is towing. Whether it’s a trailer full of Jet Skis, a lightweight racecar or a small camper, compact SUVs aren’t quite the workhorses that their forebears were. And why should they be? Most of them are powered by small four-cylinder engines and are front-wheel drive by nature (though some are all-wheel drive), and their chassis bits are better suited for shopping mall parking lots rather than mountain passes. But head to Europe and you’ll find these little trucklets towing an amazing array of things, from campers on up. During our recent $28,000 Compact SUV Challenge, we found ourselves wondering just how well these popular runabouts rate at actually towing things. Here’s our take on the 10 best compact SUVs to use for towing, in order of decreasing towing capacity. screen shot 2015 06 25 at 11 39 00 am Top 10 Best Compact SUVs For Towing screen shot 2015 06 25 at 11 39 00 am Top 10 Best Compact SUVs For Towing screen shot 2015 06 25 at 11 39 00 am Top 10 Best Compact SUVs For Towing

1. 2015 Jeep Cherokee: 4,500 pounds

2015 Jeep Cherokee (Manufacturer image via Cars.com)

2015 Jeep Cherokee (Manufacturer image via Cars.com)

There are two powertrain options in the Jeep Cherokee, but the one you’d want for towing is the optional 271-horsepower, 3.2-liter V-6. With a nine-speed automatic and the required tow package, it can haul up to 4,500 pounds, which is enough to cart around a boat or camper with ease. screen shot 2015 06 25 at 11 39 00 am Top 10 Best Compact SUVs For Towing screen shot 2015 06 25 at 11 39 00 am Top 10 Best Compact SUVs For Towing screen shot 2015 06 25 at 11 39 00 am Top 10 Best Compact SUVs For Towing

2. 2015 Audi Q5: 4,400 pounds

2015 Audi Q5 (Photo by Evan Sears at Cars.com)

2015 Audi Q5 (Photo by Evan Sears at Cars.com)

Some of the better compact SUVs for towing are luxury models, given their typically more powerful engines. The Audi Q5 is one such beast. Based on the same platform as the A4 sedan, it can tow 4,400 pounds even with its small 220-hp, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. Of course, being an Audi, it’ll cost you considerably more than a Cherokee. screen shot 2015 06 25 at 11 39 00 am Top 10 Best Compact SUVs For Towing screen shot 2015 06 25 at 11 39 00 am Top 10 Best Compact SUVs For Towing screen shot 2015 06 25 at 11 39 00 am Top 10 Best Compact SUVs For Towing

3. 2015 Chevrolet Equinox/2015 GMC Terrain: 3,500 pounds

2015 Chevrolet Equinox (Photo by Evan Sears at Cars.com)

2015 Chevrolet Equinox (Photo by Evan Sears at Cars.com)

The SUV that came in second in our recent comparison challenge, despite its aging looks and interior, is quite capable when it comes to towing. Opt for the powerful 301-hp, 3.6-liter V-6 engine and dealer-installed trailer tow package that includes electronic trailer sway control and hill start assist, and you can haul around 3,500 pounds with confidence. screen shot 2015 06 25 at 11 39 00 am Top 10 Best Compact SUVs For Towing screen shot 2015 06 25 at 11 39 00 am Top 10 Best Compact SUVs For Towing screen shot 2015 06 25 at 11 39 00 am Top 10 Best Compact SUVs For Towing

4. 2015 Ford Escape: 3,500 pounds

2015 Ford Escape (Manufacturer image via Cars.com)

2015 Ford Escape (Manufacturer image via Cars.com)

Some compact SUVs don’t have an optional V-6 engine, but that hasn’t limited their abilities. The latest Ford Escape can be equipped with a 240-hp, turbocharged 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine and a Class II Trailer Tow Package that lets it haul 3,500 pounds. screen shot 2015 06 25 at 11 39 00 am Top 10 Best Compact SUVs For Towing screen shot 2015 06 25 at 11 39 00 am Top 10 Best Compact SUVs For Towing screen shot 2015 06 25 at 11 39 00 am Top 10 Best Compact SUVs For Towing

5. 2015 Mercedes-Benz GLK250/350: 3,500 pounds

2015 Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class  (Photo by Joe Bruzek at Cars.com)

2015 Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class (Photo by Joe Bruzek at Cars.com)

The Mercedes-Benz GLK may be overshadowed lately by the new GLA-Class, but it has plenty of merits, including an optional diesel engine and the ability to tow up to 3,500 pounds. You can do that with either the GLK250 Bluetec diesel or the conventional GLK350 and its 302-hp, 3.5-liter V-6; both have the same towing capacity. screen shot 2015 06 25 at 11 39 00 am Top 10 Best Compact SUVs For Towing screen shot 2015 06 25 at 11 39 00 am Top 10 Best Compact SUVs For Towing screen shot 2015 06 25 at 11 39 00 am Top 10 Best Compact SUVs For Towing

6. 2015 Mitsubishi Outlander: 3,500 pounds

2015 Mitsubishi Outlander (Manufacturer image via Cars.com)

2015 Mitsubishi Outlander (Manufacturer image via Cars.com)

It may not be one of the more popular compact SUVs on the market, but it is one of the more capable ones for towing. The Outlander (not the Outlander Sport, the smaller sibling which is not tow-rated) can haul 3,500 pounds, but you’ll need a top-trim GT V-6 model to do it. That truck’s 3.0-liter V-6 and six-speed automatic transmission combine with its all-wheel-drive system to offer a reasonable towing package, with optional seven-passenger seating to boot. screen shot 2015 06 25 at 11 39 00 am Top 10 Best Compact SUVs For Towing screen shot 2015 06 25 at 11 39 00 am Top 10 Best Compact SUVs For Towing screen shot 2015 06 25 at 11 39 00 am Top 10 Best Compact SUVs For Towing

7. 2015 Lincoln MKC: 3,000 pounds

2015 Lincoln MKC (Photo by Evan Sears at Cars.com)

2015 Lincoln MKC (Photo by Evan Sears at Cars.com)

Another luxury truck makes the list, but this one is tricky. The MKC is rated to tow 3,000 pounds when equipped with an optional Class II Trailer Tow Package, but only with the less powerful 240-hp, turbocharged 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine. If you opt for the 285-hp, turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine, you’re limited to a trailer weight of just 2,000 pounds. Go figure. screen shot 2015 06 25 at 11 39 00 am Top 10 Best Compact SUVs For Towing screen shot 2015 06 25 at 11 39 00 am Top 10 Best Compact SUVs For Towing screen shot 2015 06 25 at 11 39 00 am Top 10 Best Compact SUVs For Towing

8. 2015 Volkswagen Tiguan: 2,200 pounds

2015 Volkswagen Tiguan (Manufacturer image via Cars.com)

2015 Volkswagen Tiguan (Manufacturer image via Cars.com)

Volkswagen’s compact SUV is a popular towing vehicle in Europe, hauling “caravans” (small campers) across the countryside with its stout turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine making 200 hp. It’s rated to 2,200 pounds in the U.S., but with the diesel engine available in Europe, it can tow almost 3,200 pounds there. screen shot 2015 06 25 at 11 39 00 am Top 10 Best Compact SUVs For Towing screen shot 2015 06 25 at 11 39 00 am Top 10 Best Compact SUVs For Towing screen shot 2015 06 25 at 11 39 00 am Top 10 Best Compact SUVs For Towing

9. 2015 Kia Sportage: 2,000 pounds

2015 Kia Sportage (Manufacturer image via Cars.com)

2015 Kia Sportage (Manufacturer image via Cars.com)

Many compact SUVs such as the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V and Subaru Forester can tow 1,000-1,500 pounds, but the Kia Sportage is able to drag 2,000 pounds behind it with its 260-hp, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine or its less powerful 182-hp, 2.4-liter engine and a proper tow package. screen shot 2015 06 25 at 11 39 00 am Top 10 Best Compact SUVs For Towing screen shot 2015 06 25 at 11 39 00 am Top 10 Best Compact SUVs For Towing screen shot 2015 06 25 at 11 39 00 am Top 10 Best Compact SUVs For Towing

10. 2015 Mazda CX-5: 2,000 pounds

 2015 Mazda CX-5 (Photo by Evan Sears at Cars.com)


2015 Mazda CX-5 (Photo by Evan Sears at Cars.com)

With the Mazda CX-5, you get the ability to haul 2,000 pounds with a fairly small, efficient 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that makes just 184 hp. When you’re not towing, you’ll get to enjoy the Mazda’s sporty character and recently upgraded interior.  screen shot 2015 06 25 at 11 39 00 am Top 10 Best Compact SUVs For Towing screen shot 2015 06 25 at 11 39 00 am Top 10 Best Compact SUVs For Towing screen shot 2015 06 25 at 11 39 00 am Top 10 Best Compact SUVs For Towing screen shot 2015 06 25 at 11 39 00 am Top 10 Best Compact SUVs For Towing

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