5 Fun To Drive Crossover SUVs

Crossovers or SUVs, or whatever you feel like calling them have their advantages. Like being tall and better off-road and providing more cargo and passenger space. But there are trade-offs. Most aren’t very efficient and if you like driving they’re just not going to scratch that itch. It’s a lot to give up for the few times when you’ll actually need the extra space they provide. The rest of the time you’re just lugging around the extra weight, and you’ll be bored to tears. Drive most any new sedan or, better yet, a sports car and the difference is revelatory.

But there are a few SUVs that buck the trend and focus on providing not just straight-line speed but driving dynamics that can actually bring a smile to your face and liven up your daily commute. There aren’t many but we here at VICARIOUS have done the hard work for you and whittled down the list to bring you what we think are the 5 best driving crossovers you can buy today. We’ve stuck with compact and sub-compact SUVs because they are the sportiest and are also choosing not to include anything with a base price over $100,000, which is still a lot of money but with the average price of a new car in Canada sitting at $66,288, according to the Auto Trader price index report, it’s well within the price bracket than many are shopping in.

2024 Alfa Romeo Tonale

2024 Alfa Romeo Tonale ($44,995 – $57,495)

The first to make it on this list is one of the newest. The Alfa Romeo Tonale is a new subcompact crossover designed to take on the BMW X1, Audi Q3, and Mercedes GLA among others. These are small crossovers, think lifted VW Golf and you have an idea of the scale here. So, they aren’t particularly roomy, nor do they have large cargo holds, but their small footprint and relatively lower weight means that they’re more nimble and agile than larger crossovers.

The Tonale might be the best of the sub-compact bunch when it comes to handling with Alfa’s typically excellent suspension tuning and focus on driving dynamics. It’s also the best looking but that’s for another discussion. The base engine is a 2-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder that makes 256 hp and 295 pound-feet of torque. It’s a spunky, energetic unit with a throaty bark that just sounds right. The Tonale has very quick and very precise steering and hangs on nicely in tight corners. It’s stiffly sprung so the ride can get jittery, but the Tonale makes up for it by being fun to drive. There’s even a plug-in hybrid version that has 48 km of electric-only range and total of 347 lb-ft of torque.

2024 Alfa Romeo Stelvio

2024 Alfa Romeo Stelvio ($62,190 – $107,428)

Yes, it’s another Alfa, but this is a brand that makes compromises in many areas but never the driving experience and that includes their SUVs. And the Stelvio is a prime example. The proof that it’s good to drive is right there in its name. The Stelvio pass is a sinewy mountain road in Italy that’s been called one of the greatest driving roads on earth, and this crossover pays homage to it. The steering is laser quick and also precise just like the Tonale but it’s things like the rear-biased all-wheel drive and the balance and stability of the chassis through corners that will make you wonder how they ever made an SUV handle like it does. The standard powerplant is a 2-litre turbo 4-cylinder that pumps out 280 hp and 306 lb-ft of torque.

The Quadrifoglio version with its 505-hp Ferrari-derived twin turbo V-6 is a rip-snorting beast of a vehicle that needs a racetrack to fully exploit its potential. If we’re talking about fun SUVs, the Stelvio is a front runner, and it deserves a spot here.

2024 Porsche Macan GTS

2024 Porsche Macan ($65,200 – $93,400)

The Macan is an obvious choice. After all, Porsche has won more in motorsports than just about any other car company and that directly translates into the driving experience behind all their products.

Every trim of the Macan handles well, even with the base models. As you climb the trim and price ladder the Macan gets much more powerful. The range-topping GTS makes 434 hp and 405 lb-ft of torque from a twin-turbo V6 and it’s essentially a rocket. Handling and roadholding are immense, steering feel is better than most sports cars, and the brakes are so strong that they could stop a train. Like the Stelvio Quadrifoglio, the Macan GTS would also do well on a track, but it doesn’t beat you up on rough roads like the Alfa. The Macan also has a beautifully trimmed interior regardless of the trim level you choose and is as comfortable as it is fun to drive.

2024 Mini Countryman John Cooper Works

2024 Mini Countryman ($41,490 – $54,980)

The all-new 2025 Countryman is here but the last-generation is still for sale and it’s surprisingly fun to drive in either its gas-only or plug-in hybrid format. The Countryman shares a platform with the BMW X1 and benefits from its parent brand’s knowledge on making cars sporty and fun to drive.  The John Cooper Works Countryman makes 301 hp from its 2-litre turbocharged 4 cylinder and can scoot down a back road with conviction. While it doesn’t appear like it would be much fun, the Countryman is more car-like that many of its competitors and has great steering and excellent body control. Couple that with supportive seats and the surefooted traction of its all-wheel drive system and you have a fun-to-drive crossover that can also handle some light off-roading.

The Countryman takes the fun factor of the Mini and translates that to a larger package. The 2025 redesign is larger and likely heavier, but we’ll reserve judgement of that one until we get to properly review it. For now, the current-generation Countryman is a family-forward crossover that doesn’t make you give up your soul to drive it.

2024 BMW X3 M40i

2024 BMW X3 M40i ($56,700 – $95,600)

The BMW X3 is an excellent compact SUV that does just about everything right. It’s spacious, well made, and has excellent performance. It’s also efficient and has some of the best tech in the industry. In the class of compact luxury SUVs, it’s one of the easiest recommendations to make. But the real excitement comes with the X3 M40i and the X3 M. Both of those variants are fitted with BMW’s 3-litre turbocharged inline-6, which is easily one of the best 6-cylinder powerplants in the world. The M40i is fast enough with 382 hp but the 503 hp X3 M is a ballistic cruise missile that has no right to be as fast as it is.

This is one of the few SUVs that’s competent on a track and can handle more than a few laps without turning into a smouldering mess. Plus, it has a good ride and a comfortable cabin. The X3 and X3 M are so good with so few rough edges that they can come across as lacking personality but if it’s a thrilling drive you want, they are hard to beat.

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