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Top 10 SUVs in Canada (a buying guide)

Thinking about buying an SUV? The top ten SUVs in Canada are a great starting point, but car buying is much more than a simple list.

Questions about budget and style are sure to arise as well. Our goal at Ratehub.ca is to be the champions of choice, so I put together a buying guide showing you the top ten SUVs in Canada in 2021 (so far).  Then I take the best sellers and break it down by cost category including the cheapest SUVs, most fuel-efficient SUVs, cheapest SUVs to insure, and finally the safest SUVs. 

From there, we use a point system to grade each SUV by its appropriate category to finally determine what is the best SUV to buy in Canada in the top ten. 

Let’s dig in. 

Best Selling SUVs in Canada for 2021

  1. Toyota RAV4
  2. Honda CR-V
  3. Hyundai Kona
  4. Mazda CX-5
  5. Hyundai Tuscon
  6. Subaru Crosstrek
  7. Toyota Highlander
  8. Kia Seltos
  9. Hyundai Sante Fe
  10. Kia Sportage

*according to goodcarbadcar.net (2021 SUV sales as of June  7th)

A quick note on SUVs and Crossovers

That list is for the best-selling SUVs in Canada, but we’re going to dig into this a little further. 

Let’s start by rearranging this best sellers list on price. To keep our comparison fair, we’re going to look at base model costs because, as you may know already, the Hyundai Kona is the smaller sibling of the Hyundai Tucson. However, because this is an SUV buying guide, we still need to look at the base model cost of each SUV since the cost is a significant factor in deciding the best SUV to buy in Canada.

When we last did this list in 2019, a number of vehicles have fallen off including Ford Escape, Nissan Rogue, Volkswagen Tiguan, Jeep Wrangler, and Jeep Grand Cherokee. 

Newcomers to the list for 2021 include Subaru Crosstek, Toyota Highlander, Kia Seltos, Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Sportage. 

The Toyota RAV4 continues to be the top-selling SUV in Canada. Honda CR-V is still a dominant player. Sales of the Hyundai Kona are up 103% from last year. Mazda CX-5 is up 90%, and Tuscon is up 61%. Of the top ten with the biggest gains - the Kia Seltos is up 271% and the Subaru Crosstrek is up 115%. 

The cheapest SUVs in Canada for 2021 (of the top ten best-sellers)

Model

Base Price in CAD

Hyundai Kona Essential

$21,999

Kia Seltos LX

$23,395

Subaru Crosstrek Convenience

$23,795

Kia Sportage LX

$25,995

Hyundai Tuscon Essential

$27,699

Toyota RAV4 LE

$28,590

Mazda CX-5 GX

$28,950

Honda CR-V LX

$29,970

Hyundai Santa Fe Essential

$31,399

Toyota Highlander  L

$40,450

As suspected, the Hyundai crossover (the smallest) comes in at the cheapest price but it’s interesting to see where the Tucson sits among the competition for cheapest SUVs in Canada. Kia is certainly making inroads in its attempt to own the market. They weren’t on the 2019 list at all. 

Now, don’t forget, these are the base prices. So, each vehicle does not include optional add-ons like all-wheel drive (AWD) or all-leather interiors, so it’s not digging deep into a side-by-side model comparison. We’re comparing SUVs through the lens of money. Arguably, a valuable starting point, especially if budget is a concern. If you want an SUV but your rough budget is $30,000 taxes in, well, you may be looking at a used car. 

It’s worth noting that if you want a new SUV, and you’re looking for the cheapest SUV in Canada then of the top 20 SUVs - the Hyundai Venue (13th best SUV) is $17,599 and the Mazda CX-3 (24th best SUV) is $21,540. So, they may be more in line if budget is the primary concern. 

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Best SUV for Gas Mileage

Moving right along, which one of the best-selling SUVs in Canada is friendliest at the pump? Of course, the Hyundai Kona has an all-electric version available which would obviously crush the competition in this category. Kia Seltos has one planned for a global release, maybe in 2022.  Subaru Crosstrek, Hyundai Sante Fe, Toyota RAV4 and Highlander offer hybrid versions. 

However, to keep comparisons fair, we’re looking at base models. So we ask the question, which SUV is the best on gas in Canada? Let’s look at the results. 

The most fuel-efficient SUV in Canada (of the best sellers)

Model

Kilometre per litre (combined hwy+city)

Toyota RAV4 LE

6.8L/100km

Honda CR-V LX

7.0L/100km

Subaru Crosstrek Convenience

7.0L/100km

Kia Seltos LX

7.1L/100km

Kia Sportage LX

7.6L/100km

Mazda CX-5 GX

7.8L/100km

Hyundai Kona Essential

7.9L/100km

Hyundai Tuscon Essential

7.9L/100km

Toyota Highlander  L

8.3L/100km

Hyundai Santa Fe Essential

8.5L/100km

Now, if your number one priority is fuel efficiency, there are better options, but they didn’t make the best sellers list. The most fuel-efficient SUVs (that aren’t Hybrids or electrics) are the Toyota Venza (6.4L/100Km), Ford Escape (6.8L/100km), and Mazda’s CX-30 (7.1L/100Km). 

While gas prices are again on the rise, companies are adapting and becoming more fuel-efficient. I don’t know about you, but the biggest monthly expenditure on my vehicle isn’t gas anymore –  it’s the cost of insurance. 

Of course, bigger SUVs take more gas than Crossovers, but ultimately, it’s why shopping for car insurance quotes should be a bigger priority over hunting for fuel efficiency. 

Least expensive SUV to insure

Insurance varies by location (postal codes can make a difference), demographics like age and gender, and of course the vehicle itself. Since we’re only looking at the vehicles, we’ll eliminate the noise, create a control, and figure out which SUV is the cheapest to insure. 

 

Our control in this example, is a 30-year-old female, with a clean driving record, looking for car insurance in Kitchener. We’re going to pick a comprehensive auto insurance quote that includes comprehensive, collision, and $1 million in third-party liability. She has been insured for over 10 years (even if it was under her parent’s policy). 

Cheapest SUV to insure in Ontario

Model

Best SUV insurance quote in Ontario (per month)

Subaru Crosstrek Convenience

$84.67

Hyundai Kona Essential

$87.42

Hyundai Santa Fe Essential

$91.92

Kia Sportage LX

$92.50

Honda CR-V LX

$93.17

Kia Seltos LX

$94.08

Mazda CX-5 GX

$94.08

Hyundai Tuscon Essential

$101.58

Toyota RAV4 LE

$110.50

Toyota Highlander  L

$126.58

The winner in the insurance category of Ontario car insurance quotes goes to the 

Subaru Crosstrek Convenience. 

subaru-crosstrek-2021-cheapest-suv-to-insure

 

The make and model of the SUV you select carries different insurance risks, and therefore costs. The more the car is stolen, the higher the insurance price because there is more associated risk. The more claims against the car, the more your insurance will cost. It sounds odd, but think of it this way - a minivan costs less to insure than a 4 door sedan, why? The drivers of a minivan are often safer, more defensive drivers since they’re typically carrying family members. 

 

If you’re wondering which cars have a high number of claims against them, you can look it up with the Insurance Bureau of Canada’s “CLEAR” table for collision, comprehensive, and direct compensation property damage (DCPD) to see which cars may have cheaper insurance. 

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Top SUV safety picks

On the topic of claims, another factor you might consider in your purchase is the safety of the car. A safer car, one with more sensors, more cameras and other safety technology should reduce your chances of getting into an accident which may force you to make a claim. That said, let’s look at SUVs with the highest safety ratings. 

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) uses two factors when it comes to safety.

  • Crashworthiness -  or how well a vehicle protects its driver and passengers in a crash. 
  • Crash avoidance and mitigation -  technology that could help prevent a crash. 

Let’s look at how the top ten SUVs in Canada did with their IIHS safety ratings. With this list, it’s black or white. Even if they are a safe car, if they didn’t get a top safety pick, they’re not on the list.

 

The safest SUVs in Canada 2021 (of the top sellers)

All the best-selling SUVs in Canada are top safety picks according to IIHS, but two cars made the “Top Safety Pick +” and the only differentiator I see to make the list is that “Acceptable or good headlights come standard.” So, take that for whatever it’s worth for you. Here are the top Safety Picks +. 

  • Toyota Highlander
  • Mazda CX-5


Hopefully, this list helps you choose better when shopping for an SUV in Canada. 

For those skimming, I thought I’d do one more to help narrow your decision. 

Let’s look at all these lists - the cheapest to buy, the most fuel-efficient, the cheapest insurance, and one of the highest safety picks and decide which of the top ten SUVs in Canada is the best to buy. We’ve removed the idea of buying a “lemon.” No matter what SUV you buy, of any mentioned in the list, you’re making a smart choice, but in the end, which is the best SUV to buy in Canada? 

I created a point system - 10 points for a #1 position, 9 points for a #2, all the way down to 1 point for a #10 position. A bonus point was given to the safest SUVs. Here’s the breakdown. 

Best SUV to buy in Canada 2021

Model

Points

Total

Subaru Crosstrek Convenience

Cost:8

Gas:8
Insurance:10

26

Hyundai Kona Essential

Cost:10

Gas:4
Insurance:9

23

Kia Seltos LX

Cost:9

Gas:7
Insurance:5

21

Kia Sportage LX

Cost:7

Gas:6
Insurance:7

20

Honda CR-V LX

Cost: 3

Gas:9
Insurance: 6

18

Toyota RAV4 LE

Cost:5

Gas:10
Insurance:2

17

Mazda CX-5 GX

Cost:4

Gas:5
Insurance:4

Safety Bonus: 1

14

Hyundai Tuscon Essential

Cost: 6

Gas: 3
Insurance: 3

12

Hyundai Santa Fe Essential

Cost:2

Gas:1
Insurance:8

11

Toyota Highlander  L

Cost:1

Gas:2
Insurance:1

Safety Bonus: 1

5

The bottom line

Winer for the best SUV in Canada in 2021 is the Subaru Crosstrek. In 2019, The Kona essential won and I admit, these are both more crossovers than SUVs. Kia did not make the list at all in 2019, so you can see their steady improvements. 

Admittedly, the point system is a little skewed – cost being a $20,000-$40,000 factor, while insurance and gas are a $50-$100 factor - so, it’s not quite fair (especially to the Highlander). 

With all the information presented, the idea is you can choose better for yourself. If you really want the style factor of the new Ford Bronco or the power of a Volkswagen or BMW, that didn’t make the list, so be it. Hopefully, you can use the point system as a guide and put your own values on it. Finally, it’s worth remembering, our original list is still the top ten SUVs in Canada. It’d be hard to call any of them a bad choice. 

ALSO READ

View the Best SUVs from 2019

Best Selling SUVs 2019

Cheapest SUVs 2019

Most fuel efficent SUVs 2019

Cheapest SUV to insure 2019

Safest SUV 2019

Best SUV 2019

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