Edmunds Choice: Compact Crossover Comparison

Car Buying Articles

Edmunds Choice: Compact Crossover Comparison

Comparing the Best Choices in Five-Passenger Compact Crossovers


2012 Compact Crossovers

Americans haven't lost their enthusiasm for SUVs, but now they're finding utility in more space-efficient and fuel-efficient "compact crossovers." It's no wonder that the market is booming with new entries from every carmaker. Fortunately, the latest generation of these smaller utility vehicles now meet full-size standards of carlike comfort and convenience, so you can enjoy being practical. Here you'll find our top choices among the latest five-passenger entries in this category.

Chevrolet Equinox LT
The Chevrolet Equinox has a very grown-up feel. Its cabin is notably quiet, while the ride is the most composed among these four SUVs. The driving position and slightly limited visibility might give the impression that you're in a larger vehicle, and though this can make maneuvering difficult, those downsizing from a bigger SUV should feel more at home. Despite this impression, however, the Equinox offers less cargo capacity than the others here. It makes up for this with a very comfortable backseat that slides rearward for limousinelike legroom or forward for expanded trunk space. This versatility makes the Equinox appealing for parents who need a vehicle that will accommodate rear-facing child seats as well as growing teenagers. While you can load up a Chevrolet Equinox with enough options to push the price past $30,000, a simple 1LT model provides most of the equipment you'd ever need, and the interior ambience doesn't make you feel as if you left a bunch of option boxes unchecked.

Best for: Downsizing SUV owners; frequent highway travelers

Ford Escape 1.6 SE
The Ford Escape is the new kid on the block, and it represents a stunning transformation from its predecessor. Of all the SUVs here, the Escape feels the most carlike. If it weren't for the elevated seating position, you'd be hard-pressed to tell the difference between the Escape and its Focus sibling, especially since the nicely trimmed interior is in much the same style. Most important, the Escape delivers both the comfortable, well-damped ride and responsive handling you expect from a car, so you never feel as if you're paying a penalty for this utility vehicle's practical packaging. The Escape offers you no fewer than three different engine choices, and the two turbocharged units actually deliver fuel economy as well as stout power. All is not perfect, though. The number of high-tech items on the features list is large, but most are controlled through a MyFord Touch interface that is still unintuitive at times, though it has been improved. The backseat is also a little down on legroom and lacks the sliding capability, but it can be folded forward with the pull of a trunk-mounted handle.

Best for: Shoppers upsizing from a car

Honda CR-V
Like the Escape, the Honda CR-V has been recently redesigned, although the changes are largely evolutionary. It remains a comfortable, no-nonsense family car that emphasizes utility and versatility. This can be seen with the backseat, which traded in its predecessor's sliding capability in favor of a remote-folding mechanism like the Escape. Improvements to the CR-V include a revised suspension for a more comfortable and composed ride on the highway, while more acoustic insulation makes things quieter, too. The CR-V is not quite as polished as the Ford Escape on the highway, yet it's still refined and also offers the nimbleness expected from a Honda. Visibility from the driver seat is excellent, which makes the CR-V the easiest crossover here to park and maneuver. Like other Honda products, though, the CR-V trails the competition a bit in terms of interior design and materials quality. The Escape and Equinox often feel like more expensive cars, though if you go by our estimates of True Cost to Own® (TCO), they actually are more expensive in the long run. The Honda CR-V's silver bullet in the comparison is ultimately its low cost of ownership and sterling reliability.

Best for: Dollars-and-sense buyers

Kia Sportage EX
The Kia Sportage is the smallest vehicle here. It has substantially less maximum cargo capacity, the backseat is smaller and there are no adjustments for it, including the recline functionality found on these other crossovers. As a result, this is the least family-friendly crossover in this group. On the other hand, the Sportage's sharp driving experience and sharper styling should appeal to those who want a little SUV for reasons besides carrying kids around. Its smaller size also brings with it a smaller price, and yet the Sportage is still offered with a huge list of available features. A loaded Sportage EX with luxuries like a panoramic sunroof, navigation and heated and cooled leather seats is barely more expensive than a midgrade CR-V. Add to this a very generous warranty and the Kia Sportage offers a great crossover choice that provides tons of value and style in return for some useful space for an expanding lifestyle.

Best for: Singles and DINKs

For further information:

Compare Five-Passenger Compact Crossover Specs Side by Side

2012 Chevrolet Equinox Model Review

2013 Ford Escape Model Review

2012 Honda CR-V Model Review

2012 Kia Sportage Model Review

To find a dealership that knows how to treat shoppers right, please visit Edmunds.com's Dealer Ratings and Reviews.



  • No Mazda CX-5?! It's a great competitor, and superior in numerous categories!

  • sportgm1 sportgm1 Posts:

    Totally Agree. Where is the 2013 Mazda CX-5??? With it's Skyactiv Technology and 35 MPG Highway, It is best in Class, period. I am averaging 29 MPG in the City. Amazing!

  • mherschel mherschel Posts:

    I refer to Edmunds alot for car information. But I totally disagree with the posted mileage of the Chevy Equinox. In city driving I got less that 18 mpg, and no more than 24 on highway. Traded mine in for a Hyundia Santa Fe (6 cyl.) in less than a year. More pep and better gas mileage.

  • alberio alberio Posts:

    How did edmunds leave off the Mazda CX-5...it's cheaper, same cargo capacity, MUCH better fuel mileage than all of these. And tows more than the CR-V. I am shopping in this segment and the Mazda's fuel economy is a huge edge.

  • suppin suppin Posts:

    I'm not sure the 35MPG Manual Transmission version of the CX-5 is a good comparison to the automatics in this group. a much more realistic comparison would be the 26/32MPG version of automatic Touring Mazda CX-5. That said it should be on the comparison list! with it's fuel saving compatability it is one of the lowest cost to own SUVs available to us.

  • jr60 jr60 Posts:

    Again Edmunds drops the ball, CX-5 all the way! I have been getting over 30 mpg with all the room i can stand. EDMUNDS WAKE UP!!!!!

  • How much did you guys pay for your CX-5 with or without tax? I'm in market to purchase one.

  • lbjack lbjack Posts:

    How bogus! A "comparison" without a Toyota entry? What, they didn't pay a "slotting fee" to get included?

  • Must have 100,000 mile b-b warranty...... My one-owner TOYOTA 2001 4-RUNNER with over 301,000 miles and still a daily driver, Lexus GS 400 over 270,000 miles and still my #1 family driver, I recently rented a Toyota RAV on business travel ( needed some extra space ) boy did that vehicle ride like a rock, I thought that they had the tires improperly inflated, no it was just the way it's suspension was set up. After a couple of weeks I moved upto a 4x4 Tacoma crewcab, great ride (maybe longer wheel base and plenty of cargo area (only not covered). I plan on purchasing a new vehicle soon, thought about a Cad Escalade, but my one owner 2007 Tahoe has used over 1 QT of oil since over 70,000 CHEV SAID THAT IS NOT OUT OF THE NORMAL FOR CHEV. The 2002 Z-06 VETTE I owned was the last quality vehicle they produced. No German hi maintenance vehicles again SL's or D's. Never thought about Mazada, every Mazada I see is on it's last leg, a salesperson tried to get me to buy the hi line Mazada when I bought the LEXUS GS,, boy from what I see that would have been a big error. I always run high miles and expect the vehicle to last. Seems that LEXUS suv will be where I will start. Does anyone have a better up starting vehicle?

  • I have to agree with most of the postings here. Writing an article about the new generation of (more) fuel-efficient crossovers and not including the Mazda CX-5 seems like an glaring oversight, and frankly makes the average reader wonder whether or not these articles are nothing more than paid-for advertisements. If you are looking for a vehicle in this category, you would be a grade-A fool to not at least consider Mazda's newest entry. I drove ALL of them in this article, and in my opinion, none of them present a better value for the dollar. The fact that the Kia Sportage is evaluated here, while the CX-5 is snubbed, is almost laughable.

  • timdogcc timdogcc Posts:

    Devil's advocate....this post is for "compact" crossovers. Can the CX-5 be classified as a "compact crossover?" I would love to see more vehicles compared here as I feel there are more in this category however I am sure that there is some specific reason why others were left off.

  • bpizzuti bpizzuti Posts:

    Someone forgot to include the Mazda CX-5. Fail.

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