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
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
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