Compact crossovers are slowly taking over as the most popular body style, overthrowing the midsize sedan, which has been the top-selling vehicle type for as long as anyone can remember.
The reasons why are clear. They offer passenger room similar to a midsize sedan, hatchback utility, a more upright driving position and good fuel economy. Plus, most of them are available with all wheel drive and have the extra ground clearance to deal with deteriorating urban infrastructure.
Every mainstream car manufacturer has an entry in this segment, but which ones are the best? TFL is here to help. The following are TFL’s top five compact crossovers:
1. Honda CR-V: Honda’s entry into the compact crossover segment has dominated sales all year long, and it’s no surprise. In typical Honda fashion, the CR-V doesn’t particularly excel at one thing, but it does so many things so well that it’s hard not to recommend it to anyone looking for a new car. It looks reasonably good, it has decent driving dynamics, it’s comfortable, it’s well made, it gets good gas mileage and it has plenty of interior space. It’s the Swiss Army knife of crossovers.
2. Mazda CX-5: If the CR-V is a Swiss Army knife, then the CX-5 is a scalpel. It’s the performance car of the group, with taut, accurate steering and excellent driving dynamics. It has a crisp-shifting six-speed automatic – no CVTs here – and the manual shift pattern is actually in the proper racing position (back for upshifts, forward for downshifts). It’s also the best looking car in the group. It doesn’t quite have the utility of the CR-V, but for those looking for the driver’s crossover, the list begins and ends here.
3. Ford Escape: The latest Escape was a departure from previous generations. Whereas the older Escapes looked more like SUVs, the new Escape’s styling is Euro-chic, without any off-road pretense. That being said, it looks fantastic, and has taut, European driving dynamics as well. It may not be as sporty as the Mazda, but it’s close. Overall, the Escape is a worthy crossover that can go toe-to-toe with the best from Japan.
4. Toyota RAV4: The RAV4 is the granddaddy of the segment. It was the first true crossover back when companies were still calling them SUVs, melding a passenger car chassis with SUV styling and an upright driving position. The latest RAV4 is a solid contender, but like many Toyotas, it’s a little bland. It doesn’t have the same driver engagement as the top three. Still, for those looking for a practical crossover that will outlive them, the RAV4 is a good choice.
5. Jeep Cherokee: The Cherokee is on this list because it’s the off-road champ of the segment. It’s a fine day-to-day crossover, too. The styling, while at first polarizing, gets better with time. The ride is comfortable and there’s even a bit of sportiness in its demeanor. While it’s had some reliability issues – mostly related to software updates for the nine-speed automatic transmission, which is the Cherokee’s Achilles’ heel – it’s a solidly built crossover that won’t flinch when the tarmac turns to dirt.
Check out this TFLcar video with four of the five crossovers on this list going head to head: