$25K Compact Crossover Shootout
These days everyone wants more mpg’s, and they want it now! Well, one segment that has responded with a host of new, fuel efficient vehicles is compact crossover utilities. These compact suv’s are ideally practical for young households and anyone watching their budget. So this week we put 6 of the latest compact crossovers to the test to find out which ones offer the most family friendly features for your hard earned dollar.
Once again, we’ve teamed up with the good folks at cars.com and USA Today for this shootout, but this time we’re duking things out in the suburbs of Chicago, where families battle both bad weather conditions and brutal traffic. And, as is usually the case, our gang of experts was joined by a local family who is in the market for one of these vehicles to get their take on which of these mini-UTES best meets their needs. The rules of engagement are simple. All entries must get at least 30 mpg’s on the highway with Regular gas, have an automatic transmission, and cost less than $25,000 before destination charges.
With that in mind, let’s meet our contestants. Starting with the immensely popular, Canadian-made Chevrolet Equinox, followed by a sparsely equipped version of the revamped Ford Escape, the newest design in our competition, the Mazda CX-5, MotorWeek’s Drivers’ Choice pick for Best Small Utility, the Honda CR-V, all new for 2012 and an established segment leader, the funky styled and well equipped Hyundai Tucson, and finally, the fun to drive Kia Sportage. Our group features a mix of 2012 and ‘13 models, and all are front-wheel-drive only. Narrowing down a winner was not easy, but eventually all the scores were tallied, so let’s take a look at who made our top four.
The Chevrolet Equinox won our previous compact shootout two years ago. But, with many all-new entries since then, it was definitely asking too much for it to stay on top. Still, it held up well, coming in fourth place, as our group raved about the Equinox’s great ride, big size, and cargo flexibility. Power from its 182-horsepower, 2.4-liter I4 was not as refined as some, but combined with a 6-speed automatic, Government Fuel Economy Ratings are 22–City and 32-Highway. And, the Equinox had the second lowest price at $23,530.
FRED MEIER: The Equinox was impressively quiet and the 8-inches of travel fore and aft of the rear seat lets you choose to have a bigger car or be more truck-like and have more cargo space.
BILL JACKSON: I think families would like it because if you have a child in a safety seat you can slide it closer so you can attend to the child and also for a bigger person like me, I had a lot of room in the second row.
JOHN DAVIS: At third, the Kia Sportage brought LED running lights and a host of other features to the segment in 2011. Here in this competition it brought the only navigation system with a price right in the middle at $23,775, with its 2.4-liter, 176-horsepower I4 getting Government Fuel Economy Ratings of 22–City and 32-Highway.
JENNIFER GEIGER: One of the most clever features of the Sportage, I think, is the cargo area under the floor you can find bins and they’re separate; it’s kind of a nice hidden way to keep it controlled back there.
NICK RAVELINGEEN: With the Kia Sportage, I definitely felt like it was a great car because if you look at the console in the middle, it definitely had that intuitive feel, similar to the smart phones that we use; in addition it felt very fast.
JOHN DAVIS: Coming in second is the Mazda CX-5, an all new vehicle that replaces the Tribute and its Ford-shared chassis with a new lightweight platform that supports a new SkyActiv fuel-economy approach. That includes a 2-liter I4 with 155-horsepower and great Government Fuel Economy numbers of 26–City and 32-Highway. Pricing is mid-pack at $23,895. It all adds up to one practical and money saving compact-UTE.
DAVE THOMAS: The big surprise for me on the CX-5 was that even though it had the least amount of horsepower in the group it didn’t feel like it on the road. So, you’re not going to give up a lot of compromise in terms of power to get that great fuel economy.
FRED MEIER: The CX-5, with its new engine delivered impressive gas mileage and its interior was Mazda-like in its upscale feel.
JOHN DAVIS: That means the Civic-based Honda CR-V earned the most points and first place in our competition. Its $24,595 price was certainly near the top, and its 23–City 31-Highway Government Fuel Economy Ratings come courtesy of a 2.4-liter I4 rated at 185-horsepower, the most in the competition. But, it wasn’t horsepower that elevated the CR-V to first or its very smooth ride; it was the all around practicality that our testers raved about.
BRIAN ROBINSON: The CR-V is kind of my benchmark for this class. The 2012 redesign didn’t exactly blow me away, but it does everything very well and I love the interior design, the way everything works; everything’s right where it should be and the seats fold very nice. It’s a great overall package.
ERIN RAVELINGEEN: We love the options that came in under the $25,000 price range, including the sunroof and the reliability factor. It had a lot of cargo space and it was a really comfortable ride.
JOHN DAVIS: So in this competition, it was the Honda CR-V that bested an excellent group. Not only does it offer great comfort and room, it was features like the well-designed folding rear seat and standard back-up camera that really pushed it to the top. Still, with the points spread of our four finalist less than 10% apart, clearly there is more than one compact CUV well worth considering. That’s good since sales show the Compact Crossover is becoming the Family Truckster of choice. And, while those families do indeed want more mpg’s, they also want lots of features, style, and comfort. And, as we found out, these smallish wonders can deliver some big results.
2012 Chevrolet Equinox
2013 Ford Escape
2013 Mazda CX-5
2012 Honda CR-V
2012 Hyundai Tucson
2012 Kia Sportage