AutoGuide sorts through the market so you don't have to.
Compact crossovers are quickly becoming America’s one-size-fits-all automotive solution.
These practical, efficient, all-weather vehicles can haul a small family and their gear nearly anywhere. Customers are flocking to showrooms and snatching these high riding hatchbacks up; last year, sales totaled over 1.7 million units.
With a segment this big, manufacturers are locked in a constant battle to outdo one another with a barrage of new products vying for a piece of this profitable pie. Last year Honda brought out a new CR-V while Mazda created the CX-5; the manufacturer’s first in-house, completely independent compact crossover. Hyundai was also hard at work splitting the Santa Fe into two, creating the compact, five-seat Santa Fe Sport and the mid-size, six or seven seat Santa Fe.
THE NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK
Taking on this trio of sophomores are three new offerings from Subaru, Toyota and Mitsubishi. The Forester is the latest evolution of the compact crossover that helped define the segment over 15 years ago. Its four-speed automatic has been replaced by a continuously variable transmission (CVT) and there still is the turbocharged XT edition. The Toyota RAV4 has received a more drastic overhaul this year, dropping its V6 engine and third row seats while gaining much more aggressive styling inside and out.
And then there is the Outlander. Yes, Mitsubishi still makes this crossover, but with fewer than 8,000 units sold last year, you can be excused if you forgot about it. For 2014 it is all new and, unlike the RAV4, retains the third row of seating and V6 engine option
To round out this grouping, we invited two old timers of the compact crossover segment that push the size boundaries on both sides. First, there is the diminutive Jeep Compass that this year has dropped its noisy CVT in favor of a six-speed automatic. On the large side of things is the Chevrolet Equinox. Which continues to be a strong seller for the General despite needing an update.
Unfortunately two key competitors could not make this comparison test. With our price focus set around $31,000 as tested, the only Ford Escape we could acquire was a fully loaded 2.0T Titanium AWD model that pushed the price envelope through the stratosphere at over $37,000. The other no show is the Nissan Rogue. With an all-new Rogue just introduced, including last year’s model seemed pointless, even if Nissan plans to continue selling it beside the new model.
But we did gather eight key products to do battle in an all-out comparison emphasizing price, content, fuel economy and style.
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