If you’re thinking to yourself, “Gee, that Hyundai Nexo looks a little funny . . . ” your instincts are correct. It is a little funny-in that it’s a technological powerhouse and the only hydrogen fuel-cell–powered car on this list. (And one of only a few available in the U.S. on, um, any list.) Its last-place finish has more to do with its limited availability, limited refueling infrastructure, and high price than its general execution, which is quite good. You see, the Nexo is refueled with hydrogen at the few filling stations in America, which mostly are concentrated in California, which is then fed into the onboard fuel-cell stacks to generate electricity. Thus, the pricey, high-tech Hyundai drives like the electric car that it is, with smooth power delivery and generally quiet operation.
One of the best things the Jeep Compass has going for it is its resemblance to the larger, mid-size Grand Cherokee SUV. The stylists even added a few handsome flourishes that big sibling lacks, such as a “floating” roof design and a sleeker nose. Like the Grand Cherokee, the Compass can be outfitted in Trailhawk guise, which readies the small crossover for pretty serious off-road duty. Outside of that niche, however, the Compass is barely average, with a weak powertrain, a dour cabin, and lousy driving dynamics.
The Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross borrows its name from one of the brand’s legendary (and discontinued) sports cars, but doesn’t provide the driving satisfaction worthy of the title. Instead, the Eclipse Cross is a wildly styled but otherwise entirely average crossover. It has more character than Mitsu’s larger Outlander, as well as a turbocharged four-cylinder engine, and those are pretty much the extent of its highlights.
Chris Doane Automotive – Car and Driver
Sitting on the larger end of the compact-crossover segment, the Outlander offers a third row of seats but is no more useful than its rivals. It also is not nearly as well-built or nicely outfitted as the segment’s top dogs, though it offers a plug-in hybrid powertrain-the only vehicle in its segment to do so. There also are two gasoline-fed engines-a four-cylinder and a V-6. It edges out Mitsubishi’s other offering in this segment, the Eclipse Cross, purely because of its more spacious cabin.
Chris Amos – Car and Driver
There is nothing particularly wrong with Nissan’s Rogue, it is just that it doesn’t do anything particularly well. The Rogue is good looking and roomy, but its four-cylinder engine is anemic, and there is plenty of body roll during cornering and the steering response is vague. Even when traveling in a straight line on the highway, the Rogue feels somewhat unstable, requiring plenty of corrections at the wheel to maintain course. On the upside, the Nissan’s interior is straightforward and active-safety features such as adaptive cruise control and automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection are available.
Confused by Jeep’s crowded small SUV lineup? The automaker sells three crossovers with at least some size and price overlap: The subcompact Renegade (on the large end of its one-size-smaller class), the compact Compass (found elsewhere in this roundup), and finally the slightly-larger-outside-but-no-bigger-inside Cherokee you see here. In fact, the smaller, cheaper Compass boasts more interior and cargo space than does this Cherokee, though it lacks the Cherokee’s nicer interior and six-cylinder and turbocharged four-cylinder engine options. Similar to the Compass, the Cherokee can be outfitted for serious off-road excursions, but some of the higher trim levels (including the off-road-ready Trailhawk) are seriously expensive.
Love or hate the GMC Terrain‘s blocky looks, there’s no question the SUV’s mechanicals aim to please. Lighter and more refined than its predecessor, the latest Terrain offers a modern lineup of turbocharged four-cylinder engines (two are gas-fed, and the third is a mega-efficient diesel) and competent driving dynamics. The ride is on the firm side, however, and like its Chevrolet-badged Equinox sibling, the build quality inside leaves much to be desired given the prices GMC asks. While we appreciate the standard touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (including a 4G LTE data connection with a Wi-Fi hotspot)-big pluses in our book-the also standard push/pull-button transmission controls buried low on the center console are weird and take getting used to.
What places the Chevrolet Equinox ahead of its mechanical sibling, the GMC Terrain? Other than its plainer but less rambunctious looks, the Equinox’s more adventurous interior styling hides its mediocre build quality more so than the GMC’s blockier, more rectilinear cabin. Plus, the Chevy lacks the Terrain’s odd button-operated transmission controls. Wrapper (and conventional shifter) aside, the Chevy offers the same turbocharged engine lineup, consisting of 1.5 and 2.0-liter gas four-cylinders, as well as a 1.6-liter diesel that scored 43 mpg on our real-world highway fuel economy test.
Having been around in more or less the same form since 2012, today’s Ford Escape is old. An all-new 2020 model has already debuted, though it has yet to go on sale. So, in the meantime Ford’s compact crossover soldiers on with aging styling and a relatively tight interior, though it still drives slickly. Three engines are offered, though only the two up-level turbocharged four-cylinder options can be paired with all-wheel drive; front-wheel drive is standard across the lineup. Ford’s easy-to-use Sync 3 touchscreen infotainment system is a highlight.
Even though Hyundai’s Tucson doesn’t do any one thing really well, it does many things commendably. The handsome crossover has a straightforward, nicely built interior and competent chassis tuning that delivers a comfortable, controlled ride. In base form, it uses a 164-hp 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and is an excellent value with standard forward collision warning, lane-keep assist, and a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Up-level models use a 181-hp 2.4-liter four; last year’s turbocharged 1.6-liter engine has been discontinued as part of Hyundai’s updates for the 2019 model year, which also included revisions to the SUV’s styling and additional standard equipment.
If you can get past the Kia Sportage‘s, um, different-looking face and into the driver’s seat, you’ll find a tasteful interior that’s almost Audi-like in its detail. The driving experience similarly exceeds expectations, with good handling and reassuring brakes. Kia offers two engines: A base 2.4-liter four-cylinder that is pretty weak, and an optional turbocharged 2.0-liter four that is much peppier. Today’s must-haves, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as active-safety features such as automated emergency braking, are available. In sync with its Hyundai-badged cousin, the Tucson, the Sportage is updated for the 2020 model year with subtle styling enhancements and extra standard equipment.
The newest Toyota RAV4 reverses this popular crossover’s slide into anonymity with distinctive styling, a much-improved interior that is as practical as ever, and sharper driving dynamics. It is also one of the few compact SUVs to offer a hybrid variant which provides slightly more power and considerably better fuel economy (at least per the EPA) than the base four-cylinder gas engine. Our only major complaints center on the RAV4’s relatively loud four-cylinder engine; some might enjoy the zesty engine note, but we think too much of it enters the cabin.
The Forester is new for 2019 but its legions of current owners (and, well, pretty much everyone else) will find it instantly familiar. Subaru has done little to mess with this winning formula, and the Forester looks the same as before and again offers standard all-wheel drive, excellent visibility, a roomy interior, and capacious cargo hold. Subaru now also throws in several active-safety features such as automatic emergency braking and lane-departure warning. We’re a little disappointed that the previously optional turbocharged engine is gone, along with the available manual transmission. That said, the 182-hp naturally aspirated boxer-four standard across the lineup pairs well with Subaru’s continuously variable automatic transmission to deliver smooth, reasonably peppy acceleration.
The Volkswagen Tiguan is one of the biggest offerings in the segment-large enough to squeeze in a tiny third row-and it uses that size to deliver a refined, substantial driving experience. Sure, the 184-hp turbo four can sometimes feel overmatched by the Tiguan’s mass, but it’s also smooth and (particularly on the freeway) quite fuel-efficient. The VW’s ride is comfortable, the interior is nice up front-less so in the rear seat-and there’s plenty of room for cargo.
Honda’s CR-V isn’t the sportiest or sexiest compact crossover around-that’d be the Mazda CX-5 next on this list, for those curious-but it is among the best-rounded. Tidy driving manners combine with a versatile, well-packaged interior to deliver just what most crossover buyers are looking for. Base models are powered by a 184-hp 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, while a sweet turbocharged 1.5-liter four is available. Similar to the Toyota RAV4, the CR-V has a noise problem-its cabin lets in a decent amount of road, wind, and engine noise at speed (the available turbocharged engine’s sound is growly, too), but the Honda’s packaging for humans and cargo is so good as to outweigh its acoustics.
Mazda’s CX-5, already lauded for its class-above interior appointments, for 2019 adds an even more luxurious new Signature trim level and an available 250-hp turbocharged engine upgrade. Lined up alongside the other crossovers on this list, the Mazda makes a convincing argument that it belongs in the fancier compact luxury crossover segment. But luxury isn’t its only game-the CX-5 also endears itself to us with steering and handling that are uncharacteristically responsive for the segment, and Mazda has further enhanced that ability with the addition of its G-Vectoring Control Plus technology. This good-at-everything vibe is why the CX-5 has been recognized as one of our 10 Best Trucks and SUVs.
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