The USA is literally awash with crossovers and their more rugged siblings, but while there are a plethora of local brands from which to choose, the Toyota RAV4 and the Honda CR-V are actually the best sellers in the segment. Thanks to their improved height and the extra spaciousness created by unusual dimensions, these vehicles are extremely popular. However, it is the engineers from Asia that seem to have mastered the art of delivering a well-packaged product that delivers all of these strengths along with peerless safety ratings and a modern tech offering.
While brands like Ford and Chevrolet have had more experience in this area, they are now falling behind in terms of quality and affordability, two seemingly disparate factors that many consumers now expect to be combined when shopping for their new car. Luckily, these are areas where Japanese automakers excel, and their luxury brands like Lexus and Infiniti are now joining the fray, going head to head with Buick and Cadillac.
Key factors that define a good crossover
To make things a little easier, here is a quick breakdown of what to look for when buying a new sport utility vehicle:
- An engine strong enough to get around town briskly
- Loads of passenger and cargo capacity
- Superior ride comfort for long trips
- Enough tech to keep the whole family happy
- Top-notch safety and driver-assistance features
- Good value for the MSRP with room for genuine luxury
- A bit of style certainly never hurts
However, a simple checklist like this is not always enough. A closer look at some of the top names might help to give a clearer picture of what the benchmark for excellence really is.
A trio of champions
The RAV4 is the single highest-selling SUV in America, and this is not by chance. It is offered in three configurations – traditional gasoline, mild-hybrid, and plug-in. Each presents buyers with a unique proposition, giving a lot of freedom to find the perfect fit for your needs. Price ranges from around $26,000 to $38k depending on the base model you opt for, while fuel economy is generally proportionately better the more you spend.
Each of the three models is outfitted with a four-cylinder power plant, developing 203 horsepower in the gas-fed variant, 219 hp in the MHEV, and 302 hp in the PHEV. You also get a choice of front- or all-wheel-drive, though the higher trim levels are restricted to the latter. In any case, there is never actually a lack of power, and the compact high-rider handles well, although it never feels sporty.
Inside, each is spacious and comfy, with room for five passengers and up to 37.5 cubic feet of cargo capacity. Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 is included, as well, comprising forward collision avoidance, lane tracing, and lane departure alert with steering assist. It also comes outfitted with the same beloved infotainment suite, programmed with a variety of listening options and Wi-Fi.
A top contender
Right on the heels of the RAV4 is the Honda CR-V, which is just as competitive in terms of mileage, but it doesn’t have nearly as much raw power. However, there are areas where it exceeds expectations, including its trunk, which stows a whopping 39.2 cubes. The cabin also feels upscale for the cost, despite having a lower starting price of around $25k.
But this means there are a few places where it doesn’t shine as bright. Infotainment is one such area, and you have to climb quite far up the trim ladder to get access to some of the more desirable tech. Nevertheless, safety is assured by a full array of driver-assistance features, including blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.