Crossovers are a stylish alternative to minivans and truck-based SUVs. They drive like cars, can seat five to eight people and hold all your stuff. Most crossovers look like SUVs, so it’s hard to understand why they go by a different name. Though crossovers look like SUVs, mechanically, they’re closer to cars. It’s this combination of car-like mechanics and SUV-like space that makes crossovers such a good fit for so many people.
Specifications like engine size, horsepower, torque and fuel economy will help you eliminate models based on the type of performance you want, but the best way to decide if you like the way a crossover feels behind the wheel is to test drive it.
Some of the best-performing crossovers also come with a higher price tag. The Lexus RX 350 and Audi Q5 are top performers and cost more than $35,000. The RX 350 has a 3.5-liter V6 engine that produces 270 horsepower. The Q5 has a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that makes 211 horsepower and an optional supercharged 3.0-liter V6 engine that produces 272 horsepower. These numbers are good, but decide if you really need that much power on a daily basis. If not, consider performers like the Volkswagen Tiguan and Toyota RAV4. Both start at less than $25,000. The RAV4 has a four-cylinder engine and the Tiguan has a turbocharged four-cylinder engine.
Crossover Gas Mileage
SUVs have a reputation for having poor fuel economy, but there are plenty of crossovers that get good fuel economy. To learn about fuel economy ratings, visit the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) website (www.fueleconomy.gov), where you’ll find lots of useful information on estimated annual fuel costs, which can vary based on the current price of gas.
As you search for the most fuel-efficient crossover, hybrid crossovers will generally have the best combined EPA-estimated city and highway fuel economy ratings. Crossovers with diesel engines are another good option if you want good fuel economy ratings. If you don’t want to sacrifice power for fuel economy, some non-hybrid options include the Honda CR-V, Ford Escape, Nissan Juke, Mazda CX-5, GMC Terrain, Buick Encore and Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, which all have highway fuel economy ratings of 31 mpg or better.
If you want a family-oriented vehicle with a lot of utility, crossovers are a great choice. They’re not as large as full-size SUVs, like the Chevrolet Suburban or Tahoe, but they can pack in a lot of people and cargo for their size. Crossovers generally seat five to eight people, so the best way to start shopping is by looking at seating capacity. From there, you can assess cargo capacity, interior storage, safety features and technology features.
The Dodge Journey is roomy, offers plenty of storage and has an optional third row, which increases its seating capacity to seven. The Journey is affordable, too, with a starting price of slightly less than $20,000. To include the third-row seating option on any of the trims will cost about $1,150.
If you need seating for seven, you should also check out the Ford Explorer. It has optional all-wheel drive and a terrain management system that allows you to adjust the powertrain based on four conditions: snow, sand, mud and normal. Not only does the Explorer have plenty of seating, it’s also capable off-road.
Crossovers and Budget
To find the best crossover for your budget, start with the sticker price, but don’t eliminate a model because it’s more than you want to pay. A low price doesn’t necessarily mean your crossover will be cheap to own. Keep five-year total ownership costs in mind, which take into account depreciation, fuel costs and maintenance, among other things.
After you make a list of the models you like, start tacking on extra features. Some models like the $19,000 Kia Sportage come standard with a lot of tech features that are common in more expensive upscale crossovers, like satellite radio, USB and auxiliary input jacks and Bluetooth.
Another crossover that’s a good value is the Subaru Forester. With a base price of about $21,300, you get standard all-wheel drive, which usually costs extra. If your budget has more wiggle room, check out the GMC Terrain. For about $26,200, you get standard Bluetooth, a rearview camera, a USB port and satellite radio.
Upscale and luxury crossovers generally start at $30,000 or more. The Volvo XC60 and BMW X1 are two of your best bets in this price range. For about $34,400, the XC60 has standard Bluetooth, USB/iPod integration and satellite radio.
Regardless of the type of vehicle you’re buying, it’s important to think about its safety. The non-profit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the federal government’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) make it easy to find the crossovers with the best crash test scores.
When you use the IIHS’ website, look for a crossover with Top Safety Pick status, which means they earned the top score of Good in all tests. Numerous crossovers are Top Safety Picks, including the Audi Q5, Cadillac SRX, Volvo XC60, Ford Explorer, GMC Terrain, Toyota Venza, Dodge Journey, Jeep Grand Cherokee and Hyundai Santa Fe.
NHTSA scores vehicles using a five-star rating system based on front-impact crashes, side-impact crashes and rollover risk tests. NHTSA also gives the vehicle an overall rating. Few crossovers receive the highest overall score of five stars, but the Acura ZDX, Volvo XC60, Cadillac SRX, Ford Explorer and Honda CR-V do.
When shopping for the most utilitarian crossover, consider two factors: interior and exterior utility. Ask yourself if there is enough space for your passengers and all their stuff. Look for a crossover that has the most cargo space with all seats in use. Also, look for features that make life easier, such as under-floor storage bins, cargo mats and cargo-area bag hooks.
Don’t forget to check exterior utility as well. Do the crossovers you’re interested in have roof racks? Will you be able to carry bicycles, kayaks and skis? Four-wheel drive and all-wheel drive are also helpful for bad weather. You might also want to think about the crossover’s towing capability if you need to transport a boat or a small trailer.