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Plethora of crossovers makes choosing a challenge

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When looking for a new vehicle to drive, there are sometimes discerning factors that cause you to sway your decision one way or another. Does it have the interior you want, how will it do in city driving, what is gas mileage, what is the safety rating? These and several other questions typically help lead us to a decision about which vehicle to drive and own, along with the feeling of driving during a test drive of any one of the vehicles you may choose from.

Knowing you need to be informed as to what vehicle you should be driving and why, which is based on your preferences, here is a comparison of six of the leaders in the compact crossover SUV segment. This will give you some insight into these very popular vehicles and an understanding of what each one has to offer you.

Honda CR-V

2015 Honda CR-V CUV

The overall sales leader strikes once again as a clear favorite among the masses. The CR-V led the way against the other five as either the clear favorite or a close second when it comes to highway driving, city driving, interior appeal, rear-seat roominess and cargo room/utility. With so many great features it’s hard to find one in particular where the CR-V doesn’t outshine the rest, but the infotainment system was that one area the CR-V did not offer a top performance.

The power behind the CR-V came in the form of a 2.4-liter four-cylinder direct injected engine that was attached to a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) which also has a sport mode. Typically a vehicle will lose favor by having a CVT because of engine noise at odd times, but this one has none of that and offers a smooth ride and makes the most of the 185 horsepower and 181 lb.-ft. of torque. The fuel mileage led this group as well at 27 city/ 34 hwy mpg with the front-wheel drive and 26 city/33 hwy mpg when the all-wheel drive was aboard.

Even though the CR-V is the best-selling vehicle in this class, it is not the overall best performer. That honor goes to the Mazda CX-5 mostly because of the better infotainment system that is aboard. The CR-V beat out the Kia Sportage, Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, Toyota RAV4 and Jeep Cherokee in many of the other segments and continues to be a value leader in this class as the best-selling and one of the best performing.

Toyota RAV4

2015 Toyota RAV4 Comparison

The Toyota RAV4 is the best-selling SUV for Toyota and it’s really easy to see why. The RAV4 offers the reliability that is so easily associated with the Toyota name, comes in a roomy and comfortable size and shows up at a great price that makes it one that many enjoy driving. One of the drawbacks is the RAV4 does offer only one engine and one transmission, making it difficult to improve the power and performance. This SUV does however give us three trim levels to choose from and a wide range of options.

By using the XLE model as the comparison piece, the RAV 4 shows up with the Entune navigation, audio and app system, a backup camera, a moonroof and dual-zone climate control making a nice menu of features to enjoy. Even with these features aboard the drawbacks were somewhat glaring, the biggest of which was the lack of a power liftgate for loading groceries and heavier items into the rear of the vehicle. To go along with that, this was the only key turn started vehicle in the group, which isn’t the biggest deal and the seats were cloth instead of some form of leather, which also isn’t the worst part.

The RAV4 does have some great features such as being amazing on the highway with a comfortable ride and is an easy ride when it comes to being a commuter vehicle. The 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder engine mated to a six-speed automatic offers plentiful power and with the AWD aboard reaches fuel numbers of 22 city/29 hwy, which are even better when it’s fitted with FWD instead. The two areas the RAV4 lead the pack were in rear seat legroom and cargo volume, making this a great choice when it comes to heading out for long trips full of fun and adventure.

Jeep Cherokee

2015 Jeep Cherokee

Whether the Jeep Cherokee should be included on this list or not is certainly up for observation and interpretation, but the reality is the Cherokee is the one compact crossover on this list that is different from the rest. The other five have great on road features and a bit of an off road feel and capability while the Cherokee is awesome off road. This is basically the one area the Cherokee outperforms the rest, but it does so in a way that truly leaves the others behind with the awesome four-wheel drive system and 4,500 pound towing capacity.

The power inside the Cherokee comes from a 3.2-liter V6 power plant that gives this awesome off roader 271 horsepower. A smaller engine is also available which is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder offering that has 184 horsepower. The hope with the nine-speed automatic transmission was to have a better on road performance than it does, but the Jeep is still most comfortable off road than on. The fuel mileage for this SUV with the smaller engine comes in at 22 city/31 hwy and the V6 is 19 city/29 hwy.

The interior of the Jeep is actually one of the best in this comparison, giving nicer plastics at the base models and great leather for the upscale versions. The Uconnect infotainment system is easy to use and makes navigation a breeze and is a smart way to control the audio/phone/climate control and navigation all from one interface. The Cherokee was built for long off road travel and is suited perfectly for this purpose, making it the best vehicle for a family who enjoys going out for an adventure on a regular basis.

Mazda CX-5

2015 Mazda CX-5 Exterior

If you want the best in this group, this is the place to be. The Mazda CX-5 is a dynamic, fun and agile SUV and is absolutely the best in this group. As a leader in each category of comparison the MX-5 offers everything you want in a crossover SUV. This means the CX-5 was in the top have for highway driving, city driving, sporty driving, interior appeal, infotainment, rear seat and cargo utility. The CX-5 continues to be one of the most impressive vehicles on the road today and coming from the brand that has made “zoom zoom” popular, the CX-5 does a masterful job of carrying on that grand feeling.

The CX-5 shows up with a six-speed automatic transmission that is as good as or better than most that offer more gears. Add the Skyactiv master plan and you have the foundation for a compact SUV that is a lot of fun to drive while still being very economical as it brought in a highway rating of 33 mpg. When you choose the CX-5 you know you have made a great choice for your vehicle by getting one that will give you fun and a dynamic driving experience on and off the road.

One advantage this SUV may have is it was the only 2016 put in this comparison, and gives us a glimpse at what we have to look forward to for the upcoming model year. Full of great features such as leather seats, blind spot monitoring, a Bose surround sound audio system, 19-alloy wheel and dual-zone climate control the CX-5 hast a lot to offer. Add in the tech aboard that includes LED headlights, radar based cruise control, lane departure warnings and much more and this SUV feels more like a luxury model than it does one that is in the mainstream price range.

Kia Sportage

2015 Kia Sportage Features

When the Sportage first arrived on the scene it was considered an oddity. It was small, had what seemed like a discount sticker price, and seemed to be cheaply made and not very good. Over time, the Sportage has grown to be one of the best in class and stands for value in this class. Value usually means you are getting a lot of features for the money spent. With the Sportage, you are getting a lot of features, which is great, but you are not getting a great price, at least not over the others in this group as the Sportage is sporting the second highest sticker price among these six SUVs.

As the Jeep Cherokee is the only one that is more expensive, the Sportage does offer plenty of great features to enjoy. It is a great looking vehicle with the “tiger nose” grill and sharp character lines to go with its enjoyable size. The UVO infotainment system aboard the Sportage is among the best in the group and the seating is comfortable, offering intuitive controls and an easy to enjoy control for this great looking SUV.

As far as the engine goes, the Sportage offers one that is the most powerful in the group with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that shows up to the game with 260 horses galloping under the hood. The fuel mileage does suffer some with this SUV coming in at 19 city/25 hwy mpg, but giving you the power you want to handle every driving environment you run into. The cabin is a bit of an enigma offering very few soft materials and trim pieces, but having a panoramic sunroof , heated and ventilated front seats, dual zone climate control, push button starting, steering wheel controls and a rearview camera for a feature laden ride in a very enjoyable SUV.

Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

2015 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport CUV

The Outlander Sport is one of the oldest models in the lineup coming out in 2011 and is starting to show its age as it was one of the least loved in this group. It is the best-selling vehicle in the entire lineup from Mitsubishi but has a hard time keeping up with the rest of this class. One of the most attractive features of the Outlander Sport is the warranty which is a full five year/60,000 miles for the bumper-to-bumper and 10 year/100,000 miles for the powertrain none of the rest have this great warranty.

Even though the warranty may not be a sexy part of the selling of a vehicle and may not turn your head when it comes to the overall performance, having this awesome warranty in place gives you peace of mind whether you buy this SUV new, sell it after a few years or prefer to buy it used with some of the warranty still in place. If the warranty doesn’t do it for you, the Outlander Sport does show up with a great Rockford Fosgate audio system that shows up with nine-speakers and 710-watts.

Another key selling point for this SUV is it starts at the lowest price for all models in the group. That makes it the best value model and can be easily loaded with features and still not reach as high as some of the other models. The Outlander Sport is a very nice SUV and makes a great choice, but unfortunately in this group was easily outclassed in performance, driving and power by the others in the group, but it does offer an enjoyable drive and comfortable cabin that will give you years of driving pleasure.

With all six tested SUVs highlighted it was easy to see a grand difference between each one. The overall favorite is the Mazda CX-5 but for those of you who love your off road adventures, the Jeep Cherokee makes a great choice. Of course the Honda CR-V still continues to be one of the most attractive and popular in this class while the Toyota RAV4 and Kia Sportage also show up with plenty to love and enjoy and the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport gives great sound and a fantastic warranty which cannot be overlooked. Regardless of the choice you make, any one of these SUVs can give you what you want in a new ride, but each certainly has a different interpretation for you to decide which one is for you.

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