Crossover utility vehicles are still the number one choice for many car buyers in 2020. These softer SUVs are something that is driving the market right now. Everyone likes these easy-to-drive vehicles with a higher seating height and generous cargo room. There are numerous models now that offer seating for seven or eight passengers, offering further challenges to the minivan market out there.
The simple fact of the matter is that crossovers sell. Because of this, automakers are making a lot of them. Because there are so many of these vehicles on the market, it can be difficult to know what crossover utility vehicle or CUV is right for you.
To help, I’ve pulled together a list of the best CUVs on the market today. I’ve driven just about all of them at one time or another, so I have a good feel for what works, what doesn’t, and which ones are actually worth your hard-earned dollars.
I have to note that not all of the vehicles listed below are new designs for 2020. Many of the vehicles came out last year or the years before that. The fact that they still get listed here when such new good models are coming out all the time is a testament to their prowess in the field. I also have to note that I haven’t included luxury crossovers here. I’ll leave that to another article.
2020 Honda CR-V
The first crossover I’d plop my money down to buy is the Honda CR-V. The CR-V has a long history of sitting at the top of the heap for the five-passenger crossover crowd. The CR-V is an excellent vehicle for a variety of people, which is what makes it so enticing. You get generous cargo room, seating for five, good fuel economy, and excellent driving characteristics for a reasonable price.
Honda offers the CR-V with front or all-wheel drive and either a 190 hp turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine or a hybrid system that puts out 212 hp total. The gasoline-powered CR-V managed 27 mpg city and 32 mpg highway. The hybrid version manages 40 mpg city and35 mpg highway. Pair that kind of power and efficiency with some of the best handling capabilities of any crossover and a starting price of $25,050, and you have a true winner.
2020 Mazda CX-5
The only crossover that’s the same size as the CR-V that can best it when it comes to driving characteristics is the Mazda CX-5. Mazda has been killing it lately with its portfolio of smart, economical and fun-to-drive crossovers, and the CX-5 is the best of the entire lineup. It offers a comfortable and elegant interior design and fit and finish better than most of the competitors. It also uses higher quality materials in most areas. The only downside is that some folks aren’t thrilled with the company’s infotainment system, though I actually like it better than the competition (except for Kia who really has it down).
Mazda offers the CX-5 in front or all-wheel drive with either a 2.5-liter four-cylinder that makes 187 hp or a 2.5-liter turbocharged engine that makes 227 hp. If you have a need for speed, you’d better get the turbo. Its 227 hp is much more impressive and it makes a strong 320 lb-ft of torque. You’re looking at 25 mpg city and 31 mpg highway for the base engine and 22 mpg city and 27 mpg highway for the upgraded engine. The CX-5 has a starting price of $25,190, which is very reasonable and right on par with the competition.
2020 Subaru Forester
Over the past several years two things about the Subaru Forester have been true. It keeps getting bigger, and more people grow to love it. It’s easy to see why. The vehicle offers a fantastic, easy-to-live-with package. Equipped with plenty of modern technology like Subaru’s suite of driver assistance and safety tech and a pretty good infotainment system, the Forester is a five-seat CUV that is hard to fault. It’s not nearly as fun as the CX-5 or CR-V, but it’s a tough vehicle you can trust your family to for well over a decade.
All-wheel drive is standard and it has one of the largest cargo spaces in its segment. The 2.5-liter boxer engine makes 182 hp and 176 lb-ft of torque. That engine is good for 26 mpg city and 33 mpg highway. While the new Ascent might get a lot of love, the Forester is still the Subaru to own. It’s priced below much of the competition. It starts at $24,495.
2020 Kia Telluride
I reviewed the 2020 Kia Telluride not that long ago. I found it to be one of the best new crossovers on the market. At the time of my review, I didn’t think it was quite as good as the comparable options from Honda and Toyota, but it has grown on me. The vehicle is spacious and comfortable, and a competent people-mover with a competitive price. I struggled with the styling and big-SUV feel of the vehicle, but one thing is clear: people like it and it sells. That’s why you’ll find it here and not the Pilot and Highlander.
The Telluride features seating for eight people, the availability of all-wheel drive, top-notch safety and infotainment technology, and a 3.8-liter V6 engine that makes 291 hp. That engine makes the crossover good for 20 mpg city and 26 mpg highway. The Telluride can tow up to 5,000 pounds, too. Overall, this is a really nice package, and it has a starting price of $31,890, which is right on par with the competition.
2020 Ford Escape
Ford’s Escape is the best it has ever been. The company completely redesigned the CUV for the 2020 model year, and it looks better and drives better than ever before. It has a Porsche Macan quality to its exterior and the inside is nearly as good. Ford’s interiors are never excellent, but the new Escape does about as good as you’re going to get with a blue oval badge. The infotainment system and safety features are also some of the best.
The Escape comes with either front or all-wheel drive, and a long list of powertrains. This list starts with the 181 hp turbo 1.5-liter three-cylinder engine. Then comes a 250 hp 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. Then there is a hybrid and plug-in hybrid version. Both the regular hybrid and the plug-in make a combined 200 hp output thanks to a 2.5-liter engine and an electric motor. The Escape is also slightly more affordable than some of its stiffest competitors, with a starting price of $24,885.
2020 Kia Niro
I’ve driven Kia’s Niro a few times now, and every time I do, I fall a little more in love with the machine. It’s simply a good CUV. Well, Kia calls it a crossover. I think of it more as a wagon, but regardless of that, the vehicle is comfortable, offers one of the best infotainment systems out there, and a spacious cargo area. It’s not a super-fast or engaging vehicle to drive, but it’s not meant to be. Kia made this CUV for efficiency and ease-of-use, and at that, it excels.
Kia did a mid-cycle refresh of the Niro for 2020 and didn’t change much. That’s because it already has a winning combination. Minor updates were made to the exterior and interior, including optional paddles to the steering wheel to adjust the regenerative braking. The powertrain is a 1.6-liter engine connected to an electric motor for a full power output of 139 hp. Fuel efficiency is 52 mpg city and 49 mpg highway. The plug-in hybrid uses the same setup but offers 26 miles of electric-only range. The Niro EV uses a 201 hp electric motor and has a range of 239 miles. The regular hybrid version of the vehicle has a starting price of $24,590.
2020 Nissan Rogue
The Nissan Rogue is a model that has sold well for a while now. While sales for Nissan have dipped recently, they still sell a boatload of these crossovers. The Rogue competes with the Honda CR-V and Mazda CX-5, while it’s not on their level, it’s still quite good, with comfort and ease-of-use being the name of the game here. A fun vehicle to drive, it is not, but this five-passenger people mover will do just that well. It also packs good safety features and infotainment tech, so you won’t be wanting too much in that department.
Available with front or all-wheel drive, the Rogue comes with one engine. That engine is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder that makes 170 hp. The best this engine can muster in the Rogue in terms of fuel economy is 26 mpg city and 33 mpg highway. Personally, I’m not a ginormous fan of the Rogue but I do feel it is a very good vehicle overall. I’d choose a CR-V or CX-5 over it, but if the Nissan strikes your fancy, I can’t fault you. It has a starting price of $25,300. I do have to note that Nissan has a new Rogue coming, and you may want to think about waiting for it.
2020 Toyota RAV4
The Toyota RAV4 was one of the vehicles that really kicked the whole crossover craze into motion. My wife owned one of the early 1990s RAV4s, and I know why they took off. They were good to drive and offered a lot of practicality in an interesting package. Fast forward to 2020 and a whole lot has changed, but the winning formula has stayed the same. Toyota gives you a reliable CUV that’s comfortable, practical, and up to date with the latest safety tech and infotainment technology.
The RAV4 has added some updates to the model for 2020 and included a new TRD Off-Road trim. This should entice even more buyers into Toyota’s camp, which is a feat because the RAV4 is already a sales-leader. The model features a 203 hp 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that powers either the front or all four wheels. There is also a RAV4 Hybrid that uses the same engine and two electric motors. if you have some extra dough, spring for that. It is the best RAV4. The non-hybrid model has a starting price of $25,950, but even the hybrid is affordable at $28,350.
2020 Hyundai Palisade
The Hyundai Palisade is essentially the Kia Telluride but outfitted for Hyundai’s styling and branding book. So, in a way, I’m double-dipping here. That said, the Palisade is different, and it offers a bit of a different experience. The exterior and interior of the vehicle are a little more sophisticated and elegant than the Telluride, whereas that vehicle has a more squared-off front end and overall exterior. The Palisade still offers excellent space and features, including top-notch infotainment and safety tech.
Under the hood, you shouldn’t be surprised to find a 3.8-liter V6 engine that produces, you guessed it, 291 hp. That power is sent to either the front or all four wheels. On the fuel economy front, the Palisade manages 19 city and 26 on the highway. You’ll find it’s slightly more expensive than its Kia brethren, with a starting price of $31,975.
2021 Kia Seltos
I just had the Kia Seltos to drive, and it is on sale. It is new. It’s technically a 2021 model, but it’s available now. It is the baby Telluride, and I found it to be quite enjoyable. I’ll have a review up soon, but in the meantime, I have to note that Kia really has this whole crossover thing down. The Seltos was very comfortable and handled really well around town and out on the twisties and the highway. It also offered a simple and easy-to-use infotainment system and safety technology. I found the transmission to be a little gear-hunty and its throttle response a little abrupt but other than that, it’s a true pleasure.
The Seltos gets either a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 147 hp or a 1.6-liter turbo four-cylinder that makes 175 hp. All-wheel drive is standard, and the CUV manages to pull 27 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway. I took the Seltos on a bit of a road trip and found that it can easily achieve those mileage numbers. This is a really nice CUV, and it has a starting price of $21,990.