Small SUVs and crossovers are hot. New-car shoppers are choosing these more compact models because they offer many of the advantages of larger vehicles while delivering the attributes that drivers want, such as good fuel economy and plenty of upscale features. As more and more small crossover and SUV models become available, shoppers have a wider range of choices in the segment.
Baby boomers are especially attracted to these models because smaller crossovers and SUVs are the right size for boomers' needs. With taller ride heights and plenty of headroom, many drivers find it easier to get in and out of a crossover vehicle than a low-slung sedan. Once inside, an upright driving position suits older drivers, too. And because small SUVs and crossovers still offer the flexibility of folding rear seats, these vehicles are ideal for traveling, whether with passengers or cargo.
Think a small SUV or crossover is right for you? Consider one of our top picks in this growing segment.
Mazda's compact SUV puts the sport in sport utility vehicle by offering drivers a little fun behind the wheel. It's no sports car, but the CX-5 is one of the most nimble and sharp-handling vehicles in this category. With a starting price of $21,195, it's affordable, too.
We recommend opting for the less pricey front-wheel-drive version in Sport trim. Both manual and automatic transmissions are available. Oddly, Bluetooth is not standard; plan on ponying up an extra $400 for the option. With front-wheel drive and the automatic transmission, expect commendable fuel economy of 26 miles per gallon in the city and 32 mpg on the highway.
Nissan's completely redesigned Rogue is another small crossover with big value. It's the only model here that offers a third-row seat. The 7-passenger configuration isn't exactly spacious, but it certainly works in a pinch, perfect for the occasional ride with all the grandkids. It's efficient, too, with fuel economy ratings of 26 mpg city/33 mpg hwy.
Starting price for the new Rogue is $22,490, but we like the front-wheel-drive version in midrange SV trim for $24,230. It brings keyless entry and push-button start, dual-zone automatic climate control and a power driver's seat. Add the third-row seat for $940 more.
The smaller of Buick's two crossover vehicles emphasizes luxury in a compact package. At first glance, the Encore looks tiny. But inside, it's surprisingly airy. A range of high-end features are available beyond the base Encore, which starts at $24,160.
We recommend all-wheel drive (it earns a higher, 5-star safety rating) and the leather package for a premium feel. For $29,910, it includes leather seats, dual-zone climate control, a 120-volt AC outlet and a range of high-tech safety equipment, such as a blind spot monitoring system and rear cross-traffic alert.
The new X1 is another luxury choice among smaller SUVs and crossovers. Along with plenty of available luxury equipment, the X1 brings the prestige of the BMW nameplate. The X1 has a starting price of $30,900, two available engine choices and rear- or all-wheel drive. We recommend the xDrive28i, which pairs all-wheel drive with the smaller and more efficient engine. So equipped, fuel economy for the X1 is rated at 22 mpg city/33 mpg hwy.
Add the Ultimate package for $6,150, and the X1 is positively, richly equipped. The package brings navigation, leather, a panoramic sunroof, keyless entry and a power seat with memory.
The Ford Escape set the pace in this segment with handsome styling, good efficiency and a long list of available convenience equipment. A starting price of $22,700 makes it affordable, too, but the top-trim Titanium version, priced at $28,610 with all-wheel drive, is best suited for boomers.
We like the AWD version, as it comes with Ford's excellent 1.6-liter EcoBoost engine, and it's eligible for a $1735 package that includes leather seats, rain-sensing wipers and an automatic parallel-parking feature that is amazingly effective and convenient.
With standard all-wheel drive, the Forester is the go-to small SUV for drivers in snowy or wet climates. With Subaru's EyeSight driver-assistance technology now available, the Forester further improves safety, contributing to its top 5-star safety rating.
EyeSight brings features such as adaptive cruise control, precollision braking and lane-departure warning. For the latest model in 2015, Subaru reduced the price of options packages that include EyeSight by $500, making the technology even more appealing. We'd choose the $25,095 Forester 2.5i with a continuously variable transmission and tack on EyeSight and navigation for another $1,895.
Baby boomers remember the heyday of the station wagon and the minivan. Later, it was big, lumbering SUVs that took over American roadways. With an increasing demand for more efficiency, automakers have responded with this rich lineup of smaller SUVs and crossovers that offer many of the attributes that we once loved about minivans and bigger SUVs. But with smaller sizes, stylish designs, loads of features and the practicality that you need, these vehicles deliver without compromise.