Maybe you’re adding a new member to your family, or perhaps you’re tired of cramming your jogging stroller into a trunk already brimming with kid gear, but let’s face it — you’ve reached the crossover tipping point.
The crossover tipping point is the phenomena where your lifestyle no longer fits inside the sleek sedan or sexy sports car you used to drive before you had children, pets, and the unspeakable amount of injection molded plastics to haul around. You know you’ve reached it when the number of carseats you need outnumbers the adults, you’d seriously consider transporting the dog in the trunk if it weren’t full of sports equipment, and other parents give you the cold shoulder because you can never carpool. The prognosis: You need a bigger vehicle.
Purchasing a new vehicle is one of the most important — and expensive — decisions a family will make. To help simplify the buying process, Babble waded through the crowded crossover segment to find the best CUV for any driving need. We examined new and best-selling vehicles on the market, but limited our budget to $35,000. That price ceiling quickly eliminated many vehicles from our shopping list, but the selection of economical crossovers is still considerable. To help narrow the list even further, we focused on fuel economy, safety, and parent-friendly features. When crossovers were fairly evenly matched, we gave preference to vehicles that had better fuel economy, price, or were a previous Babble favorite. — Liane Yvkoff
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Top compact SUV | 2013 Toyota Rav4
MSRP: TBA December 18
FUEL ECONOMY: 24/31 mpg
While many auto manufacturers strive to differentiate their vehicles from competitors on the market, Toyota trimmed the fat and made changes that bring the 2013 Rav4 more in line with other crossovers in its class.
The 2013 Toyota Rav4 is equipped with a 2.5-liter, 176-horsepower engine, which for most drivers will be adequate for powering the vehicle as a daily driver. A V6 engine used to be available on the crossover, but that option wasn’t popular with buyers. For improved fuel efficiency, the old four-speed automatic transmission was replaced with a six-speed, which in addition to aerodynamic body changes, means the 2013 Rav4 is expected to achieve 24 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway. Fuel economy for the all-wheel-drive models is estimated at 22 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway.
Another big change for the 2013 Toyota Rav4 is the driving dynamics. The vehicle now features a Sport mode, enhanced suspension performance, optimized electric power steering, and Dynamic Torque Control AWD — changes that should make the crossover handle better, especially around corners and under inclement weather.
Toyota also went out of its way to beef up the styling to make the female-friendly Rav4 less “cute” and more masculine to appeal to a wider range of buyers. The vehicle’s stance is less boxy and upright than the previous model, and the headlamps and grill are decidedly more aggressive. An asymmetrical dash and available two-tone terracotta interior give the 2013 Rav4 a bolder look and feel.
The Rav4 no longer sports its signature side-hinged tailgate and exterior-mounted spare tire. In its place is a more conventional roof-hinged tailgate and a spare now stored under the cargo floor. The door-like tailgate was either a selling point or a drawback for many buyers, and almost no one liked the exposed spare tire that added length and bulk to the otherwise compact crossover. These two changes put the Rav4 in line with all other crossovers on the market and eliminate some of the quirks that potentially could send shoppers to another manufacturer.
SEATING + STORAGE
The 2013 Toyota Rav4 is available only with a two row, 5-seat configuration. Toyota dropped the three-row, 7-seat configuration from the model, which means that parents looking for a carpool vehicle will need to add the Highlander, Sequoia, or Odyssey to their shopping list (or consider the 2013 Mitsubishi Outlander).
The second row reclines, and on the Limited model, it slides forward to bring little ones within arms reach of the front row or slides back to provide a little more legroom for taller rear passengers. The cargo area behind the second row is deeper than the previous model year, and its storage capacity increased to 38.4 cu. ft. With the second row seats folded flat, the cargo area increases to 73.3 cu. ft. Unfortunately, the downside to housing the spare tire under the cargo area floor is that you lose a large percentage of the convenient storage space.
ENTERTAINMENT + NAVIGATION
Buyers will appreciate the now-standard 6.1-inch LCD touchscreen audio system and rear-view camera. The available Entune infotainment system adds smartphone integration to bring mobile apps into the vehicle, such as Pandora, iHeartRadio, and OpenTable. Entune also features destination search powered by Bing, which includes 16 million points of interest to make it easy to find whatever business or service you’re looking for. An optional Blind Spot Monitor system (BSM) with Rear Cross Traffic Alert rounds out the safety technology options on the crossover. Rear-seat entertainment packages to keep the little ones occupied will be announced early next year.
Because the 2013 Toyota Rav4 is new, it has not yet been crash-tested by IIHS or rated by Consumer Reports.