High gas prices changed the trajectory of the SUV market among major auto manufacturers forever.
Though gas prices have declined from their near-record highs during the early part of this decade, major manufacturers learned that consumers simply don’t have the appetite for a heavy, inefficient SUV that could potentially cost them a third of their take-home income at the pump.
To that end, automakers have crafted a new line of crossover SUVs, designed to blend the size and comfort of SUVs with the performance and efficiency of sedans. Though many options are available today’s buyers, four models stand out as the best of the best.
1. 2017 Nissan Murano
Since 2002, the Nissan Murano has been the Japanese car company’s flagship crossover for American buyers. In that time, the Murano has attracted a loyal following for its interior comfort, its larger amount of cargo space compared to the competition, and its sporty design. The first generation of the Murano was one of the most attractive crossovers on the market in 2002, and the car remains the best designed, non-luxury crossover today. A slightly refreshed design for the 2017 model year makes the Murano feel even more premium than its competitors.
Inside the cabin, drivers will enjoy the most comfortable seats of any crossover on the market. Other interior upgrades this year include a soft-touch dash, a redesigned rear bench seat, and the ability to choose real woodgrain accents on the high-end trim level of this model. The infotainment screen at the center of the dashboard has been upgraded to an 8-inch screen and infused with both Android Auto and CarPlay compatibility.
Climate controls have been redesigned for more intuitive use, while rear cargo space has been slightly retooled so that even more personal belongings can fit into the Murano when needed. An entry-level MSRP of $29,740 makes the Murano one of the most expensive crossovers outside the luxury market, but the interior upgrades and high level of comfort merit the higher relative pricing.
2. 2017 Kia Sportage
Kia has experienced a massive turnaround in recent years, both in terms of its cars’ overall quality and in the court of public opinion. Once rightly perceived as a risky, cut-rate, and underwhelming budget manufacturer, the company now excels in offering a powerful blend of exciting design, capable engines, and long-term durability. Backed by the longest bumper-to-bumper warranty in the industry, Kia’s vehicles also benefit from greater peace of mind than the competition’s.
For 2017, the Kia Sportage is one of the best crossover models on the market. The vehicle features a slightly refined version of the same design it’s had for the last four model years, which was already one of the best. Inside the cabin, Kia has equipped the Sportage with roomy front and rear seats, 60.7 square feet of potential cargo space, and the innovative UVO infotainment system by Microsoft. The Shortage’s infotainment system is also CarPlay-compatible as of the 2017 model year, making it a natural fit for Apple users.
Despite the company’s reputation as a budget manufacturer, the Sportage can be upgraded to the SX trim, with leather seats, soft-touch dashboard materials, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, built-in navigation, alloy wheels, and several semi-autonomous driving features. The Shortage’s starting MSRP, at $22,990, makes it one of the best values on the market.
3. 2017 Ford Escape
The Ford Escape has had a long and storied history, longer than any of the other three models on this list. The crossover has come in hybrid designs and high-end trims, has featured all kinds of powerful and fuel-sipping engines, and has gone through numerous design changes.
In 2017, the Escape has once again been rethought by Ford engineers. The car’s new design is sportier, with more chrome on the front grille and a sleeker rear design that improves both head room and cargo space. Ford’s latest version of SYNC is present inside, complete with voice control, Apple CarPlay compatibility, and navigation on upgraded models. Cabin materials are also upgraded this year, with a new fabric for seats on the entry-level and midrange trims.
The Ford Escape was once known for getting decidedly poor fuel economy, but that’s not the case with the latest iteration of Ford’s most popular crossover. This year, the Escape gets 23 miles per gallon in city driving and 32 miles on the highway. Some manufacturers struggle to make their sedans and subcompact crossovers this efficient.
Along with excellent upgrades for the high-end trim level, including blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, leather seating, and upgraded wheels, the combination of features and performance makes the Escape particularly compelling. MSRP for this year’s Escape starts at $23,590, which is exceedingly affordable for a crossover of this quality.
4. 2017 Mazda CX-3
Mazda’s SUV lineup expanded this year with the introduction of the company’s first “subcompact crossover.” Named the CX-3, the car’s design is clearly inspired by the highly successful CX-5 crossover and CX-9 full-size SUV. The CX-3 is smaller in size by quite a bit, however, and is just a touch larger than the Mazda6 sedan.
Inside the cabin, familiar Mazda features await, including the redesigned MazdaConnect infotainment console and the potential for fully upgraded dashboard materials and leather seats. The mid-range Touring model adds blind spot monitoring to the mix, while all models come with a backup camera. CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility are a welcome addition, as is the built-in GPS navigation feature of the Grand Touring trim.
The benefit of a subcompact crossover in today’s marketplace is one of both cargo space and efficiency. The CX-3’s fuel economy is 29 miles per gallon in the city and 34 miles per gallon on the highway, making it among the most economical crossovers on the market. Inside, the CX-3 offers up to 44.5 square feet of cargo space, which is nearly twice the amount of space in a Mazda6 sedan. The car is also quite fun to drive, with a powerful engine that expertly manifests the “soul of a sports car” mantra of all Mazda models. Starting at $19,960, the MSRP on the CX-3 also makes it one of the most accessible crossovers on the market for first-time and value buyers.
Four Excellent Crossovers for Today’s Buyers
Crossovers are selling at record levels in 2017, driven by a combination of low gas prices, an increasingly good economy, and an upward trend in fuel economy for these larger vehicles. The quality of crossovers across the board has also increased, and these four models exemplify the best in quality, technology, and refinement for today’s buyers. Whether it’s the value-centric Kia Sportage or the high quality Nissan Murano, buyers will love what awaits them at today’s dealer lots.