Comparison Test: Five Compact Crossovers Battle For Supremacy

The newcomer 2014 Subaru Forester takes on the big-engine 2014 Mazda CX-5 and stalwart 2013 Honda CR-V, 2013 Ford Escape, and 2013 Toyota RAV4 in our latest comparison test.

By Jacob Brown | Photos By Jason Davis | May 29, 2013

Dogs, Toilet Paper, and Baby Seats

Other than the commanding view of the road, bulked-up styling, and sure-footed foul-weather traction, the big reason to get a crossover is its hauling capability. To test these soft-roaders, we brought in two guest judges, Chico and Baja, Associate Editor Megan Stewart's Chihuahua and Shiloh Shephard. Unfortunately, lacking opposable thumbs and a mastery of English, they weren't able to provide us any notes, but we enjoyed their companionship nonetheless, and neither seemed to have too many issues getting into or out of any of the vehicles, so we opted for another test of space.
To test maximum cargo capacity, we used 30-count packs of Cottonelle two-ply toilet paper. Because, let's face it: If we tell you that if a vehicle has a maximum cargo space of 70 cu.-ft., that's a little hard to visualize. But 30 cases of toilet paper? Dang, that's a lot of TP! Since all of the crossovers came with backup cameras, we loaded them to the ceiling with the Cottonelle to see which would hold the most.
Not surprisingly, at least to us, the Mazda CX-5 held the least, at just 25 packs with the rear seats folded, reinforcing our subjective opinion about its relative lack of cargo space. Next up, the square-roof Subaru held 28 packs, 30 if we squeezed two more into the rear footwells. The Ford held 29 packs, and the Honda and Toyota tied for the top spot at 32 apiece, which translates to 960 rolls of toilet paper without having to fill crevices with single rolls. That's 168,960 two-ply sheets. Or, to put that into better perspective, that's 11.2 miles of toilet paper, enough to last a single person more than eight years, according to Toilet Paper World. Yes, we looked that up. Then, we did our normal regimen of installing of infant and booster seats. Even the smallish Mazda CX-5 has enough of room for kid duty with its backrest canted for more space. The others, by contrast had far more upright rear seats and didn't need much fancy packaging to make loading a child seat possible. We found all of the Japanese crossovers easy to live with, but the Escape needed some extra finagling with the LATCH points to stop our booster seat from sliding around.

The Results

1: Honda CR-V (tie): You can tell Honda has been at this game since the beginning. Its Magic Seat works wonders for creating a flat floor.
1: Toyota RAV4 (tie): Toyota has been there even earlier, and it didn't need magic to do just as well.
3: Subaru Forester: Boxy looks make this look bigger than it is, which is still massive.
4: Ford Escape: Cavernous cargo space is let down by difficult LATCH installation.
5: Mazda CX-5: It works fine; it's just a bit smaller than the others.
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CX5 all the way...  the only car here that has premium feel for low econo price.  Subaru looks old already and CVT plus soft suspension with rather isolating steering feel and mushy breaks can bearly beat CRV and Toyota...

Ranger Minney
Ranger Minney

The Ford Escape and Honda CR-V are good buys and nice looking, not sure about the Toyota, Mazda is sporty...but I can't even look at the Subaru it's just too fugly!

Michael Mabus
Michael Mabus

Subaru or Ford. They're the only ones who passed the new crash test