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

Rants and Raves

While automakers have been at the crossover game for more than 15 years now and you'd think their products would all be fairly homogenized, they're not. The little things can often escape you when you're mulling through five crossovers over the course of a few days. Take, for instance, the Honda CR-V and Mazda CX-5's cargo areas, which both have a small lip on them to stop items from rolling out when you're parked on a hill. The others would do well to have that. Or how about Ford's windshield washer that will belatedly make its last swipe across just to get more washer fluid out of your field of vision.
Other nits we picked--positive and negative--included the Subaru's fantastic outward visibility, upright with thin pillars and expansive windows and the CR-V's completely flat floor for rear passengers by way of its Rube Goldberg-inspired Magic Seat. A marvel of packaging, the CR-V also has a center console so big we think there was a Hobbit living there. The CR-V did have a drawback, though, as the 6-foot-2 Dorchies made a habit of hitting his head on the low-hanging hatch door in back.
Conversely, the CX-5's hatch was too high, banging into my garage door when it was ajar. On the other hand, we found the materials and fit and finish in the Mazda among the best of our group, and it was one of the few with blind spot monitoring. Outside of its smaller interior space, the only complaint we registered concerned its digital clock, which looked had been dragged out of the 1980s. The Toyota garnered the same gripe. But mostly the RAV4 garnered indifference; high-quality and durable-feeling but a bit bland. By the time we reached the end of the day, only one of our crossovers was completely out of running: The 2013 Ford Escape. Its fuel economy didn't meet projections, its fan whistled a headache-inducing drone at full blast, and one of its door panels fell off when we were toilet paper testing. None of the other ones had any fit and finish issues. In our final tally, one editor ranked the Escape third, another ranked it fourth, and three ranked it fifth. On to the next ones.
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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