7 crossovers to replace your SUV
7 crossovers to replace your SUV

Forget a fuel-chugging sport utility vehicle. Bankrate has lined up the seven best crossovers for 2014.

A crossover differs from an SUV because it’s based on a car rather than a truck. A Chevrolet Tahoe is built like a truck; the Chevrolet Traverse, like a car. Most crossovers ride more comfortably and get somewhat better fuel economy than most SUVs. On the other hand, an SUV usually can tow and haul heavier loads. All-wheel-drive systems on crossovers are often engineered more for foul weather, while those on SUVs typically have a low gear for off-roading.

Each pick on this list delivers at least 19 miles per gallon in combined city and highway driving. Most do much better. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety named each a top safety pick or top safety pick plus. Too new to be graded, the Buick Encore is the only pick on this list that is not a Consumer Reports-recommended vehicle.

Bankrate set a $34,999-before-delivery-charge price ceiling. Only two of our picks come close.

As priced here, every pick has an automatic transmission, at least six air bags, power windows, power door locks, power outboard mirrors, Bluetooth connectivity and a trip computer. All have available all-wheel drive, except the Subaru Forester, which has it as standard equipment.

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Subaru Forester 2.5i Premium

Subaru Forester 2.5i Premium

  • Price: $24,995
  • Gas mileage:
    • City – 23 mpg
    • Highway – 28 mpg
    • Combined – 25 mpg

You may want a feature not found on this Forester or need more space, but pound for pound and dollar for dollar, the Forester is tough to beat.

It is the only crossover on this list with standard all-wheel drive. Consumer Reports awarded it a total score of 88 after its battery of tests. No other pick on this list comes close. And it’s the only crossover here named by IIHS as a 2013 top safety pick plus, meaning it achieved the highest score in every crash test.

Its get-up-and-go comes from a 170-horsepower 2.5-liter horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine. Here, it’s priced with a continuously variable transmission. It offers these standard features: seven air bags, backup camera, panoramic moon roof, and a six-speaker audio system with high-definition radio and iPod interface.

Chevrolet Traverse 1LT

Chevrolet Traverse 1LT

  • Price: $34,885
  • Gas mileage:
    • City – 17 mpg
    • Highway – 24 mpg
    • Combined – 19 mpg

Just sneaking under Bankrate’s price ceiling, the Traverse is a large crossover with plenty of interior space. The 60-40 split second- and third-row seats fold flat, providing a huge cargo floor for hauling larger items. Think of the Traverse as a minivan for people who don’t want to drive a minivan.

It scored well with Consumer Reports, coming in second in total points behind the Subaru Forester.

To really get a decked-out Traverse means moving up to another model, but the 1LT still comes with goodies like a backup camera, seven air bags, 6.5-inch touchscreen, OnStar Telematics and a six-speaker audio system with satellite radio capability.

It uses a 281-horsepower 3.6-liter V-6 to turn the front wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission. Despite being a crossover, it can tow up to 5,200 pounds.

Hyundai Tucson GLS

Hyundai Tucson GLS

  • Price: $21,450
  • Gas mileage:
    • City – 23 mpg
    • Highway – 29 mpg
    • Combined – 25 mpg

By far, the Tucson GLS is the most affordable crossover on this list. However, it is also the closest to being a bare-bones vehicle — at least as bare bones as a crossover can come these days. Meeting all of Bankrate’s requirements, it represents a terrific value. In addition to offering Bankrate’s required convenience equipment, the five-passenger Tucson GLS features a six-speaker audio system with satellite radio capability.

The giddyap comes from a 164-horsepower 2-liter four-cylinder engine. A six-speed, driver-shiftable automatic transmission is standard, as is a hill-holder feature that prevents the vehicle from drifting back when starting out on an incline.

Well-constructed but no-frills, the interior is roomy enough. The 60-40 split rear seat back folds down and has a two-stage recline function.

Buick Encore Convenience

Buick Encore Convenience

  • Price: $25,010
  • Gas mileage:
    • City – 25 mpg
    • Highway – 33 mpg
    • Combined – 28 mpg

Delivering the best combined fuel economy on this list, the Encore Convenience is loaded with standard equipment. The list seems to go on and on, with features like a 7-inch color touchscreen, backup camera, rear cross traffic alert, side blind zone alert, dual-zone automatic climate control, a 120-volt household power outlet, 10 air bags, Buick’s IntelliLink voice-activated interface and a six-speaker audio system with OnStar Telematics and satellite radio capability.

Passengers benefit from Buick’s QuietTuning with Bose active noise cancellation technology. Because the front passenger seat and the 60-40 split rear seat fold flat, Encore can transport objects as long as 8 feet inside the cabin.

Turning the front wheels by way of a six-speed, driver-shiftable automatic transmission is a 138-horsepower 1.4-liter four-cylinder turbocharged engine.

Dodge Durango SXT

Dodge Durango SXT

  • Price: $29,795
  • Gas mileage:
    • City – 18 mpg
    • Highway – 25 mpg
    • Combined – 20 mpg

In many respects, the seven-passenger Durango can be lumped in with SUVs because of its size, available V-8 and low gear in its available AWD. However, it’s unibody construction, in which the chassis, platform and body are one structure, meets Bankrate’s definition of a crossover. Durango SXT also meets all of its other requirements to qualify for this list.

A 290-horsepower 3.6-liter V-6 delivers its output to the rear wheels via an eight-speed, driver-shiftable automatic transmission. Dodge says its 600-mile range on a tank of gas is best in class.

Arguably the meanest, brawniest looking of Bankrate’s picks, it combines aggressive styling with upscale amenities, such as tri-zone automatic climate control, a 115-volt household power outlet, 5-inch color touchscreen, Uconnect infotainment interface and a six-speaker audio system with iPod interface and satellite radio capability.

Toyota Venza XLE

Toyota Venza XLE

  • Price: $31,810
  • Gas mileage:
    • City – 20 mpg city
    • Highway – 26 mpg
    • Combined – 23 mpg

Venza acts as much like a wagon as it does a crossover. Bankrate decked it out in its XLE model here because of a few extras like a power liftgate, backup camera and push-button start that the base model doesn’t have. Toyota’s Entune multimedia interface is standard, too.

Comfortable and offering gobs of room, the five-passenger cabin has leather-trimmed seating with heated front seats while the second-row 60-40 split rear seat folds flat with the cargo floor. Dual-zone automatic climate control and seven air bags are standard in every Venza. A 6-inch touchscreen incorporates the controls for the six-speaker audio system with HD radio, iPod integration and satellite radio capability.

A 181-horsepower 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine delivers power to the wheels through a six-speed, driver-shiftable automatic transmission. Venza’s wagon-like dimensions means a low center of gravity and improved handling.

Acura RDX

Acura RDX

  • Price: $34,520
  • Gas mileage:
    • City – 20 mpg
    • Highway – 28 mpg
    • Combined – 23 mpg

The single entry from a luxury brand, RDX nearly tops out this list’s price range, but it comes loaded with standard features, such as seven air bags, leather seating, heated power front seats, power moon roof, dual-zone automatic climate control and a seven-speaker audio system with iPod interface and satellite radio capability.

Well-appointed with user-friendly controls, the inviting cabin is a terrific place to spend a quick run to the mall or a cross-country trek to Grandma’s. Ample rear-seat legroom means complaints from that gangly teen will be kept to a minimum.

Other than a higher seating position, you can be lulled into thinking you are behind the wheel of a Honda Accord. RDX is quiet with a sedan-like ride quality. A 273-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6 distributes production to the wheels via a six-speed, driver-shiftable automatic transmission.

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