Guide to best small SUVs: 2014 Subaru Forester gets top marks
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Small SUVs are one of the hottest vehicle categories. Their good fuel economy, easy access, all-weather traction, and plenty of passenger and cargo space make them an appealing choice for many car buyers. In this crowded segment, it can be challenging for consumers to determine which one is best to buy. That's where we come in.
Most automakers offer a small SUV in their lineup, but the list below focuses on popular models priced between $20,000 and $30,000. All score high enough to earn a Consumer Reports Recommendation, although not all have proven their reliability to be worthy of the accolade.
The list is organized in rank order of overall test score. While we cover the highlights here, it is well worth visiting their respective model pages to read the detailed road test and review the complete ratings.
Check out our SUV buying guide for quick access to the latest advice, Ratings, road tests, and videos.
Subaru Forester: The straight-A student
The 2014 redesign brings many changes that helps the Forester go to the top of the class, leaving its competition far behind. Improvements include class-leading fuel economy at 26 mpg overall and 35 mpg highway, a standard backup camera, excellent visibility, a roomy interior, and very easy access. In addition, the Forester is the only small SUV to receive a Good score in all five Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash tests. It isn't perfect, however. The ride is a bit jittery, and the infotainment system feels antiquated.
Honda CR-V: Easy-going and sensible
Buyers prizing reliability and space will appreciate the CR-V. A flexible and roomy cabin provides plenty of storage and cargo space. The engine is smooth, but fuel economy is falling a bit behind the curve, thanks to Mazda and Subaru. Handling is responsive but emergency handling is less competent. Road noise is excessive. A standard backup camera is welcome, especially as rearward visibility is challenged.
Mazda CX-5: Aimed at fuel-frugal fun-seekers
Combining quick acceleration, impressive fuel economy, and agile handling seems like a tall order, but the CX-5 manages this feat. The new 184-hp, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine feels more muscular and provides much quicker acceleration than the previous-generation powerplant, now relegated to the base Sport trim. Plus, the CX-5 got the same impressive fuel economy—25 mpg overall—with the bigger engine. However, cabin noise is loud and the price is relatively high. A blind-spot monitoring system comes on most trim lines. A sleeper in this class, the CX-5 is good enough that consumers should wake up to its virtues.
Toyota RAV4: A good all-around package
The RAV4 is a safe overall choice, even if it doesn't stand out in any one attribute. Its 2013 redesign made notable improvements, such as removing the awkward side-hinged rear gate and moving the spare tire to under the cargo floor. Handling is now more agile, too. Power and fuel economy are good from the capable four-cylinder engine and slick six-speed automatic. Interior trim gained attractive touches in some places but skimped elsewhere. Still, rear-seat room is generous, access is super easy, controls are mostly intuitive, and a backup camera is standard.