Crossover fever continues to sweep the country; we tested and reviewed three last month, but the choices are many. Here are three more, tested for a week each.
The Rogue continues to enjoy its status as Nissan’s top-selling model; it’s also one of the few crossovers available in a hybrid trim. Lookswise, it’s safe, neither hideous nor especially distinguishable in a split second from the dozens of others of its ilk, although its V-shaped grille and boomerang-ish taillights will help you find it in parking lots. Where the $24,000 (starting price) Rogue excels is in interior comfort, first, but also in its mileage, which, depending on your trim and your right foot, can hover in the neighborhood of 27 miles per gallon.
All models are offered both in front-wheel and all-wheel drive (a $1200 option) that make either every day driving or navigating a snowstorm easy. It does not rock corners or blast off with any particular velocity, but it’s not meant to, nor is it meant to tow stuff. You’ll find plenty of room in the rear for a Home Depot run or a set of drums, though – its optional third row is no longer available. An interesting new developement, too, is the Rogue’s “ProPilot Assist” combo of an adaptive cruise control system, lane-keeping steering assist and a driver alertness monitor. Hit the blue “force field” button on the steering wheel, set your desired speed and you’ll maintain a safe following distance behind a car; there’s also an adding steering aid to help keep the Rogue from drifting out of its lane. While we feel drivers should be taught to pay attention to the road rather than adding gadget after gadget to compensate for inattention, anything that reduces road carnage can’t be a bad thing.
The Rogue’s ride is where it shines – it feels large on the inside but does away with that “I’m never going to fit in that parking space” bulk flavor, and its ride feel is smooth as you please. It got a facelift last year, adding more tech and safety features. It’s Apple CarPlay/Android Auto capability, too, are reasonably easy to figure out.
While not our personal favorite, sales figures last year were remarkable – 31% higher than 2016. Clearly, Nissan has hit a sweet spot with the public, and their Rogue is worthy of a tire-kick.
Credit the RAV4 for starting the crossover revolution in 1996, though other automakers can legitimately claim to have contributed as far back as the 1940s. The RAV4 continues to reign and thrive in 2018, though, with favorable reliability ratings and an especially good resale value. It’s also relatively inexpensive even when you choose its plushest trim, the hybrid version, starting at $29,130, although if you spring for the most expensive “Platiunum” trim and all the options, you’re looking at nearly $38,000. There are two powertrains available – the gas-powered models come with a 2.5 liter, 4-cylinder engine making 176 horsepower coupled with a 6-speed automatic transmission rocketing you from 0-60 in around 10 leisurely seconds. The hybrid version adds Atkinson-cycle technology combined with two electric motors found at each axle. A CVT automatic transmission and AWD come with on the gas-electric trim.
Hybrid fuel economy is approximately 34 mpg city/30 mpg on highways as compared to between 23 and 30 with the straight gas 4-cylinder. One unique touch for our tester was the black stripe down the center of the hood; whatever else one might say about this crossover, the stripe yanks the front end handily out of Dad-car territory and into relative badassery.
Some head-scratchers revealed themselves after a recent week’s test drive. There’s no optional 6-speed engine offered, which would put the RAV4 in the ferocious category rather than the tepid one it now occupies, and it would be nice to have a choice, especially for the Platinum. The vehicle also isn’t compatible with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. The all-new “Adventure” trim, however, gives this year’s model 18-inch wheels, more ground clearance, a 120-volt outlet and an optional cold weather package with windshield wiper de-icers, heated steering wheel and more, so there’s Toyota’s nod to 2018 drivers. It otherwise feels a bit 2013.
It’s otherwise a quite capable, though unexciting crossover to drive – more like a car with a somewhat more interior room than an “SUV” – and that’s the point, after all.
Despite being bested sales-wise by other crossovers, the CX-5 is a more stylish, speedy and relatively economic ride than many others in this segment, from its trapezoidal grill to its sharply carved lines and its recognizable – as opposed to generic – Mazda rear. Its interior components are far and away more upscale-feeling, too, with its 7-inch touch-screen display with command dial and pushbutton starter.
The company offers a diesel model for 2019 as well as cylinder deactivation, a first for any 4-cylinder in North America. It also boasts one of the crispest, bangin’-est Bose audio systems we’ve tested in vehicles of this sort. That’s something in a world of economy vehicles where audiosystems seem to be an after (no) thought. “Sport” trim gets a blind spot alert as well as rear cross-traffic detection; the “Touring” gets Mazda’s signature i-ACTIVSENSE package (optional on Sport) which includes a plethora of safety features.
But the drive! It’s remarkably fresh, sprited and above all, fun. The power’s there if you need it, especially when in “Sport” mode, and the accelerator-brake-steering combo is especially effective, though the engine does make the bit of noise when climbing hills. There’s a “G-Vectoring Control” that comes standard, further adding to the driving pleasure. Downsides include the “three adults fit in the back!” boast of the press materials, but they really mean “two and a half” or “1 human and two hounds.” “Three children” is the most accurate. And speaking of children, you’ll find child seats easier to install due to the vehicle’s rear doors that open nice and wide. In a world of ever-same, ever-yawn crossovers, the Mazda CX-5 demands to be tested by anyone looking for this type vehicle, and the price is right, starting at a little over $24,000.