SUV options for a family

Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Ford Escape, Subaru Forester, Hyundai Tucson or Kia Sportage?
by Botchi Santos | Mar 17, 2010
Hi, Botchi!

My family is planning to purchase a new mini-SUV, but we are having a hard time choosing which to buy. Our choices are Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Ford Escape, Hyundai Tucson, and Subaru Forester--all gasoline engine models.

I need your expert advice on this matter. Hope to hear from you soon!

Many thanks,

Hi Gen!
Finally a lady writes to us once again, and I, along with the rest of the Top Gear Team am honored to have someone from the fairer sex write in. Here's my take on the cars you mentioned. I also added up some other cars and SUVs for you to consider which all share the same compact five-seater SUV class:
Toyota RAV4 - This is old, left behind by the competition. Even when it was new, it wasn't a very impressive vehicle compared with the Honda CR-V and Nissan X-Trail. The Subaru Forester just blows it out of the earth completely (yes, this baby's my favorite) and the interior isn't up to the usual Toyota ergonomics. The interior plastics feel cheap for a Toyota and the interior tries to be adventurous but kind of fails miserably. A Toyota Fortuner 3.0 D4-D would be a better option if you're spending in this price range.
Honda CR-V - Honda recently released a 2010 face-lift. It's still a favorite of the market as it is very competent. The facelift brings new front and rear design bumpers, new design wheels and tweaks to the suspension bushings to increase refinement and comfort without affecting body control and suspension smoothness. I've said it before and I'll say it again: the Honda CR-V is a very fine, very competent car that most people would be happy with. Power is good albeit a bit of a thirsty engine in a 2.4-liter guise, refinement is first-rate, interior is comfortable, very roomy, functional and has loads of useful cubby-holes and storage bins. But it just plain lacks sex appeal for me.
Subaru Forester 2.5 XT Turbo - notice that I gave a very specific trim model, the XT Turbo variant. Don't even bother getting the non-turbo, it feels like an asthmatic chain-smoker down on its knees for the count against PacMan. The Turbo variant is perfect: very fast, with more than enough power for 99% of the people. It has stylish and functional interior, an all-weather and all-terrain go-anywhere ability except for the toughest of off-road trails. It has a handling that's more akin to a performance sedan. It also offers surprisingly very good fuel economy considering the power it makes. This is down to the turbo engine having less stress to power the chassis forward since it is inherently stronger. I'd buy this in a heartbeat. And I'd buy my girlfriend one. And my mom and dad. And all my siblings--once each. Only turn-off is that it's the most expensive one of the lot and by a good margin. 
Hyundai Tucson - If you want to get the new 2010 Hyundai Tucson, wait for the diesels. This, in my opinion, is the only SUV that can seriously challenge the Forester because the size is right, but the interior is far roomier than the Subaru SUV. With the diesel-fed engine, it means you'll be spending less time and money at the gas pumps. I like the hill-start-ascend and hill-descent controls for off-roading. At the press of a button, the Hyundai Tucson will scale up or down a gradient between five to 20kph. Sweet! Then there's adaptive damping. Again Hyundia shows that despite the price increase they still offer loads of value for what you pay for.
Ford Escape - I haven't tried the recently face-lifted Escape yet but Ford's small SUV have not been impressive for me. It looks too old-school and the engines are quite thirsty. The interior's also dated.
Mazda CX-7 - Now this baby is a looker. Admittedly the looks are very polarizing but I personally like it. It only comes in one trim option: FWD automatic which simplifies things. The interior plastics are still not as top-notch as the other Japanese brands but the driving feel is sporty and responsive, the ergonomics and interior architecture is very driver-focused and, like it or not, it really does attract a lot of attention.
Kia Sportage - I haven't driven this one yet or seen one up close and personal but based on foreign reviews, the Kia Sportage merits a visit to the nearest Kia dealership and perhaps schedule a test drive. The price is good, too--cheaper than all of the SUV's mentioned here and with very good standard equipment. That it's diesel-powered only helps it earn brownie points so fuel costs will be cheaper overall.
It's a shame Mitsubishi discontinued the Outlander. Hopefully a new one will be out soon! This was my second favorite SUV after the Forester.
Take care, good luck and more power! Keep us posted!

Botchi Santos
Consumer editor
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