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FrankenSUV: Creating the Ultimate Compact CUV From the CX-5, CR-V, Cherokee, and Others

Mashing the best elements of compact crossovers into a single, perfect CUV

Mashing the best elements of compact crossovers into a single, perfect CUV

Although this Big Test comparison rightly ranks the entrants in the compact SUV segment, each vehicle that participated had some winning traits that stood out from all the rest. Which got the test judges thinking: What if someone took the very best elements from all these crossovers and mashed them into a single, perfect crossover? Well, likely it would cost well north of 40 grand and be impossible from an engineering standpoint. But we can dream, can’t we?

Behold, the MotorTrend FrankenSUV.


Exterior Design: Mazda CX-5

The Mazda has no competition in this aspect. It easily wins the “Look back over your shoulder and smile” contest. Lexus and Acura designers should take note at what suave elegance looks like.


Engine: Jeep Cherokee Latitude

Almost every vehicle in this class is about miles per dollar and savings at the pump. Sure, some accelerate acceptably, but only the Cherokee’s optional 270-hp 2.0-liter direct-injection turbo-four delivers true thrills.


Handling: Mazda CX-5

You get married, have a kid … so buh-bye sports car fun. With the CX-5, you get a semblance of driving exhilaration. It’s a jittery, baby-waking ride, but the trade-off is best-in-class handling by a country mile.


Ride: Honda CR-V

With some compact SUVs, driving over a city’s lumps and bumps is a molar-rattling affair. The Honda CR-V’s suspension is supple and well damped regarding both up-and-down impacts and side-to-side sway.


Brakes: Subaru Forester

The most confident stopper. Short pedal travel, good feedback, great bite.


Advanced Driver Aids: Honda CR-V

Best lane keeping, adaptive cruise control, and other assist tech. It rivals systems from Mercedes and Tesla yet comes standard on nearly every trim level.


Fuel Economy: Honda CR-V

Honda has cracked the magic code that gives the CR-V peppy performance and great fuel economy.

 


Interior Design/Craftsmanship: Toyota RAV4 Adventure

Great attention to detail, upscale styling, and colorful accents, which look and feel special in a bland sea of sameness.


Packaging: Honda CR-V

Small outside, huge inside. Honda’s team always finds more space for people and cargo than any other brand.


Visibility: Subaru Forester

An expansive, low-sitting front windshield, well-placed driver hip-point, and side windows that rival those of a school bus give the Forester almost zero blind spots.


Front Seats: Jeep Cherokee Latitude

Plush like your favorite recliner yet reinforced so it doesn’t feel saggy, with firm side bolstering for cornering and adjustable four-way lumbar support for those long drives.


Second-Row Seats: Nissan Rogue

Rare in this class, the Rogue’s rear seats slide fore and aft, good for either passenger legroom or bringing baby/Fido nearer to the front-seat occupants. Only Nissan attaches the middle belt to the seat, too.


Seat-Back Pockets: Subaru Forester

Only Subaru offers three distinct pockets on each of the front seat backs. They’re sized to accommodate a laptop, a tablet, and a phone.


Spare Tire: Toyota RAV4 Adventure

The RAV looks ready for off-roading and is ready for it with the biggest mini-spare, at T165/9018, larger than the Jeep’s T165/80D17.


Rearview Camera: Chevrolet Equinox

The Equinox’s rearview camera and 8.0-inch touchscreen resolution make “What’s behind me” look mighty important. Has 4K resolution come to reverse cams?


Two-Screen Infotainment System: Subaru Forester

Should you display navigation or song title details? Subaru’s answer is “yes.” Great functionality.


Infotainment Software: Hyundai/Chevrolet (tie)

Hyundai’s system has long been one of the most intuitive on the market, but Chevy’s shines for its responsiveness, intuitive layout, and crystal-clear graphics.


Extra Features: Hyundai Tucson

The Hyundai Tucson astounds with its exceptional feature content. On the $34,120 USD Ultimate AWD model, 18-inch wheels, panoramic sunroof, a surround-view camera system, powered/heated/ventilated front leather seats, heated rear outboard seats, a stellar safety suite, and a thumping 315-watt Infinity stereo are all included. Plus, of course, a five-year/60,000-mile (96,560-km) basic warranty.