Many folks out there want a great SUV or crossover to haul kids, gear, and friends to and from all of their summer activities. With gas prices so low over the last few months and the improved gas mileage of many options out there, SUVs and crossovers are seeing a huge resurgence in the market. In fact, according to the Wall Street Journal, small SUVs and crossovers have seen double-digit sales growth year over year. That means that there is a ton on the used market to choose from. So how do you find the right SUV or crossover for you with so many options? We’ve put together a list of great options for both smaller crossovers and larger SUVs as a starting point for your new-to-you automotive needs. Check back at Instamotor often to see an updated list!
There’s a reason you see so many Kia Souls on the road today—turns out they are good little crossovers. They have an abundance of style and ample interior space to cart kids, cargo, and the like. According to Edmund’s the interior materials quality is good and there’s plenty of high tech stuff to make integrating your phone into your car that much easier. It’s a little bit wagon, and a little bit crossover but it’s a lot of fun. Shoot for a 2014 or 2015 model and you wont be disappointed in your choice.
Honda has practicality written all over it. Honda’s CR-V is another not-quite-an-SUV crossover that has plenty of space for passengers or cargo as well as some nifty features like simple controls and good storage space. Steering is direct and comfortable and the interior is nice enough to warrant mention. One thing to note, however: Edmunds recommends that buyers stay away from used CR-Vs that are newer than 2012 as they come with the CVT, or continuously variable transmission, that tends to give a lot of Honda drivers problems.
There’s a saying that says that true automotive fans are always in search of the perfect wagon. If you’re looking for something with all the space and practicality of an SUV without the ride height and sometimes ample turning radius of an SUV, look no further than a great Subaru Outback. If you know one thing about Subaru, it’s that the cars that come out of the Japanese automaker are reliable, practical and downright indestructible. Edmunds describes it as a “veritable automotive Swiss Army knife.” It comes standard with all-wheel drive, has a raised suspension to help you get over pretty much anything you're likely to need to tackle, and some nice interior and exterior touches to make the car stand out. The Outback is great especially if you live in, or plan to visit snowy climates. We’d recommend a 2010-2012 Outback. Newer models tend to burn oil and should be avoided and some may notice that the somewhat plastic interior of the Outback lends itself to being a big noisy on the road.
According to Edmunds, if you’re looking for something a bit quieter and refined than some of the other midsize SUVs you should look no further than the Nissan Murano. The good news is that those from 2010-2013 are just as good as the new ones currently on the market and have the refinement and “composed road manners,” that you’d want. The Murano also gets bonus points for being very reliable.
Meet the Hyundai Santa Fe. Hyundai packs its cars and trucks with fantastic included features (like parking sensors and cameras as well as nav), without ratcheting up the price, and the Santa Fe was no different. The Santa Fe was one of Hyundai’s longest running nameplates and is another car-based crossover in the field. Earlier versions of the Santa Fe have 5-passenger configurations while newer Santa Fes have a 7-passenger layout. From 2007 forward, the Santa Fe gets considerably nicer in styling as well as a boost in performance and interior space. While the Santa Fe’s AWD system isn’t seriously off-road worthy, it will get you to and from the office in rough weather.
Looking for something that’s a bit bigger? Check out the Mazda CX-9, a three-row crossover that proves that an SUV doesn’t have to be a big box on wheels. The CX-9 gets good gas mileage, has pretty decent handling, and doesn’t look like a terrible minivan. Edmunds says that “actual adults” can even fit in the third row seat, unlike a lot of 3-row SUVs on the market today. Aim for one that’s a 2010-2013 and you’ll be very pleased with your people-hauler. One thing to keep an eye out for however is early brake wear. It’s a problem that many CX-9 owners have reported.
A SUV list wouldn’t be complete without mention of the Toyota Highlander. Introduced to the U.S. in 2001, the Highlander was another mid-sized, car-based SUV, that knocked the socks off the U.S. market. It was better handling, quieter and got better gas mileage than Toyota’s other SUVs plus it got better crash ratings. According to Edmunds, if you are looking for a vehicle with SUV styling, a ton of versatility for cargo and humans, and a third row seat (that probably won’t seat adults) then look no further than the Highlander. Newer Highlanders have more luxury touches inside but the older ones are just as capable and just as great.
The Ford Flex has been around since 2008 but it’s a surprisingly reliable and capable vehicle. The nice thing is that it can haul around up to seven adult passengers and do so without looking like mom’s mini-van. That’s thanks in part to some of the Mini-esque inspired styling like blacked out a-pillars and multicolored roofs. Those Ford Flexes from 2013 and newer get the upgraded V6 engine and high tech features like My Ford Touch and adaptive cruise control. It also drives much like a car, and, as Edmunds points out, since it’s less popular than a Toyota Highlander or Honda Pilot, you may be able to find one at a lower price. It’s well worth the hunt if you can find one with low miles.
Digital media content producer/consultant & former CNN senior producer, now running CN'TRL : Cars, Tech, Real Estate & Luxury.