With school back in full swing, for many it means another year of shuttling kids to and from class, sports and everywhere else in between. For those that aren’t keen on making the leap to a minivan quite yet, the compact crossover utility vehicle comes to the rescue — basically a car that, for all intents and purposes, drives and behaves like an SUV. In other words, you get most of the interior space and presence on the road, while still saving on gas and the price tag of the vehicle. Luckily there are plenty of good options on the market right now, and below are our top five affordable picks for this fall.
1. Mazda CX-5
In a competitive segment that’s packed to the gills, the CX-5 manages to stand out with a fresh look and Mazda’s innovative SkyActiv technology. The short and sweet of that is the materials used to build the vehicle have been made lighter and stronger, and coupled with a more efficient engine and transmission design allow for great fuel economy. The CX-5 is available in both a front-wheel and a more grippy all-wheel drive configuration. Opt for the former and it comes standard with a six-speed manual gearbox, or spring for the loaded GT model and let the six-speed sport mode automatic transmission do the shifting for you. Base price MSRP $22,995.
2. Honda CR-V
While it won’t wow you with its looks, the Honda CR-V remains one of North America’s best selling compact CUV’s for a reason. Featuring class-leading safety and reliability, it’s also a very comfortable around-town car with a great interior. The leather seats are supportive and gives the driver a good visibility of the road, and have been designed to mitigate neck damage in the event of a rear-end collision. There is also loads of cargo space – 1,648 litres of it – once the rear seats are folded down with one pull of a strap. Base price MSRP $25,990.
3. Hyundai Santa Fe
Although playing catch-up to other manufacturers for several years, Hyundai has proven it’s ready to play with the big boys by offering quality products like the Santa Fe. Packed with the latest gadgets like a navigation system that is actually easy-to-use and an excellent backup camera, you get a lot for your dollar. The new XL model even comes with seven seats, when your child’s friends inevitably want to tag along for the ride, and a silky smooth 3.3-litre V6 engine producing 290 horsepower and 252 pound-feet of torque. Base price MSRP $26,499.
4. Ford Escape
The redesigned Ford Escape is not your father’s Ford Escape. With a recent complete overhaul, the new offering is much more aesthetically pleasing with a more aerodynamic and sporty look. It’s greener, too – some may be surprised that a CUV of this size is powered by a thrifty 1.6-litre engine (SE model), a displacement once found primarily on small econoboxes like Honda Civics. The key here is Ford’s EcoBoost power plant, which delivers a respectable 178 horsepower and is still capable of towing 907 kilograms. Base price MSRP $23,244.
5. Subaru XV Crosstrek
A somewhat surprising entry on this list is the all-new Subaru XV Crosstrek. Resembling a jacked up Impreza, parents and off-roaders alike will appreciate Subaru’s renowned full-time, all-wheel drive system that can take you from rain and snow-slicked city roads to muddy trails on the weekend. The slowest of the bunch with only 148 horsepower, it’s also one of the most fun to drive with its flat-four engine layout and classic Boxer engine rumble. Base price MSRP $24,495.