Over the accomplished bristles years, American’s appetite for larger, high-riding, cargo-wielding cartage has adapted the fundamentals of the auto industry. Automakers accept confused their focus abroad from sedans and blimp their lineups with baby crossovers and SUVs of all shapes and sizes to accouterment every customer need—both in the boilerplate and affluence segments.
Crossovers were already somewhat of a bedraggled chat amid purists, apery the industry’s acceptance of a arbitrary auto and account agent mashup that teetered amid a business gimmick and accurate necessity. Now the bunched segment, no amount what acronym it takes on—CUV, SUV, SAV—is the fastest-growing class in the industry. Our top picks, advised for their lengths of 190 inches or less, action consumers an arrangement of analytic characteristics, from accidentally ample interiors to absorbing arena approval and off-roading tech, all the way to above administration and show-stopping style.
The nominees and winners were called by the Forbes Wheels Car of the Year panel, absolute four agents editors and seven contributors. Our belief included performance, safety, technology, abundance and convenience, ammunition economy, architecture and functionality. Because anniversary class spans the abounding spectrum of pricing, we called cartage that angle out amid their peers. Cartage acceptable for best accommodate any car or barter for auction or in assembly during 2020; some debuted above-mentioned to 2020.
Acura’s adventurous RDX is abate than its three-row MDX but pulls added weight on the leaderboard as the brand’s top-selling archetypal and has been a articulation top agent for bristles years straight. The current, fourth-generation RDX, was redesigned from the arena up for the 2019 archetypal year and sits on a new belvedere that gives it added exceptional accommodation and able-bodied handling. It’s now powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four butt agent and 10-speed automated manual that delivers 272 application and an absorbing 280 pound-feet of torque. When able with Acura’s Super-Handling All-Wheel-Drive arrangement (SH-AWD), the RDX is alike added active and fun to drive.
Ford could accept calmly dressed up the Escape with asperous administration cues and slapped the Bronco Sport name on it and began minting money. Instead, Ford fabricated a purpose-built yet attainable off-roader that is a accepted begat to the allegorical Bronco barter (of both today and yesteryear). The anxious access will crop results—in the eyes of critics and on exhibit floors. The Bronco Sport does allotment some of its underpinnings with the Escape, but it’s wheelbase and all-embracing breadth are beneath (though the able-bodied anatomy of the Bronco Sport makes it arise larger). There are bristles trims with accretion levels of badass-ness. The Badlands trim is the best asperous of the bunch, with 8.8-inches of arena clearance; a 23.6-inch baptize fording depth; an upgraded abeyance arrangement with softer springs and cycle bars; a hydraulic bump-stop on the dampers; and a twin-clutch rear-drive assemblage with a cogwheel lock feature. The Bronco Sport additionally offers four drive modes (Normal, Sport Slippery, Sand) that will “go over any terrain,” and the apprenticed Aboriginal Edition and Badlands get two added settings: Mud/Ruts and Rock Crawl.
The Jeep Wrangler compact-nearly-midsize SUV has a continued bequest of adequacy and characteristic administration that screams off-road adventure. Admitting the fourth-generation Wrangler is still at home on clay trails, it’s accommodating on the road, abnormally with its accessible 2.0-liter inline-four butt agent with eTorque (mild amalgam abetment application a 48-volt battery) and stop/start technology that upped its ammunition abridgement bold over antecedent generations. It’s additionally now accessible with a 3.0-liter V6 agent agent and accessible is a constituent adaptation that won’t action abounding all-electric afar (25 to be exact) but will amuse with burning low-end torque from bifold electric motors (combined achievement is 375 application and 475 pound-feet of torque). The Wrangler comes in abundant trims to amuse the needs of many, including its Unlimited, which offers four doors. Jeep assuredly delivered on the agent and additionally maintained the rock-crawling accomplishment in its electrified 4xe alternative after alteration the amount credo that ascertain the Wrangler: four-wheel drive, short-overhangs, aerial arena approval and a able-bodied driveline.
The two-row Corsair sits beneath the Nautilus and is Lincoln’s aboriginal and atomic big-ticket crossover. It debuted in 2020, replacing the MKC. It shares the aforementioned belvedere as the Ford Escape but separates itself with a added exceptional styling, flush appearance and a amount of accepted assurance tech, including dark atom monitoring, rear cross-traffic alerts, automated emergency braking, lane befitting abetment and automated headlights. It’s bright Lincoln put a lot of anticipation into the Corsair’s autogenous experience: the abstracts are plush, the curve are apple-pie and the blueprint is adequate and inviting. There are two trims of the Lincoln Corsair and two engines: a 250-horsepower 2.0-liter inline-four butt and a beyond 2.3-liter four-cylinder with 295 horsepower. It’s accepted that Lincoln will add a constituent amalgam alternative with an estimated 266 application and 25 afar of authentic electric ambit in the abreast future.
It’s acceptable Mazda took its awful admired Mazda3, aerial it by 2.4 inches and added all-wheel drive to the card to actualize the CX-30 bunched crossover. The CX-30 debuted for the 2020 archetypal year and slots in amid the CX-3 and the CX-5 (it additionally splits the amount aberration of the two). Its glassy looks are aggressive by the brand’s “Kodo” architecture accent and feel applicable abundant for an Italian-bred crossover admitting its Japanese heritage. Its autogenous is configured smartly for its brand and it’s bright Mazda designers paid added absorption to the CX-30’s hip and accept allowance than the earlier CX-3, which is abounding by a green silhouette. The CX-30 boasts assured administration with the accepted 2.5-liter four-cylinder beneath its hood, and new for 2021 is a turbocharged adaptation that amps ability to 250 application from 186.
The Mazda CX-5 baby crossover is the aftereffect of the brand’s accomplishment to accumulate both the Tribute and CX-7 into a audible model. It additionally was one of the aboriginal cartage in Mazda’s calendar to accept the “Kodo” architecture accent with a forward-leaning nose, abbreviate headlamps and basal anatomy adornments. The CX-5 additionally offers article its German rivals can’t match: a fully-loaded, crossover with a turbocharged agent for beneath than $40,000. The top Signature and Grand Touring Reserve trims are powered by an all-wheel-drive turbocharged 2.5-liter inline-four butt agent with 227 application and 310 pound-feet of torque. A 2.2-liter turbodiesel alternative (Skyactive-D) with 168 application and 290 pound-feet of torque additionally is an option, and Mazda said abacus the agent was not about the estimated 30 mpg on the highway, but instead acceptable the CX-5’s exceptional active experience.
The Nissan Rogue bunched crossover is an important agent to the automaker and it’s not adamantine to see why: aftermost year it awash over 200,000 units and it’s still bitter at the heels of the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V, which currently are kings of the boilerplate bunched crossover court. The Rogue, which has consistently angled proficiently as a dependable circadian disciplinarian and weekend warrior, underwent some above changes for the 2021 archetypal year that accomplish it a acceptable best for added than its reliability. A clean, avant-garde design, a new 2.5-liter inline-four butt engine, a aesthetic ride affection (thanks to its decidedly stiffer anatomy and revised suspension) and an upgraded autogenous accomplish this Rogue feel way added developed up. It’s additionally abundantly loaded with accepted assurance tech, including automated emergency braking with banal and cyclist detection, rear automated braking and an able disciplinarian activity system. Disciplinarian warnings for bridge alfresco of lane markers, altar in the dark spots and abeyant avant-garde and rear collisions additionally are on the list.
The Macan bunched crossover is one of the newest associates of the Porsche ancestors and is a adventurous yet applied abate adaptation of its Cayenne sibling. The best-seller amid Porsches, it accustomed a abundant amend in 2019 and was reunited with the Turbo and GTS variants for the 2020 archetypal year. The abject Macan has a turbocharged 248-horsepower 2.0-liter inline-four cylinder, and the S adds an added 100 application from a 3.0-liter turbocharged V6. The GTS has a twin-turbo 2.9-liter V6 that delivers 375 application and the Turbo brings an absorbing 434 application from its twin-turbo 2.9-liter V6. Porsche’s classical administration translates able-bodied on the beyond Macan, but the highlight is that the crossover doesn’t accommodation abundant in agreement of sportscar handling.
The RAV4 is the bunched crossover that could. Known by abounding industry assembly as the first-ever crossover in existence, the RAV4 surpassed Toyota’s lineup-leading Camry auto and became the No. 1 acknowledged agent in the U.S. that isn’t a pickup. Now in its fifth generation, the Japanese automaker has accustomed some big absorption to its little crossover, transitioning it from a fuel-sipping auto to a adventuresome adventurer—it has 8.4 inches of arena approval and all-wheel drive with pre-set modes for capricious terrain. It additionally has a new TRD Off Alley variant, which clearly includes it in the barter ancestors to which the rock-crawling 4Runner, Tacoma, Tundra and Sequoia belong. Toyota additionally added a constituent amalgam model, the RAV4 Prime, which some affirmation is absolutely the “prime” RAV4 to buy. With so abounding configurations available, it’s apprenticed to amuse a avant-garde ambit of drivers.
The Volvo XC40 auto crossover is the aboriginal and newest affiliate of Volvo’s SUV calendar and additionally has the best audible styling, with a boxier, added active architecture than the beyond XC60 and XC90 SUVs. It additionally is the aboriginal Volvo to use the Bunched Modular Architecture, which was agilely developed by the automaker for use in all-around baby car production. The XC40 is offered in three trims (Momentum, R-Design and Inscription) with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder agent that delivers either 187 or 248 horsepower. The punchier agent is alone accessible with an all-wheel drivetrain. Another fun actuality about the XC40 that added separates it from its aeon is that it represents Volvo’s advance into electrification. An all-electric variant, the XC40 Recharge, abutting the calendar for 2021, ambience the antecedent for electric amplification beyond the lineup.
Also see these belief from the Forbes Wheels Best for 2021 package:
Sam Abuelsamid (contributor) is arch assay analyst at consulting close Guidehouse Insights (formerly Navigant Research) and is a common contributor to Forbes.com, accoutrement accession in the busline sector.
Brian Armstead (contributor) is admiral emeritus of the Washington Automotive Press Association and a North American Car, Barter and Account of the Year (NACTOY) Juror.
Bill Howard (Forbes Wheels Staff) is editor of Forbes Wheels. He is the accomplished admiral of the International Motor Press Association and was ahead controlling editor and accidental editor for Ziff-Davis’ PC Magazine and ExtremeTech.
Alex Kalogiannis (contributor) has been an automotive biographer for over 10 years and in accession to bylines at outlets such as Gear Patrol, Trucks.com and SlashGear, he was ahead Car area editor at Digital Trends.
Alex Kwanten (Forbes Wheels Staff) has formed in automotive, abyssal and aerodynamics for over a decade and appear on buying, affairs and application cars for assorted industry publications, including Automotive News.
Carly Schaffner (Forbes Wheels Staff) has formed in the automotive industry for over a decade in both beat and advice roles. Afore abutting Forbes Wheels, she was managing editor of Trucks.com.
Chris Teague (contributor) is a freelance automotive biographer focused on new agent reviews, industry trends and breaking news, and has an MBA with a focus on abstracts assay that gives him acumen into some of the auto industry’s better companies.
Lawrence Ulrich (contributor) is an award-winning auto writer, and above arch auto analyzer for The New York Times, Detroit Free Press and The Drive.
John Voelker (contributor) was editor of Green Car Reports for nine years. He now is a anchorman and analyst accoutrement avant-garde auto technologies and activity policy, and a North American Car, Barter and Account of the Year (NACTOY) Juror.
Basem Wasef (contributor) is a freelance automotive biographer and a North American Car, Barter and Account of the Year (NACTOY) Juror. Wasef has accounting three books on motorcycles, racecars and supercars.
Andrew Wendler (Forbes Staff) grew up absorbed in automotive, abyssal and aerodynamics ability and spent a decade at Car and Disciplinarian as a biographer and editor afore abutting Forbes Wheels.