Compact Crossover SUVS — those high-riding, smaller, car-based replacements for the trusty family station wagon — have hit the market in a huge way, and the bewildering array of choices has a lot of New England consumers confused about what’s the best choice. BestRide is here to give you your best choice, depending on which of the six New England states you call home.
Compact Crossover SUVs use the unibody construction techniques of a typical compact sedan to provide the driving comfort and confidence of a fully independent suspension with the tall passenger cabin, ground clearance and cargo space of an SUV. Compact Crossover SUVs offer all-wheel drive, which most consider a must for New England’s harsh winter conditions, but front-wheel drive options still provide the space and riding position that make these vehicles so appealing to small families.
Each New England state has its own unique driving challenges. We’ve chosen the Compact Crossover SUVs that best meet those challenges.
VERMONT: 2017 Subaru Forester
If you spend any time in Vermont, you’d think that the Green Mountain State’s DMV simply issued a green Subaru Forester to everyone in the state when they applied for their driver’s license. They’re simply everywhere, and there’s a reason for it: They suit the Vermont lifestyle better than just about any vehicle on the road, and they’ve done it for 20 years.
The 2017 Subaru Forester 2.5i isn’t the fanciest Compact Crossover SUV on the market, but that’s what makes it so appealing, from Bennington all the way up to Burlington. The cargo space is more suited for pellet bags than Gucci bags, and the passenger compartment is easy to clean when mud season hits. Subaru offers a range of accessories for your ski trips to Burke, or your mountain bike adventures on the Green Mountain Trails in Pittsfield.
When the snow makes the trip up Hogback Mountain treacherous for lesser vehicles, Subaru’s Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive will get you to your destination safely.
NEW HAMPSHIRE: 2017 Ford Escape Titanium
I-93 cuts straight through the heart of New Hampshire, and brings outdoor enthusiasts from the cities of Nashua, Merrimack, and Manchester up to prime skiing, hiking, trailrunning and mountain biking spots in the White Mountains. As important as all-wheel drive and off-road ability is, highway comfort is key for New Hampshire drivers.
That’s where the Ford Escape Titanium really shines. Updated for 2017, the Escape Titanium is among the most quiet, comfortable vehicles in this class. It’s also got a vastly improved SYNC 3 integrated with Apple Car Play and Android Auto, which will allow you to play all your favorite songs, podcasts and audiobooks safely on those long drives.
On the days when you’re closer to civilization, the Escape Titanium has all the advanced safety equipment to keep you safe, such as adaptive cruise control and collision avoidance technology. It’s also the only vehicle in the class with active park assist, to help you parallel park when you’re in front of the State House in Concord.
MAINE: 2017 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk
When the Jeep Cherokee relaunched for the 2014 model year, its odd looks completely polarized the Jeep-loving community, but after driving one both on- and off-road, we came away with an appreciation for how its looks provide unbeatable advantages in this class, especially when you’re on one of Maine’s many camp roads, or exploring some of the thousand miles of logging roads in the North Maine Woods.
The Trailhawk trim in particular increases the Cherokee’s approach angle — the steepness of grade the Cherokee can approach without dragging the front bumper — to an impressive 29.9 degrees. The more luxurious Overland trim will drag its chin spoiler on a grade any steeper than 18.9 degrees.
Yet, when you’re off the trail and exploring Portland’s great restaurants, record shops and museums, the Cherokee Trailhawk is easy to maneuver through the Old Port’s tight, winding streets.
MASSACHUSETTS: 2017 Mazda CX-3
Massachusetts has its rugged terrain and less-explored places in the Berkshires, and the Mazda CX-3 with all-wheel drive is up to exploring some of the less-challenging areas. But where the 2017 Mazda CX-3 really shines is within the 128 belt, where parking space is at a premium and maneuverability is key.
With just 168.3 inches in overall length, you’ll have no problem parking the CX-3 in the tightest spaces in Davis Square. The tradeoff is that the CX-3 has one of the smaller cargo areas in its class, but it’s still up to hauling a week’s worth of groceries out of the Market Basket.
Drivers forced to make the commute into Boston from the Merrimack Valley or Plymouth County will want to opt for the Grand Touring trim, and purchase the i-ACTIVESENSE package, which includes technology like Radar Cruise Control with Close Proximity Warning, Smart City Brake Support and Lane Departure Warning, to help avoid some of the nation’s most belligerent drivers.
RHODE ISLAND: 2017 Honda CR-V
It’s no wonder that the Honda CR-V is setting sales records (it just outsold its best January ever by 52 percent this year): It’s an ideal application for people who need the capacity to haul a small family’s gear, plus Honda’s legendary reliability. For Rhode Island families, it’s the perfect weapon to get five people from Newport to Narragansett, or on the ferry out to Block Island.
The base LX trim features a 2.4-liter Earth Dreams four-cylinder engine, but the trims above that feature a fuel-sipping 1.5-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder with 190 hp that delivers its peak torque between 2,000 and 5,000 RPM.
Drivers who have to brave I-95 into Providence every day will appreciate the trims with Honda Sensing, a suite of advanced safety equipment including Adaptive Cruise Control with a low-speed follow feature, Collision Mitigation Braking, and Lane Keeping Assist.
CONNECTICUT: 2017 Kia Sportage
For Connecticut drivers who spend their time battling traffic in Hartford, New Haven, Stamford and Bridgeport, a peaceful interior is a welcome sanctuary. Yet, Connecticut is a haven for outdoor activities, from Hammonassett State Beach on the coast, to Mount Riga State Park on the Massachusetts border. The Nutmeg State requires a Compact Crossover that fills both roles, and the Kia Sportage is it.
Inside, the Sportage is sumptuous, providing a luxury experience belied by its altogether reasonable price tag. The ergonomically optimized controls marry the functions of the touch screen with generously sized buttons and knobs for major functions.
At the rear, the Sportage features a large cargo area, with a 60:40 split/folding rear seat, a dual level cargo floor and additional compartments to stow smaller items. It’s all backed by Kia’s industry-leading 10-year/100,000-mile warranty.