Compact crossovers have been rising in popularity for years, and we've seen nearly every automaker step up its game. So in short, it's a great time to be in the market for a vehicle in this class.
Take Hyundai’s Tucson, for example. Until 2010, it was near the back of the pack in this crowded field, notable primarily for its low cost. But in its current generation, the Hyundai Tucson is a serious contender. So is the Honda CR-V, which was new for 2012 and benefits from an improved interior and sharper exterior styling. Both the 2013 Honda CR-V and 2013 Hyundai Tucson remain great choices in the compact crossover segment, but we find one to be just a bit more to our liking.
Honda’s much beloved CR-V wears more contemporary styling on the outside, while benefiting from a smartly redesigned interior as well. The CR-V’s seats, both front and rear, benefit from an improved shape and additional padding that now makes them day-long comfortable. Rear seats feature a pull-strap that releases the seat and tumbles it forward to create additional cargo room. We love the one-handed operation, too, and would call cargo room generous, even with rear seats in place. Seats folded, the CR-V offers up over five feet of cargo room, now with a lower deck for easier loading.
Up front, the sole engine choice is Honda’s 2.4-liter i-VTEC four-cylinder engine, mated to a five-speed automatic transmission. While other manufacturers are moving towards six-, seven- and eight-speed transmissions, Honda opted to keep things cost-effective by simply adopting taller gear ratios for improved fuel economy. The engine is up to the added work, so the new CR-V doesn’t feel any slower or less responsive than the model it replaces. As before, both front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive variants are available, with front-drive models delivering 23 mpg city and 31 mpg highway. All-wheel-drive versions lose 1 mpg in both categories, returning 22 mpg city and 31 mpg highway.
On the road, the CR-V delivers a comfortable ride and predictable handling, although we’re not fans of the isolated feel delivered by the new electric power steering. While previous versions of the CR-V weren’t sporty, they did deliver noticeably more steering feel than the current version. Aside from that point, the new CR-V has proven to be one of the safest vehicles in the compact crossover segment, with Top Safety Pick status from the IIHS and a five-star overall score from the federal government.
As sharp and refined as the new Honda CR-V is, Hyundai’s recently updated Tucson wears exterior styling that stands out in a crowd. One of the first models to embrace Hyundai’s “fluidic sculpture” styling, the Tucson’s outside carries a bold blend of creases, swells and lines, culminating in the now familiar hexagonal grille. It could be seen by some as “too busy,” but in our opinion Hyundai’s designers carried it off well. The interior, with its mix of vertical metallic trim and tightly-grained black plastic, is both pleasing and familiar to anyone who’s driven a new Sonata or Elantra.
Tucson buyers get a choice of two engines, starting with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder, good for 165 horsepower and mated to either a five-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission. The smaller engine is available with front-wheel drive only, and it delivers an estimated 22 mpg city and 29 mpg highway. Opt for the larger 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, and you’ll automatically get the six-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel drive is available, but in front-wheel-drive the larger engine returns 21 mpg city and 30 mpg highway.
As with the Honda CR-V, the weak point of the Tucson’s ride and handling is the electric power steering. While it helps to deliver a tight turning radius, the steering effort isn’t as linear as we’ve come to expect in systems from VW and Ford. That aside, the new Tucson rides better and offers up a far more comfortable cabin than the model it replaces. It’s a safe compact crossover, too, earning a “Top Safety Pick” award from the IIHS, although the federal government gives it four stars overall. Neither of these vehicles do well in the new IIHS small overlap frontal test, it's worth noting, although the Tucson gets an especially concerning 'poor' score.
The new Tucson is more spacious than the model it replaces, too, but it’s still noticeably smaller on the inside than the Honda CR-V. It’s worth a test drive to see if the Hyundai Tucson will be big enough to meet your needs. While we do like the Tucson's stronger style, the CR-V's interior versatility, ride, fuel efficiency, and safety all position it as the winner here.
|2013 Honda CR-V
||2013 Hyundai Tucson
The 2013 Honda CR-V hits all the right marks for cost-conscious families—with its interior layout and safety ratings both best-in-class—although it doesn't feel as sprightly as former CR-V models.
Rich in value and interesting styling cues, the 2013 Hyundai Tucson's a pint-sized crossover that completely avoids SUV cliches of size and looks.
|Read moreThere's nothing all that memorable or attention-getting about the CR-V from the outside, but simplicity is an asset inside. ||Read moreWith one of Hyundai's most daring shapes, the Tucson is out there on the styling ice. |
|Read moreThe 2013 Honda CR-V is smooth and confidence-inspiring, but it's not at all exciting. ||Read morePowertrains are smooth and good on gas, but the Tucson's not very quick, and steering feel is lacking. |
|Read moreThe CR-V has one of the best rear seat-folding arrangements in any vehicle; yet materials and trims are lackluster. ||Read moreOn the small side of crossovers, the Hyundai Tucson gives adults just enough room in its back seat. |
|Read moreWith top safety ratings from both U.S. testing agencies, the 2013 Honda CR-V is one of the most secure vehicles of any kind. ||Read moreSafety scores have been good, and the Tucson offers some safety options its competition hasn't. |
|Read moreConnectivity features are offered throughout the lineup, and available entertainment systems are on part with those in luxury vehicles. ||Read moreThere's no budget feel in the Hyundai Tucson's standard features set, or on its options sheet. |
|Read moreThe 2013 Honda CR-V has some of the highest mileage ratings in its class, but tall gear ratios mean that you're not as likely to see them in real-world driving. ||Read moreGas mileage is good for the class, though the Tucson isn't quite as good as Hyundai's best sedans. |
|Fuel Economy - Combined City and Highway|
|Front Leg Room (in)
|Second Leg Room (in)
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