Compact crossovers like the Honda CR-V and Hyundai Tucson are essentially the new family wagons for many households—and in turn, we've seen almost every automaker step up its game, with progressively better packaging, versatility, and features aimed at the way that these models are truly used today.
The Tucson and CR-V, actually, represent quite different approaches in this market, with the Tucson aiming a bit more at commuters and empty-nesters while the CR-V takes aim directly at families with the current generation of the CR-V.
MORE: Read our 2016 Honda CR-V and 2017 Hyundai Tucson reviews
One thing to note: An all-new CR-V will be in showrooms by the end of 2017, so we recommend either negotiating a great deal on a leftover 2016 or waiting for the new model. The ratings here for the 2016 CR-V are using our old system, while we've crunched the numbers and updated the 2017 Hyundai Tucson accordingly.
We've scored the Tucson a 7.5 out of 10, but we're looking forward to driving the 2017 Honda CR-V. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
2016 Hyundai TucsonEnlarge Photo
The 2017 Hyundai Tucson aims for visual impact on the outside with a stylish new sculpted form, as well as a very refined, upscale experience inside. Meanwhile, the CR-V's profile is definitely a bit more utility-minded; inside, while the Honda has grown a bit more upscale, too, in its latest iteration, it's clear that this one's inherited some family-hauling smarts from the larger Pilot and Odyssey models. That said, it all depends what you expect; we will say that the CR-V simply 'feels' a bit more like a family vehicle inside, while the Tucson aims for a slightly more elegant, more finely detailed look.
The CR-V holds a strong advantage in one area that's going to matter to families: seating space and cargo versatility. Honda’s much beloved CR-V has a smartly redesigned interior, with nicely padded front seats, a great seating position in front, and rear seats that are fine for adult use. They 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. On the other hand, the Tucson's seatbacks flip forward, and you can adjust those seatbacks for rake, yet there's simply not as much usable cargo space here.
Neither of these models are going to inspire you to take the long way and hustle down curvy backroads; but both of them are responsive enough for everyday driving as well as quite fuel-efficient. The Honda CR-V has a 185 horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine mated to a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) that works quite well at moderate paces but can feel off its game when pressed for passing or quick bursts of power.The Tucson, on the other hand, comes with either a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, making 164 hp, or a 1.6-liter turbocharged four making 175 hp and 196 lb-ft of torque. Despite the higher output of the turbo engine, we'd probably go for the more affordable Tucson SE and that base engine, as the dual-clutch automatic that comes with the turbo can be surprisingly sluggish to react.
The high-volume version of the Tucson earns a mediocre 23 mpg city, 30 highway, 26 combined with front-wheel drive. All-wheel drive trims fuel economy to 21/26/23 mpg.
With an EPA rating of 27/34/29 mpg, the Honda CR-V easily outpaces the South Korean crossover.
We will give the Tucson a sound advantage in general refinement. While the CR-V delivers a comfortable ride and predictable handling, we’re not fans of the isolated feel delivered by its electric power steering. The Tucson doesn't do much better, but its ride has been retuned to a little more comfortable and surprisingly quiet; it adds up to the perception, at times, that you're in a more 'premium' vehicle.
2016 Honda CR-VEnlarge Photo
2016 Honda CR-VEnlarge Photo
2017 Honda CR-VEnlarge Photo
2017 Honda CR-VEnlarge Photo
These two models are on about equal ground with respect to crash-test ratings. 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—although with a four-star score from the federal government.
The Hyundai Tucson has earned top-notch crash-test scores in almost every evaluation: top five-star frontal and side impact results from the NHTSA, as well as the coveted Top Safety Pick+ status from the IIHS.
Both also offer an effective optional active-safety system with autonomous emergency braking (although it's expensive on the Tucson); and in both cases, a rearview camera is standard and necessary, as outward visibility otherwise isn't so great.
The Tucson definitely loads on the features in a way that the CR-V doesn't quite match, for the money. Yet Honda has sweetened the CR-V's feature list with items like the trick LaneWatch rear camera system—handy in urban lane changes—and on top Touring models things like a power tailgate and power memory driver's seat. The Tucson offers quite a few items not at all found on the Honda, though, like ventilated seats, outboard rear heated seats, and a new proximity rear tailgate release system. Both models go well over $30,000 for the top-trim CR-V Touring or Tucson Limited.
So the tally? It's a virtual tie as we see it, at least until the new CR-V comes along. Most people will likely agree that the Tucson has the lead in features and styling; yet the CR-V does some great things with interior space and utility—and covering all the practical needs for family use just a little bit better.