1. 2014 Ford Escape
2013 sales: 45,141
Base Price: $24,499
Base engine: 2.5-litre four-cylinder (168 hp)
Tale of the tape: Ford raised the price of the base model by $3,000 for the 2014 model year. Hmm. The starter Escape rides well and the cabin is slick. More expensive versions come loaded with fancy technology and modern power trains. But the Escape isn’t as big inside as some of its rivals and you can’t get it with a third-row of seats.
2. 2014 Honda CR-V
2013 sales: 34,481
Base price: $25,990
Base engine: 2.4-litre four-cylinder (185 hp)
Tale of the tape: The CR-V is safe, reliable, has excellent resale value, easy-to-use features, good fuel economy and is made in Canada. The design features a controversial rear-end shape that makes for more cargo room.
3. 2013 Toyota RAV4
2013 sales: 33,156
Base price: $23,870
Base engine: 2.5-litre four-cylinder (176 hp)
Tale of the tape: Toyota redesigned the RAV last year, including the switch to a more conventional cargo door at the back. Reliability is a given but the cabin looks and feels like budget-cutters had a big say in things. Where others have direct-injection four-cylinder engines – state of the art – the base engine here is basic.
4. 2014 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport
2013 sales: 26,010
Base price: $26,599
Base engine: 2.4-litre four-cylinder (190 hp)
Tale of the tape: The Santa Fe has racy looks and the engines are modern and powerful. Quality is solid and fuel economy is good. A long-wheelbase version comes with a third row of seats. The steering could be more precise and refined.
5. 2014 Chevrolet Equinox
2013 sales: 19,819
Base price: $26,375
Base engine: 2.4-litre four-cylinder (182 horsepower)
Tale of the tape: The Equinox performs well in safety, reliability and crash test scores. A good all-around performer. But this is one of the older designs in the segment. Buyers should look for discounts.
6. 2014 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited
2013 sales: 18,578
Base price: $30,095
Base engine: 3.6-litre V-6 (285 hp)
Tale of the tape: The four-door Wrangler is a real four-by-four, with tremendous off-road capabilities, even the base model. The base versions of these other eight are all front-wheel drives. Rugged looks and the ability to climb logs and ford streams are the calling cards.
7. 2014 Mazda CX-5
2013 sales: 17,648
Base price: $22,995
Base engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder (155 hp)
Tale of the tape: The CX-5 may deliver the most entertaining ride and handling of the top eight. The design is modern, too. The base four-cylinder might save fuel, but it’s not very muscular. You’ll probably want the more powerful four-banger. The transmission choices are class-leading. No third-rowing seating available, either.
8. 2014 Nissan Rogue
2013 sales: 16,878
Base price: $23,378
Base engine: 2.5-litre four-cylinder (170 hp)
Tale of the tape: Nissan changed everything except the engine for 2014. Last year’s four-banger is this year’s. But the rest is a big step up. The Rogue looks sharp, responds well to driver inputs, has a good all-wheel-drive system and is well equipped with design and high-tech features. The CVT is also a drawback for driving enthusiasts who want the feel of gears shifting.
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