Which is the Best Crossover? 2018 CR-V vs. RAV4 vs. Escape vs. 2019 Cherokee Mega Mashup [Video]

The crossover market has been booming for years, and these cars have been leading the charge. But which is the best crossover?

Crossovers are among the most popular vehicles on the road today. They’re absolutely everywhere, and every manufacturer brings its own offering to the fiercely competitive segment. Compact crossovers, in particular, are among the most sought after cars in the U.S. The Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, and Ford Escape each sell in excess of 200,000 units every year. But how does the new Jeep Cherokee compare to the CR-V, RAV4 and Escape? Which one is the best crossover?

FCA recently refreshed the Jeep Cherokee for the 2019 model year. It looks more mainstream than the previous model, but it hasn’t lost its off-road capability. As far as its ability to head off the beaten path, the Cherokee is the best crossover in this group. However, if you’re not concerned with off-road prowess, you may find one of the other options more appealing. In terms of finding “the best” crossover, it really depends on what you want from a crossover. To find out where each one excels, let’s take a look at each model in turn in this mega mashup review.

Best Crossover: Honda CR-V
[Photo: Honda]

2018 Honda CR-V: The Family Hauler

Honda redesigned the CR-V for the 2017 model year. Now in its fifth generation, the company has built upon the reputation of previous CR-Vs in creating this latest version. To that end, this crossover is well-engineered and thoughtfully laid out. All the controls are straightforward, and Honda uses a mix of materials throughout the cabin that make the CR-V feel more expensive than it is. It has the most commodious cargo area as well, which makes it a good choice for a family vehicle.

As tested, this CR-V comes in the least expensive model in this test. An all-wheel drive EX is $29,325. That’s $315 less than the Escape, $802 less than the RAV4, and a whopping $4,395 less than the Cherokee. Mind you, there are a few reasons the Cherokee is so much more expensive than the CR-V.

The Honda offers a good balance of power and fuel economy for your money. Its 1.5-liter turbo puts out 190 horsepower and 179 lb-ft of torque, routed through a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). It’s the second most powerful after the Cherokee, and has the second-most torque. However, that CVT does add a bit of a rubber-banding effect to the mix, so it takes a moment for that power to come on. It also has the best fuel economy, with an EPA-rated 29 MPG combined.

Best crossover: Toyota RAV4
[Photo: TFLcar]

2018 Toyota RAV4: A Good All-rounder

On paper, the Toyota RAV4 isn’t too dissimilar to the Honda CR-V. Of course, you could make that statement about compact crossovers in general. This segment is so fiercely competitive, automakers often benchmark each other, which results in remarkably similar offerings. As with the CR-V, Toyota uses a good blend of materials that make the car feel solid and comfortable. The RAV4’s interior feels a bit more cramped than the CR-V, however, and it’s centered a little more toward the driver.

Unlike the Honda and Escape, the RAV4 offers up a 2.5-liter, naturally aspirated engine. With 176 horsepower and 172 lb-ft of torque, it’s the least powerful car here, but not by much. Since it is naturally aspirated, the RAV4’s power does come on in a more linear fashion than its turbocharged rivals. Altogether, the RAV4 is a more tossable car than the CR-V, though perhaps not as nimble as the Ford Escape.

The RAV4 offers the best cargo volume with its seats up among these competitors. However, with the seats down, the CR-V beats the RAV4 by 2.5 cubic feet. Still, it’s a practical proposition, and you do get fairly decent fuel economy as well, if not as strong as the CVT-equipped CR-V.

2017 Ford Escape SE
[Photo: TFLcar]

2018 Ford Escape: Nimble On-road Animal

In its base form, the Ford Escape SE with four-wheel drive is the cheapest car in this group. However, as equipped, this Escape is slightly more expensive than the Honda CR-V. The Escape’s interior is awash with black plastics, although the light-colored seats brighten things up a bit. The interior and exterior design have a European flavor, as this generation Escape is a rebadged version of the European Ford Kuga.

The Escape makes its power from a 1.5-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder – a layout similar to the Honda CR-V. However, it makes slightly less power at a higher point in the rev range. It has the most tossable character among the CR-V and RAV4, as it is a bit smaller than both those cars.

The Escape is the least practical car of those three, mainly owing to its size. However, it does have a bit more cargo space than the new Cherokee. As the Escape has the same power output and weighs about the same as the Toyota RAV4, it offers similar fuel economy.

2019 Jeep Cherokee
[Photo: Jeep]

2019 Jeep Cherokee: New, Mainstream Face, Power, and Off-Road Capability

You can buy the new Jeep Cherokee with the Pentastar V6 (the only car here with a V6 option), but we have the brand new, 2.0-liter turbo. The Cherokee is, by a wide margin, the most powerful car of the group. However, as equipped, it’s also by far the most expensive. At $33,720, this 2019 Jeep Cherokee Latitude Plus 4×4 is $4,395 more than the Honda CR-V, and $3,593 more than the Toyota RAV4. FCA kept the Cherokee’s interior nicely trimmed and well-equipped. With the off-road kit, you do also get more for your money.

Since the Cherokee is the most powerful, it’s also the fastest. Not only that, but the 2.0-liter turbo model has the best towing capacity of the group. While the Honda and Toyota are each rated to tow 1,500 pounds and the Escape 3,500, the Cherokee can tow up to 4,000 pounds. While EPA mileage figures have not been released yet, we do expect this car to get the worst fuel economy of the group, since it’s putting out nearly 300 horsepower. Jeep also hasn’t released curb weight figures for the 2.0-liter Cherokee either, although the 2.4-liter four-wheel drive model weighs about 4,000 pounds.

The Jeep Cherokee isn’t quite as practical as the other cars in the group, as it turns out. The Cherokee devotes more space to the passengers than to cargo, so its overall practicality for hauling the family’s stuff is affected. With the seats up, there’s 25.8 cubic feet (you can get a bit more with sliding rear seats). Even with the seats down, there is 54.9 cubic feet of cargo volume – 20.9 cubic feet less than the Honda CR-V.

On paper, all these crossovers come out fairly similar in terms of size, equipment, and price, depending on which model you test. When searching for a new crossover, your decision may well come down to styling or specific abilities, such as the Honda’s superior cargo space or the Jeep’s off-road capability. Which is the best crossover? It really depends on what you need from this sort of vehicle.

Stay tuned to TFLcar.com for more news, views, and real-world, crossover mashup reviews! Subscribe to The Fast Lane Car and TFLnow on YouTube for the latest videos on your favorite new models.


2018 Honda CR-V
2018 Toyota RAV4
2018 Ford Escape
2019 Jeep Cherokee
Latitude Plus 4×4
On Sale: Now Now Now Q1 2018
Base MSRP: $28,350 $27,090 $25,450 $27,995
Price as Tested: $29,325 $30,127 $29,640 $33,720
Engine: 1.5-liter 4-cyl. turbo  2.5-liter 4-cyl. 1.5-liter 4-cyl. turbo 2.0-liter 4-cyl. turbo
Drivetrain (Layout): Front engine, all-wheel drive Front engine, all-wheel drive Front engine, four-wheel drive Front engine, four-wheel drive
Horsepower: 190 hp @ 5,600 RPM  176 hp @ 6,000 RPM 179 hp @ 6,000 RPM 270 hp @ 5,250 RPM
Torque: 179 lb-ft @ 2,000-5,000 RPM 172 lb-ft @ 4,100 RPM 177 lb-ft @ 2,500 RPM 295 lb-ft @ 3,000-4,500 RPM 
Transmission: Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) 6-speed automatic 6-speed automatic 9-speed automatic
Fuel capacity: 14.0 gal 15.9 gal  15.7 gal 15.9 gal
Fuel economy (EPA): 27 City/33 Highway/29 Combined MPG 22 City/28 Highway/25 Combined MPG 22 City/28 Highway/24 Combined MPG TBD MPG


2018 Honda CR-V
2018 Toyota RAV4
2018 Ford Escape


2019 Jeep Cherokee
Latitude Plus 4×4
Wheelbase: 104.7 inches 104.7 inches  105.9 inches 106.6 inches
Length:  180.6 inches 183.5 inches 178.1 inches 182.0 inches
Width: 73.0 inches 72.6 inches 81.8 inches* 73.2 inches
Height:  66.5 inches 67.1 inches 66.3 inches 67.3 inches**
Curb Weight: 3,473 pounds 3,605 pounds 3,668 pounds TBD
Cargo Volume (Seats up/down): 29.2/75.8 cu. ft. 38.4/73.4 cu. ft. 34.0/64.0 cu. ft. 25.8/54.9 cu. ft.
Towing Capacity: 1,500 pounds 1,500 pounds 3,500 pounds 4,000 pounds