Maybe you’re adding a new member to your family, or perhaps you’re tired of cramming your jogging stroller into a trunk already brimming with kid gear, but let’s face it — you’ve reached the crossover tipping point.
The crossover tipping point is the phenomena where your lifestyle no longer fits inside the sleek sedan or sexy sports car you used to drive before you had children, pets, and the unspeakable amount of injection molded plastics to haul around. You know you’ve reached it when the number of carseats you need outnumbers the adults, you’d seriously consider transporting the dog in the trunk if it weren’t full of sports equipment, and other parents give you the cold shoulder because you can never carpool. The prognosis: You need a bigger vehicle.
Purchasing a new vehicle is one of the most important — and expensive — decisions a family will make. To help simplify the buying process, Babble waded through the crowded crossover segment to find the best CUV for any driving need. We examined new and best-selling vehicles on the market, but limited our budget to $35,000. That price ceiling quickly eliminated many vehicles from our shopping list, but the selection of economical crossovers is still considerable. To help narrow the list even further, we focused on fuel economy, safety, and parent-friendly features. When crossovers were fairly evenly matched, we gave preference to vehicles that had better fuel economy, price, or were a previous Babble favorite. — Liane Yvkoff
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Top compact SUV on a budget | 2013 Hyundai Tucson
MSRP: $19,245 – $26,945
FUEL ECONOMY: 22/32 mpg
The only thing tougher than the competition in the mid-size crossover market is the battle being waged among the compact crossovers. With a heavy dose of style and a good balance of power, fuel economy, and cargo capacity, the 2013 Hyundai Tucson has a lot to offer buyers shopping for a small crossover at a surprisingly low price.
The 2013 Hyundai Tucson is one of the few crossovers still offered with a manual transmission. The base model is equipped with a 5-speed manual transmission and a 165-horsepower, 2.0-liter engine that’s just right for the size of the car. When paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission, the Tucson gets a surprisingly better 23 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway. And if you’re interested in upgrading to a GLS or Limited model, despite the larger 176-horsepower, 2.4-liter engine, the crossover achieves up to 32 mpg on the highway thanks to its low-rolling resistance tires and Active ECO System. Other perks of upgrading models are fog lamps, automatic headlight control, and heated front seats in the GLS, or step up to the Limited model and you’ll also get proximity key entry and push button start.
Designed by Hyundai’s European design team, the Tucson is one of the most stylish crossovers in its class and features flowing lines on the exterior. It looks less boxy and more sophisticated than its competitors and strikes a balance between cute and aggressive. And, earning points with families who spend a lot of time in their vehicle, the Tucson is available with dual sunroofs that can shed light way back into the third row. And with all that sunlight flooding the car, Hyundai thought it was probably a good idea to make solar glass a standard feature on all models, which will help reduce the need for air conditioning.
However, putting form before function has its drawbacks, and Consumer Reports dings the crossover for its small windows, which hurts side-view visibility, especially for kids in the second row.
Other features worth noting are the Tucson’s 7-year unlimited mileage warranty and 24-hour roadside assistance for five years, which will help bring down maintenance costs.
SEATING + STORAGE
The Tucson has more cargo space than competitors, but its high-styled, sloping roof means that there is less vertical space for bulkier items or pets in the rear.
ENTERTAINMENT + NAVIGATION
Hyundai offers a respectably sized navigation system, with a 6.5-inch touch screen that interfaces with iPods. One of the best features of the system is the iPod integration that places the “shuffle” button for songs on the center of the screen instead of burying it in a menu, making it easy to access while driving.
IIHS Top Safety Pick
The 2013 Tucson has a pretty high satisfaction rating on Consumer Reports, with an overall score of 70, and 57 percent of owners said they would buy it again.
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