Crossovers have certainly crossed over into the mainstream, selling millions of units each year to customers who enjoy their special combination of versatility, style, fuel efficiency and performance. But the top sellers aren’t necessarily the top-rated crossovers of 2012. To make it into that category, a vehicle has to have been included in at least one of the major third-party industry awards programs, be on sale during the current calendar year, and actually satisfy customers with a top-notch package of benefits. In other words, they’re not just among the best-rated crossover of 2012, they also are among the best period.
Although it’s never going to sell in high volumes, the Ford Flex was one of the highest-rated crossovers in this year’s Autobytel/AutoPacific Ideal vehicle awards, as well as the J.D. Power and Associates Automotive Performance Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study. It’s a nifty double play made easier by the Flex’s high-tech approach to hauling families and their gear: For the 2013 model year, for example, Ford’s three-row crossover features the latest iteration of the MyFord Touch technology, intelligent access with push-button start, inflatable rear safety belts, rain-sensing windshield wipers, a power-adjustable steering column, power-folding mirrors, and updated safety measures like adaptive cruise control with collision warning and brake support, along with Ford’s Blind Spot Information System.
There’s also something new under the Flex’s hood: A 3.5-liter V6 engine with twin-independent variable cam timing that delivers 287 hp and 254 lb.-ft. of torque while returning an EPA line of 18 mpg city/25 mpg highway/20 mpg combined; compared to the standard V6 from last year, the updated power plant provides advantages of 25 horses, 6 lb.-ft. of torque and 1 mpg in each of the EPA driving tests.
And yes, the 2013 Flex—which is on sale now starting at $30,685—still offers an advanced EcoBoost V6 that pours out 365 hp and 350 lb.-ft. of torque, making the capacious crossover the most powerful of our top-rated crossovers of 2012.
The MINI Countryman is at the opposite end of the size spectrum from the Ford Flex, but it also captured its segment in both the Autobytel/AutoPacific Ideal Vehicle Awards and the J.D. Power APEAL Study, and for a MINI, it’s fairly maxi. The Countryman boasts four doors to make it suitable for (small) families, and with all seats folded flat, it offers a surprisingly roomy 41.3 cubic feet of cargo space. It’s easy to fill, too, thanks to a particularly large liftgate-opening and handy cabin features like a unique center-rail management system with available snap-on storage solutions such as bins and beverage holders.
But the real benefit of the Countryman comes from its small footprint, which provides a very dynamic driving experience and EPA grades as high as 27 mpg city/35 mpg highway/30 mpg combined—all at a price tag that starts at $22,450.
The MINI isn’t just the most fuel-efficient of the highest-rated crossovers on this list, though, it’s also the most fun to drive. In its new John Cooper Works trim, the Countryman showcases the same all-wheel-drive system offered on the ALL4 version, then adds 208 horses worth of twin-scroll turbocharged power and a sport-tuned suspension to run from 0-60 in just 6.6 seconds. Further, this one of our top-rated crossover SUVs doesn’t top out until it reaches 127 mph, yet it still posts an EPA line of up to 25 mpg city/31 mpg highway/27 mpg combined.
The Chevrolet Equinox offers the best bang for the buck among our top-rated crossovers for 2012: Just ask the experts at MSN Autos, who included the Chevy as their crossover choice among the 2012 “Best Bang for the Buck” winners. As detailed by MSN: “Bow Tie fans will appreciate the versatility of the Equinox. It gets great highway mileage, has a roomy interior featuring standard Bluetooth connectivity, and it comes with Chevy's Multiflex rear seats, which slide back and forth up to 8 inches to get the best balance of legroom and cargo capacity.”
The website also lauded the two engines available in the Equinox, including the standard 2.4-liter Ecotec I4, capable of achieving 22 mpg city/32 mpg highway/26 mpg combined. The other option? A new-for-2013 3.6-liter V6 that dials up 301 hp and 272 lb.-ft. of torque for increases of 14 percent and 22.5 percent, respectively, over the Equinox’s previous V6. And that’s without a decrease in V6 fuel efficiency.
This entry on Autobytel’s list of highest-rated crossovers also brings other updates for the 2013 model year, including an FE2 sport suspension for the V6 Equinox, an available rear-seat DVD entertainment system and the Chevrolet MyLink connectivity interface with a seven-inch color touchscreen.
The 2013 Chevy Equinox is on its way to dealerships now, with pricing that’s still TBD.
When it comes to the best-rated crossovers of 2012, there’s simply no avoiding the Honda CR-V. In fact, the newest iteration of the CR-V has been chosen as among the country’s highest-rated crossovers by so many third parties that it was the top-scoring entry on Forbes’ 2012 list of “Best Crossovers for Your Family.” It’s a big deal, because the ranking was based on data from TotalCarScore.com, which aggregates reviews and evaluations from outlets across America. Appealing to so many people is no simple task, but the CR-V gets the job done with:
Uncoincidentally, the CR-V also leads all of these top-rated crossover SUVs in terms of sales growth, with deliveries up 33.9 percent through the first seven months of the year (the latest numbers available when this list was published.)
A comfortable, versatile cabin is an important hallmark of today’s top-rated crossover SUVs, so it just makes sense to honor one that excels in this area of design: The new Infiniti JX, named to the annual list of 10 Best Interiors from Ward’s Automotive. Ward’s judges found “the JX to be an ideal blend of premium wood, sumptuous leather and judiciously applied brushed aluminum trim. The entire interior feels meticulously crafted.” Also coming in for praise was the JX’s “panoramic roof that fills the cabin with natural light,” and Ward’s also noted that: “Climbing into the third row is no trouble, thanks to the ingenious sliding, folding-clamshell second-row seats.”
Needless to say, the rest of the vehicle was designed to match, with a sleek and aerodynamic exterior that has been tailored with a front underbody spoiler, an integrated rear spoiler, and rear-tire air deflectors. As a result, the JX isn’t just highly fashionable, it’s also relatively fuel efficient; according to the EPA, it can achieve up to 24 mpg in its two-wheel-drive configuration. Infiniti’s first continuously variable transmission is a key enabler of that kind of performance, which is provided by a robust V6 engine that has 265 hp and 248 lb.-ft. of torque on tap.
The JX joins Autobytel’s roster of best-rated crossovers for 2012 with an MSRP that begins at $40,650.