How do Affordable Compact and Midsize SUV Alternatives Stack Up?
There is no one-size-fits-all in any SUV category. If you simply must buy the brands that carry the highest clout and have the deep pockets to do so, go for it! But if inflation has you thinking about a more sensible purchase, you have plenty of good choices. We compare the pros and cons of several we’ve stacked up against the competition recently.
Infiniti QX 55
In comparing luxury level compacts, we drove the QX55, the sporty, stylish coupe-style cousin of Infiniti’s QX50, with standard all-wheel drive. Our midrange Essential trim included a nice array of driving aids and tech features with MSRP of $54,250. Infiniti is known for cabins that are generally upscale, notably quiet. and known for good use of space.
While the QX55’s price is certainly a value when comparing it to the European models the luxury segment, the tradeoff is the 4-cylinder variable compression VC-Turbo engine and continuously variable automatic transmission with simulated gear shifts found on the QX50 and QX55. It feels quick once it gets going, but it’s slow to start and middle of the pack in EPA rating at 25 MPG combined.
Infiniti QX 60
With an updated look, modern tech, and a more upscale cabin, Infiniti’s QX60 makes a great first impression as an affordable option compared to some of the front-runners among three-row luxury midsizers. The 2023 QX60 starts at $49,300, and our top-trim Autobiography test vehicle with MSRP of $65,500 was loaded up, the only added options being a lighting package, illuminated kick plates and premium paint. Especially notable is the list of standard advanced driver aids included even on the base model.
QX60 shares similar tradeoffs as its aforementioned compact sibling with reviews ranking middle-of-the-class when it comes to its V6 engine power, steering and handling and EPA-estimated 22 mpg combined.
Ford Escape PHEV
The Escape is considered a standout among compact SUVs for its sleek design and comfortable and functional cabin with large cargo capacity and modern tech features including Ford’s well-reputed touchscreen system. The new Plug-In Hybrid version is another reason to compare Escape when shopping in the compact SUV segment. With a bigger battery than the regular Escape Hybrid, the PHEV is capable of 37 miles on all-electric power, at which point it switches over the regular gas-electric hybrid with and impressive EPA-estimated 40 mpg combined. Our PHEV Escape Titanium trim tester had a $43,025 MSRP. The PHEV does cost quite a bit more than the gas-only and hybrid versions. However, if you qualify for them, federal and state tax credits for PHEVs narrow the gap significantly.
Features that some of its compact PHEV competitors do offer that you’ll sacrifice with this choice include the fact that the plug-in model is the only Escape that lacks all-wheel drive. Ventilated front seats and heated rear seats are not available on any trim level. Those looking for precise handling and impressive acceleration are not going to find it as satisfying as some of the other choices, including other types of Escapes with zippy EcoBoost® engines.
The only extra on our CX-9 Signature AWD test vehicle was special paint that put its MSPR a few dollars above $50K. That makes it one of the pricier choices among the rivals in comparing three-row midsize SUVs. Like others in the Mazda corral, it delivers a comfortable and quiet ride that is equally matched with sporty handling and strong acceleration. All CX-9s come loaded with advanced safety and driver aids such as adaptive cruise, blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic warning, forward collision warning and lane keeping assistance.
CX9 falls short when it comes to cargo, utility and third-row accommodations. The EPA fuel economy rating for our all-wheel-drive CX-9 is slightly better than average for this class at 23 mpg combined.
Compact and midsize SUVs are the hottest segments in the industry. Heated competition means that everyone has to bring their A-game just to compete in the sea of rivals. The right choice will come down to personal priorities.