Compact crossovers like the Honda CR-V and Hyundai Tucson are essentially the new family wagons for many households—and in turn, we’ve seen almost every automaker step up its game, with progressively better packaging, versatility, and features aimed at the way that these models are truly used today.
The Tucson and CR-V, actually, represent quite different approaches in this market, with the Tucson aiming a bit more at commuters and empty-nesters while the CR-V takes aim directly at families with the current generation of the CR-V.
The 2016 Hyundai Tucson aims for visual impact on the outside with a stylish new sculpted form, as well as a very refined, upscale experience inside. Meanwhile, the CR-V’s profile is definitely a bit more utility-minded; inside, while the Honda has grown a bit more upscale, too, in its latest iteration, it’s clear that this one’s inherited some family-hauling smarts from the larger Pilot and Odyssey models. That said, it all depends what you expect; we will say that the CR-V simply ‘feels’ a bit more like a family vehicle inside, while the Tucson aims for a slightly more elegant, more finely detailed look.
The CR-V holds a strong advantage in one area that’s going to matter to families: seating space and cargo versatility. Honda’s much beloved CR-V has a smartly redesigned interior, with nicely padded front seats, a great seating position in front, and rear seats that are fine for adult use. They feature a pull-strap that releases the seat and tumbles it forward to create additional cargo room. We love the one-handed operation, too, and would call cargo room generous, even with rear seats in place. Seats folded, the CR-V offers up over five feet of cargo room, now with a lower deck for easier loading. On the other hand, the Tucson’s seatbacks flip forward, and you can adjust those seatbacks for rake, yet there’s simply not as much usable cargo space here.
Neither of these models are going to inspire you to take the long way and hustle down curvy backroads; but both of them are responsive enough for everyday driving as well as quite fuel-efficient. The Honda CR-V has a 185-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine mated to a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) that works quite well at moderate paces but can feel off its game when pressed for passing or quick bursts of power.The Tucson, on the other hand, comes with either a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, making 164 horsepower, or a 1.6-liter turbocharged four making 175 hp and 196 lb-ft of torque. Despite the higher output of the turbo engine, we’d probably go for the more affordable Tucson SE and that base engine, as the dual-clutch automatic that comes with the turbo can be surprisingly sluggish to react.
The CR-V with front-wheel drive manages some pretty impressive numbers now—of 26 mpg city, 33 highway with front-wheel drive, or 1 mpg lower combined with all-wheel drive. The Tucson SE, with the base engine, earns 23 mpg city, 31 highway, although an Eco model with the 1.6T engine gets the best mileage in the lineup, at at 26/33 mpg.
We will give the Tucson a sound advantage in general refinement. While the CR-V delivers a comfortable ride and predictable handling, we’re not fans of the isolated feel delivered by the new electric power steering. The Tucson doesn’t do much better, but its ride has been retuned to a little more comfortable and surprisingly quiet; it adds up to the perception, at times, that you’re in a more ‘premium’ vehicle.
These two models are on about equal ground with respect to crash-test ratings. The new CR-V has proven to be one of the safest vehicles in the compact crossover segment, with Top Safety Pick+ status from the IIHS—although with a four-star score from the federal government. The Tucson hasn’t yet been rated by the feds, and it also earns TSP+ status. Both also offer an effective optional active-safety system with autonomous emergency braking; and in both cases, a rearview camera is standard and necessary, as outward visibility otherwise isn’t so great.
The Tucson definitely loads on the features in a way that the CR-V doesn’t quite match, for the money. Yet Honda has sweetened the CR-V’s feature list with items like the trick LaneWatch rear camera system—handy in urban lane changes—and on top Touring models things like a power tailgate and power memory driver’s seat. The Tucson offers quite a few items not at all found on the Honda, though, like ventilated seats, outboard rear heated seats, and a new proximity rear tailgate release system. Both models go well over $30k for the top-trim CR-V Touring or Tucson Limited.
So the tally? It’s a virtual tie as we see it. Most people will likely agree that the Tucson has the lead in features and styling; yet the CR-V does some great things with interior space and utility—and covering all the practical needs for family use just a little bit better.