Midsize SUVs and crossovers have long taken reign as the default family “car” of choice for most. Modern crossovers have grown over the years, making them more desirable for those who want style, comfort, and tech features rolled into a versatile and affordable package. The market remains brimming with choices, but only a few have the right to be called the best midsize SUVs and crossovers.
Best Midsize SUVs & Crossovers for 2023
Mazda, Honda, and Toyota top our list. The Kia Sportage and Subaru Forester are also good choices.
The Mazda CX-50 is all-new for 2023. Mazda has yet to clarify if the CX-50 is a direct replacement for its excellent yet aging CX-5, and rumors of a brand-new, third-gen CX-5 have persisted since early 2022. However, the CX-50 fits the bill as a slightly bigger, broader, and longer CX-5 with more ground clearance, higher towing numbers, and a more rugged countenance.
It’s hard to deny the appeal of a new Mazda crossover with up to 8.6 inches of ground clearance, an available turbocharged engine, and a standard all-wheel drivetrain. And since the CX-50 is a Mazda, you can expect sharper handling, a premium interior, and desirable sheet metal that stands out from the crowd.
AWD Fuel Economy
Too Many Trim Levels
Powertrain & Fuel Economy
The Mazda CX-50 has a naturally-aspirated Skyactiv-G 2.5-liter four-cylinder generating 187 horsepower and 186 lb-ft. of torque. All CX-50s have a six-speed automatic. CX-50 Turbo variants receive a turbocharged 2.5-liter four-banger with 256 horsepower and 320 lb-ft. of torque. Combined with a unique off-road driving mode, the CX-50 makes good use of its engine power and higher ground clearance.
The EPA rates the naturally-aspirated Mazda CX-50 at 24 in the city, 30 on the highway, and 27 combined. Meanwhile, the turbocharged CX-50 delivers a combined 25 mpg. Fuel economy is one potential drawback of the CX-50. The Honda CR-V and Subaru Forester are better options if gas mileage is a priority.
Chassis, Suspension & Towing
Despite its close relationship to the CX-5 crossover, the Mazda CX-50 actually rides on a similar architecture as the Mazda3 and CX-30. The platform has a MacPherson front and a similar torsion beam rear suspension design. The modified ultra-high tensile strength steel chassis enables a maximum towing capacity of 3,500 lbs. with the turbo engine, better than the CX-5’s 2,000 lbs. tow rating.
Interior Layout: Sleek & Sporty
The Mazda CX-50 has a classy interior with premium touches. The CX-50 has an 8.8-inch infotainment touchscreen, a partially digital instrument cluster, an eight-speaker audio system, and wireless Apple CarPlay connectivity with Android Auto.
Higher trim variants include dual-zone climate control, leather upholstery, power seats, and a panoramic moonroof. In our view, the Mazda CX-50 has the nicest interior on this list of the best midsize SUVs. The CX-50 punches well above its class with regard to interior craftsmanship.
Small Cargo Area
However, it suffers from a small cargo area like its CX-30 brethren, with only 31.4 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats. Folding down the second-row chairs unveils 56.3 cubic feet of cargo room, which is better, but nowhere close to the Honda CR-V.
Mazda CX-50 Safety Ratings & Features
The Mazda CX-50 is an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ with a Good rating in all six crash tests, but the NHTSA test results remain unavailable as of this writing. Every Mazda CX-50 features advanced driving aids like blind-spot monitoring, frontal collision mitigation, lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, and automatic high beams.
Mazda CX-50 Warranty
Every CX-50 comes with a three-year/36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty, a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty, and a 24/7 roadside assistance program for three years or 36,000 miles. Options are available to extend the warranty on a CX-50.
2023 Mazda CX-50 Starting MSRP
The 2023 Mazda CX-50 is available in 10 trim variants: Base ($28,825), Select ($30,225), Preferred ($31,525), Preferred Plus ($33,965), Premium ($36,425), Premium Plus ($38,425), Turbo ($38,425), Turbo Premium ($41,575), Meridian Edition ($41,620), and Turbo Premium Plus ($43,575).
The CX-50 has Mazda’s hallmarks, like Kodo design, Skyactiv-G powertrains, and i-Activ all-wheel drive.
Good towing capacity for extra “toys.”
2023 Honda CR-V
The Honda CR-V is a perennial favorite when discussing the best midsize SUVs. The all-new sixth-generation CR-V has grown proportionally and has a 1.6-inch longer wheelbase than before, translating to extra room for people and cargo. Moreover, the 2023 Honda CR-V is available with a standard hybrid powertrain (Sport and Sport Touring), delivering an excellent 40 combined mpg with front-wheel drive (37 combined with the Sport Touring AWD).
Honda has made sure the CR-V has what it takes to tackle the competition ever since the first-gen variant debuted in 1997. It remains a sterling choice if you want a roomy, safe, and tech-filled crossover that won’t break the bank.
Mediocre Towing Capacity
Lethargic Hybrid Powertrain
Powertrain & Fuel Economy
The Honda CR-V EX and EX-L have a 1.5-liter turbo four-cylinder with 190 horsepower and 179 lb-ft. of torque, essentially the same powerplant as the fifth-gen model. Front-wheel drive and a continuously variable automatic (CVT) are standard, while all-wheel drive is optional.
On the other hand, the CR-V Sport and Sport Touring receive a 2.0-liter four-cylinder and a hybrid powertrain with a combined 204 horsepower and 247 lb-ft. of torque. The CR-V Sport is front-wheel drive, while the Sport Touring is standard with all-wheel drive.
EPA-estimated fuel economy for the 1.5-liter turbocharged engine (FWD) is 28 in the city, 34 on the highway, and 30 combined. Choosing the AWD variant nets 27 in the city, 32 on the highway, and a combined 29 mpg. Meanwhile, the CR-V Sport Hybrid and Sport Touring Hybrid deliver 40/34 city/highway and 37 combined.
Proven Safety Architecture
Like all Hondas, the new CR-V has an Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE) safety architecture that absorbs crash energy during frontal collisions. ACE uses high-tensile strength steel to disperse crash energy away from occupants and reduces misalignment (under/override) with vehicles of other sizes during a frontal collision.
ACE differs from traditional designs because it directs impact energy to both the upper and lower structural elements. It’s a design we believe in here at Automoblog and partly why the CR-V makes this list of the best midsize SUVs.
Suspension & Towing
Suspending the reinforced chassis and body is a MacPherson front and multi-link rear suspension for more comfort and better handling. The 2023 CR-V’s 1,500 lbs. towing capacity (1,000 lbs. for CR-V Hybrids) is nothing to write home about. The CX-50 and RAV4 are better options if you tow frequently.
Interior Layout: Acres of Room
Honda engineers went the extra mile to ensure the 2023 CR-V could offer superior visibility behind the wheel. The thinner A-pillars, door-mounted wing mirrors, oversized windows, and hidden wipers are a boon for visibility. At the same time, the wider door openings make it easier to enter/exit the vehicle or install a child seat.
What we like about the new CR-V is the cargo room. It offers 39.2 cubic feet of space behind the second-row seats and up to 76.5 cubic feet with the chairs folded, which is ideal if you have extra items on your everyday journeys. It easily outperforms the Mazda CX-50, Subaru Forester, and other popular midsize SUVs.
Honda CR-V Safety Ratings & Features
NHTSA and IIHS have not yet crash-tested the 2023 Honda CR-V as of this writing. However, the 2022 model received a five-star overall rating from NHTSA and is a Top Safety Pick by the IIHS. Every CR-V is standard with Honda Sensing, an updated driver-assist package that includes adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, forward collision mitigation, and blind-spot warning.
Honda CR-V Warranty
The CR-V leaves the factory with a three-year/36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty, a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty, and a five-year/unlimited mileage rust perforation warranty. Options are available for additional coverage for all Honda vehicles.
2023 Honda CR-V Starting MSRP
The Honda CR-V is available in four simplified trim models: EX ($32,355), Sport Hybrid ($33,695), EX-L ($35,005), and Sport Touring Hybrid ($39,845).
The CR-V is an excellent daily driver with an industry-proven safety architecture.
Practical and spacious interior with plenty of cargo space.
Touring trim adds navigation, wireless charging, and roof rails.
2023 Toyota RAV4
Underpinning the Toyota RAV4 is the brand’s rigid TNGA-K platform shared with a few Toyota and Lexus vehicles like the Highlander, Venza, Camry, and Lexus RX. Although the current fifth-gen RAV4 is getting long in the tooth, it still belongs on our list of the best midsize SUVs.
As a daily driver, think of the RAV4 like Goldilocks and a “just right” porridge (although the four-cylinder engine could use a bit of spice). Overall, the Toyota RAV4 is a solid all-rounder if the CX-50 or CR-V is not your thing. The RAV4 can tow up to 3,500 lbs. when properly equipped, which matches the CX-50, while still being well ahead of the CR-V’s max capacity.
Vague Steering Feel
Powertrain & Fuel Economy
All RAV4s have a 2.5-liter naturally-aspirated four-cylinder that generates 203 horsepower. The numbers look good on paper, but the engine sometimes feels lackluster at full chat. Front-wheel drive is standard, and an all-wheel drivetrain is available. No matter your choice, the engine sends power to the wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission.
The 2023 Toyota RAV4 is forgiving at the pump, having better city, highway, and combined EPA ratings than the Mazda CX-50 and Kia Sportage. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 27 in the city, 35 on the highway, and 30 combined. Meanwhile, the RAV4 AWD gets 27 in the city, 33 on the highway, and 29 combined.
Off-Road Performance Upgrades
The more robust TRD Off-Road receives a unique suspension with red coil springs, twin-tube shock absorbers, and 18-inch wheels wrapped in meaty all-terrain rubber. The RAV4 TRD Off-Road is one of the best midsize SUVs if you frequently drive unpaved roads or live in an area with harsh winters.
Toyota’s Multi-Terrain Select system, standard for the TRD Off-Road, calibrates the vehicle depending on the road conditions. Drivers can pick between different modes, including Mud & Sand, Rock & Dirt, and Snow. TRD Off-Road models also have 8.6 inches of ground clearance to complement the off-road suspension.
Interior Layout: Practical & Roomy
The Toyota RAV4’s family-friendly interior is a plus. Moreover, it has a spacious boot with 37.5 cubic feet behind the second-row seats and up to 69.8 cubic feet when folding the rear chairs. We also like the RAV4’s low cargo floor, making it easier to stow or grab items. Only the CR-V has more storage space on this list.
The 2023 Toyota RAV4 has an updated eight-inch infotainment system for the LE, XLE, XLE Premium, and Adventure (the RAV4 Limited and TRD Off-Road have a larger 10.5-inch touchscreen). Other standard features include LED headlights, a six-speaker audio system, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Toyota RAV4 Safety Ratings & Features
The 2023 Toyota RAV4 received a five-star overall rating from NHTSA and is an IIHS Top Safety Pick. All RAV4s have Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 with adaptive cruise control, forward collision mitigation, lane-keeping assist, traffic sign assist, and more.
Toyota RAV4 Warranty
The 2023 Toyota RAV has a three-year, 36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty, a five-year, 60,000-mile powertrain warranty, and a 60,000-mile corrosion warranty with no mileage limit. Options are available to extend the warranty on any Toyota vehicle.
2023 Toyota RAV4 Starting MSRP
The Toyota RAV4 is available in six trim variants: LE ($29,310), XLE ($30,820), XLE Premium ($33,710), Adventure ($36,005), Limited ($37,615), and TRD Off-Road ($38,930).
The RAV4’s family-friendly interior offers plenty of cargo space.
Higher towing capacity is a bonus.
TRD Off-Road can handle muddy or snowy roads.
2023 Kia Sportage
Kia has long played second fiddle to its parent company, Hyundai, regarding vehicle offerings, but the Sportage begs to differ. Kia is slowly rising to superstardom with its newest lineup of redesigned vehicles. It started with the award-winning Telluride three-row SUV, the K5 sedan, and the mesmerizing EV6 all-electric crossover. Kia also has the 2023 Sportage, a strong contender on this list of best midsize SUVs.
Powertrain & Fuel Economy
The Sportage has a 2.5-liter naturally-aspirated four-banger with 187 horsepower and 178 lb-ft. of torque. The engine sends power to the front or all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic. Quick acceleration is not a selling point of the Kia Sportage, but a hybrid option does offer more horsepower.
The front-wheel drive Sportage is EPA-rated to deliver 25 in the city, 32 on the highway, and 28 combined. Meanwhile, all-wheel drive variants offer 23/28 city/highway and 25 combined. When it comes to all-wheel drive fuel economy, the Sportage is on par with the Mazda CX-50 but behind the CR-V and RAV4.
Chassis & Suspension
The 2023 Kia Sportage is riding on the brand’s third-gen N3 platform. It’s longer, wider, and has a 3.34-inch longer wheelbase versus previous generations. The Sportage has a MacPherson front and multi-link rear suspension to deliver a cozy ride, although the handling and steering could benefit from a rethink. Meanwhile, the 2,500 lbs. max tow rating is in the middle of the pack but better than the CR-V.
Interior Layout: More Room, More Tech
The Sportage’s growth spurt translates to more room for passengers and cargo. It offers 39.6 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats, slightly better than the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4. Folding the second-row chairs reveals 74.1 cubic feet of storage room, enough to outclass the competition. If trunk space and passenger room are what you want, the Kia Sportage is worth a second look.
The base LX comes generously equipped with an eight-inch infotainment touchscreen, a 12.2-inch digital instrument cluster, LED headlights with automatic high beams, LED taillights, and remote keyless entry. Other trim variants receive a 12.3-inch touchscreen, wireless charging, navigation, and more.
Kia Sportage Safety Ratings & Features
The 2023 Kia Sportage has not yet been crash-tested by NHTSA (as of this writing). However, it’s an IIHS Top Safety Pick, joining the Mazda CX-50, Honda CR-V, and Toyota RAV4 as the safest midsize SUVs on the road. Every Sportage has lane departure warning, lane-keeping assist, forward collision mitigation, parking sensors, and a driver attention warning system.
Kia Sportage Warranty
The Sportage comes with a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty, a five-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty, a five-year/100,000-mile anti-perforation warranty, and a five-year/60,000-mile roadside assistance plan. Despite lengthy coverage from the factory, options are available to extend the warranty of any Kia vehicle.
2023 Kia Sportage Starting MSRP
The Kia Sportage is available in seven trim levels: LX ($27,285), EX ($29,295), X-Line ($32,085), SX ($32,785), SX Prestige ($34,785), X-Pro ($35,785), and X-Pro Prestige ($38,085).
The Sportage is family-friendly with its roomy interior and available tech features.
Lengthy factory warranty a plus.
X-Pro models offer more off-road capability.
2023 Subaru Forester
Fresh from an interior and exterior overhaul, the Subaru Forester has withstood the test of time and remains a perennial bestseller. The Forester is among the first genuine crossovers, growing significantly over five model generations. The existing Forester remains part of the fifth-gen variant that arrived in 2018 and is ripe for a replacement. But like sweet tropical fruit, Forester’s combination of standard symmetrical all-wheel drive, a torquey Boxer engine, and a rugged appeal makes it a viable contender for the best midsize SUV crown.
Styling Not For Everyone
Average Towing Numbers
Powertrain & Fuel Economy
The Subaru Forester has a naturally-aspirated 2.5-liter Boxer four-cylinder that generates 182 horsepower and 176 lb-ft. of torque. All Foresters come standard with Subaru’s Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive that receives engine torque via a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT).
The EPA rates the 2023 Forester at 26 in the city, 33 on the highway, and 29 combined. All-wheel drive fuel economy is a strong point for the Forester, surpassing both the CX-50 and Sportage.
Chassis, Suspension & Towing
The 2023 Forester makes good use of Subaru’s Global Platform, designed for increased rigidity, better crash protection, and more resistance to noise, vibration, and harshness (NVH). It has a MacPherson front and double wishbone rear suspension, combining sportier handling with a smooth ride.
The outdoor-ready Forester Wilderness has 9.2 inches of ground clearance, an off-road suspension, and all-terrain tires on 17-inch wheels. Moreover, the rugged Wilderness trim can tow up to 3,000 lbs. (when properly equipped), but standard models can only cart around 1,500 lbs.
Interior Layout: Simple Yet Functional
The Forester’s spacious cabin for passengers has a slight drawback: cargo space. Offering 28.9 cubic feet with the second-row seats in the upright position, the Forester falls behind the CR-V, RAV4, and Sportage. However, folding the rear chairs reveals 74.2 cubic feet of space, suitable for carrying home improvement items, bicycles, or camping gear.
Standard is a 6.5-inch infotainment touchscreen with a four-speaker audio system, satellite radio, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. The Forester Wilderness, Limited, and Touring receive an eight-inch touchscreen and a premium audio system.
Subaru Forester Safety Ratings & Features
The 2023 Subaru Forester received a five-star overall safety rating from NHTSA. In addition, the Forester is an IIHS Top Safety Pick+, joining the Mazda CX-50 as one of the safest midsize crossovers. Every Subaru Forester is standard with the brand’s EyeSight advanced driving aids, including adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, lane-keeping assist, and forward collision mitigation.
Subaru Forester Warranty
The Forester leaves the factory with a three-year/36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty and a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty. Options are available to extend the coverage on any Subaru vehicle.
2023 Subaru Forester Starting MSRP
The Subaru Forester is available in six trim variants: Base ($27,620), Premium ($30,620), Sport ($32,190), Limited ($34,300), Wilderness ($35,245), and Touring ($37,220).
Wilderness models have a front skid plate, roof rails, and an interior cargo tray.
Best Midsize SUVs & Crossovers: Conclusion
If variety is the spice of life, the midsize SUV and crossover market is like the hottest of chili peppers. The best midsize SUVs and crossovers are the undisputed leaders in practicality, comfort, and overall safety. The market is constantly evolving as newer and updated vehicles enter the fray, but only a few deserve the recognition of being the best, which are reflected on this list.
Alvin Reyes is an Automoblog feature columnist and an expert in sports and performance cars. He studied civil aviation, aeronautics, and accountancy in his younger years and is still very much smitten to his former Lancer GSR and Galant SS. He also likes fried chicken, music, and herbal medicine.