The SUV wasn't always this popular, though. Ford produced 25,824 units of the first-gen Bronco in 1974, the year the Ford Motor Company moved a whopping 360,688 units of the Pinto in the United States market. Another good example would be the aforementioned X5, which sold 50,736 examples in Europe back in 2004 as opposed to 145,358 examples of the 5 Series sedan and station wagon.
Initially favored by farmers, returning GIs, hunters, and explorers, the sport utility vehicle is the most popular type of vehicle in the US of A. Last year, SUVs accounted for a staggering 15 of the top 25 best-selling vehicles in the United States. Can you believe that an electric SUV ranked second, with said SUV taking the crown for the best-selling vehicle in the world in 2023? But first, we have to dedicate a few paragraphs to a compact model from the world's largest manufacturer in terms of sales.
Toyota RAV4: 434,943
Until then, however, Toyota's assembly plants keep churning out the RAV4 as fast as technically possible. Precisely 434,943 units were delivered in the US last year, while available data indicates that Toyota sold 1.07 million worldwide. This, in turn, puts the RAV4 between the Tesla Model Y's 1.23 million and the Toyota Corolla's 1.01 million.
Generously equipped from the outset, fairly reliable, and pretty spacious for a compact, the RAV4 starts at a reasonable $28,675 stateside. Excluding the destination charge, the hybrid carries a starting price of $31,725. Bridging the gap between hybrids and electric vehicles, the 2024 Toyota RAV4 Prime plug-in hybrid costs $43,690.
Tesla Model Y: Approximately 400,000
Similar to the RAV4, it's pretty curious how the Model Y moved so many examples before a redesign. But in stark comparison to the RAV4, the world's favorite Tesla will go through a facelift rather than a generational overhaul. Project Juniper is what the facelift is allegedly called. Regarding expected changes, you only need to look at the Model 3 Highland to understand what's in store.
Although the Model 3 promises more driving range and quicker acceleration to 60 miles per hour (97 kilometers per hour), a sedan doesn't have the cache of a crossover. Available to lease starting at $379 per month, the Model 3's more desirable sibling is $42,990 for the rear-drive specification. Opting for all-wheel drive and the larger battery results in $47,990. Based on the EPA's range estimate (310 miles or just under 500 kilometers on a full charge), the $5K difference is – beyond doubt – worth it.
Honda CR-V: 361,457
Twinned with the Civic from the very beginning, the CR-V is quite different from the RAV4 in some respects, beginning with its turbocharged engine and continuously variable transmission. Honda couldn't make a case for a plug-in hybrid, which can only be described as a bit of a missed opportunity.
This generation of the CR-V isn't sold in Japan due to the fifth gen's abysmally poor sales, prompting Honda to replace it with the ZR-V. Safer than its predecessor due to outboard seatbelt pretensioners for the rear seats and rear side torso airbags, the CR-V also happens to be roomier for the rear passengers, with Honda quoting an increase of 15 millimeters (make that 0.6 inches) in legroom. The rear seats can also be reclined up to 10.5 degrees.
Nissan Rogue: 271,458
As if three cylinders wasn't bad enough for a vehicle that weighs in the ballpark of 3,400 pounds (1,542 kilograms), the KR15DDT features variable compression. The VC-Turbo system's complexity hinders reliability. Back in December 2023, the NHTSA opened an investigation into the Rogue, Altima, and Infiniti QX50 over multiple allegations of engine knock, engine failure, loss of motive power, and metal shavings/chunks in the oil pan.
Both the KR15DDT and larger KR20DDET are under investigation. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Japanese automaker has attempted to address the VC-Turbo engine failures by improving the manufacturing processes of the main bearings and L-links. Considering that the Rogue can't be had with a less complex engine, you're better off spending your money on the RAV4 or the CR-V.
Jeep Grand Cherokee: 244,594
Easily the roomiest and techiest Grand Cherokee to date, the WL is far more appealing to prospective customers due to its optional 4xe plug-in hybrid powertrain. As opposed to 22 miles per gallon (10.7 liters per 100 kilometers) for the 3.6-liter Pentastar V6, the 2.0-liter Hurricane I4 of the 4xe gets 23 mpg (10.2 l/100 km) in the EPA's combined test cycle.
When the combustion engine is assisted by the plug-in hybrid system, the rating improves to 56 miles per gallon equivalent. Switch to electric mode, and you're looking at 26 miles (42 kilometers) from a high-voltage battery pack with Samsung SDI cells.
Chevrolet Equinox: 212,701
Revealed in January 2024, the 2025 model builds on the strengths of its predecessor with better styling, more safety goodies, a larger touchscreen, Google built-in, and an off-road-oriented trim dubbed ACTIV. The fourth generation further sweetens the deal with a revised 1.5-liter turbo and an eight-speed auto rather than the hideously problematic 9T50.
Said transmission is exclusive to all-wheel-drive vehicles, while front-wheel drive automatically means continuously variable transmission. It's hard to understand why General Motors felt the need to cut costs by downgrading to a CVT, but then again, remember that CVTs are inherently more efficient than torque-converter and dual-clutch trannies.
Hyundai Tucson: 209,624
Facelifted in November 2023, the fourth generation is listed by Hyundai Motor America with a base MSRP of $27,250. Stepping up to the hybrid results in $32,325. Those in the market for the plug-in hybrid need to shell out $38,475 at the very least.
A fine-looking crossover with a hidden rear window wiper, the Tucson has its detractors. The touch-sensitive buttons, for example, are not to everyone's liking. Thankfully, the 2025 refresh features a redesigned interior that benefits from more physical controls and fewer touch-sensitive buttons. The 2025 model has also dropped the old push-button shift console for a shifter on the steering column.
Ford Explorer: 186,799
Unfortunately, chronic quality and manufacturing concerns hindered the Explorer's rollout. Considering how many recalls were issued for the 2020 through 2024 models, it shouldn't come as a surprise that Consumer Reports doesn't have nice things to say about this generation of the Explorer.
There are plenty of alternatives in this segment, albeit not rear-biased like the CD6-based Ford Explorer. The Kia Telluride comes to mind, as does the Honda Pilot. The Toyota Highlander is a strong choice as well, and not surprising in the least, Toyota sells a lot of them in this part of the world.
Toyota Highlander: 169,543
Updated for MY2023 with a turbo inline-four, the Highlander entered MY2024 in September 2023. This model year is all about the Highlander Hybrid Nightshade Edition. Available in a choice of front- or all-wheel drive on the LE or XLE, the Nightshade Edition boasts a plethora of blackout elements.
Rather than the 2.4-liter turbo of the Highlander, the Highlander Hybrid upsizes to a 2.5-liter I4 of the free-breathing variety. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates up to 36 miles per gallon (6.5 kilometers) with front-wheel drive, resulting in a total range of 616 miles (991 kilometers).
Subaru Outback: 161,814Outback is more station wagon than sport utility vehicle. Classified as a mid-size SUV, the Outback is best seen as the two-row alternative to the Ascent. You can also take the Outback off-road thanks to the Wilderness trim level, which sadly isn't available on Subaru's largest crossover.
Nine trim levels are offered this model year, beginning with the Base at $28,895. The Wilderness slots between the Onyx Edition XT and Limited XT. Similar to the XTs, the all-road specification hides a 260-horsepower turbocharged boxer under the hood. Equipped with high-capacity fixed roof rails, StarTex water-repellant upholstery, and Yokohama all-terrain rubber, the Wilderness is gifted with a ground clearance of 9.5 inches (about 24 centimeters).
All other trim levels get 8.7 inches (22.0 centimeters), which is plenty enough for the occasional venture off the beaten path. In typical Subaru fashion, AWD is standard. The only transmission available is a CVT with a manual mode that simulates an eight-speed transmission.
Subaru Crosstrek: 159,193
Exclusively CVT, the compact-sized crosshatch is reasonably priced at $25,195 for the Base and $26,345 for the Premium. Higher up the spectrum, the Sport improves on the Premium with the larger engine, dual X-MODE with Hill Descent Control, yellow exterior accents, dark gray-finished alloys, heated front seats, and a leather steering wheel.
The Limited goes even further with leather upholstery and a 10-way power adjustable driver's seat. $32,195 is the MSRP of the most expensive trim level, namely the Wilderness. Rather than the Outback's 9.5 inches of ground clearance, the Crosstrek has up to 9.3 inches (23.6 centimeters).
Jeep Wrangler: 156,581
The Wrangler is the nation's favorite body-on-frame sport utility vehicle, but as of late, Ford has been closing in with the Bronco. This isn't a bad thing for the Wrangler, though, because the Bronco's commercial success prompted Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Stellantis to improve the breed.
April 2023 saw the Wrangler get a new radiator grille, a full-float rear axle, power front seats, 12.3-inch touchscreen infotainment, and side curtain airbags for both rows of seats. The Wrangler can also be had as a plug-in hybrid, but soon enough, the Ranger PHEV's powertrain will be adapted for the Bronco. Not meant for the US market, the Ranger PHEV rolled out in September 2023 with 2.3-liter EcoBoost muscle. Ford's targeted electric driving range is more than 45 kilometers (28 miles) in the WLTP.