If it seems like everyone including your neighbor, coworker and barista recently bought a new crossover, it's not just your imagination. The popularity of crossovers and SUVs has soared in recent years while the sedan segment is struggling, especially for American automakers. Passenger car sales have been so slow for Ford and Chevrolet, that they've abandoned most of their sedans to focus on trucks and crossovers. When we look at the sales numbers of sedans, it's easy to see why these two automakers took such drastic measures. The Chevy Cruze saw sales drop from 273,000 in 2014 to about 145,000 in 2018. The Chevy Impala topped 300,000 in sales in 2007 and fell to under 76,000 in 2018. Does this mean you have no choice but to follow the trend and hop on the crossover bandwagon for your next vehicle?
Just because Ford and Chevy are leaving passenger cars behind doesn't mean there aren't any good sedans left on the market - quite the opposite. Brands like Toyota and Honda are capitalizing on the hole left by their American competitors and are making their midsize sedans better than ever. That leaves you with an important choice, do you go with one of the new and improved midsized sedans or do you choose from the plethora of compact crossovers on the market? We'll compare the pros and cons of midsize sedans and compact crossovers so you can decide for yourself instead of following the pack.
One of the reasons crossovers have become a popular choice is because of their flexible and spacious cargo areas. Instead of being confined to the space of a sedan's trunk, compact crossovers give you generous space for storage, especially with the rear seats folded flat. If you're hauling items like sports equipment or outdoor gear on a regular basis, the cargo space of a crossover will make life easier.
When we compare the cargo space of a 2019 Honda Accord to a 2019 Honda CR-V, the difference proves dramatic. The Accord gives you 16.7 cubic feet of cargo space and although it's excellent for the segment, it pales in comparison to the CR-V. The compact CR-V gives you 39.2 cubic feet with the rear seats upright and 75.8 cubic feet when the back row is folded down. Comparing the 2019 Toyota RAV4 to the 2019 Toyota Camry tells a similar story. The RAV4's 37.5 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats and 69.8 cubic feet with the back row folded crushes the Camry's 14.1 cubic feet of trunk space. If a flexible and spacious cargo area is high on your list, a compact crossover will come out on top for your needs.
Visibility and Safety
Crossover buyers often cite better visibility (thanks to the higher ride height) as a reason for their segment choice, believing it's safer than the lower riding sedan. While the higher ride height can provide improved visibility, the growing popularity of crossovers makes it less of an advantage over sedans. With more SUVs and crossovers on the road, you have fewer shorter sedans to see over. The best way to decide if the higher ride of a crossover is right for you is to test drive a sedan and a crossover in one day and see which one gives you more confidence. In some cases, the higher ride can be problematic. Taller drivers often find crossovers don't offer as much headroom as a sedan.
While crossovers are rumored to be safer than sedans thanks to improved visibility, they are also rumored to be more dangerous due to the higher center of gravity and rollover risk. Although the risk of rollover is greater in a compact crossover than a midsize sedan, newer crossover models have improved safety features to prevent rollovers and the accidents that cause them. When it comes to safety, compare the models you're interested in on the IIHS and the NHTSA websites. For example, in 2019, both the Toyota RAV4 and the Toyota Camry earned the highest Top Safety Pick Plus rating while the Honda CR-V and Accord both earned the next highest Top Safety Pick.
Driving Experience and Capability
The driving experience of today's crossovers is a lot more car-like than the rugged, body-on-frame vehicles some people picture when they think of an SUV. Despite the more level playing field when it comes to driving manners, you will still want to factor in the crossover's larger size and the impact it will have on your ability to maneuver around tight city streets and parking spots. Although maneuverability and handling will generally be better in a midsize sedan than a crossover, it's important to compare by model instead of going by segment alone.
In addition to how the vehicle drives, you should consider variables like the conditions you drive in and how you'll use the vehicle. If you plan to drive off-road or in inclement weather, a compact crossover with AWD could be the best vehicle for your needs. Although there are some sedans that offer AWD, it's not as commonly offered. If you'll ever need to tow with your vehicle, a compact crossover will also be better equipped for moving that trailer or boat.
Cost and Fuel Efficiency
If you've considered your needs for cargo space, safety, driving experience, and capability and you're still debating if you should go for a compact crossover or a midsize sedan, consider that midsize sedans will typically have a smaller price tag than compact crossovers and will also offer better fuel efficiency. For example, the starting MSRP of a 2019 Honda CR-V is $24,450 while the MSRP of a 2019 Honda Accord is $23,720. In addition to the transaction price, you should factor in the cost to own the vehicle. The MPG rating of the Accord is 30/38 (city/highway) while the CR-V gets a lower 26/32 (city/highway) which means you'll save on fuel costs with the Accord.