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In a class that’s overflowing with options, it’s notable when certain models stand out. This year, Consumer Guide only awarded the ‘Best Buy’ badge to four different compact crossover SUVs. Each one that earned the title is made by a Japanese car manufacturer. 

It’s not exactly surprising that Honda, Mazda, Nissan, and Subaru are the brands with the Consumer Guide ‘Best Buy’ models. These Japanese brands are often noted for their reliability. However, it is a little surprising that not one of them is a Toyota. 

A red 2021 Honda CR-V Hybrid crossover SUV driving on a scenic highway near a mountain range
2021 Honda CR-V Hybrid | Honda

The 2021 Honda CR-V is a compact crossover SUV segment staple

Consistently topping lists by critics across the board, the 2021 Honda CR-V is one of the best compact crossover SUVs on the market. Consumer Guide writes that “the CR-V offers excellent passenger and cargo versatility, polished driving manners, and an outstanding Hybrid model.” 

The 2021 Honda CR-V gets up to 40 mpg. This compact crossover SUV starts at $25,350. While it does enjoy top-of-class status, it is worth noting that hybrid models offer about 6 cubic feet smaller cargo space. In addition, Consumer Guide says the standard acceleration is a bit lackluster. The 2021 Honda CR-V is also less customizable than the other Japanese crossover models on this list. 

The 2021 Mazda CX-5 offers premier performance

A red 2021 Mazda CX-5 parked, the 2021 Mazda CX-5 is one of the most reliable new SUVs under $30,000
2021 Mazda CX-5 | Mazda

Congruent with the opinion of nearly every critic in the industry, Consumer Guide praises the 2021 Mazda CX-5 for its “excellent steering feel” and “nimble handling.” When I had the 2021 Mazda CX-5 for review, I also was impressed by the dynamic road manners and decadent brown leather interior. 

The range-topping Signature trim approaches luxury standards in terms of fit and finish. This compact crossover SUV starts at $25,370. It gets up to 31 mpg, and it’s one of the most well-rounded crossovers on the market for anyone that doesn’t need the increased space or towing power of a midsize SUV.

The 2021 Nissan Rogue just got a full redesign

A blue 2021 Nissan Rogue parked in a suburban driveway with a basketball hoop
2021 Nissan Rogue | Nissan Motor Corporation

Another one of the Japanese crossover models that earned a ‘Best Buy’ badge is the newly redesigned 2021 Nissan Rogue. Consumer Guide appreciates the pleasant driving dynamics of the Rogue. The new model also offers a host of new features like a wireless charging station and updated infotainment tech. 

The 2021 Nissan Rogue gets up to 35 mpg. It’s the most expensive on this list, starting at $25,850. Still, that’s lower than the 2021 Toyota RAV4, which has a starting price of $26,250. 

However, it only has one powertrain available and it’s not exactly punchy. That said, I felt that it is plenty for most drivers in a recent test of the 2021 Nissan Rogue at the Texas Auto Roundup. I liked the general layout of the cabin and the interior finish is nice. Consumer Guide also notes this compact crossover SUV for its updated driver assistance and safety suite. 

The 2021 Subaru Forester is a crossover that exemplifies practical versatility

a red 2021 Subaru Forester crossover SUV driving on a scenic wooded road
2021 Subaru Forester | Subaru

This Japanese crossover, like many from the Toyota lineup, received acknowledgment for its practicality. In fact, the 2021 Subaru Forester earned the ‘Best Buy’ badge from Consumer Guide because it “stands out as one of the most practical, spacious, versatile, off-road-capable, and easy-to-see-out-of vehicles in its class.”

The 2021 Subaru Forester gets some “sporty touches” on the Sport trim. It’s also a favorite of the Consumer Reports critics. However, it’s worth mentioning that the acceleration leaves a little to be desired. 

It gets up to 33 mpg and starts at $24,795. The 2021 Subaru Forester is also the only compact crossover SUV here that comes standard with all-wheel drive. 

‘Best Buy’ badges from Consumer Guide for Japanese crossover models

While it may feel a little strange seeing a list of bests like this without a Toyota model on the list, these ‘Best Buy’ badge awards do make sense. Each of these Japanese crossover models is well-rounded offering an accessible starting price. In addition, they possess enough versatility to satisfy the needs of most households. 


These 2021 Midsize SUVs Earned the ‘Best Buy’ Badge From Consumer Guide