Safest $20k compact SUV's

The new Honda 2012 CR-V is unveiled at

The new Honda 2012 CR-V is unveiled at the LA Auto Show (November 16, 2011). (Credit: Getty)

What is the safest compact SUV in the mid-$20,000 price range? I've done my homework and am seeing that Hyundai's Tucson and Kia's Sportage seem to have it over Toyota's RAV4 and Honda's CRV. I have taken the past week off from work to test-drive all the cars. They all seem so similar to me.

A. We cannot pronounce any vehicle the "safest," but we can tell you that the Tucson, Sportage and CR-V are Top Safety Picks by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety because they performed well in IIHS' battery of crash tests. The RAV4 doesn't qualify because it did not receive a top score for roof strength in rollovers.

The new CR-V was the prize winner in its class for having the fewest complaints in J.D. Power and Associates' 2012 Initial Quality Study, which measures problems in the first 90 days of ownership. That is more impressive considering that the CR-V achieved that honor in its first year after a redesign, when vehicles typically have more problems. The RAV4 finished second.

Which one should you buy? We are partial to the CR-V for its crash-test ratings, fuel economy and overall utility, but we could also support going with either the Tucson or Sportage. The redesigned CR-V recently took first place in our $25,000 SUV comparison against the Tucson, Sportage and others in the segment; all three are among out Best Bets for 2012. The fact that you are having difficulty making a decision after doing your homework indicates they are all good choices.

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