Compact and midsize SUVs were a hot segment in 2013 and, judging by the year-end performances of a few models, will continue that streak into 2014. While the Honda CR-V and Ford Escape duked it out month to month for sales leadership, the CR-V took the year-end crown, with a lead of slightly fewer than 8000 units for the year. But don't feel too bad for the Escape, its annual total was an all-time sales record.
Looking to shake up the pecking order in the segment is the 2014 Jeep Cherokee, which recorded an impressive sales total of 15,038 for December. Also poised to be a regular fixture on the 2014 Top 10 choice is the Subaru Forester, which is up 51 percent for the month, and an even more impressive 61.9 percent for the year.
Although we typically limit our monthly list to the top 10 sellers, we made it 12 this month to reflect some segment newcomers, as well as incorporating the annual sales winners.
December: 28,759, Up 11.8 Percent
2013: 303,904, Up 7.9 Percent
Corks are popping in Torrance for the CR-V’s chart-leading performance. Its total of more than 300,000 units represents an all-time record for the compact crossover, and its December total of 28,759 also represents an all-time best.
December: 24,462, Up 21.5 Percent
2013: 295,993, Up 13.4 Percent
It may not have unseated the CR-V, but the Escape had a solid double-digit gain for the month, as well as posting its best-ever annual sales performance with 295,993 units. A series of recalls on the 1.6-liter EcoBoost kept the Escape in the headlines for all the wrong reasons, but the Escape's variety of trim levels, powertrain options, and fresh styling continued to make it popular with buyers.
December: 17,212, Down 12 Percent
2013: 238,192, Up 9 Percent
Late in calendar 2013, the Toyota RAV4 started surging ahead of the Equinox, but Chevy held on to the annual sales title, selling just under 20,000 more units than the Toyota. Unlike the Toyota and Honda CR-V, the Equinox is available with both an I-4 and optional V-6 for the power-hungry.
December: 20,970, Up 46.1 Percent
2013: 218,249, Up 27 Percent
Despite a strong sales surge in the fall months, the RAV4 could not overtake the Chevrolet Equinox for the year. Following the Honda CR-V's economy-oriented single powertrain formula seems to have paid off, with buyers not seeming to notice or mind the absence of last year's optional 3.5-liter V-6.
December: 15,660, Down 6.2 Percent
2013: 178,311, Up 12.6 Percent
The Explorer trailed the Grand Cherokee for December, but pulled ahead in the annual sales total by slightly more than 4000 units. Its 2013 total of 178,311 can't hold a candle to its all-time sales heyday of 445,157 in 2000, but the subsequently introduced Escape and Edge have helped Ford retain its SUV sales leadership.
Jeep Grand Cherokee
December: 16,517, Down 4 Percent
2013: 174,275, Up 13 Percent
Although the Grand Cherokee's December figures were down 4 percent, its annual total was up 13 percent, and with the segment-exclusive EcoDiesel just starting to rumble into Jeep showrooms, the unique powertrain offering should help Jeep's premium midsize SUV win over some new converts.
Despite several false starts in 2013, mostly revolving around calibration of the new nine-speed automatic transmission, the Cherokee finally started shipping to dealerships, and the December sales total shows there's a receptive audience for the controversially styled compact/midsize SUV. If the Cherokee can maintain its sales momentum into 2014, it will be a major player in the segment.
December: 14,676, Up 27.8 Percent
2013: 162,751, Up 14.3 Percent
The Rogue’s 2013 sale Rogue reflect both the outgoing model, as well as the all-new 2014 model, which adds an optional third row. The mixed-model strategy will continue into 2014, as the outgoing model will be sold in the new year as the Rogue Select alongside the redesigned 2014 model.
December: 12,028, Up 4 Percent
2013: 155,502, Up 10 Percent
One of the few remaining live-axle, body-on-frame off-road SUVs of any relevance, the Wrangler continues to win over buyers with its no-nonsense authenticity. The addition of the 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 for the 2012 model year was a massive improvement over the wheezy 3.8-liter pushrod V-6. Although still not an economy or practicality champ, the four-door Unlimited keeps it popular with adventuresome buyers with families.
December: 12,078, Down 2.9 Percent
2013: 129,109, Up 0.9 Percent
The Ford Edge occupies an interesting niche in the SUV market, being a midsize two-row model. The only other direct competitors of note are the Toyota Venza and Nissan Murano, although comparisons could be made to the tweener-size Chevrolet Equinox and humpbacked Honda Crosstour. Regardless, the Edge outsells them all. A handsome Edge "concept" was recently revealed at the Los Angeles auto show, giving a good indication of what the all-new 2015 (or 2016) model will look like when it goes on sale.
December: 12,344, Up 1.3 Percent
2013: 127,572, Up 5.4 Percent
Just as the Explorer plays second fiddle to the Escape's sales dominance, the Highlander is eclipsed by a significant margin by its little brother RAV4, but still plays an important role in Toyota showrooms by offering something larger and more luxurious, with optional three-row seating. Both its December and annual sales figures were up modestly.
December: 13,229, Up 51 Percent
2013: 123,592, Up 61.9 Percent
Although the Forester is at the bottom of our list, it tops our list in percentage gainers, with a fantastic performance for both December and calendar 2013. The updated 2014 model seems to have struck a chord with customers, retaining the Forester's signature practicality and roominess with more efficient powertrains. We were impressed enough with the 2014 Forester that we named it our 2014 SUV of the Year.