Like butt-hugger briefs and #BeTrue shoes, cute crossovers have become fashion faves. Such mini SUVs — with suitable storage and sedan-like rides — have higher platforms for better driver visibility. In other words, the better to see and be seen.
Strong engines and stepped-up styling add to the swagger, helping small crossovers haul ass and sass. That’s good news for gay and lesbian drivers looking to be stylish both inside and outside the Beltway.
MPG: 21 city/28 highway
0-to-60 mph: 6.8 seconds
Cargo space: 63.3 cu. ft.
Sure, BMW — which also makes the MINI Cooper — now has the uber-tiny X1 crossover. But the X3 is still the trendsetter, even if it was introduced 10 years ago. This is the second-gen model, with a more macho look that works in town or in the Hamptons. Call it Tom Ford chic. BMW also dropped in a new four-cylinder turbo, part of the automaker’s strategy to switch out some of its V6 engines with more fuel-efficient (but still peppy) four-bangers. It works here, saving more than just pennies at the pump. Plus, the engine shuts off automatically each time the X3 stops in traffic. Just step on the gas, and the engine starts right up again. Like all Bimmers, the cabin is Bauhaus sparse, with an upscale, utilitarian layout to the dash, knobs and switches. And there’s generous cargo room (a big plus, compared with the Lilliputian X1). Yet the X3 is still small enough to fit in most parking spaces. Biggest downside: the price. And yes, options add up quickly, too.
MPG: 25 city/33 highway
0-to-60 mph: 9.1 seconds
Cargo space: 48.5 cu. ft.
Once upon a time, only blue-hairs drove Buicks. But GM’s near-death bankruptcy caused the automaker to reinvent itself. By shedding the dowdy demeanor, Buick went from straight-laced to steamy. Think Ms. Jane Brodie transformed into a sexy school marm. The result: stunning vehicles like the all-new Encore, which practically sold out within the first six months. Snug handling and a superb interior also help, as does the lack of any creaks or rattles — a Buick bugaboo for decades. Add in crisp handling, quick brakes and a quiet cabin, and the Encore could pass for a high-priced Lexus. Even the Encore’s base model comes standard with rearview camera, heated side mirrors, 18-inch alloys and large seven-inch touchscreen. Must-have options: heated steering wheel, rain-sensing wipers and two crash-avoidance systems. The only thing that misfires is the tepid turbo, which could have used a bit more horsepower. Overall, though, the Encore is reliable, nimble and hip.
MPG: 26 city/35 highway
0-to-60 mph: 9.5 seconds
Cargo space: 65.4 cu. ft.
Like Abercrombie and Fitch, Mazdas have always been sporty yet affordable. But it’s not just the athletic styling; these vehicles often boast peppy engines and tuner-like handling. And while the full-size CX-9 has been a hit, the same wasn’t true for the midsize CX-7 (nixed last year). Enter the compact CX-5, which is smaller than the CX-7 but has more passenger room (especially in the backseat). It’s also lighter and — like the Buick Encore — full of standard features, even on the base trim. Three models available, though the top-of-the-line Grand Touring boasts heated seats, blind-spot warning system and nine-speaker Bose audio. The natty cabin — with no obnoxious faux wood or cheap chrome — is attractive yet uncluttered, a la the BMW X3. And braking and crash-test scores are stellar. As for power, the four-cylinder engine is more than adequate. For more of a racer’s edge, opt for the slick-shifting manual transmission.