Honda CRV: You're right about towing capacity. All models are 1,500lbs.
Toyota Venza: Ugly (sorry)
Chrysler Town & Country: No kids = no minivans
: Higher on my price range for one with less than 30k miles. C&D didn't have anything nice to say about it back in 2011 other than it is the minivan of SUVs (see my comment above for how I would react to that). They appear to have addressed some of the complaints for 2012 but if my goal is to get down to $25k price point I'm looking on dealer lots at mostly 2011s. 2012s bump to $27k and 2013s are $30k+.
Hyundai Santa Fe LWB
: The long wheel base Santa Fe (not the Sport model) looks promising as well but a quick check of dealer lots shows no pre-owned. A coworker mentioned her daughter got one after previously owning a CRV and she has been enjoying it.
Toyota Highlander: I think its just too big and I don't see the price lining up with my budget.
Toyota RAV4: Looks like new ones don't have the towing capacity and pre-owned ones are hard to come by. Couldn't find anything in dealer inventory.
: I did some more research on the 2013+ escape
. Couldn't find any on dealer lots with the tow package but it appears any 2.0T comes with the transmission cooler. The tow package only adds the hitch (which I can get aftermarket), the 4-pin harness (I'll be using a 7-pin anyway), and some ECU modifications that use ABS to combat sway. There are no upgrades to suspension or cooling. So having one with a tow package is a nice-to-have but think I'd be fine choosing from dealer stock of non-tow package 2.0Ts.
: I have yet to find a bad review about this SUV. They claim it drives much smaller than it actually is (I can attest to that). Gas mileage is lagging a little behind and won't be as good as the Ford Escape
for sure but everything else looks fine.