Best small suv


I am looking for a small off-road capable car. It is mainly for use in town as my day to day but I do go to the desert camping enough for this to matter so I need something with clearance that can also handle sand. Good gas mileage and as small as possible. Have been reading about the Honda CRV but not sure it is really good for off road. My mechanic says to stay with either Honda or Toyota. Appreciate any helpful information to make a decision i won’t regret.


With that limited choice then I suggest the Toyota Rav-4. It does come in AWD. But I’ve yet to see the small off-road capable SUV. It really depends on how much off-roading you’ll be doing.


I Think there are only a few really capable small off road SUVs besides the Jeep Wrangler. The ones I can think of are Jeep Liberty, and Dodge Nitro (Twins), and a Suzuki Grand Vatera.


The Jeep Compass has a trail rated version with capable AWD for offroad.

Both the RAV4 & CRV have a serious downfall. They are essentially FWD that kicks only occasionally Rear wheels(too late typically) as needed. However some or all RAV4’s have diff lock <25MPH which makes it a real 4wd. Skip the CRV its useless in extreme stuff…


What about the Toyota FJ-Cruiser? it comes in 4x4 and is kinda small. not sure about the fuel mileage though.


Sorry to disagree…but Rav 4 is engaged ALL of the time. The CRV engages within a fraction of a rotation so both are, practically speaking…always in. For serious of roading (deep sand), what you don’t want is traction control fighting you. The new Rav 4 have a locking feature to maintain a 50/50 torque split like a truck and disengages the trac control, the real culprit. I think that set up is worth while.
The liberty/nitro/ suzuki can better be set up for off road…but less reliable and poor economy.
I’m partial to the Rav4(we have one). The new 6 cyl is an animal and still does high twenties mpg on the highway… and rated to tow 3500 lbs. You can add skid plates for a little help…but a Wrangler it will never be. The world is filled with sacrifices.


We have a 4 Runner too which the FJ is mech. akin to. Personally, if you go that route, get the 4 Runner instead as it’s MUCH better on road…neither will do much over 20 mpg highway. My opinion is that the 4 Runner is the BEST SUV for t5he money that’s truely off road…clearance,low range etc. stuff


PS…Toyota makes the RAV 4 overseas in the shorter version with a 2.0 diesel…If you could pull strings (Canada ?) to get one, that would be ideal. I would kill (not really) for one.


Screw the foreign market (Or are there any domestic made cars anymore?)! The question you should ask is if you are going to buy new. ANY car is only as good as the previous owner and the integrity of the mechanic who worked on it. I bought an Explorer in '93 and it has 225000 miles on it and still runs like new (Meticulously maintained by myself). Sure, clutch, tires and oil changes. Niece has a '97 explorer but it runs like hell because she drives it like she stole it. Take my advice, buy a new Explorer. Mine has never been stuck in sandy creek beds or snow up to the axles. I advise getting all the extras and getting it with a standard trans.

No, I am not working for Ford.


If you were working for Ford, you may be wear a sumbrero…another “buy American” tirade. GEEEEEE

My Toyotas are all American made…your Fords may not be…

You can find out by the VIN code. VIN codes have a digit that tell which plant it is made in based by the car. Most of GMC’s are made in Canada or American plants. Toyota has factories in American as well. Ford has most of their factories south of the border.


True, but where do all the parts come from, and who supervises the American factories?


Correction, It appears the Dodge Nitro does not have a low range transfer case, IMHO necessary for real off road use. However the Jeep Liberty does.


SThat labor is the biggest cost of an auto means that Mexican workers are making your Ford for LESS than the illegals are comming accross the border and mowing lawns at American Toyota factories whose workers are American and making a decent wage…sorry I support American manufacturing jobs, and I’ll buy the BEST product MADE in the USA out of predominently domestic parts.
I refused to but a car not made in America…fortunately there are plenty of good ones out there.


Ford Explorer = GAS PIG 13Mpg CITY/19 HIGWAY


Toyota assembles Tacomas in Mexico. Aluminum wheels are made in Canada. The Corolla, Matrix, and RX 350 are assembled in Canada. There are a number of plants in the USA, too. Should we avoid those Mexican Tacomas or the Canadian RX 350s?


Si senior…havn’t you heard ? With the great Texas highway, Mexico is our 51 st state. Viva le Tacoma !


The Rav-4 gets six more MPG than the FJ and uses regular fuel while the FJ gets 17 overall MPG on premium.


where has burning moth gone?

just what is your description of “off road?”

the difference between off road, and OFF ROAD is simply the use of the user.

what is YOUR real need? are you going up dirt roads, rock ledge, and sand dunes?

or are you a “gentlemans (gentlemadams) 4 wheeler.”

be honest. there is a difference between off road and up the road for a camping trip.

the difference is going to cost you $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$


I would think a decent AWD (full time) or locking one AWD like the current RAV4 would be perfect for sand if driven carefully. Growing up my I used my parents AMC Eagle(precursor to Outback) all the time to go onto sandy beaches near the River bed and cross shallow rivers(<12"). The AWD in the Eagle was true full time and mechanical like current Subaru manual tranny and Audi not this silly traction controlled stuff that can fight itself in certain case or fail electronically.

That hideous fake woodgrain shelf paper sided AMC Eagle with maroon paint lasted my parents over 200k before they tired of it and sold. It never had any mechanical problems except a sticky choke like the problem mentioned elsewhere on this board about a CJ-7(same I6 engine).

Alteratively simply renting a SUV when you want to camp may be a significantly cheaper route in many ways. You can get a much more comfortable car with decent fuel mileage. When you have the urge to camp rent an SUV and don’t worry if offroad lightly.


The FJ-Cruiser is built in the same platform as the 4-runner. Share the same engine and tranny. It’s not much smaller. It’s still mid-size. The difference between the FJ and 4-runner is like the difference between the Pathfinder and the XTerra.