Compact SUV's

I seek opinions regarding the best in terms of quality for price; ford escape, honda crv, toyota rav4, subaru forester, kia sportage etc.

The two highest rated small SUVs are the various models of the Forester and the RAV-4 (in that order), with the CR-V ranking in the next lower position–according the the multiple tests that have been done by Consumer Reports. The Ford Escape is rated in CR’s 11th position, after various models of the Mitusubishi Outlander, the Nissan Rogue, and the Hyundai Tucson. The Kia Sportage comes in lower than the Escape in the ratings.

Besides advising you to buy either the May '09 issue of CR, which has the latest test results on these vehicles, or alternatively, the CR Auto Buyers Guide which contains tests of everything on the market, I would advise you to drive all potential vehicles yourself for two very important reasons:

>Seat comfort (This is so individual and so subjective that nobody can judge seat comfort for you)
>Ride comfort (Several people have posted recently with questions about how to improve the ride of their new vehicle. The most common suggestion was to ditch the offending vehicle and buy one with a ride that suits the owner. This, of course, leads to the inevitable question: Did that person take an extended test drive prior to purchase, and if not, why not?)

Another factor to consider, which is not apparent, has to do with long-term maintenance and repair. Despite the Forester’s top ranking, you should be aware that it uses a timing belt, which needs to be changed at 105k. The RAV-4 and the CR-V use timing chains that are essentially lifetime components.

However, if you are going to use the vehicle in adverse winter conditions, or if you want to do occasional off-roading, you should be aware that the Forester has the best AWD system in the business. By contrast, both the CR-V and the RAV-4 have “wimpy” AWD systems that only come into play after the front wheels begin to spin. Normally they run as FWD vehicles, in order to gain a small mpg advantage. That is a good thing, but when the going gets tough, the CR-V and the RAV-4 have the potential to get bogged down in the same conditions that a Forester would drive though with relative ease.

CR also lists the “reliability rating” of each of these vehicles, and you should find that information interesting. While none of the small SUVs–with the exception of the Saturn Vue, the Dodge Nitro, and the Jeep Liberty–has a bad reliability rating, there is some variation in reliability of the better small SUVs, and this is another factor to consider.

So–there are lots of factors to consider. Start doing your homework by reading and researching these vehicles, and then by taking an extended test drive in them. Please don’t come back here in two months to ask us how to improve the ride of whatever you decide to buy!

New or used? In addition to CR, you should look at ‘True Price to Own’ for each of the trucks you are interested in. Another source for dependability ratings is CR and Power provide detailed information about the dependability of the subsystems in each vehicle, while Edmunds gives you an idea of the relative cost to repair them.

Having owned and driven both the Subaru Forester and the Ford Escape, I’d have to give the win to the Forester, hands down. Unfortunately Mrs Mc likes the Escape. I find its front seats to be too small and very uncomfortable. Luckily I’ve never tried the backs.

I can only speak for the 4 cyl RAV4 AWD…had a 97, have an 05(manual) and 07(auto)…nothing but routine maintenance, with top line all-season tires never had any traction problems…mpg around 27-30 in summer…reliable vehicle.

Not to give away too much, but I work for a major auto review publication, and I’ve recently test driven the 2009 Escape and it’s an extremely impressive vehicle, you should also give the Ford Edge a look. It’s a little bigger, but in the “Sport” trim it actually handles really well. The 2010 Chevy Equinox is any impressively engineered vehicle, pretty high build quality with nice features, a great interior very similar to the Malibu, and 30 MPG in the four cylinder model.

The RAV4 and the CRV are reliably good offerings though a little bland in the styling department. The Dodge Nitro looks cool if you’re into the tough-guy image, but the interior was built by play skool. Same goes for the Jeep Patriot and Compass, though the Patriot is actually a pretty nice little car when properly equipped. There are many others out there, from Kia and Hyundai, Rover, Benz etc, but they don’t really deliver at their price points.

IMHO buy the one you like best after a 30 min or so test drive(arrange for this).

I personally could not live with any of the compact SUV’s, I don’t really get the whole thing, they all seem like bloated economy cars with larger price tags.

The Forester has won a bunch of awards, but the RAV4 would probably be best for a daily driver.

I find that test drives are completely meaningless as far as determining the long term quality of a vehicle. I can show you car after car that had extremely high results from their test drives that after 5 years these vehicles were JUNK. Some of these vehicles were car-of-the-year by these magazines. I stopped reading them because of that.

Those awards are MEANINGLESS. Actually almost every one of them is BOUGHT by the car manufacturer.

And, the vehicles that are tested by publications like Motor Trend, Car & Driver, etc are all specially prepared by the manufacturer so that they perform at their optimum. The best example of this was back in the days of the original Pontiac GTO. MT posted 0-60 times that could not be duplicated by anyone, anywhere, but it did help to sell lots more GTOs–albeit to people who wound up being disappointed that they could not come close to MT’s performance figures. Only years later did a Pontiac engineer reveal that MT had been provided with a GTO whose engine was generously bored-out.

Then, we have the factor of paid advertising. If a publication wants to continue to attract the big bucks for full-page or multi-page glossy ads, it is in their best interests to be non-critical of a car.

On the other hand, when a publication obtains their test vehicles by buying them from a dealership, the results are much more likely to resemble what most car buyers would get from their vehicles. To the best of my knowledge, only Consumer Reports obtains their test vehicles by buying them. And, of course, they do not accept advertising.

It was either 72 or 73 that MT rated the Chevy Vega the “Car-Of-the-Year”. It is right up there being one of the most UNRELIABLE vehicles ever made. Then in the 80’s Car and driver and MT both rated a Renault as “Car-Of-the-Year” or “Best-In-Class”. Again…this car was pure JUNK.

I own 2006 Ford Escape hybrid AWD. Awd is computerized -no switches. So far it’s been everything I need for it to drive itself in snow , ice, and muddy driveways. I would not expect to use it for pulling someone else out of a ditch nor navigating some of these four corners rez roads but I have a 92 Explorer for that.

No matter the small SUV you choose , remember the TIRES when deciding what the vehicle could be able to do. The 06 Escape only has Continental contitrac tires and the 92 Explorer has BFG all-terrain t/a. A huge difference in the type of driving one could do with each.

Most like the higher seating arrangement without being in a full sized truck. Very nice to have if you have bad knees/legs