Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Small SUV suggestion

My wife and I are searching for our first small SUV. I drive over 40K a year for work and deliver material up to 5 ft long from time to time. Needless to say I depreciate a car to death. What small SUV would you recommend for my needs? I have looked at the Honda CRV, Toyota RAV 4, Kia Sportage, and others of the ilk. I am very concerned about reliability as I want to drive it for three years. I am only considering a used vehicle that has had some depreciation taken out of it. Four wheel drive doesnt matter a whole lot, but it would be nice.

Long term reliability is pretty much the domain of Honda and Toyota for small SUVs. But, the cost for ownership over the life of the car comes close or better in other makes. I’m not a Kia fan, as yet and recommend you pay more for the Rav or CRV depending upon your personal preference. Our family has had each and found both satisfactory.

Might want to consider a Toyota Matrix/ Pontiac Vibe; not a small SUV but a Corolla based small wagon. If it has enough room- and I think it will- it will have better gas mileage than a comparable small sport ute and proven reliability.

The smallest SUV you can buy is a Suzuki SX4 Crossover. My mom has one and loves it. It’s a great car, but for some reason I can’t figure out, is not advertised on TV…at least, I’ve never seen an ad for it. People always come up to her in parking lots and ask her about it.

I researched it and convinced her to test drive one because it’s the smallest AWD SUV available in the US, and she is a small elderly lady who doesn’t feel comfortable driving larger SUVs like my Honda CRV. She drove it and really liked it and has been happy with it for the 2 years she’s owned it. She traded in her Honda Fit, which was lighter and not such a good highway car.

If you don’t need awd, then I’d go with fwd, makes tire buying/using easier. At 40k/year, I’d go with the old faithful CRV or Rav4, if they have enough storage room. The Forester has a good amount of room, but it’s awd and the mpgs aren’t so great.

What’s your price point? SUVs change over time, and we can assess the problems better if we know what years to look at.

You might consider an Escape Hybrid. These cars have reliable (except for the MySync option), get decent mileage, handle well (as long as you don’t use the original eco-tires, which were terrible), and have decent design. We’ve had ours for over 60,000 miles without a problem, and NY taxi hybrid Escapes have had an excellent track record.

I know you can not go wrong withe CRV or RAV4, but the price on the used is not going to make much sense-pretty close to new. I just rode in an Hybrid Escape cab with 280K miles on it and it was in pretty decent shape. Asked the owner and he said all major parts were original. Since it is a Ford, you might be able to negotiate a bit better on the price-but not much.

Mazda CX-5 would allow you to save a lot of money on fuel over the long run, and looks and drives really nicely.


Check USA Today on line. In the Money section, they run car columns. One just ran a test of 5 compact SUVs under $25,000. Read it and see if it helps you make your decision.

Does KIA still offer 100k? I think that might be your best option.

Reliability and warranty are NOT the same.

Kia isn’t bad…but the Honda’s have been proven to be more reliable.