Suggestions on Buying New "Compact SUV"?

So I’m starting to shop around for a new car and doing some research etc…

In a nutshell: Gas mileage is important to me. I’ve owned 3 Nissan Sentras and the last year of the Mitsubishi Mirage (which I loved) so I always get 30+ MPG.
I am living in the front range of Colorado now and take trips to all sorts of fun new places so I want something that can handle some dirt roads better than a Sentra.
I want to keep the out of pocket price under 30K including state registration, fees, etc… so something in the 23-27K range tops.
Cost of upkeep, maintenance over the long term, etc… is a factor.

I’ve looked at the 2016 models of:

Subaru Crosstrek
Mazda CX-3
Jeep Renegade
Jeep Renegade Trailhawk

Most of my driving will be regular commuting etc… but occasionally on trips there will be the desire for dirt roads or even just fun Colorado mountain driving but these are no the primary drive experience I will be having. I don’t have expectations of my new car having to leap over boulders and pits in the “road” in a single bound.

So far, the CX-3 was fun, as expected, though I think just tacking a screen onto the dashboard is a bit goofy.
The crosstrek I was just sort of lukewarm on.
The Trailhawk was ridiculously fun.

Opinions? Thoughts? Advice?

Much appreciated and thanks in advance as always,


Your research can be as simple as using the build it section on most manufactures web sites. You can see options, specs and interior views and suggested prices. As for getting advice an internet search will locate road tests that are signed by actual people not screen names. I like so many other people know that there are very good vehicles out in the market but no matter how good they are I would not want one or even recommend it. We all have our completely biased opinions.

Cars are getting pricey, not even sure what an suv is anymore. Liftgate seems to be the only common factor as far as I cn tell, yes there are 2wd suv’s, suv’s without a towing hitch, do you plan on leasing or buying, and how long do you think you will own the car?

The “Jeep” is more appearance than substance (basically a Fiat) and won’t be significantly better at the off-road stuff than the other small uses. The Mazda would be choice without a doubt. Much better made and the best driver in everyday circumstances, which is what you’ll be using it for almost entirely. The SV CrossTrek is just a mildly beefed up Impreza, which is not a bad thing as the Impreza is a good car. With winter tires this would be a great car all year round. I’d still prefer the Mazda for room, comfort, and driving excellence.

Just don’t try taking any of these cars (what they are) out on true Jeep roads or off road. They don’t have the clearances or sophisticated four-wheel drive systems of true off-road vehicles. They’ll be lovely for forest roads to campgrounds and getting you up to the ski areas.

You might want to stop at the local bookstore and pick up a Consumer Reports New Car Preview. It ain’t perfect, but it’s the best and most comprehensive source of comparative car information I know of. It’ll be well worth the few bucks it costs.

Seconding what TSM says above, especially if reliability, repair and maintenance costs are an important factor to your decision. If I were in your situation I’d be including the Toyota Rav 4 and the Honda CRV in the list, at least as something to benchmark against.

Not a Jeep fan here, either. For that money you could get a base CX-5, couldn’t you? How about a Forester?

My wife and I took a trip from Salt Lake City through Utah,Idaho,Oregon, Washington, Nevada and back to Salt Lake City. My wife specified that we wanted an SUV and the rental agency provided us with a 2016Hyundai Santa Fe Sport. We found it quite comfortable, good acceleration and gave us 30 mpg on the road. I have no idea what these vehicles cost new. The one we rented had only 200 miles at the start of our trip. If I were in the market for this size SUV, I would consider one.

I did love my dad’s Fiat 124 Sport Spyder… but that’s a whole 'nother story.
I too would avoid modern Jeeps (Fiats). But, then, it’s a Jeep thing that I cannot understand… :smile:

A CX-3 Sport with AWD and auto trans is about $2500 less than a similarly equipped CX-5. Drive them both If you haven’t already. My daughter has a 2014 2WD CX-5 Sport and is very happy with it. It has the 2L engine and has enough power, but is not peppy by any means. Gas mileage is a lot better with the 2L.

The 2016 RAV4 hybrid will soon be released. Not sure about pricing but should be bellow 30K I guess,
We test drove a Santa Fe Sport and a Tucson (both Hyundai) this week. Both nice cars, The Tucson was more noisy but also more peppy.

Since you want to go all those places…take close notice of …
and outfit as needed on any of your choices .
The wrong tires on the right vehicle can still make the going awfully hard.

Not on your list but the Subaru Forseter has a lot going for it. Jeeps have the style and some are off road and rough road worthy. Ravs and CRVs are most dependable and the new Rogue is a sleeper. If mileage and reliability are important, jeeps might take second place to others. I would look at Hyundai offerings too.

Not knowing where you live…but cities all over the country are having car shows from now thru Feb 2016. Every time I’m looking for a new car…I’ll go to one. Best way to compare one vehicle to the next.

Another great Consumer Reports addition that I’ve been having fun with lately is their “Talking Cars” segments on YouTube. They have about 80 or so and the testers/writers discuss all the car categories, pluses and minuses of each. Mazda is one of their favorite manufacturers. Check it out!

Ah yes, it’s almost car show time. I usually go to the San Francisco show twice, as it takes me about ten hours to thoroughly explore the new models, revisit a few favorites, and ogle the wonderful classic cars from the Academy of Art University collection. For anyone shopping, a good auto show is an excellent idea. Typically you can climb all over examples from most of the large makes without being pestered excessively. There often are people there from local dealers, but they aren’t pushy in my experience.

About 10 years ago, I had to spend a weekend in LA for work. This weekend was the LA car show, and SEMA was there too. That was a memorable event.

The SF show is OK, but the LA show is awesome, I hear. I’d love to go down there some time to see. I once ran into a car show fanatic at the SF show. He went to several every year, and had been to all the major shows around the world. He was a very weird dude, bent my ear for the longest time after I admitted that I hadn’t missed the show in twenty-plus years.