I'm a big fan of your column and I just joined your site recently. I always read your articles. I think it’s great that a guy like you--an expert in cars--help people like us who have little knowledge.
Though I consider myself to be a car enthusiast, I need help on something. My dad recently bought a Mazda CX-7, and we currently have a 2006 Toyota Fortuner, an Isuzu Crosswind Sportivo and a 1996 Toyota Camry. The Camry's my dad's first luxury car and I'm the one using it now.
I live near the University Belt and España in Manila and I go to school in Katipunan, Quezon City. We're looking to sell the Camry and buy a crossover sport-utility vehicle. I can only think of the Mitsubishi ASX (it's similar to the RAV4 we used to own), the Honda CR-V (best in class but gas guzzler), Subaru Forester (said to be the safest in its class), Kia Sportage (stylish), Hyundai Tucson (not really a fan) and Toyota RAV4 (no knowledge about this).
I cannot choose the perfect car for me and my dad because we will both be using it. But here's my lifestyle: I go to school five times a week and I go out on weekends. I want a car that I can be proud of in terms of looks, performance, ride and features.
Thank you so much!
Thanks for your email! You have a good list of compact SUVs here. They're all good but let's narrow the list down to the ones I can really recommend.
Subaru Forester XT 2.5 Turbo. If you're looking at getting a compact SUV that is fun to drive, has very good street cred and is something that will get a lot of "oohs" and "aahs," then this is for you. The Subaru Forester XT 2.5 with a turbocharged engine and symmetrical AWD transmission offers a mind-boggling grip. It feels like a sports car on stilts. This one drives the most like a car, and a sports car at that! Just make sure you get the turbocharged variant as the normally-aspirated model is slow and thirsty--not fun at all. It has a rather plain-looking interior but it’s very well built, very solid inside and out, and feels tight and ready to party! There's a new one coming out in about 12-18 months, but the current Forester is still really as good as it gets.
Kia Sportage. This one is the looker of the bunch. Penned by Peter Schreyer, formerly of Audi, the Kia Sportage offers the freshest, newest, most modern and global design that just transcends its humble Korean origins. It just looks fantastic. People really do a double-take whenever a Sportage, especially the Deluxe variant, passes by. Build-quality has improved immensely, it feels almost like a European car in design, layout, interior and feel. The Deluxe is what you want, with a panoramic glass roof, big 18-inch wheels and the LED strip up front. It's expensive but worth it. It's rare, too! Diesel-engined variants of the Sportage are coming sometime this year, so if you can hold out before buying, wait for this. It's worth it!
Mitsubishi ASX. Technically, the ASX is a vehicle-size smaller than the other two. It's the narrowest of the bunch as well, so fitting it into the tight city streets where you live will be easiest (it's even narrower than the Lancer where it is based). It's also quite tight and it's not as roomy as the others but will also be the least expensive. With the ASX, skip AWD and get either of the FWD versions in either manual or automatic. The CVT isn't very responsive at low speeds and the AWD transmission weighs it down a lot. It handles really well though. We got to try it at the Clark International Speedway and it was amazing as compact SUVs go. It would also look good when you fit aftermarket wheels on it.
I'd have recommended the Hyundai Tucson with the diesel engine as it drives really well, but since you're not a fan, it's out of the list. But it's still worth a good look as it ticks all the right boxes for compact-SUV comfort and performance.
I hope this helps! Good luck, God bless and study hard to make your Dad proud. Don't make him regret getting you a nice SUV!
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