Hi. I'm helping my sister choose a car. She wants a compact SUV, but I don't know which one she would like. I've been visiting showrooms and test-driving their different compact SUVs.
I've been trying to decide which one she might like the most. She doesn't know the right car to choose. I would appreciate it if you could help me choose the right compact SUV. Our choices are the Kia Sportage, the Mazda CX-5, the Toyota RAV4, or the Subaru Forester. But if you have other vehicles in mind, I would also like to consider them. We're looking for a car with great power, economical gas consumption and a great ride. We are going to get her a new car because she currently drives a 2004 Nissan X-Trail and it's already old for us. Thank you.
Marco, thank you for your e-mail. I hope my reply isn't too late yet.
While what you are doing for your sister is very much admirable, from how your letter reads, it seems that there's something not quite right here. You're going around different showrooms test-driving a variety of vehicles. But is your sister with you when you do these test drives? Buying cars tend to be split between objective measurable parameters and purely subjective preferences. You could pick the most objectively technologically advanced, fuel-efficient, feature-packed and fun-to-drive vehicle, but if your sister doesn't take to it like fish to water, then your purchase might prove to be a waste.
As for the compact SUVs you mentioned, here are my thoughts on these soft-roaders:
Kia Sportage - I love this SUV in 2.4 4x4 EX De Luxe trim. It looks really good inside and out--very stylish and Euro-chic. Best of all, it's really great to drive (and drive hard and fast). Build quality has improved tremendously over the past few years. Unfortunately, the lower variants tend to look bare and rather dowdy compared to the top-model variants, so it tends to lose a lot of its appeal should you g0 lower-end.
Mazda CX-5 - This is impressive especially since Skyactiv technology is so readily felt and noticed. You can really see it working--from the low fuel consumption and the immediate and urgent lockup of the automatic transmission's torque converter, to the firm suspension, which helps control chassis pitch, yaw and roll, further reducing both braking and throttle input as it allows you to carry more speed through corners with greater confidence and stability. It feels light, too, and the in-car electronics work very well despite looking a tad old. It has no fancy-colored monitors here. It only has a simple LCD, but by golly, it displays a whole lot of information. For a girl, though, she might find the looks challenging, or the drive a bit too sporty.
Toyota RAV4 - Another compact SUV worth looking at is the all-new RAV4. It looks refreshing compared to the older, expensive model. You can read more about the all-new RAV4 in our February 2013 issue. You can also watch this video showing our first impressions of this compact SUV.
Subaru Forester - One crossover that has my mouth watering is Subaru's all-new Forester. Of course, the Turbo XT variant is amazing, but the normally aspirated model is also impressive with its performance going up significantly. The direct-injection engine means more power, torque and responsiveness, with less fuel consumption and exhaust emissions. Mated to Subaru's CVT transmission, you've got one very exciting and very fuel-efficient compact SUV. I have my eye on it myself. I hope I can save up enough to buy one soon. Aside from improved driving dynamics and engine performance, build quality has taken a quantum leap over the old model. It's somewhere between a premium Japanese car and a truly premium-feeling European car. I think your sister will like the Forester's interior.
And here's something you didn't include on your short list...
Honda CR-V - You should check out the new CR-V. I know I have been a stern critic of Honda's compact soft-roader, but it's hard not to recognize its appeal: roomy and versatile interior, easy-to-drive (more so with the available backing-up camera on top-model variants) characteristics, great driving dynamics, and a truly comfortable, composed and capable long-distance ride. It's pricey, but worth it especially if your sister will be driving it a lot in and out of town with her friends and with lots of gear in tow. Oh, you'll be pleased to know that fuel consumption has improved significantly. When I had it for a test drive, the CR-V returned 8.5km/L, whereas the previous model CR-V had given me 6.5km/L, a 30% improvement in fuel consumption, which surprised me a lot.
I hope this helps. Good luck!
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