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A Closer Look-Four Compact Crossover Utility Vehicles

A Closer Look-Four Compact Crossover Utility Vehicles

By Jeff Youngs, February 24, 2012

Rapidly growing in popularity is the compact crossoverutility vehicle(CUV) segment. These 5-passenger models combine the usefulness anddriving ease of a sport utility vehicle-tall driving position, cargocapacity, reconfigurable interiors-with the fun-to-drive dynamics of asmall family sedan. Built on a unibody chassis (many share platformswith compact sedans), each of these 2- or 4-wheel-drive crossovers areoffered with standard, fuel-efficient 4-cylinder engines.

The segment in North America is comprised of 20 models, including theSubaru Forester, Nissan Rogue, GMC Terrain, Hyundai Tucson, JeepPatriot, Mercury Mariner,Mazda CX-7, Volkswagen Tiguan, Jeep Compass,Kia Sportage, Mitsubishi Outlander, Honda Element, Saturn Vue, Suzuki Grand Vitara, and the MazdaTribute. It also includes four models thateach sold in excess of 11,000 units in April 2010: the Ford Escape,Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V and the Chevrolet Equinox. These four models generated total retail sales volume of 62,645 units in April 2010 compared to sales of 100,631 units for the entire segment during thatmonth.

Dimensions and interior room

These compact crossover utility vehicles vary in length by no more than10 inches. The longest is the Chevrolet Equinox (187.8 inches),followed by the Toyota RAV4 (181.9) and Honda CR-V (177.9). The shortest is the Ford Escape (174.7 inches).

Wheelbase is defined as the distance between the front and rear wheels,and is often associated with improved ride quality (which is one reasonwhy limousines have very long wheelbases). The longest wheelbase ofthis group is found on the Chevrolet Equinox (112.5 inches). The ToyotaRAV4 (104.7 inches) sits mid-pack, while the Honda CR-V and Ford Escapeshare the same (103.1-inch) wheelbase.

The Toyota RAV4 (34.8 feet) has the tightest turning circle, from curbto curb. It is followed by the Ford Escape (36.7 feet) and Honda CR-V(37.8). The Chevrolet Equinox (39.9 feet) delivers the widest turningradius.

When it comes to passenger space, the longest of these four modelsoffers the most interior space (based on interior packaging, this isn'talways the case). The Toyota RAV4 offers 108.0 cubic feet, followed bythe Honda CR-V with 103.8 cubic feet. The Chevrolet Equinox and FordEscape offer the same interior capacity at 100.0 cubic feet.

Each of these CUVs is equipped with folding second-row seats-thisconfiguration increases cargo capacity dramatically. Cargo capacity ofthe Toyota RAV4 is the greatest (36.4 cubic feet with seats up, and73.0 cubic feet with seats down) followed by the Honda CR-V (35.7 cubicfeet seats up; 72.9 cubic feet seats down). The Ford Escape (31.4 cubicfeet seats up; 67.2 cubic feet seats down) and Chevrolet Equinox (31.4cubic feet seats up; 63.7 cubic feet seats down) share the same cargocapacity with the seats up, but are different when the seats are foldeddown.

Features and options

All four CUV models are similarly equipped with standard features. TheFord Escape, Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V and Chevrolet Equinox are allfitted with standard power windows, keyless entry, power door locks,power steering, cruise control, steering wheel-mounted controls, andair conditioning. Second-row folding seats, a rear window defogger, andan AM/FM stereo with compact disc player are also standard on allmodels.

Mechanically speaking, each of the compact sedans is fitted withindependent front suspension and independent (or semi-independent) rearsuspension and front disc brakes. The Chevrolet,Honda and Toyotaalsohave rear disc brakes, and the Ford has reardrum brakes.

Powerplant and fuel economy
These compact crossovers each feature standard, fuel-efficient4-cylinder engines (the Toyota RAV4 is also available with a 6-cylinderengine, while the Ford Escape is also offered in a hybrid model).

The most powerful of these CUVs is the Chevrolet Equinox, with a2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine rated at 182 horsepower and 172 lb.-ft. oftorque. The powerplant is mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission.The Toyota RAV4 features a slightly larger 2.5-liter engine rated at179 horsepower and 172 lb.-ft. of torque and connected to a 4-speedautomatic transmission. Also with a 2.5-liter engine is the FordEscape. Mated to a 6-speed automatic, it is rated at 171 horsepower and171 lb.-ft. of torque.

The Honda CR-V has a 2.4-liter engine rated at 166 horsepower and 161lb.-ft. of torque. The standard transmission on the Honda is a 5-speedautomatic. All four models are front-wheel drive in their standardconfigurations, with all-wheel drive (for inclement weather, not heavyoff-road use) offered as an option.

Each of these four competitors earns better than 20 mpg in the city and27 mpg on the highway, thanks to their 4-cylinder powerplants.Comparing fuel economy, the most efficient is the Chevrolet Equinox at22 mpg city and 32 mpg highway. It is followed by the Toyota RAV4 at 22mpg city and 28 mpg highway, and the Ford Escape at 20 mpg city and 28mpg highway. The Honda CR-V is rated at 20 mpg city and 27 mpg highway.

All four of these compact crossover models are capable of towing alight (1,500-pound) trailer.

Safety and crash testing

Safety is an important consideration to those who purchase thesefamily-friendly crossover vehicles. As required by governmentregulations, each of these CUVs is fitted with dual front air bags anda tire-pressure-monitoring system. In addition, they are all fittedwith standard side curtain air bags. Anti-lock brakes, traction controland stability control are standard on the Equinox, CR-V, RAV4 andEscape. In consideration of younger passengers, all feature childsafety door locks and 3-point center seat belts in the rear seats.

IIHS Assessments
In tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety(IIHS), the Toyota RAV4 and Chevrolet Equinox were both rated"Good" infrontal offset and side-impact testing and received an "Acceptable"rating in roof-strength tests. The Honda CR-V and Ford Escape were bothrated "Good" in frontal offset and side-impact testing. However, theyreceived a "Marginal" rating in roof-strength tests.

NHTSA Assessments
The National HighwayTraffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gave theHonda CR-V and Chevrolet Equinox 5-star ratings in Front Driver/FrontPassenger as well as 5-star ratings in Side Driver/Side Rear Passengerimpact testing. Both models earned a 4-star rating in Rollover testing(2WD model).

The Toyota RAV4 earned a 5-star rating in Front Driver, 4-star ratingfor Front Passenger, and 5-star ratings in Side Driver/Side RearPassenger impact testing. The RAV4 earned a 4-star rating in Rollovertesting (2WD model).

The Ford Escape earned 5-star ratings in Front Driver/Front Passengerand 5-star ratings in Side Driver/Side Rear Passenger impact testing.However, it earned a 3-star rating in Rollover testing (2WD model).

Quality and dependability

Statistics and numbers aside, consumers seeking a compact crossover arealso interested in initial quality and long-term dependability. In theJ.D. Power and Associates 2009 Initial Quality Study (IQS),SMa studyof new-vehicle quality measured at 90 days of ownership, the Honda CR-Vwas the highest-ranked in a tie in the "Compact Multi-Activity Vehicle(MAV)" segment. In the J.D. Power and Associates 2010 VehicleDependability Study (VDS),SM which measures long-termquality in3-year-old vehicles that were purchased new, the Honda CR-V ranked highest in the "Compact MAV" segment.


These four crossovers are all very closely matched, but each offers itsown individual mix of qualities. The Toyota RAV4 is the largest of thegroup-and it delivers the most interior room for passengers and cargo(with the seats up or down). The Chevrolet Equinox has the mostpowerful engine, and its standard 6-speed automatic transmission helpsit to deliver the highest fuel economy. The Ford Escape is the only CUVin the group to offer a hybrid option (the gaso"/consumer-ratings/ratings.htm" class="link" target="_blank" title="Car Quality, Dependability, and Appeal ratings">CarRatings
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