Small SUVs That Are Reliable and A Smart Buy
While winners are of especial importance, so is identifying the losers and the under-the-radar alternatives, to help buyers select their best options during a time when many models are difficult to find this year due to the pandemic and chip shortage.
That said, here is a summary of the latest review from Consumer Reports’ automotive analysts who have recently revealed some popular compact cars that turned out to be losers after test driving and offer some better choices and under-the-radar alternatives to help you find a great car for your money.
Consumer Reports Choice Analysis #1---the Subcompact SUVs
A Popular Subcompact SUV to Avoid: 2021 Nissan Rogue Sport
Price Range: $24,160 - $30,190
CR MPG: Overall 26 / City 19 / Hwy 34 mpg
#8 of 15 Subcompact sport-utility vehicles
Although the Rogue is commended for its standard forward collision warning (FCW), automatic emergency braking (AEB), lane departure warning (LDW), lane keeping assistance (LKA), and blind spot warning (BSW) safety features; overall, it is a middle of the pack vehicle. Plus, according to CR analysts, “…the rear seat is very snug and uncomfortable, cargo space is skimpy, and the driving experience is far from sporty. Plus, the Sport has below-average predicted reliability.”
A Better Choice to Buy: 2021 Subaru Crosstrek
Price Range: $22,245 - $35,345
CR MPG: Overall 29 / City 20 / Hwy 39 mpg
#1 of 15 Subcompact sport-utility vehicles
The Crosstrek is a winner based on its fuel economy with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and continuously variable transmission. It is proven to be comfortable, competent and a joy to handle, although there is some noise upon acceleration. One complaint about the Crosstrek is that the EyeSight driver assistance system isn’t standard with the manual transmission models---you have to choose the optional CVT transmission in order to get FCW, AEB with pedestrian detection, LDW, and LKA on the base and Premium trims.
An Under-the-Radar Alternative: 2021 Mazda CX-30
Price Range: $22,050 - $34,050
CR MPG: Overall 27 / City 18 / Hwy 37 mpg
#3 of 15 Subcompact sport-utility vehicles
In spite of having a larger 2.5-liter four cylinder matched to a six-speed automatic transmission, with everyday driving the acceleration feels weak requiring a heavy foot on the accelerator. Fuel economy of 28 mpg overall is respectable. However, an optional 2.5-liter turbo engine makes this a good alternative that gives the CX-30 a significant boost in performance. CR states that FCW and AEB are standard, while BSW and rear cross traffic warning (RCTW) are standard on all but the base model.
Consumer Reports Choice Analysis #2---the Compact SUVs
A Popular Compact SUV to Avoid: 2021 Ford Escape
Price Range: $25,555 - $38,885
CR MPG: Overall 26 / City 17 / Hwy 37 mpg
#18 of 23 Compact sport-utility vehicles
The Escape comes with a standard 1.5-liter turbo three-cylinder engine that although has respectable fuel economy, also has an annoying vibration at low engine speeds and rough gear changing. Inexpensive interior materials feel cheap and a predicted reliability rating of below average makes this a mode to avoid in spite of the plus that it comes standard with FCW, AEB with pedestrian detection, and BSW.
A Better Choice to Buy: 2021 Mazda CX-5
Price Range: $25,370 - $37,505
CR MPG: Overall 24 / City 17 / Hwy 33 mpg
#3 of 23 Compact sport-utility vehicles
CR states that, “…The CX-5’s 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and six-speed automatic transmission make for a responsive and unobtrusive powertrain. This combo’s 24 mpg is good but not a standout.”
However, many of its interior features are nearly-outstanding with the exception of its infotainment system, and compromised rear and side visibility. FCW, AEB with pedestrian detection, and BSW are standard. CR analysts find that the CX-5 has excellent reliability and very good owner satisfaction ratings.
An Under-the-Radar Alternative: 2022 Hyundai Tucson
Price Range: $24,950 - $37,350
CR MPG: Overall 35 / City 29 / Hwy 40 mpg
#6 of 23 Compact sport-utility vehicles
This newer model Hyundai offers a smoother ride, sharper handling, and a quieter cabin with a choice of either the standard 187-hp, 2.5-liter four-cylinder teamed with an eight-speed automatic transmission; or, a hybrid pairing consisting of a 1.6-liter turbo engine and electric assist that puts out a combined 226 hp and got 35 mpg overall in mileage tests. The back seat is roomy, cargo area is generous, and the controls are easy to use. Standard active safety features include FCW, AEB with pedestrian detection, BSW, LDW, and LKA.
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Timothy Boyer is Torque News automotive reporter based in Cincinnati. Experienced with early car restorations, he regularly restores older vehicles with engine modifications for improved performance. Follow Tim on Twitter at @TimBoyerWrites for daily automotive-related news.