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Best Small SUV

Chevrolet Equinox

  • Best Small SUV Handling: 2WD or 4WD?

  • Best Small SUV based on Best Gas Mileage?
  • Best Small SUV Acceleration?
  • Best Small SUV Lease Value

What do you have to Pay for the Best Small SUV?

The Small SUV market is filled with versatile FWD and AWD vehicles ranging in price from $22,000 to $27,000. A small, Cheap SUV is easy to come by as long as you consider anything under $27,000, inexpensive. But is it the best small SUV? Or to get the best small suv do you need to jump into the $30K-Plus Luxury Price range?  With so many competitive entries in this market place, I thought it would be worthwhile to do a “Cheap SUV” Comparison study. Surprisingly, such a narrow price range of SUVs encompasses a wide range of features, performance and equipment to compare. Small SUVs in this particular price range can be equipped with V6, Turbo or more economical base, 4 Cylinder Engines. Horse-Power in the Base 4-Cyl Models ranges from 161HP to 269HP. All but the Subaru, can be equipped with either FWD or AWD. Gas Mileage ranges from 17/21 to 22/30. You might think that going with a 2WD-VS-4WD would save a great deal of money and provide much greater fuel economy, but in some cases, the advantages are not as great as you would originally believe. In other cases, sacrificing performance does not always provide much better fuel economy either. The goal of this Best Small SUV Comparison is to find the SUV that matches fuel economy, handling and performance for the most affordable price. Nine Different SUV models are compared below:

  1. Mazda CX7: (2WD-VS-AWD) and (Base 4Cyl-vs-Turbo)
  2. Honda CR-V EX: (2WD-VS-AWD)
  3. Toyota RAV4 LTD (2WD-VS-AWD) and (i4-vs-V6)
  4. Subaru Forester: (XT Turbo-vs-X Non-Turbo)
  5. Hyundai Tucson LTD: (2WD-VS-AWD)
  6. Nissan Rogue SV: (2WD-VS-AWD)
  7. Chevy Equinox LTX: (2WD-VS-AWD)
  8. VW Tiguan S: (2WD-VS-AWD)
  9. Ford Escape LTD: (2WD-VS-AWD)

2wd VS 4wd

If you’re asking yourself why would you get an SUV that is only 2wd, I used to wonder the same thing. After giving it some thought, however, there really is some advantages to a 2WD FWD SUV: Better Gas Mileage, Quicker acceleration and a Lower Sales Cost. Face it, most of us don’t take our SUVs off-road. Most 2-Wheel Drive SUVs are Front Wheel Drive and get adequate traction in the snow. Don’t get too excited about the gas savings. You will save a little bit (not a lot on gas). Because 2WDs are lighter weight than 4WD or AWD SUVs, they will give you slightly better acceleration. Finally, you can expect to save $1,200 to $2,000 on the sales price of a 2WD vs 4WD. With Subaru, you never have to make the choice between 2WD and 4WD and the price is just as good as Toyota’s and Honda’s 4-Cylinder, Economy SUVs.
Best Small SUV for AWD: Subaru Forester 2.5X Premium

Best Small SUV Fuel Economy

Don’t get too excited about gas savings on the 2WD over the 4WD or AWD.
The economical, 4 Cylinder SUVs all get around 20-22 MPG in the city and 26-28 MPG on the highway. With the AWD models you’ll only lose about 1-3 mpg. Note, with the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 you will give up very little in gas mileage by going to an AWD instead of a FWD. Either the Hyundai Tucson or Chevrolet Equinox get excellent gas mileage in the City or HWY. Where fuel economy really makes a difference is on the performance turbo models described below.
Best Small SUV for Fuel Economy: Hyundai/Equinox (tie)

Best Small SUV Performance

There is a clear winner in this category. The Toyota RAV4 V6 wins hands down. The 269HP V6 engine is faster than any other in its class and unlike the Turbo-Charged Mazda and Subaru, doesn’t require the more expensive Premium fuel. The economical, i4 models provide decent, but not great Horsepower ranging from 160HP to 182HP. The Equinox is probably the fastest of the 4-Cylinder Group of the SUVs. Most of the economical models provide roughly the same amount of zip and acceleration, but then it gets back to gas mileage again. The Toyota RAV4 V6, however, is where fuel economy and performance come together in a big way. The RAV4 V6 combines unprecedented V6 performance with 19/26mpg Fuel Economy and AWD handling.
Best Small SUV for Performance: Toyota RAV4 V6

Best Small SUV Lease

The Toyota RAV4 has been one of the best vehicles to lease for 2010 and it is the clear winner of the Small SUV group, once again. As of this writing, neither Chevrolet or Ford had a lease offer on the Equinox or Escape. Below is the Ranking of Lease Rates of the 9 SUVs based on LVR (Lease Value Ratio).
Best Small SUV Lease: Toyota RAV4

Top Small SVU Lease Offers

Toyota RAV4 1.03%
Volkswagen Tiguan 1.15%
Honda CR-V 1.16%
Subaru 2.5X 1.20%
Nissan Rogue 1.29%
Mazda CX-7 1.31%
Hyundai Tucson 1.45%
Chevrolet Equinox N/A
Ford Escape N/A

The Lease Payments below are estimates based on average, advertised lease specials. No down payment is assumed. The actual payment will vary based on MSRP, options and your own negotiation ability with your dealer. These payments should be pretty close to what you can expect to pay.

Best Small SUV Comparison Ratings

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Small SUV Ratings


Check Monthly Car Lease again soon for more information ratings on the best small suv.

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Filed under: Lease Comparison

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