Buy/Drive/Burn: Affordable American Subcompact Crossovers in 2021
They’re small and space efficient because they’re hatchbacks, and they sell well because they’re called crossovers. Which small American CUV is worth buying with real money if you’ve got a $25,000 budget?
The Trax is the oldest of today’s trio. On sale elsewhere since 2013, it arrived in North America in 2015 after GM saw the success of the more upscale Buick Encore. Updated and facelifted for model year 2017, the Trax continues into what’s likely its final model year relatively unchanged. The most upscale Premier trim vanished this year, which leaves the LS and LT. In LT all-wheel-drive trim, the Trax pairs its 1.4-liter inline-four (148 HP) with a six-speed auto, and asks $23,820.
Ford’s EcoSport has been on sale in various markets around the world since 2013, though it didn’t arrive in North America until 2018. That year was a mid-cycle refresh year, and the point Ford was desperate for North American subcompact SUV product. The EcoSport is available in four trims: S, SE, Titanium, and the new SES. Unlike Trax, buyers can choose from either a 1.0-liter three-cylinder or a 2.0-liter four-cylinder on all trims except SES. Today’s budget nets us a mid-level SE trim, with 2.0-liter (166 HP) and all-wheel drive routed through a six-speed auto for $24,950.
Renegade arrived in 2015, as the long-awaited replacement for the Jeep Patriot which seemed to soldier on forever. Sold in a wide variety of configurations around the world, the Renegade is on FCA’s Small Wide platform with the Fiat 500X and Tipo. It was updated and facelifted for the 2019 model year, which switched up engine availability. 2021 brings a dizzying array of eight Renegade trims which we won’t list here. Renegade reaches higher in price than EcoSport or Trax, so we must stick to base Sport 4WD trim today. 180 horses from the 2.4 are sent through a nine-speed automatic. You’ll pay $24,350.
Three subcompact sellers, which one goes home with you?
[Images: GM, Ford, Stellantis]
3SpeedAutomatic on Feb 03, 2021
All three represent the bottom end of the CUV market. Just like the Chevette, Escort, and Omni of the past. Each is entry level quality allowing others to joint the now defacto SUV craze. You get what you pay for. Not happy with any of the three, but will take the plunge: Buy: Fiat/Jeep Renegade - Drove one in Ft Lauderdale for a week. All was OK, however, it had a electrical gremlin: the starter would not engage at random. Let the car sit for a few minutes, and all was fine. Drive: Chevy Trax - Used to be an import from Asia meant reliability and great engineering. Looks like GM didn't get the memo. Have sat inside of a Trax while selecting from a selection of CUVs at a rental car lot and immediately felt something was missing. Went with the Renegade above. Burn: Ford EcoSport - Sorry, 3 pot engines don't cut it on the Interstate. I understand a 4 cylinder is available, but only with AWD. Is it possible to swap out a 3 pot FWD with a 4 banger without telling William Clay??? Sure would make for a better product. At best, buy a used version of the above to send you child off to college or attend tech school. Once your offspring gets their first regular paystub, guess what gets immediately traded-in at the local dealership. Makes them appreciate money, effort, and reward.
Theonlydt on Feb 03, 2021
Buy - Jeep. Their used prices are surprisingly strong. It's funky. It's an awful car, but so are the others on this list. Drive - Chevrolet Trax - at high speed into the side of the Ecosport. Seriously, it's utter pump. The Encore has a charm, a very small charm, barely perceptible, but the Trax is dreadful. Not a good ownership proposition. Burn - Ecosport. The third worst vehicle I've driven in the last decade (the worst was the Dodge Caliber, second worse the Dodge Avenger). It was a "titantium" spec, like that made it any better. Cheap, cynical, nasty POS. BURN THE BASTARD!
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