By on April 4, 2018

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has released new ratings for seven small utility vehicles. For the most part, the pint-sized crossovers performed amicably. However, none of the models were worthy of the group’s coveted “Top Safety Pick Plus” award due to subpar headlamp performance, while a couple of models were found structurally deficient after being confronted with the dreaded small overlap crash test.

Ford’s Escape received an overall poor rating and came away from the test with the worst structural deformation within the group. Senior IIHS research engineer Becky Muller noted that Ford reinforced the diver’s side of the vehicle for the 2017 model year but negated extending that courtesy to passengers.

“Disparities like this one are why we decided to formally rate the passenger side in the small overlap test after five years of evaluating only the driver side,” she explained. “Manufacturers shouldn’t shortchange protection for front-seat passengers.” (Read More…)

By on March 18, 2018

2018 Volkswagen T-Roc - Image: Volkswagen

We were a little disappointed that Volkswagen decided to keep the T-Roc in Europe — not because we were clamoring for another subcompact crossover but because this one actually seemed sort of interesting. Its two-tone paint scheme and hinted specs seemed ready to take on the likes of the Jeep Renegade, Nissan Juke, and Fiat 500X. But VW said it wasn’t well-suited for the American market.

Although, there was no way the company could possibly leave the fast-growing segment alone and we assumed it would eventually come up with something else for the United States and Canada — which is exactly what happened. During a press conference in Wolfsburg, Germany, VW said it would export a new small crossover from Mexico into the U.S. but that the first run of the model will take place in China.

Referred to internally as the “Volks-SUV,” the vehicle should be a bit smaller than the recently upsized Tiguan but larger and less car-like than the European T-Roc.  (Read More…)

By on March 13, 2018

Toyota is updating the insanely popular RAV4 for the 2019 model year, which means it may be able to leave the shadow of the much newer Honda CR-V. That’s not a knock against Toyota, as the company offers a serviceable compact crossover that people seem to really love. In fact, the brand sold 407,594 RAV4s in the United States last year while Honda only moved 377,895 CR-Vs.

But the high-volume RAV4 is getting on in years. When Honda introduced the updated CR-V, the Toyota was already five years old and beginning to look a little dated. Fortunately, a fifth-generation model is being readied for the 2018 New York Auto Show. Toyota even issued a shadowy teaser image to whet our appetites.

While the shape doesn’t appear to be radically different from the current crossover, it’s much more SUV-like overall. Toyota is definitely moving the model’s styling in a new direction. Sadly, the backlit image obscures much of the vehicle’s finer features — making a detailed assessment next to impossible. Fortunately, we’ve utilized high-end photo manipulation software to boost the brightness and give you a better look at the upcoming RAV4.  (Read More…)

By on January 5, 2018

2018 Volkswagen Tiguan - Image: Volkswagen

Volkswagen’s pre-dieselgate “take over the world” scheme appears to have returned in a smaller, more manageable form. Now, VW’s plan is simply to plunder the compact crossover segment — not an easy task, given the fierce competition.

The automaker’s strategy involves spanning the segment with two vehicles carrying the name badge. The old, criticised-for-its-size Tiguan continues on as the Tiguan Limited, while the new-for-2018 next-generation model ferries three rows of passengers on a nearly 11-inch longer wheelbase. Now, we learn of Phase 2 of VW’s plan. Chop the price. (Read More…)

By on September 27, 2017

2017 Mazda CX-5 Diesel info page - Image: MazdaUSA.comThe potential for success is limited, but Mazda nevertheless announced in Los Angeles in November 2016 that the revamped 2017 Mazda CX-5 would be available with a 2.2-liter diesel torque monster.

Diesel? 2017? The Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal that broke in late 2015 ended diesel’s run at Volkswagen of America and eventually ended with the withdrawal of diesel engines in Mercedes-Benz USA’s lineup, as well.

Yet diesel persists. General Motors, for example, is selling diesel variants of the Chevrolet Cruze and Equinox and the Equinox’s GMC Terrain sibling. And with Mazda’s decision to sell a 310-lb-ft diesel CX-5, compact crossover shoppers would have three choices.

Mazda said last year that “it will offer the Skyactiv-D 2.2 clean diesel engine in the all-new Mazda CX-5 for North America from the second half of 2017.”

Only half of the second half remains, and MazdaUSA.com still lists the 2017 CX-5 Diesel as a future vehicle. So where’s the 2017 Mazda CX-5 Diesel we were promised? (Read More…)

By on September 21, 2017

Volvo XC40 - exterior

Volvo’s Compact Modular Architecture is turning out to be a little sexier than one might have imagined. With the arrival of the XC40 we were expecting something akin to a baby X90, but we ended up getting a better-looking Range Rover Evoque. It’s certainly reminiscent of its bigger brothers, yet possesses an individual sense of style that Volvo claims will make its way into other models using the CMA platform.

All of this style is likely to come at the expensive of rearward visibility. We haven’t sat behind the wheel of a XC40 but we can already tell you that bulky C-pillar is probably going to get in the way from time to time. That said, it looks so good that it’s difficult to truly fault it — especially when the small SUV is fitted with a black or white contrasting roof.

Offsetting the chic styling is a modest amount of plastic cladding along the bottom of the vehicle. This ought to provide some necessary protection for urban owners forced to park close to banged-up models with drivers less inclined to appreciate the XC40’s unibody beauty.  (Read More…)

By on September 1, 2017

2018 Volkswagen Tiguan Habanero Orange - Image: © Timothy CainIt took Volkswagen forever. But finally, in 2008, more than a decade after the compact SUV craze began, the first-generation Tiguan landed on U.S. shores. The Tiguan was more premium-priced than it deserved to be and smaller than it needed to be, but with a potent powerplant and fun-loving on-road behavior, those who could afford it and fit in it were happy.

It took Volkswagen forever. But finally, in the summer of 2017, nearly a decade after the first Tiguan arrived and eventually watched the release of two new Honda CR-Vs, two new Hyundai Tucsons, countless rival redesigns, and a bevy of new competitors, the second-generation Tiguan landed on U.S. shores.

The 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan is now competitively priced. It’s properly sized — marginally larger than many rivals rather than distinctly smaller. This time, however, because of extra weight and an intransigent powertrain, the Tiguan doesn’t feel quite so punchy off the line. And in place of a dynamic repertoire vaguely reminiscent of an Mk5 Golf GTI — lively steering, quick turn-in, grippy cornering — the 2018 Tiguan is comfort-focused, keen on absorbing and mollifying and coddling.

Bigger, more comfortable, and arguably more attractive? The 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan finally sounds like a Tiguan American crossover buyers might actually want. (Read More…)

By on August 23, 2017

Volkswagen T-Roc

Opening with a query as to whether or not the audience was, “Ready to Roc” or not, Volkswagen showcased the production version of the T-Roc today in Italy. However, the model that arrived on stage didn’t quite resemble the compact crossover concept vehicle we’ve grown accustomed to.

While shorter in appearance than a traditional baby SUV, the T-Roc isn’t the coupe-adjacent vehicle we were led to believe it might be. True to form, VW played it safe.

There are some notable exceptions, however. The bi-color design allows the roofline to be mismatched with the bodywork and the interior has some fun color options — both in its lighting and trim. But it lacks the swept-back roofline and lowered stance of the prototype. The upside to this is superior interior volume and more traditional SUV characteristics that the public will be less likely to shy away from. Volkswagen wants volume, after all.  (Read More…)

By on August 18, 2017

2017 Volkswagen Tiguan Limited - Image: VolkswagenThe old new Volkswagen Tiguan will cost $3,350 less than the new new 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan.

Known now as the Tiguan Limited, a basic 2017 model rides on 16-inch steel wheels with no cargo cover, front-wheel drive, and the premium-fuel-swilling 200-horsepower 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder.

Priced from $22,895 including a $900 destination charge, the 2017 Volkswagen Tiguan Limited undercuts the second-generation Tiguan by $3,350 and the non-Limited 2017 Tiguan by $2,965. (Read More…)

By on April 5, 2017

2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

Sit back and place a nitroglycerine pill under your tongue. It’s product announcement time.

As it revamps its utility vehicle lineup, Mitsubishi isn’t letting the looming introduction of the poorly named Eclipse Cross compact crossover stop it from foisting attention upon its existing products. To keep things fresh, the automaker plans to revamp its very own Eclipse Cross competitor — the Outlander Sport — for 2018.

So, say goodbye to the aging model you see above. Wait — hold on. That is the 2018 model. (Read More…)

By on February 23, 2017

2017 Honda CR-V Touring Front 3/4, Image: © 2017 Timothy Cain

We’re all supposed to enjoy, or endure, an Alfa Romeo ownership experience at some point in our lives.

The 2017 Honda CR-V is diametrically opposed to everything the Alfa Romeo SZ stands for.

You’re supposed to drive a car that reveals its character through its flaws, as if a shifter that only slots into third at 2,755 rpm is somehow symbolic of soul.

The 2017 Honda CR-V doesn’t shift. At all.

You’re supposed to tell a great breakdown story that involves a leafy Vermont village, a greedy mechanic, and a 48-hour wait for a repair that resulted in the best drive ever with an ex-girlfriend who severed your relationship the next day.

Not a single word of that could possibly apply to a 2017 Honda CR-V.

You’re an enthusiast, you have taste, you’re vulnerable. We get it. But maybe you should just drive a Honda CR-V and accept the fact that boring, or dull, or soulless cars can be wonderfully effective ways of transporting one’s family.

I’m not thrilled by the realization. But I’m impressed by the all-new, fifth-generation Honda CR-V. (Read More…)

By on February 9, 2017

2018 toyota rav4 adventure

No longer worried about being eaten by wolves, humans have developed a desire to carefully reintroduce a little excitement into their lives now and again. Sometimes, just the illusion of excitement is sufficient.

The compact crossover crowd isn’t exactly a pulse-quickening segment, so the 2018 Toyota RAV4’s Adventure trim, exposed Thursday at the 2017 Chicago Auto Show, didn’t need to do backflips to stand out. The Adventure is essentially an appearance package with some tow prepping performed at the factory. However, Toyota’s current hit-or-miss styling seems to have made its mark on the RAV4, and is further improved by trim-specific upgrades both inside and out. (Read More…)

By on January 23, 2017

Jaguar logo

Jaguar is giving the F-Pace a baby brother and, unfortunately, it is going to continue the company’s terrible SUV-naming trend and dub it the E-Pace — a moniker it probably should have reserved for the all-electric I-Pace concept. Sized as a compact crossover, its existence meshes with Jaguar’s current modus operandi and brand manager Steven de Ploey’s promise to expect “a family of SUVs.”

Destined to be a direct competitor for the Audi Q3 and BMW X1, the E-Pace is Britain’s attempt to get a piece of the freshly-baked pie that is the compact crossover segment.  (Read More…)

By on January 18, 2017

Mini Cooper Countryman John Cooper Works

Mini’s largest model is about to get the most powerful engine currently available to the brand from its parent company, BMW. The company will offer up its 2018 Countryman as the latest John Cooper Works model, adorned with polarizing paint jobs and a powerful 2.0-liter turbo.

While the idea of a performance crossover might seem like an oxymoron, as well as being a bit impractical — especially considering Mini already makes a quicker and more nimble JCW Cooper with the same engine — there’s a precedent of the concept working(Read More…)

By on October 27, 2016

CX-5 Mazda Teaser

Everyone assumed that the next incarnation of the Mazda CX-5 wouldn’t make an appearance until next year, so it was a bit of a surprise to see Mazda showing off carefully lit photos of its next-generation compact crossover today.

It’s definitely not an unwelcome surprise, as this 2017 model has one hell of a good-looking profile.

(Read More…)

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