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November 09, 2017

I want a premium small SUV

After the fiasco of the communicator, when Google even dropped Nexus 7, I started to realize that my tastes are abnormal, even in cars. I want a compact SUV that is not too big, but is real. Something that now-dead Suzuki Grand Vitara would be great. Here's a table:

Curb W.w/o.m Length T.dia c2c Tot.Rat TrueDelta
2018 Wr.Rubicon 4010# 73.7" 164.3" 34.6' 66.61 32[6]
2018 Renegade 3532# 74.2" 166.6" 35.3' 18.4 [1] 29
2018 Crosstrek 3142# 71" 175.8" 35.4' 16.96 24
2018 RR Evoque 3865# 78.1" [a] 172.0" 38' ? -
2019 XC40 3629# 75.2" [c] 174.2" ? 16.8 (est.) -
2017 HR-V[3] 2888# 69.8" 169.1" 37.4' 17.14 6[7]
2017 CX-3 2959# 69.9" 168.3" 34.8' 15.37 -
2018 Countryman 3510# 71.7" 169.8" 37.4' 15.50 55[b]

For a comparison, here are some of the bigger SUVs, that also stratify:

Curb W.w/o.m Length T.dia c2c Tot.Rat
2018 GLC 300 4M 4145# 74.4" 183.3" 38.7' 17.98
2019 BMW X3 4167# (-63) 74.4" (+0.3) 185.9" (+2.3) - 16.95 (15.96)
2017 GLE 350 4M 4751# 75.8" 189.1" 38.8' 17.08
2017 Jeep GC/WK2 4984# 76.5" 189.8" 37.1' 42.2
2019 RDX SH-AWD 4020# 74.8" 186.4" 39' 17 (est.)
2019 Lexus GX [4] 5130# 74.2" 192" 41.1'[2] 17.98

[1] With an optional 4.438 final ratio, C635 manual. Canceled for 2019.
[2] Specified as "radius". All others are "curb-to-curb".
[3] Manual only with FWD. AWD with CVT only.
[4] 16-18 mpg, 38" headroom.
[6] 106 for 2006, 80 for 2008, settles down thereafter.
[7] Likely not statistically significant.
[a] With mirrors folded.
[b] For 2011. Newer are better, but show 40s anyway.
[c] A Canadian 3-view drawing says 1863 mm or 73.4".

The slowest gear is only decent in real Jeeps, unsurprisingly. For a reference, the 2006 RAV4 2.4L+4sp auto had 12.13, and I found it unacceptable (that is to say, I've never been stuck because clearance of RAV4 wasn't great enough, but I have gotten stuck with a TQ stall). So, I'd like to have somewhere around 18..20 at least.

So far, Crosstrek looks like the winner, thanks to its modest dimensions (although it's long and has a long snout). Both Crosstrek and Renegade allow to combine a manual transmission with AWD. {Update: 2019 Renegade drops manual+AWD.} Supposedly the interior is much improved in the 2018 generation. The specified headroom is only 39.8", which is barely enough, but it works.

Renegade would be my choice, thanks to low gearing. But wife says the interior is trash. I am not sensitive to it, but she need good seats for her back.

Evoque is intriguing because it is almost the right size, and is modestly off-roadable. But it may be too wide, and has a small headroom. It uses the same 9-speed ZF auto found in Renegade and Pilot for the crawling gear. Also, a Ford 2.0L turbo -- not sure if I like that. {Alex says the Indians are putting a new engine into top trims of Evoque for 2018+.}

The upcoming XC40 is also intriguing, as long as they sell a model without the stupid glass roof.

HR-V and CX-3 are probably too small, although I like small. Fortunately, I don't need to agonize over their size because their offroadabiltiy is too poor. CCX-3 also loses with the headroom of 38.4" They are included for a reference only.

UPDATE: I saw an edifying video where the previous generation Crosstrek and Renegade work side-by-side in real life. It highlights the difference quite nicely. Both vehicles make it, but Crosstrek has to have the front bumper removed and runs with 2-inch lift. The Renegade is a Trailhawk model with the factory 3/4" lift. A certain lift is required on either one in order to sustain skid plates.

UPDATE 2018/02/20: Alex chimes in. Note the ground clearance. But then, XC40 has climate controls on the touchscreen, which is a problem.

UPDATE 2018/05/11: Alex posts a full review. The glass roof appears unfortunately standard (I looked at Volvo website, and the headroom has no option in the U.S. market, although it is an option in Europe; the deletion of the glass increases the headroom to 40.5"). Seats are heated but not cooled, a problem for wife, who likes those (every time I try them, they make me want to pee). The climate controls are on the touchpad, although they seem to work. On the upside, I loved the trash bin. A number of reviewers were militant about the double-toggle shifter, but I'm okay with that. The steering ratio seems a bit excessive.

UPDATE 2018/09/20: XC40 failed a test drive and is out of contention. In fact, there's no workable small premium SUV at all! I have to go a size up. (/spoilers)

UPDATE 2018/10/24: Writing under official TrueDelta byline, Michael Karesh relays the summary presented by Consumer Reports at Automotive Press Association meeting:

Volvo ranks last of all. We've also seen this in TrueDelta's data. Even in its third model year the XC90 has been far worse than average, and nearly the entire Volvo line now uses the same powertrains, infotainment systems, and other parts.

Looks like I made a good call. Also:

Audi, BMW and Mini continue to to better than other European brands. It is important to realize, though, that their scores are based on only the first 2.5 years or so of ownership. I've noticed in TrueDelta's data that European cars are now often reliable for four and even six years, but once older often lapse into moneypit status. Coincidentally, the standard warranties on these cars last for four years, and the CPO warranties last for six.

Well, it's only money.

Posted by: Pete Zaitcev at 10:42 AM | No Comments | Add Comment
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