The Road Ahead : August September 2007
STORY CHRIS BISHOP PHOTOS JIM McEWAN The softer side of the four-wheel-drive market is moving along at a nice, old clip. More 4WD buyers than ever are hoofing it into smaller models, and the compact segment almost accounts for one in ever y 10 new vehicles sold in Queensland. There's nothing soft about the brawl for your bucks though. Nearly ever y mainstream brand has an offering, seemingly clones on many impor tant measures. But of course, there are differences. We compared five contenders, mirroring dominant buying habits by testing automatic, four-cylinder models. First, there's the kingpin RAV4, which has dominated for years and shows no signs of easing of f. We've pitched it against Honda's CR- V, Mitsubishi's new ZG Outlander, Jeep's first 'of f-roader' without a low-range gearbox, the Compass, and Subaru's Forester. Missing is Nissan's X Trail. A new 2.5- litre petrol model of this wagon will arrive later this year. Value for money Equipment levels don't disappoint on these high-end models. Star ting with safety, all five feature front airbags, anti-lock brakes (ABS), electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD), a full complement of lap-sash seatbelts and headrests, plus height-adjustable front seatbelts with load limiters and pretensioners. Common ground also includes airconditioning, cruise control, height- adjustable driver's seat, alloy wheels, roof rails, front fog lamps, split/fold rear seat, sunglass holder and cargo cur tain. In recent times, Mitsubishi has been strong on value for money. Outlander offers more of the same. Unusually, the Japanese marque often supplies pre- production models to test -- this vehicle nominally an XLS with a keen price of $37,490. The Diamond Brand has a whale of a warranty plus extended corrosion and power train coverage. It is the only vehicle here to offer an automatic transmission, a continuously variable unit with paddle shifters and six manual speeds, as standard. And for the time being, no rival can match its seven seats, although that 'occasional' third row is par t of a $4000 package and has major limitations. Points of individuality for Outlander include brake assist, dual-stage front airbags, 18-inch wheels, privacy glass, rear spoiler, CD stacker, leather-covered steering wheel with controls, trip computer, rear parking sensors, spor ts seats, sliding and tumbling second row, pollen filter, alarm, keyless entr y and star t, split tailgate, auto-folding rear seats plus a variable electronic 4x4 system which can automatically split drive between axles or lock in a 50/50 split. Safety can be bolstered with a front side airbag/cur tain airbags package ($1500), but there is no electronic stability control (ESC). Another without ESC is the Forester. It relies on all-wheel-drive but ESC would significantly augment its safety. The XS Forester is under the odds at $36,990 but its equipment list is also underdone. Forester's only dual-stage airbag is on the front passenger side, however it also includes front side airbags. It omits brake assist (BA) from its ABS arsenal but has active front headrests. Datadots are a point of security difference for Subaru, while it also features climate control airconditioning, a CD stacker, height-adjustable rear seatbelts and a full-size steel spare wheel. Automatic Foresters use a four- speed gearbox. The Jeep Compass Limited comes with a $38,490 price tag and a pleasing amount of equipment. As well as ESC with anti-roll mitigation, Jeep's safety extends to dual-stage front airbags, cur tain airbags and BA. Compass also offers a six-speed sequential CVT, sans steering wheel paddles. Leather trim, heated front seats, driver's seat lumbar suppor t, tinted windows, CD stacker, on-wheel audio controls, trip computer, height- adjustable headlights, folding mirrors, flat-folding front passenger seat, rechargeable cargo area flashlight and, of course, a compass also feature. The Jeep has a 4WD lock button to split power deliver y evenly between axles. Unfor tunately, Compass Limited's 18- inch wheels come with a space saver spare tyre. Honda's Thai connection delivers ESC on all CR-Vs, along with ABS, EBD and AUG/SEP 07 47 FROM TOP: CR-V has good ergonomics. Forester rates five stars in crash tests. Outlander's out in front with steering wheel controls. RAV4 has plenty of room. Jeep trails on packaging and design.
June July 2007
October November 2007