The Road Ahead : August September 2007
50 AUG/SEP 07 huge transmission tunnel, lack of on-wheel controls and difficulty seeing over the high bonnet, past the thick pillars and beyond the rear headrests. The American chariot is yet to be rated for security. Of the remainder, Subaru scores best cour tesy of its Datadots, while Honda deser ves credit for finally addressing security shor tfalls. Outlander and RAV4 are average. The space race is close. Mitsubishi gets the nod due to a massive amount of second row room and other competitive dimensions. RAV4's praisewor thy rear legroom combines with generous headroom and shoulder space, good oddments space and a decent 'boot' with massive underfloor compar tments. You'll cram plenty into CR-V too, with the widest 'boot', broadest rear seat and most effective room for odds and ends. There's ample rear seat legroom, although rear headroom is average. Compass challenges on rear headroom and shoulder space. But it doesn't offer enough rear legroom, a sliding second row seat, a deep enough 'boot' or much oddments storage. Forester finds the going tough here. Although headroom helps and its 'boot' is long and spacious, there's nowhere near as much room in the rear row. Sor ting out seat comfor t is simpler. RAV4's seats are firmer throughout, with well shaped and suppor tive front pews and the most comfor table centre rear spot. A note of caution though. With a full load, passengers in the outer rear spots in RAV4, Forester and Compass may find their head restraints poorly placed. CR-V's softer seating is a step behind, with another step backwards to flatter Outlander and Forester pews, the former faltering in the second row and the latter lacking up front. Those considering Outlander's third row should be aware that those seats lack padding and are terribly shaped. Compass loses direction on seating. It's too firm and flat up front, and the rears also prove uncomfor table. The biggest practicality distinction is the spare tyres. Outlander and Compass Limited of fer only a space-saver, which is an unacceptable back-up on rough roads. RAV4 and CR-V share honours on practicality, followed by Outlander, Forester and Compass. We like CR-V's split-level boot divider and the automatic tumbling rear seats in Outlander and RAV4. We're not fans of Jeep's key-operated fuel caps, but the flashlight is a nice touch. RAV's swing-out, but non-locking, tailgate suffers on slopes, while its seatback child restraint points disappear when the row slides right back. Outlander's folding tailgate also divides opinion. There's no contest on build with CR-V holding an edge over RAV4, despite the latter's reputation. Put its superiority down to better plastics and paint gloss. Which is not to denigrate RAV4, ahead of the other quality Japanese contestants. Both Outlander and Forester are competitive externally but have some way to go inside. Compass is off course on quality. Its blunt interior is a few points south on presentation and feel, while outside is also needs tighter panel margins. On the environmental front CR-V, RAV4 and Compass all rate as three-and-a-half star prospects in the Green Vehicle Guide, with Outlander and Forester on three stars. On the road It's no surprise that buyers of the most car-like 4WDs place most emphasis on handling and braking, ahead of per formance and ride. With that in mind, RAV4 and CR-V are front-runners. The Honda stands out on handling, with high grip levels, flat cornering and light, likeable steering qualities. RAV4 has heavier steering with a touch more feel, but has more body roll through corners. On the downside, CR-V's turning circle is larger, while RAV4's other wise grippy tyres squeal with minimal provocation. Both brake ef fectively -- the pedal feel better in the Honda and the stopping distance shor ter in the Toyota. The nearest challenger is Forester, with its laudable handling. The Subaru's steering is as rewarding as ever, however lean through corners is more apparent and its grip and braking Jeep offers reasonable engine per formance. Mitsubishi manages a punchy engine.
June July 2007
October November 2007