The Road Ahead : August September 2007
52 AUG/SEP 07 ability are found wanting at times. Outlander offers decent grip levels and some body roll, however excessive kickback blights its meaty steering. Its brakes work well. Compass is a sound handler and solid stopper, a revelation by old Jeep standards, but lacks some steering surety and roadholding qualities in this company. Little separates all five cars on per formance, however Japanese examples remain on top, this time Outlander and RAV4. Outlander's engine is punchy, while the responsive CVT auto offers sequential shifting to stir things along. RAV's engine is ever y bit as strong and its gearbox ratios prove ideal, with reassuring kick-down response. Mitsubishi's 1500 kg braked towing capacity can be used with a full vehicle payload. Compass swings into the spotlight on per formance with strong test acceleration times, a meaty mid-range and another CVT box. Overall though, it is less convincing than Outlander. Despite substantial dif ferences in weight, CR-V and Forester are locked together on acceleration measures, both slower than their peers in over taking tasks. However, the Honda's smooth, five-speed gearbox doesn't falter and hunt like the Subaru's four-speed unit. Forester does, however, soothe over rough roads with a comfor table ride and disciplined suspension. It heads the firm but well-damped RAV4. CR-V's usual absorbency changes on unformed sur faces and the front end jiggles, while Outlander's firmer suspension picks up too many imper fections. Compass is softer and pampering, however it gets unruly on rough roads and rebound control is underdone over bigger bumps. Quietest is the CR-V. RAV4 is a little behind, while Forester battles tyre noise. Both prove better than the CVT couple. Outlander's tyres and engine are vocal, while Compass falls foul of suspension and engine din. Off road The most innocuous lumps will defeat these cars if they manage to lose grip on two wheels in diagonally opposite corners -- even the vehicles with switchable 4WD locking systems. WHAT THE STARS SAYCR-V Forester X RAV4 Outlander Compass Sport Cruiser XLS Limited Price Equipment Running & repair costs Fuel economy Safety Space/practicality Build Performance Ride Handling Conclusion Those with lockable systems power up loose slopes, but CR-V also impresses in the same scenario. A greater advantage can be found in deeper conditions, where the Honda and RAV4 struggle for ground clearance. RAV4's for tunes rise on unformed roads. The Toyota revels on gravel, its ride and handling package unfazed by rough stretches -- the sor t of sur faces that give the driving wheels of Outlander and CR-V the stutters. Mitsubishi finds its feet when drive is sent through all four wheels but the ride is too firm. Subaru nips along nicely on gravel, however its grip levels are an issue, while Compass is predictable and steady, if not inspiring on the loose stuff. All vehicles have at least one recover y point. The spare tyres in the Jeep and Outlander are pitfalls. Conclusion Car companies often act like they are playing for sheep stations, but you needn't be fleeced in the search for a competent compact 4x4. You'll stand out from the herd in the Jeep, but it has some shor tfalls, including build, ergonomics, comfor t and practicality. Compass takes Jeep in a new direction, however it doesn't char t a new course for the categor y. Outlander's per formance, space, warranty and cost are all admirable qualities. We're uncer tain about build quality and fret about ride and noise issues, however this able soft-roader adds glitter to the Diamond Brand. Subaru's soft-roader is ageing gracefully, however Forester's size remains a weakness and its dynamics don't dominate any more. Automatic Foresters are not quite as versatile or as willing as their manual mates, while the acclaimed base car doesn't surrender much to fancier versions. Buyers will warm to top RAV4 or CR-V variants. Both are slightly superior to the flock, due to outstanding design and safety qualities, excellent on-road traits and sound economic credentials. When the contenders are this close, it's a stretch to call an outright winner. Both are a snip above. It may come down to styling to wrap up the buy. Pictures taken at historic Jondar yan Woolshed, the first purpose-built shearing shed in the countr y. Visits cost from $9 on weekdays and the billy tea and damper is wor th the visit. Phone 4692 2229 or visit www.jondar yanwoolshed.com. The Honda's handling habits are sound.
June July 2007
October November 2007