Why Buy Anything Other Than A CUV?
The auto industry is a lot like high school. Each year, you’ve got a new graduating class and a fresh-faced group of youngsters to fill in the ranks. This year, the incoming class is full of small compact utility vehicles and they’re making quite the splash. While crossovers have been around for years, it’s the newest pint-sized CUV segment that is catching our attention. The latest crossovers are built on popular hatchback platforms, which add all-wheel drive and a more capable ride height to an already flexible design. It begs the question, “Why would you buy anything else?”
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The Buick Encore started the trend when it caught the North American market sleeping in 2013, selling 31,000 vehicles in its first year. It offers all-wheel-drive and surprisingly premium materials, even though underneath it shares the underpinnings of the Chevrolet Sonic hatchback. Starting at $25,000 for luxury and four-driven wheels, it’s almost a steal, so much so that Chevy is peddling its global cousin, the 2015 Trax (above), for next year.
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GM certainly isn’t the only company ahead of the crossover curve. Fiat-Chrysler is set to release the highly anticipated Jeep Renegade much later this year. The Renegade offers a full-time all-wheel-drive system paired with Jeep’s nine-speed automatic transmission. And to sweeten the deal further it receives your choice of the 1.4L turbocharged engine from the Fiat 500 Abarth or Chrysler’s 2.4L Tigershark mill.
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BMW offers the X1 and the rally-proven MINI Countryman from Germany to fill out the up-market segment. Returning MINI customers will notice the substantial size increase and the X1 xDrive28i (base AWD model) might even set your seat back with 240-horsepower on tap.
Not to be outdone, Honda will release a pumped-up version of the Fit hatchback for 2015 in the form of the HR-V. Think of it as the CR-V’s little brother. Honda hasn’t announced the specifics aside from its sibling’s 1.5L engine.
So if you’re an average commuter but don’t want to give up SUV capability, you no longer have to. The newest batch of micro CUVs offer American buyers exceptional fuel economy from Monday to Friday with plucky versatility for all your weekend projects. Meet the new freshman class. They might be here to stay.
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