My Picks for 15 Compact Family SUVs from Best to Worst!


2012 Kia Sportage

As a rule I get to test a whole lot of compact family SUVs which to many auto journalists is looked upon as a negative experience. However, I seek out afforadble family SUVs whenever I can so that I can let you know which ones are dogs (sorry Daisy Mae) and which ones are great. No, there may be no Ferraris in my future but as long as families need affordable crossovers I will be there to road test them. 

 This may not be as glamorous as testing an expensive luxury sport coupe but in this economy not many people need help with that kind of new car purchase. Sensible, affordable, efficient and relatively compact SUVs are the vehicles that American families actually need.

Forester XT! Yummy!
The following  family SUVs may not share the exact specification, engine design, vehicle layout or MSRP but they are all undeniably mainstream.  Hence, no Lexus, Audi or Mercedes entrants on this list.

Since I spent so much time with these family favorites over my many weeklong car reviews, I learned a lot more than you can glean from one short test drive. Don’t get me wrong, test drives are important when you are buying a new car. But when I get an SUV for a week I am reviewing it in depth for families who are going to rely on it with near religious devotion for years to come.

I quickly realized that during a test drive there is no way for a person to uncover all of the annoying, inconvenient and terrifying weaknesses that can become glaringly obvious after 7 days and nights with an SUV.  Quite tellingly, I rarely feel the same way about a test SUV on both the first and final day I have it.
Ah, take the family or haul junk?

So where do I find problems? To start with, SUV interiors are afforded more  abuse and damage than Alanis Morissette heaped onto the word “ironic” in the lyrics to her 1990’s hit song of the same name. Ah yes, many SUV engineers underestimate the sweet tyranny of children. They also forget about the destructive power of a canine who doesn’t like strangers walking by the family SUV in the parking lot of a grocery store.

Also, if your SUV is going to be a chariot for your family pet then you absolutely must consider how to safely transport them in a buckled harness, crate or other similar option. Different SUVs have differing levels of pet friendliness. For more information about SUVs and pet safety check out the BarkBuckleUp.com website.

CR-V
But there is more to an SUV than its interior. There’s also cargo space, passenger comfort, fuel efficiency, cost of ownership and the all-important value for dollar quotient. I can’t think of many American families who aren’t scrimping and saving nowadays, so who wants to spend too much on their next family SUV?
Now, here in an updated form is my current list of the best (and worst) compact crossover SUV Suburban crawlers for sale in 2012. And to be quite honest, the last three vehicles at the bottom of the list are the only ones that I absolutely would NEVER allow a friend to purchase. Sure, the Liberty rules off-road as I found at a Jeep event on dirt trails but as for on-road comfort it is really lacking.

My  Current Picks for Best Compact Family SUV  from Best to Worst
2012 Honda CR-V
2012 GMC Terrain
2012 Kia Sportage
2012 VW Tiguan
2012 Subaru Forester
2012 Kia Sorento
 2012 Nissan Juke
2012 Hyundai Tucson
2012 Toyota RAV4
 2012 Toyota Highlander
2012 Ford Edge
2012 Jeep Patriot
 2012 Mitsubishi Outlander
2012 Nissan Rogue
2012 Jeep Liberty
And deservedly dead last…
2012 Suzuki Grand Vitara (yes, it’s still for sale…only now with an odd quad-color leather seating design that makes the insides of this SUV look like a pimp exploded.)

Aren’t you dead yet?

Autobytel’s Review of 2012 Toyota Camry Ends with a Shocker! It’s, well, fun?


For Full Article Click Here to see the full free review click HERE to go to Autobytel.com!

It’s truly amazing how far automotive technology can come in such a very short period of time. Granted, new cars like the 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid are the result of an overwhelming amount of cash, man hours and no doubt a fair amount of late night binge drinking in bars and restaurants near Toyota City in Japan. Although we haven’t been inside Toyota City, we imagine it must be enormous since Toyota’s U.S. HQ in Torrance is known just as “Toyota University” and we need a Scion shuttle to get us from one building to the another.

Either way, take our word for it that both places are big. Just like the announcement we are about to make to every person out there who just would never, ever buy a hybrid because of their few but seemingly ever-present driving quirks. Some consider these quirks as annoying as Richard Simmons in a glitter factory but at worst we found most vehicles of this type to merely be guilty of the sin of being “boring to drive.” Sadly, that was practically the sole defining character trait of the last generation Camry Hybrid whose utter lack of any spirit made you want to somehow make it cry. At least a Prius is visually inventive from a design perspective whereas the Camry had reached its bottom in regard to boredom.

We should have known something was up with the new 2012 Camry when Toyota held the launch party at a Hollywood movie studio and part of the vehicle presentation was a cacophony of confetti cannons and young, hip looking flash mob dancers gyrating around the new car. At least 200 of them we estimated but once you’ve seen one slacker they start to blend into one another with time. We are quite sure 178 of these “flashmobbers” had a soul patch.

After rubbing our eyes and pinching ourselves to ensure we were awake, we drove all of the new Camry models and found we were most astonished by the sea change found in the Hybrid version. This called for us to investigate further with a one week real world road test, of course, as we suspected Toyota slipped something funny in our Diet Coke at that party. So, were our impressions of the 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid all a dream that day? Read on to find out if we like the Hybrid Camry as much as we anticipated or if disappointment will break our battery powered hearts.

To read detailed impressions about this Camry Hybrid go to the full free review on Autobytel.com

2012 Kia Optima SX Road Test and Review | Autobytel.com


We think rather highly of the 2012 Kia Optima, made obvious by its recent win as the Autobytel Sedan of the Year. In just one model cycle, the little South Korean underdog went from tailing most of the entire sedan pack (barring your sister’s ’84 Mitsubishi Galant) in style and sophistication to all but domanitating the entire segment.

Though the Optima itself delivers an overall rewarding experience for most economical buyers, the real crowd pleaser is the Optima SX turbo. New for 2012, the Optima SX is powered by a special 2.0 liter twin-scroll, which pumps out 274 horsepower/269 lb. feet of torque. The unit is mated to one of Kia’s own 6-speed automatics and boasts EPA estimates of 22 city /34 highway – which is an incredibly optimistic figure given how tempting it is to really work the spirited four-banger. In real-word testing, we averaged around 19 mpg.

Click here for full review!

2012 Kia Optima SX Road Test and Review | Autobytel.com

Alternative Energy Alternatives: 2012 VW Passat TDI vs. 2011 Ford Fusion Hybrid


When compared to the current generation Toyota Camry Hybrid that is soon going to be replaced with an all-new 2012 model, the 2011 Ford Fusion Hybrid is actually the superior vehicle with better power, a longer battery range and a more appealing interior with plenty of hi-tech goodies. But no market segment in the car world sits still for long and a 2012 Camry Hybrid looms on the horizon as does the new menace in the high mileage family sedan market known as the 2012 VW Passat TDI.

So will the Fusion Hybrid be able to handle all of the challenges it will face in the coming model year? As we have already driven the 2012 VW Passat TDI already, we can safely already say that the diesel engine VW with the 795 mile range is not only more fun to drive but also competitively fuel efficient with 31 city/43 highway readings to the Fusion’s 41 city/36 highway EPA figures. Either way, both the Fusion Hybrid and 2012 Passat TDI impress in their own unique ways-the VW mainly if you have trouble with the usual “hybrid quirks.”

To read more click here/
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Autobytel: Intro and Link to My Road Test Review of the 2012 Toyota Camry XLE V6


There’s really only so much that you can learn about a completely new and redesigned car when your only real experience with it is in the controlled environment of a manufacturer sponsored press launch. These events are the best way to find out all of the stats, technical info and pick the brains of the engineers and designers who spent years working on this one automotive project. But only by living with this new model for a week can you be sure to find out how it performs in the real world that buyers of these cars live in.

Now all of that is all that should be expected from an automaker as auto journalists at press launches only get initial impressions out there via test drive routes that are mapped out by automakers in advance. Rumor has it that it isn’t unheard of for these test roads to be specially chosen to mask certain, shall we say, known deficiencies?

For the rest of the article, hit Autobytel.com right here. Like, now!