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Ratings of small 2009 SUVs


Consumer Reports magazine test compares Toyota RAV4, Subaru Forester, Ford Escape, Jeep Patriot and Suzuki Grand Vitara

2009 Toyota RAV4.Yonkers, NY -- The freshened four-cylinder 2009 Toyota RAV4 outpointed competitors including the Subaru Forester 2.5X in Consumer Reports' tests of six small SUVS for its May 2009 issue.

In this class, the RAV4's overall road test score of 82 is below only that of the more expensive, turbocharged Forester2.5 XT Limited and RAV4 V6. But when comparing the most popular four-cylinder versions of these vehicles, recent incremental improvements allow the RAV4 four-cylinder to edge out the similarly equipped Forester and all others in this month's test group.

The RAV4 got a new 2.5-litre, four cylinder engine for 2009, replacing the old 2.4 litre. The smoother, quieter engine delivers the same fuel economy as the one it replaces, which at 23 mpg overall, is the best of any automatic, non-hybrid SUV Consumer Reports has tested.

2009 Subaru Forester.The RAV4 and Forester are both excellent choices. The Forester has a slightly more comfortable ride, and the RAV4 is a bit more sparing with fuel. The RAV4's edge over the Forester in the popular low-to-mid $20,000s price range is why it was named a Top Pick in CR's Annual Auto Issue.

“The RAV4 is a well-rounded package, combining good all-around performance with a comfortable ride, agile handling and outstanding reliability,” said David Champion, senior director of Consumer Reports AutoTest Center. “It also offers an optional third-row seat, which is unusual in this class.”

The Ford Escape has been updated this year, with revised four-and six-cylinder engines, six-speed automatic transmissions, and better brakes. Rounding out the test group of small SUVs are the Suzuki Grand Vitara, now available in a four-cylinder version, and the updated Jeep Patriot.

Full tests and ratings are available to subscribers of www.ConsumerReports.org.

2009 Ford Escape

2009 Ford Escape.Little has changed with the Ford Escape since 2001. The four-cylinder and V6 engines are noisy. The Hybrid was a bit floaty on the highway and the four-cylinder engine sounds taxed and harsh. The V6 is easier to live with. The Ford Escape is powered by a 171-hp, 2.5-litre four cylinder engine that delivered average performance and chalked up 21 mpg overall. The Hybrid's four-cylinder, combined with its electric motor, makes 177-hp, but is slower than the base four-cylinder. Braking improved from the 2008 model CR tested. The interiors for all three tested versions have hard plastics with some wide gaps. Cargo volume is quite good.

2009 Suzuki Grand Vitara

2009 Suzuki Grand Vitara.CR's testers found that the Grand Vitara falls far short of the best in this class but has some virtues. Equipped with a newly released four-cylinder engine, the powertrain is sluggish, lacks refinement, and is not very economical with fuel. The ride is stiff and choppy, and handling lacks agility. Despite its everyday clumsiness, emergency handling is very secure. The Grand Vitara is powered by a 166-hp, 2.4-litre, four-cylinder engine that provides adequate performance. Expect to average just 19 mpg overall using regular fuel. The four-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly but doesn't downshift promptly. Braking distances were short, and headlights were good. The interior uses high-quality trim that fits well. Cargo room is adequate.

2009 Jeep Patriot

2009 Jeep Patriot.The Patriot has received some tweaks to fit and finish and noise suppression, but it remains an also-ran. Its compact size and good fuel economy, 22 mpg overall, are pluses. But tight quarters, a noisy engine, lack of agility, and impaired view out detract from the driving experience and drag the overall score below CR's threshold for Recommending it. Reliability has been above average. The Patriot, is powered by a 172-hp, 2.4-litre, four-cylinder engine that provides average performance. The continuously variable transmission works well. Braking and headlight distances were quite good. Although the interior is revamped, it remains spartan. Components fit well but feel cheap. Most controls are fairly easy to use, and cargo space is fairly generous.

Videos of most of the vehicles in this test group are available at http://tinyurl.com/cdokcg.

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