In a segment as diverse as it is popular, the range of options in small crossovers includes the Nissan Juke, Jeep Patriot, Hyundai Tuscon and Kia Sportage. We rate this selection of 2012 models in the all-wheel or four-wheel drive versions that many consumers choose.
Designed more for clubbing than for climbing, the all-wheel drive (AWD) Nissan Juke comes out on top for both eRating and horsepower. That’s thanks to its very advanced engine — a turbocharged, direct-injected 1.6 liter powerplant with features that boost output over large portions of the RPM range. Mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT), the resulting combination yields both efficiency and performance, and an eRating of 115.
The Juke is the first vehicle to employ this highly developed engine in North America and its use earns the vehicle the manufacturer’s “PUREDRIVE” designation, meant to signify vehicles that provide affordable, eco-friendly technologies. The Juke also offers a drive mode selector that allows the driver to choose among normal, sport and fuel-saving eco-driving modes.
But if climbing’s your gig — and that means trails, not just a social scene — the Jeep Patriot presents two versions of capability including the Jeep “Trail Rated” Freedom Drive II (the version we rate), with a low-range gear set designed for slowly crawling along tough trails. Mated to a 2.4 liter “World Gas Engine” that exploits the small engine design prowess of Fiat, the Jeep brand’s owner, the Trail Rated Patriot earns an eRating of 110.
This version of the Patriot also comes with tow hooks, skid plates, fog lamps and a full-size spare tire to help get you out of rough situations if you find yourself on tougher-than-expected trails. The interior has not been overlooked either with the inclusion of clever features like an overhead cargo lamp that can be removed and used as an LED flashlight, and an adjustable, sliding center arm rest.
If your idea of outdoor adventure leans more toward snow-slickened roads instead of boulder-strewn trails, Jeep offers the Freedom Drive I package that provides AWD without the low-range gear set. This option earns an eRating of 117, edging out the Juke for first place.
The Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage tie for third place, both receiving an eRating of 104*. These vehicles utilize the same direct-injected “Theta II” four-cylinder engine but employ different advanced technologies to boost fuel efficiency. The Tucson utilizes an “Active Eco System” to smooth changes in engine power output, which increases mileage up to seven percent. Kia chose to retune the powertrain and provide an increase of one mpg on the highway over last year’s model (FWD only).
Both vehicles also come with a fuel-saving AWD systems that power only the front wheels during regular driving. When tire slippage is detected, power is directed to all wheels for increased traction.
Thanks to vehicle manufacturers’ increased attention to vehicle efficiency, consumers now have a variety of options that provide both style and rugged capability without sacrificing fuel economy.
|Make and Model||$MSRP||Specs||City/Hwy/Comb MPG||eRating|
|Nisssan Juke||22,430||1.6 L 188 hp 4 cyl., CVT||25 / 30 / 27||115|
|Jeep Patriot||20,820||2.4 L 172 hp 4 cyl.,CVT|
with low-range gear set
|20 / 23 / 21||110|
|Hyundai Tucson||24,790||2.4 L 176 hp 4 cyl., 6-speed auto||20 / 27 / 23*||104*|
|Kia Sportage||23,100||2.4 L 176 hp 4 cyl., 6-speed auto||20 / 27 / 23*||104*|
*Mileage and eRating reflect corrected EPA mileage estimates.