Next generation small SUVs increase fuel efficiency

The 2013 model year has brought consumers next-generation versions of the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4 and Ford Escape. To see how these new designs treat the planet, we scored these popular small SUVs using our environmental yardstick. For rating purposes, each selection other than the EV version of the RAV4 was equipped with all-wheel drive (AWD), a popular option with SUV owners. (To see how the selection of AWD influences a vehicle’s eRating, see this article in our Thinking Green section.) While not all-new for 2013, the Chevy Equinox is included among the comparisons to aid customers interested in shopping across makes.

Make and Model$MSRPSpecsMPG(e)
(cty / hwy / comb)
Toyota RAV4 EV50,645154 hp electric motor, 103 mile range78 / 74 / 76183
Chevrolet Equinox26,6452.4 L 182 hp 4 cyl.,
6-speed automatic
20 / 29 / 23126
Honda CR-V24,8752.4 L 185 hp 4 cyl.,
5-speed auto
22 / 30 / 25110
Ford Escape27,6451.6 L 178 hp 4 cyl.,
6-speed auto
22 / 30 / 25110
Toyota RAV425,5452.5 L 179 hp 4 cyl.,
6-speed auto
22 / 29 / 25109


2013 Chevy Equinox

Environment.  The RAV4 EV easily tops the eRatings due to its all-electric powertrain. Among the full-function gasoline models, however, the Chevy Equinox comes out on top. This carry-over model benefits from a gasoline powertrain engineered to produce a notably cleaner than average level of smog-causing emissions, setting the Equinox apart from the pack in this regard even though its fuel economy is not best in class.

The most fuel efficient models in this crop of compact SUVs  achieve a 25 mpg combined mileage rating. The new Ford Escape improves 2 mpg over last year’s model and the Toyota RAV4 bests its predecessor by 1 mpg, boosting each vehicle’s eRating accordingly.

Performance.  Automotive journalists have praised the Equinox and RAV4 for good manners during road trips but noted the Equinox’s inhibited steering response. Reviewers also ding the Escape as less nimble than its Focus chassis mate, not a real surprise for a sport-utility design. Any of these cute utes will provide a fairly comfortable ride, but no one should expect to win impromptu street races with such wheels unless, that is, you find yourself in a Toyota RAV4 EV with the seven second zero-to-sixty time of its torquey all-electric drive.

Stand-out technology.  Similar to the rising content trends seen throughout the market, this year’s batch of small SUVs sees an increase in standard offerings of premium technologies. Also featured are eco-driving modes or indicators and improved aerodynamics. Both the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 offer backup cameras and Bluetooth connectivity on all trim levels. These two SUVs also offer an eco mode, which encourages efficient driving by praising the person at the wheel for light-footed habits and by optimizing powertrain response to rapid changes in power demand. The RAV4 and Escape both emphasize improved aerodynamics, with the RAV4 offering underbody trays and the Escape sporting a redesigned exterior that reduces drag by 10% over the previous generation.

2013 Honda CR-V

Toyota is offering a limited quantity of the RAV4 EV to California customers. Electrified by Tesla Motors, Toyota’s partner in the project, this battery-powered version of the RAV4 boasts an EPA-estimated range of 103 miles. With an eRating of 183, the RAV4 EV greatly out scores its conventional sibling as well as all other compact SUV competition.

This new batch of small SUVs offers signs of progress in both premium offerings and fuel efficiency, spelling good news for both car shoppers and the planet.



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