In recent years, “cute utes” have become an increasingly important segment of the car market. As its name suggests, CUVs serve the same utilitarian functions as off-road SUV trucks, while also attracting a wider audience than family-focused minivan buyers.
Their eRating class average of 91 comes in slightly higher than the average of 88 for minivans. This three-point lead can be attributed to the generally lower curb weights of the CUVs relative to the minivans even though these vehicles share the same platforms and achieve similar fuel economies. For example, the Toyota Sienna and Toyota Venza share the same front-wheel drive, 3.5-liter V-6 engine and 6-speed automatic transmission, but the Venza is 510 lbs lighter, which helps it score an eRating of 94 compared to the Sienna’s 88.
As it turns out, the front-wheel drive Toyota Venza is the highest scorer among the models we rated in this segment. With a combined fuel economy of 22 mpg, a price tag of $26,625 and weight of 3,870 lbs, this lean-for-its-size champ scores an eRating of 94. Among CUVs, the Venza might be the greenest car for hauling kids around while trekking surfboards to the beach.
Close contenders with scores of 93 were the Ford Edge SE and the Honda Crosstour EX. Interestingly, the Ford Edge SE weighs 230 lbs heavier than the Honda Crosstour EX, but they both get the same combined fuel economies. This may be due to the difference in transmissions—the Ford Edge boasts the more fuel efficient 6-speed automatic transmission, while the Honda Crosstour has a 5-speed automatic.
To round out this group, the Nissan Murano S with AWD standard scored an eRating of 88. The Ford Flex SE scored the lowest with an 86, but it is also the heaviest at almost 4,500 lbs.
The difference in weight among CUVs has a notable effect on their eRatings. A lighter vehicle has less material and subsequently less energy and pollution tied to the fabrication of the additional materials.
The vehicles in this segment have traditionally been difficult to discern from other similar “crossover” vehicles. As a clarification on these vehicle selections, we chose crossovers with similar starting MSRPs and engine sizes. In future posts we’ll examine other vehicles, such as small SUVs, which are sometimes cross-shopped with the CUVs discussed here.
|Vehicle Make||Model||Transmission||Engine||City/Hwy MPG||Comb MPG||$MSRP||eRating|
|Toyota||Venza||6-speed auto||6 cyl||19 / 26 mpg||22 mpg||26,600||94|
|Honda||Crosstour EX||5-speed auto||6 cyl||18 / 27 mpg||21 mpg||29,800||93|
|Ford||Edge SE||6-speed auto||6 cyl||19 / 26 mpg||21 mpg||27,200||93|
|Nissan||Murano S||CVT||6 cyl||18 / 23 mpg||20 mpg||28,500||88|
|Ford||Flex SE||6-speed auto||6 cyl||17 / 24 mpg||19 mpg||29200||86|