Road Test: 2016 Fiat 500X

Road Test: 2016 Fiat 500X

The Best-Looking and Most Versatile Fiat

Introduced in 2015, the 2016 Fiat 500X is the fourth model to come from the storied Italian company, joining the 500, 500C Abarth and 500L. The 500X shares a platform with the Jeep Renegade (or maybe it’s vice versa), both of which are built in Melfi, Italy. Each have differences that make them attractive to different buyers. We earlier drove the Jeep Renegade and will now take a look at the 500X and some of those differences.

Drivetrain

Clean Fleet Report drove the 2016 Fiat 500X for a week, and, along with the 2015 Jeep Renegade, at a FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) press event at Willow Springs Raceway in the California

2016,fiat,500X,CUV,fashion

The style king?

desert. There are several advantages of side-by-side drive opportunities, including jumping from one car to the other to experience handling and engine performance. Both the Fiat 500X and Jeep Renegade come with the same engine packages—a four-cylinder turbocharged 16-valve 1.4-liter inline, multi-air, single overhead cam engine with sequential multiport electronic fuel injection; and the 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder, normally aspirated 16-valve engine with multiport electronic fuel injection. Both run on unleaded regular. The 83 cubic inch (1.4L) produces 160 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque through Fiat’s six-speed automatic transmission, delivering an EPA rating of 25 city/34 highway/28 combined. The 144 cubic inches (2.4L) kicks-out 180 hp and 175 lb-ft of torque through a nine-speed automatic transmission. The larger of the two engines is rated at 22 city/31 highway/25 combined. The all-wheel drive version with the 2.4L turns in 21 city/30 highway/24 combined.

The 1.4L turbo was smooth at both around town driving and cruising at highway speeds, but we would have appreciated more power, which is where the 2.4L comes in. We felt this engine, along with the nine-speed automatic, provided some extra grunt necessary to move these 3,000-pound cars with more confidence and ease, especially when selecting the Sport and Traction+ drive modes. However, neither engine and transmission combination could be considered fast. An interesting note on the nine-speed automatic is that I never could get it to shift into the ninth gear. I tried long, flat highway straightaways at 55, 60, 65 and 70+ mph, but the best I could eek out was eighth gear.

Driving Experience: On the Road

2016 Fiat,500X,CUV,mpg

A slow, but stable cruiser

Clean Fleet Report’s front-wheel drive 2016 Fiat 500X was equipped with 215/55R17 all-season tires mounted on 17-inch aluminum wheels with a five-slot design for a nice-looking wheel and tire combination. Fiat says the “touring tuned suspension” on the 500X “delivers driving excitement…and a superior ride and handling.” Having the chance to drive the 500X and Jeep Renegade back-to-back, I would say the 500X is designed more for city driving. The 500X’s taut suspension was a bit softer than the Renegade, which carries with it Jeep’s more rugged DNA and was tighter while cornering and more rigid of the two.

The 500X was stable at highway speeds with all high-speed cornering and maneuvers performed as desired. Aiding the handling was the electric rack and pinion steering (with Variable-speed Assisted Sensitivity) that was thankfully not so neutered to lose the feel of the road, plus MacPherson front suspension, struts and stabilizer bars front and rear. My take was the 500X handled well to its limits, but to say it was exciting might be stretching it a bit. Wind noise was minimal until anything above 35mph. With the sunroof open, it became a tough ride where even cranking-up the stereo made things worse.

Stopping was through the single-piston, vented front and solid rear rotor power-assist brakes. The 500X comes with anti-lock brake System (ABS), brake assist, all-speed traction control system (TCS), electronic brake-force distribution (EBD) and electronic stability control (ESC).

Driving Experience: Interior

Access was easy through wide doors leading to a high driver and front passenger seat positions. The cloth front seats have six-way manual adjustments, and, with the manual tilt and telescoping

2016 Fiat,500x,interior

A comfortable position

steering column, a good seating position was not hard to find and long trips did not cause noticeable leg or back fatigue. The front passenger seat folds flat and there are two glove boxes and a front center sliding armrest with storage.

The rear seat can accommodate five adults with ample leg room, with the caveat that if the driver or front passenger are tall, then leg room could be compromised. There is good storage with the 60/40 folding rear seat in its upright position. When folded, the extra storage easily allows for larger items. Sightlines are very good, especially calling-out the A pillar design not being so beefy as to block the frontward view.

The Fiat 500X dash has a clean, straight-forward design with everything laid-out in logical, easy-to-read locations. The combination of knobs, switches and buttons for the climate and radio controls are exactly where you want and need them. Our car was equipped with a six-speaker sound system and a 6.5-inch color touch screen for the Uconnect operating system with navigation, SiriusXM satellite radio (One year subscription included), AM/FM/CD/MP3 HD radio and voice command with Bluetooth for hands-free phone and streaming audio. The leather-wrapped steering wheel has controls for audio, phone and cruise control that are easy to use on a system with a quick operational learning curve.

2016 Fiat,500X, interior

Room for three

The 500X had convenience features such as a dual-pane power sunroof, power windows with one-touch express up and down, power door locks, heated power exterior mirrors with turn signals, dual zone automatic temperature control, front and rear floor mats, remote keyless entry, 12V power outlet, multiple cup holders and an auto-dimming rear view mirror.

Driving Experience: Exterior

The 2016 Fiat 500X has a fresh design and a stance that says aggressive while also being slick and almost Audi-like, especially when looking at the side panels. The

2016,fiat 500X,styling

Some Italian fashion

front has the familiar Fiat mustache and logo badge above dual horizontal air slots and bi-function Halogen projector headlamps set wide on the rounded, sculpted fender corners. The 500X has no unnecessary cladding or chrome work, with tasteful black insets below the rear hatch.

The 500X is offered in 12 different exterior colors, including our test car’s Grigio Argento (Grey Metallic) with the smoke-black tinted sunroof. Other colors are Blu Venezia, Verde Toscana and Bronzo Magnetico, plus several other exotics in the color palette.

Safety and Convenience

The 2016 Fiat 500X has not been rated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, but has earned the Top Safety Pick by the IIHS, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The 500X is equipped with seven airbags, a ParkView rear backup camera, ParkSense rear park assist, blind spot monitoring and rear cross path detection, an engine immobilizer and security alarm, tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS), tire service kit (no spare tire), brake assist, hill start assist and cruise control.

Pricing and Warranties

2016 Fiat 500X,interior,flexibility

Open for functionality

Available in five trim levels, the 2016 Fiat 500X has a base price of $20,000 for the Pop model all the way up to $27,100 for the Trekking Plus. Additional equipment and packages will affect your final price, including an all-wheel-drive option. Clean Fleet Report was driving a 500X Easy with the Easy Collection 3 Package having a MSRP of $24,900, including the $900 destination charge.

All 2015 Fiat 500X models come with these warranties:

  • Basic – Four-year/50,000-mile
  • Powertrain – Four-year/50,000-mile
  • Rust-Through – Five-year/Unlimited mile
  • Roadside Assistance – Four-year/Unlimited mile

Observations: 2016 Fiat 500X

Designed at Fiat’s Centro Stile in Turin, Italy, Fiat says its “designers leveraged the character and iconic features of the Fiat 500 into a larger and more mature package.” Breaking down this

2016,Fiat,500X,small CUV,

A new player in an increasingly crowded space

statement into its pieces, it is easy to agree that the 500X is arguably the best looking of the three Fiat (four if you count the Abarth as a separate model) models. The 500X has a flow of sculptured lines that looks more natural and comfortable than the 500L and is better proportioned than the very compact 500. The 500X is part of the FCA Global Small, Wide Architecture design platform which will undoubtedly show-up in more Fiat, Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep vehicles in the years ahead.

The 500X has some steep competition in the small Crossover category including the Jeep Renegade, Mazda CX-3, Nissan Juke, Honda HR-V, Chevrolet Trax, Buick Encore and Mini Cooper Paceman.

So does the 2016 Fiat 500X rise above any of these? Clean Fleet Report will let you cross-shop these and other crossovers to decide for yourself. But if you are looking for Italian automotive design with a lineage of Ferrari, Lancia and Alfa Romeo, or maybe recalling the great Italian fashion icons such as Armani, Gucci and Versace, then the 500X is for you.

With a base price of $20,000 and fully optioned for around $30,000, the Fiat 500X should be on your shopping list.

Whatever you end up buying, enjoy your new car and as always, Happy Driving!

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Disclosure:

Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle, which does not address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology, during which we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements. Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class or are among the top mpg vehicles on the market. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.

 

Road Test: 2015 Nissan Rogue SL FWD

Road Test: 2015 Nissan Rogue SL FWD

A Comfortable Fit For Your Driveway

Completely redesigned for the 2014 model year, the 2015 Nissan Rogue continues to be one of the best midsize SUVs and is Nissan’s second best-selling vehicle. Roomy and fuel-wise, the Rogue just might look perfect in your driveway. It’s got style and delivers well beyond 33 mpg on the highway, fits five or seven passengers and comes with either front- (FWD) or all-wheel drive (AWD).

Drivetrain

Both (FWD/AWD) versions of the 2015 Nissan Rogue SL use the same 2.5L, 16-valve, Inline, four-cylinder engine with sequential multi-port electronic fuel injection. Running on unleaded

2015,Nissan,Rogue,SL,CUV,mpg

Looking for a new driveway

regular, it puts-out 170 hp and 175 lb-ft of torque through Nissan’s Xtronic Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT), which is rated at 25 City / 33 Highway / 28 Combined for the FWD, and 25/32/28 for the AWD. In 300 miles of 70-percent highway /30-percent city driving we averaged 29.8 mpg in our FWD 2015 Nissan Rogue.

Driving Experience: On the Road

The five-door (four doors plus a hatch) Rogue weighs in at 3,481 lbs. and never felt heavy. The 58/42 front-to-rear weight distribution was easy to maneuver, thanks to the electric power-assisted and speed-sensitive steering. Handling was confident with little body roll through all speeds and situations, helped by the 225/60R18 all-season tires on 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels and Active Ride Control, which applies the brakes and adjusts engine torque to smooth out bumps in the road. The Rogue also has independent struts, coil springs and stabilizer bar in front and a rear independent multi-link set-up with twin tube shocks and a stabilizer bar.

2015 Nissan,Rogue SL,fuel economy

Sleek and stylish

The CVT-equipped Rogue was, as I have found with other cars using CVT transmissions, delivered an overall good driving experience. Nissan’s continued development of CVT technology has resulted in a transmission with no shift-points (because there are no gears to shift) that helps deliver increased fuel economy. The CVT and the 2.5L four-cylinder combination ran smoothly, but under extremely hard or labored – as in uphill, pedal-to-the-metal – acceleration, there was engine/transmission noise, more like a drone, that was noticeable in the cockpit. Once at the desired speed, it cruised and kept up with traffic easily. To get the most performance from the engine, you have choices of ECO and Sport settings. ECO will be used on long stretches of road to squeeze-out every last drop of fuel, with Sport being activated to hold the transmission in each rev band a bit longer. If drag racing the car next to you, this is the mode to be in. But the Rogue isn’t built as a racer and doesn’t claim to be a sporty car, so leave the hot rodding to the Nissan Juke NISMO RS.

Clean Fleet Report’s 2015 Nissan Rogue SL had solid and consistent stops with a braking system consisting of vented front and rear discs, an anti-lock brake system (ABS), brake assist and electronic brake-force distribution (EBD), which adjusts brake proportioning to compensate for added weight from passengers or cargo, and even adjusts as fuel is consumed.

Driving Experience: Exterior

Design-wise, the Rogue generally falls in-line with its competitors in the midsize SUV category, but stands out with an aggressive stance from the 18-inch wheels, sculpted front end and a sloping

2015, Nissan Rogue,aerodynamics

Wind cheater

windshield. Nissan has worked on the aerodynamics to achieve a 0.33 drag co-efficient with the outside mirror shapes, rear roof and side spoilers, and combination rear lights that seem to be all one, smooth piece with the fenders and rear hatch. A concerted effort was made to have the Rogue design be void of any unnecessary cladding or chrome. There is just enough brightwork to play against the body color, which in our case was Cayenne Red.

Driving Experience: Interior

I was immediately impressed with the ease of finding a comfortable seating position thanks to the six-way, leather-appointed, heated power driver’s seat with power lumbar (the front passenger seat is four-way manually adjustable) and the manually adjusted steering column.

Clean Fleet Report’s 2015 Nissan Rogue SL had seating for five adults. If you opt for the S or SV trim levels you can get 7-passenger seating. Nissan’s rear EZ Flex seating system is quite accommodating as the complete three-passenger rear seat slides and reclines, while having a center pass through as part of the folding armrest. Make sure to put the rear seat through its paces when at your dealer. Usually at this point we suggest the rear seat really is only good for two adults, but this isn’t the case with the Rogue. With the rear seat slid-back the full nine inches, rear seat passengers have a very generous 37.9-inches of legroom. Plus with the five-passenger version, Nissan’s Divide-N-Hide Cargo System can create a flat cargo area and, when the rear-most floorboard is lowered, a deep cargo well is created to transport taller objects. You gain access to all this via the power liftgate. It is pretty clear you will not have any issues hauling people or cargo with so many well-thought-out seating and storage options.

2015, Nissan, Rogue SL,interior

A dash that works

The dash layout is simple, starting with the analog tachometer and speedometer gauges, which feature easy-to-read white lettering on a black background. The Vehicle Information Center is also under a covered hood to reduce glare. Operating the sound system was easy and met Clean Fleet Report’s minimum requirement for a driver-friendly system as it had knobs for the channel and volume functions. Our Rogue SL came with a seven-inch HD color touch-screen with navigation, rear-view monitor and mobile apps, along with Nissan’s wonderful Around View Monitor, which are all part of the NissanConnect system.

The powerful and great-sounding Bose audio system came with eight speakers and SiriusXM (three-month trial subscription)/AM/FM/HD/CD/MP3/WMA/USB port with iPod connectivity, Aux-in jacks and Bluetooth streaming audio, Text Messaging Assistant and voice recognition.

Adding to the interior comfort and convenience was a power panoramic moonroof,  leather-wrapped shift knob and steering wheel with audio controls, remote keyless entry, Intelligent Key with push-button start, cruise control, automatic temperature control (ATC), Nissan’s I-CON system with automatic air conditioning, power windows with one-touch up/down, power door locks, power heated outside mirrors, carpeted floor mats, day/night rearview mirror, outside temperature display, map lights, multiple beverage holders and three 12-volt accessory outlets.

Safety and Convenience

The 2015 Rogue LS comes with safety and convenience features including eight air bags, blind spot warning (BSW), moving object detection (MOD), forward collision warning (FCW), Around

2015 Nissan, Rogue SL, interior

The latest tech – speak to it

View Monitor (AVM), tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS), electronic stability control (ESC), traction control system (TCS), hill start assist (HSA), Active Trace Control (ATC), Active Engine Braking (AEB), vehicle dynamic control (VDC), four-wheel disc anti-lock brakes (ABS) with brake assist, electronic brake force distribution (EBD), LED headlights with Auto Levelizer, fog lights, vehicle security system (VSS) and anti-theft vehicle immobilizer.

All 2015 Rogues have earned a US Government National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)  4-Star Overall Vehicle Score, where 5 Stars is the highest safety rating.

Pricing

Clean Fleet Report’s 2015 Rogue SL FWD had a MRSP of $30,270 without the $860 Destination Charge. 2015 Rogue pricing, excluding the $860 Destination Charge:

2015, Nissan, Rogue, SL, functionality,storage

Open for business

S FWD         $ 23,040

S AWD         $ 24,390

SV FWD       $ 24,490

SV AWD       $ 25,840

SL FWD       $ 28,280

SL AWD       $ 29,630

Warranties

The 2015 Rogue SL comes with these warranties:

  • Basic – Three-year/36,000-mile
  • Powertrain – Five-year/60,000-mile
  • Anti-Perforation – Five-year/Unlimited mile

Observations: 2015 Nissan Rogue LS FWD

2015, Nissan Rogue, SL FWD,value

An edge in styling and substance

The 2015 Nissan Rogue offers clean styling, a spacious interior with convenient and desirable seating and storage flexibility, which includes the five-passenger or seven-passenger option. Having both a front-wheel and all-wheel drive option on the 2015 Rogue is a selling point for Nissan as it means everyone looking for a fuel efficient midsize SUV or CUV, Crossover Utility Vehicle, could be their customer.

Nissan’s direct competition for the Rogue are the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, Ford Escape, Mazda CX-5 and Subaru Forester. The Rogue holds-up well against all these fine cars, making it worthy of your consideration.

My overall impression of the 2015 Nissan Rogue is that I felt safe and in control at all times and would have no problem taking it on a cross-country road trip. I think you will agree.

Whatever you buy, Happy Driving!

Related Stories You Might Enjoy:

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Road Test: 2015 Honda CR-V

Road Test: 2015 Ford Escape

Road Test: 2015 Mazda CX-5

Road Test: 2014 Subaru Forester

Disclosure:

Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle, which does not address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology, during which we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements. Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class or are among the top mpg vehicles on the market. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.

 

 

Road Test: 2014 Honda CR-V

Road Test: 2014 Honda CR-V

Honda’s SUV Is Back On Top In Sales

It’s not easy to be the top dog of a vehicle category. Just ask Honda.

The company’s CR-V compact crossover vehicle has been battling the Ford Escape for years, and the two have traded places as the number-one seller in their category several times. CR-V won the top spot in 2012 and 2013, but slid to second place during the first quarter of 2014.

Now it’s back on top. With a strong April 2014, the CR-V claimed the title for the first time this year, and having done so, also

Honda,CR-V,SUV,AWD,MPG,fuel economy

Hondas CR-V doesnt exactly run away from the pack

surpassed the Escape as the year-to-date sales leader.

Among the CR-V’s assets is fuel economy. It earns inclusion in our All-Wheel Drive 30 MPG Club with an EPA estimated 30 mpg highway/22 mpg city and a combined rating of 25 mpg.

Honda also makes the CR-V easy to buy. There is only one engine, a choice of two- or all-wheel drive and three trim levels. There are only two options, navigation and rear seat entertainment, available on the top trim.

What Makes The CR-V A Crossover SUV?

The CR-V merits crossover status because it shares its platform with the Civic compact sedan. A crossover combines an SUV body style with a car-type understructure. Their one-piece construction, called “unibody,” contrasts with old-school sport utilities that are based on trucks, which attach the body to a separate frame. The body on frame construction provides the ability to tow heavy trailers and haul big loads, but typically sacrifices fuel economy.

A unibody design isn’t as suited to heavy-duty towing or hauling but its lighter weight benefits ride, handling, and fuel economy. The 2014 CR-V is rated to tow trailers weighing up to 1,500 pounds, about average for a four-cylinder compact crossover.

Standing Pat On The 2012 Redesign

The 2014 CR-V styling and interior are unchanged coming off a complete redesign for model year 2012. It is handsomely aerodynamic and rightly proportioned, if less flamboyant than the shaped-in-Europe Escape and the been-to-the-gym Toyota RAV4 (another compact crossover big seller.

Some commentators say the exterior styling is bland. I disagree. Large wheels and bold fender wells combined with sculpted side body panels give a pseudo-aggressive look. In profile, the sweeping roofline has an almost coupe-like appearance.

Plus, I like the now signature vertical taillights. Larger than the previous model, the base extends into the rear body panels in a hockey stick style, and at night you know there’s a CR-V ahead of you.

Interior room is one of the CR-V’s biggest draws, while comfort on supportive seats front and rear are another selling point. Up front, the driver has a high seating position without sacrificing headroom, and in the rear is an abundance of legroom and plenty of space for two child seats. The 60/40 split rear seats recline, but don’t move fore and aft like some competitors.

Cargo volume is vacation-worthy with 37.2 cubic feet of space behind the second row. That’s three cubes more than the Escape and

Honda CR-V interior space is big

Honda CR-V interior space is big

about even with the RAV4.

Need more room to haul stuff? A clever mechanism folds the rear seat even with the rear load floor at the pull of a single lever or strap, expanding cargo volume to 70.9 cubic feet — more space than you’ll find in most affordable compact SUVs.

The CR-V’s dashboard is well laid-out and well organized with upper and lower display screens that show settings for Bluetooth mobile phone linking and the image from the rearview backup camera — both of which are standard. The transmission shift lever is located just right of the steering wheel, making room for a large center console between the front seats. Add eight cupholders and an ample number of storage bins, and the CR-V is a crossover that validates the “utility” in “SUV.”

Honda has fashioned an efficiently sized exterior enveloping a smartly packaged interior, but falls short on interior materials compared to the Escape and RAV4, as well as other small crossovers. Fitment is quite good with no panel gaps, however hard plastics that cover the dash and door panels may be durable, but they border on cheap looking.  Plus, there is a lack of soft-touch materials in places like arm rests.

Efficient Engine But Just Adequate Oomph

The 2014 CR-V soldiers on with a dual-overhead cam 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that features Honda’s i-VTEC “intelligent” valve control system. Its 185 horsepower is among the highest among competitors, but torque of 185 pounds feet is below the mean. Torque is the force that gets the vehicle moving and is more important to the feel of acceleration than horsepower, which is the energy that keeps the vehicle moving.

Also off the pace with rivals is CR-V’s five-speed automatic – its only transmission. Most top competitive models have an automatic with at least six speeds; the Jeep Cherokee tops others with a nine-speed automatic. In transmissions, more gears provide improved, efficient acceleration and fuel economy. On the plus side, a dashboard “Econ” button configures the CR-V’s transmission to favor fuel economy over acceleration.

What isn’t outdated is Honda’s Real Time AWD with Intelligent Control System. It is more fuel efficient than the CR-V’s previous mechanical AWD, and is quicker to reapportion power from the front wheels to the rears. That benefits traction upon acceleration on snowy, wet or dry surfaces. While not suited for serious off-road use, it is quite capable on gravel and dirt trails.

Short On Gee-Whiz Features

Honda did bring this latest CR-V closer to the class leaders for basic infotainment. It finally installed as standard on every model such modern necessities as Bluetooth hands-free phone and music streaming, Pandora interface, SMS text messaging and a USB iPod interface.

Honda,CR-V,SUV,MPG, fuel economy,

CR-V interior: better, not best

However, the little runabout lacks the gee-whiz features than a lot of buyers are attracted to and are offered by adversaries.

For example, you’ll find pushbutton ignition on the Escape and RAV4, but not on the CR-V. Same for a power liftgate, which the Escape ratchets up a notch with a hands-free operation via a kicking motion under the rear bumper. And the Escape has a competitive advantage with its Active Park Assist that automatically parallel parks the vehicle. As for an infotainment touchscreen interface, yes on the Ford and Toyota, no on the Honda.

Like others in the class, available is leather upholstery, an upgraded audio system and a navigation system. Unusual for small sport utilities, the CR-V offers a rear DVD entertainment system. However, it is not available if you want the navigation system.

Driving Impressions

The CR-V’s four is fairly lively, but a tad coarse-voiced at times. It has adequate oomph on hand to dash through traffic and, when up to speed, cruise along with fast-moving traffic. The automatic shifts crisply and is well matched to the engine, keeping it in the revs where it needs to be for good vigor or good mileage, depending on the driver’s right foot.

But it’s difficult at times not to pine for additional power, at little sacrifice in fuel economy, when you have a full passenger load, are driving in hilly topography or passing on a two-lane or merging onto a fast-moving freeway.

Steering has a surprisingly natural feel for an electric system. It’s steady on-center, quick to respond to the driver’s input and the wheel feels connected to the road.

Toe the brake pedal and the CR-V slows right now. Not touchy and no slop.

Mazda’s CX-5 and the Ford Escape are the class leaders for sprightly road manners, but the CR-V is notably pleasant to drive and to ride in. It’s confident in changes of direction and heads into a turn with eagerness. The suspension resists wallowing and floating when encountering road dips and swells. And it soaks up rough pavement with little disruption to occupant comfort.

Fuel Economy

During our week with the top-of-the-line AWD EX-L Navi (L for leather) we racked up 263 miles. A round trip from Olympia to Bellingham, WA, to visit our oldest son tallied 165 miles of freeway driving. The 33.3 mpg was most likely the result of my setting the cruise control at 67 mph, a rarity for me. Our combined fuel mileage of 27.1 mpg was 2.1 mpg better than the EPA’s estimate of 25 probably because of my conservative freeway driving.

The Compact Crossover SUV For You?

There are a myriad of small crossovers to choose from. They range in price from under $20,000 for bare bones front-drive models, to more than $40,000 for luxury editions.

If you start the buying process by looking at pricing, 2014 CR-V prices will likely appear steep relative to the base prices of

Honda,CR-V,AWD,SUV,MPG,fuel economy

A leading badge of honor?

competitors. That’s mostly due to Honda’s practice against stand-alone options. Instead, the automaker equips each trim level with a fixed set of features that expands as you climb the price ladder. In the end, price differences shrink when competitors are optioned to compete with comparably equipped CR-Vs.

The CR-V starts at $23,775, including $830 destination charges, for the base LX front drive, $25,025 for the LX AWD version. Front drive models can top off at $30,025, our AWD EX-L Navi had a sticker of $31,275.

On a daily basis the Honda CR-V will perform its driving duties admirably, offering affordable commuting as well as providing space for kids, gear and pets.  If you prefer a small SUV that’s good at everything to one that’s good at just one thing, and if your four-wheel drive needs aren’t demanding, the all-wheel drive CR-V is outstanding. And that’s why it’s back on top.

Words by Larry E. Hall; photos by the manufacturer

Related stories you might want to check out:

Road Test: 2014 Toyota RAV4 SUV

Road Test: 2013 Ford Escape SUV

Comparison Road Test: Mitsubishi’s AWD Choice: Compact Crossover or Compact Sedan