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Subcompact Crossovers: AWD Gets Smaller, More Fuel-Efficient

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2012 Nissan Juke

2012 Nissan Juke

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The 2013 Detroit Auto Show will mark the debut of a crossover concept from Honda, dubbed the 'Urban SUV' concept.

It's set to be based on the next-generation Honda Fit, making it the latest in a line of downsized crossovers promising chunky styling with a fuel-efficient twist.

They're a world away from the gas-guzzling nature of typical SUVs, and that's part of their appeal. Highway mileage above 30 mpg isn't uncommon, reducing running costs--and of course, emissions--over more traditional all-wheel drive vehicles.

And that's the other benefit--many of these downsized crossovers and SUVs still have an all-wheel drive option, suitable for drivers living where the terrain or weather requires it.

Little is known about the Honda Urban SUV, but it'll be joining a market alongside the Nissan Juke, MINI Countryman and upcoming Buick Encore. An off-road style Fiat 500X model is on the way too, shortly after the 500L lands.

Each is available with all-wheel drive, though all are more efficient as two-wheel drive models. Even so, each is also capable of more than 30 mpg highway, usually from 1.4-liter or 1.6-liter turbocharged gasoline engines, which also means decent performance.

Sacrifice a couple of driven wheels (and the occasional turbocharger) and as mileage improves further. A 2013 Nissan Juke with the 1.6 turbo and auto transmission gets 32 mpg highway, and 29 combined. The most efficient MINI Countryman is the 1.6-liter Cooper Countryman, at 30 mpg combined and a respectable 35 mpg highway.

Move up a segment and you'll still see benefits. The 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek with AWD--less utilitarian than Subaru's own Forester--manages a combined 28 mpg, and 33 mpg highway with a CVT. Mazda's 2.0-liter SKYACTIV-powered CX-5 with 4WD gets similar figures, with 31 mpg highway and 28 mpg combined.

There are options from domestic brands too. Opt for 4WD, with the 2.4-liter engine and manual transmission, and a 2013 Jeep Compass will return 28 mpg highway. Drop down to a 2.0-liter engine and lose the AWD, and 30 mpg is there for the taking.

A Fit-based crossover could realistically beat all of these, and may even cost less than all of them too.

And while a production model isn't yet confirmed, the concept could prove to be one of the more interesting debuts at Detroit.

Keep up to date with the new Honda and other models on our Detroit Auto Show page.

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Comment (1)
  1. The Nissan Juke is still ugly and takes premium gas. Not sure how a couple mpg more could help that.
     
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    Bad stuff?

 

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