You’ve been lusting after if for two long weeks, suffering for want of that which keeps you going. The withdrawal symptoms have probably been unbearable; we’d hazard to bet you’re shaking like a James Bond martini still in the mixer. You’ve been patiently waiting and finally we’re happy to oblige your carnal yearnings… but for God’s sake leave your trousers on!
Due to scheduling issues the world-famous Ask AutoGuide feature had to skip a week, but believe us, we weren’t happy about the situation. We’re sadder than a cartload of kiddies smashing a piñata only to find it full of math homework and broken promises about summer camp. Maybe next year, son.
But that was then and today is now, for the time being at least. Ask AutoGuide is back for another riveting installment and this week Kathy reached out for some car-buying advice. She’s on the prowl for a super-affordable vehicle with all-wheel drive. Of course reliability and fuel economy matter, as do features. Styling is irrelevant to her, but she did say she preferred the look of cars to crossovers.
Two things she desperately wants are heated seats and remote start. Kathy lives in a northern climate where the winter winds sting like the tip of a bullwhip. Rumor has it her home is the fictional ice-planet of Hoth from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, except there aren’t super-sweet snow speeders and tauntauns. Han Solo could have saved himself a lot of trouble if he just drove a crossover instead riding on top of a bipedal, goat-like alien critter. Have you driven a Harrison Ford lately? Without further delay, here are this week’s vehicle recommendations for Kathy.
Suggestion #1 – 2014 Jeep Patriot
When it comes to value the Jeep Patriot spells it out with a capital “V,” in neon colors and 1,000-point font. Base price for an all-wheel-drive version of this “Trail Rated” utility is just $19,190 including $995 in shipping and handling charges (excluding any rebates). That’s a SCREAMING deal by today’s standards, where the average new vehicle probably costs around 30 grand. According to parent-company Chrysler this the best-priced 4×4 in America.
At that level the Patriot comes standard with niceties like cruise control, fog lamps and side airbags. Crank windows and manual door locks are also included, though hardly worth shouting about. Notice anything missing? Oh right, heated seats and remote start. To get front-row bun-warmers Kathy has to level up to the pricier Latitude model, which starts at $24,390. Regrettably remote start is not offered on the Patriot, though she can almost certainly purchase an aftermarket unit.
Behind the vehicle’s iconic seven-slot grille is an efficient four-cylinder gasoline engine. Displacing 2.4-liters it delivers a respectable 172 horsepower with 165 lb-ft of torque. On the entry-level all-wheel-drive Patriot it’s matched to a five-speed manual transmission.
If a self-shifting gearbox is mandatory a brand-new six-speed unit is available for the 2014 model year; a continuously variable transmission (CVT) is still offered as well depending on trim level and equipment. Surprisingly the entry-level five-speed unit is the most fuel efficient. According to the EPA it delivers 23 miles per gallon in the city and up to 28 on the interstate.
SEE ALSO: 2010 Jeep Patriot Review
The Jeep Patriot delivers off-road capability that’s perfect for people living on a glacier, it’s pretty efficient and it has great crash-test scores. This little truckster earned “Top Safety Pick” honors from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). If Kathy can live without heated seats she can get one for peanuts.
Suggestion #2 – 2013 Nissan Juke
Well, she said style didn’t matter; we’re going to find out if that’s true or not. Our second recommendation is the otherworldly Nissan Juke, a subcompact crossover that looks like it fell off the alien mother-ship when they abducted Courtney Love and took off with her sobriety all those years ago.
To make a food analogy “Juke” is the “chitterling” of the car world; if the latter were called “hog rectum” nobody would eat it. If the former were named “styling disaster” nobody would buy it… oh wait, hardly anybody does, which is a real shame because Nissan’s littlest crossover is actually a very capable vehicle.
Kathy can net herself an entry-level Juke with all-wheel drive for less than $22,000, including destination and delivery fees. That’s a great price for a reliable, fun-to-drive vehicle.
All Jukes are powered by a turbocharged, 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine brandishing direct fuel injection. Output is an impressive 188 horsepower with 177 lb-ft of twist. A CVT is the only “gearbox” available with the exception of the performance-oriented NISMO version, which is offered with a proper six-speed manual transmission.
Despite diminutive dimensions the Juke is a “Top Safety Pick,” just like Jeep’s Patriot. Also mirroring the Chrysler crossover you have to climb the model lineup to get sought-after features. Heated seats are only offered on the range-topping SL model, which carries a base price of $26,780. Unfortunately remote start is not offered at any price, so put your checkbook away.
SEE ALSO: 2013 Nissan Juke SL AWD Review
With a small, forced-induction engine and miserly CVT you’d expect the Juke to impress at the fuel pump, and it does. Even with the extra friction and weight of all-wheel drive it delivers 25 MPG in urban conditions and up to 30 on the interstate. That’s not too shabby for a fun-to-drive vehicle, though the CVT does detract from the party. These transmissions always feel like they’re slipping and they often exacerbate the noise and vibration issues inherent in small engines. Still, the Juke is a winner that should deliver a youthful experience, good fuel economy and long-term quality.
Suggestion #3 – 2013 Mazda CX-5 Sport AWD
And last but certainly not least in this week’s Ask AutoGuide salvo is the Mazda CX-5. This Zoom-Zoom-infused crossover is far and away the most sophisticated and most enjoyable of the trio; and of course it’s also the most expensive.
Prepare to pony-up some buckaroos because an all-wheel-drive Sport model starts at nearly $25,000, including extra charges. At that price it comes with power windows and door locks, air conditioning, a cabin filter, 17-inch alloy wheels as well as a host of airbags. And here’s a shocker (not really), it’s also a “Top Safety Pick.”
Regrettably heated seats are only offered on the Grand Touring model, which costs thousands of dollars more than the CX-5 Sport. One consolation is the availability of remote start. It’s a mere $525 option and is available on all models. Here’s to side-stepping frostbite!
As you’d expect from Mazda this family-friendly vehicle is surprisingly fun to drive. It almost feels like a high-riding Miata, and that is an accomplishment for an all-wheel-drive utility. Hopefully Kathy lives near some curving roads so she can exercise this vehicle’s chassis.
Under the CX-5 Sport’s snout is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. Unfortunately it only delivers 155 horsepower, which is not very much for a vehicle of this class. In all-wheel-drive trim it’s matched exclusively to a six-speed automatic transmission. A larger, more muscular engine is offered on higher-end models, which makes up for the power deficit.
SEE ALSO: 2012 Mazda CX-5 Review
That little four-banger may be a bit overmatched when it comes to hauling the CX-5 around but there is a beneficial tradeoff: improved fuel economy. This crossover delivers the best numbers of the bunch; it’s another case of getting what you pay for. Tooling around town Mazda’s smart-sized utility ought to stretch a gallon of gasoline 25 miles. On the highway things only get better, improving to 31. That makes for a combined score of 28 MPG, small-car territory from just a few years ago.
So far we’ve presented three different vehicular options for Kathy to mull over. Each product has its strengths and weaknesses, but they’re all pretty good choices. However, the crossover market is HUGE. In fact it’s probably the most vibrant segment in the automotive industry today. There are literally dozens of other vehicles worthy of her consideration. Here are two value-conscious options she may not have thought of.
Mostly forgotten, Mitsubishi does peddle an intriguing crossover in the form of the Outlander Sport. For less than 24 grand Kathy can get a small utility vehicle with 148-horsepower, a thrifty CVT and remote start, which is part of the $755 all-weather package. Downsides? For starters it’s a Mitsu; the company could be just seconds away from going out of business. Nobody wants to buy a car from a brand that’s been Oldsmobiled.
Of course if she likes Japanese vehicles Kathy could always take a peek at the Subaru Impreza. This small car is offered in both sedan and hatchback body styles, plus all-wheel drive is STANDARD. With an optional CVT and the $500 all-weather package, including heated front seats, the Impreza sedan stickers for right around $22,000. If you want more information on this car you can go read just about any one of the preceding installments of Ask AutoGuide because we’ve covered the Impreza in practically every one; the only reason we didn’t recommend it this week is because we’re thoroughly tired of mentioning it!
AND THE WINNER IS…
So many good choices, so little time. Here’s our final advice to Kathy.
The Mazda CX-5 is far and away the nicest crossover mentioned here. It’s fun to drive, highly fuel efficient and is built for the long haul. Unfortunately it’s quite pricey. Kathy is on a budget and the CX-5 just broke it.
Like the Zoom-Zoom CX-5 Nissan’s Juke is also fun and functional, plus it’s as far from a box as you can get. But it may be too small for normal use and the design is just plain weird. Even with all-wheel drive on board it gets a passing vote.
And that leaves just one vehicle: America… we mean the Jeep Patriot. It really won us over with its extreme value, something Kathy was looking for in a new vehicle. Of course it’s also available with all-wheel drive and seat heaters on higher-trim modes. It’s efficient, reasonably roomy and safe. Even though Chrysler may not have a strong track record of quality this little truck has been on the market for a number of years so any major issues should have been ironed out by now. We recommend the 2014 Jeep Patriot; the money saved can go towards heating pads and an aftermarket remote starter.
As always, good luck Kathy in your quest for a new car and thanks again for taking the time to Ask AutoGuide.
If you need a little assistance shopping for your next vehicle feel free to do the same. Send a short message to ask@AutoGuide.com. Let us know the basics of what you’re looking for. How many seats do you need? What size of vehicle do you want? How much are you willing to spend? With some of those fundamentals out of the way we’ll get busy to come up with two or three must-see vehicles that you’ll have to put on your test-drive list.