• August 23, 2012

SUVs: Style, Substance and Big Sales

Sport utility vehicles (SUVs) had a “boom” in the late 1990s and became nearly as common a sight on the road as sedans. What’s surprising, though, is that in the 14 or 15 years since that time, the popularity in SUVs has grown: whereas at the time of the SUV craze one in five vehicles sold was a sport utility vehicle, now in the year 2012 one in three is. “How is that possible with gas prices hovering around $3.50 a gallon?” you might wonder (consider, too, that the average cost of a gallon of gas has tripled since 1998).

The fact is though that SUVs offer different features and benefits than their lower-riding, lower-ceilinged car counterparts; some of them are just plain great to look at and fun to drive. With the introduction of hybrid SUVs, plus the smaller-size vehicles to help cut down on fuel costs, not to mention the generous cargo and passenger space, it’s no wonder SUVs still account for a significant amount of car sales. Here are some great 2012 and 2013 models to check out if you’re considering joining the millions of SUV owners in the U.S.

Under $25,000

The 2012 Jeep Patriot clocks in at about $16,000 with front-wheel drive (FWD,) although it can be upgraded to four-wheel drive (4WD) for about $24,000. It offers consumers the classic Jeep styling and off-road capability that put the company on the map to begin with. With a “lock” mode to enhance traction during the winter months or in foul weather, the Patriot would be a good option for those who live in snowier regions.

The 2013 Ford Escape has earned some enthusiastic reviews which laud the compact crossover vehicle for its “engaging performance and overall refinement.” Ford has changed the silhouette, giving the 2013 Escape a curvier shape. It can be filled it with all kinds of technological goodies, like rear parking assist and blind spot monitoring. With the FWD model retailing at $25,070 (please excuse that extra $70), the Escape is a safe and budget-friendly option.


The Lexus RX 450h sits near the top of many lists for most fuel-efficient SUV available today. Along with an estimated 32 miles to the gallon in the city and 28 on the highway, the Lexus luxury brand name ensures this hybrid model will delight tech fans, with its LED headlamps and Mark Levinson sound system. While it comes with a higher price than other models designed to rival, this eco-friendly vehicle can hardly be outdone.

The Nissan Juke raises lots of eyebrows and not just for its “bionic frog” looks. True, the SUV is a head turner (some say not in the best way), but it’s also an excellent buy with a base price of $19,000 and 27 city miles, 32 highway. Along with sporty handling that reviewers loved, the Juke boasts considerable standard safety features.


At the top of the list, the 2012 Honda CR-V should come as no surprise. It’s been marketed as a family-friendly vehicle and despite its snazzy redesign, it’s a mainstay among affordable, reliable SUVs with high safety scores. Reviewers say the interior is roomy and the cargo area “easy-to-load and easy-to-organize.” What’s more, the 2012 model comes with awesome standard features like rearview camera, USB port, Pandora radio and voice text messaging.

The 2012 Buick Enclave also makes getting to soccer practice and swim lessons look good, a feat in itself. A midsize SUV with a luxurious, ultra-smooth ride, it is safe and reliable and roomy. Reviewers warn that it doesn’t accelerate very quickly or maneuver too nimbly, but if you have your sleeping toddler in the backseat, hitting the gas or weaving sharply in and out of traffic probably isn’t your priority.

Long Trips

The 2012 Chevrolet Equinox doesn’t pull out any punches and nor did reviewers get too particularly excited about the vehicle, yet it’s a good option for long trips thanks to its quiet ride, good fuel efficiency and comfortable seats. While families of more than five should probably pass on this option, the rear row sliding feature ensures that taller teenagers in the back seat will still have plenty of leg room!


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