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The fairest fashion 4×4 of them all?

12 April 2012

In the latest issue of Leisure Wheels (issue 97, page 36) you’ll find an article on South Africa’s most fashionable 4x4s. We asked 18 women to test nine vehicles, and pick their favourite FUV (Fashion Utility Vehicle).

Of course, there were countless vehicles that could have been included in such a test, but we needed to draw the line somewhere. So, we decided to look at some of the more recent additions to the SUV market.

The vehicles we included were:

  • Subaru XV
  • Range Rover Evoque
  • Nissan Juke
  • Mini Cooper S Countryman 4×2
  • Toyota FJ Cruiser
  • BMW X1 28i
  • Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Unlimited
  • Mitsubishi ASX
  • Ford Kuga

What is an FUV?

As you’ve undoubtedly noticed, these vehicles don’t all fall into the same segment. The majority are crossovers and soft-roaders, but others are proper off-roaders (the FJ Cruiser and Jeep Wrangler). However, they are all very fashionable. A lot of people purchase Wranglers and FJ Cruisers not because they want to tackle 4×4 trails, but simply because these vehicles are cool.

All the details regarding scoring criteria can be found in the article, but suffice to say that the Range Rover Evoque won pretty conclusively, followed by the Ford Kuga in second place, and the FJ Cruiser in third. The other SUVs placed as follows: the Nissan Juke, Mini Countryman, BMW X1, Mitsubishi ASX, Jeep Wrangler and Subaru XV.

While tallying the scores, my colleague Danie Botha and I pondered the results. Did we agree with the results? Here’s my opinion (Danie’s can be found here):

Did the Evoque deserve to win? I think so. The aim of the exercise, after all, was to find the most fashionable 4×4 (hence the decision to use fashionable females as judges), and there is little doubt that the Evoque is the quintessential FUV. Yes, it’s pricey, but it offers a whole lot of style and luxury for the money. It boasts the same levels of opulence as the more expensive Range Rovers, and interestingly, our 18 judges thought that of all nine vehicles tested, the Evoque offered the best value for money by far. When it came to scoring “features offered” and “value for money”, they gave the Evoque the highest score by far.

Did the Kuga deserve to take second place? I’m not so sure. Ford’s little SUV is fantastic – it offers a wonderful, involving ride – but does someone who is simply looking for a fashionable city runabout need a 2,5-litre petrol engine that delivers 147 kW of power. He or she will be refuelling regularly, without taking advantage of its performance often enough. Sure, the Kuga is a wonderful SUV, but for fashion-conscious buyers, a crossover with a frugal oilburner will make more sense. Of course, only the 2,5-litre mill is available in the current Kuga, but hopefully Ford South Africa will launch the new model (which was unveiled for the first time late last year) with more engine options.

The Toyota FJ Cruiser did surprisingly well. One would have expected our female judges to prefer the cute and nimble crossovers, but most of them enjoyed the FJ tremendously. Did it deserve to take third place? In my opinion, yes. Of all the vehicles in the shoot-out, it is probably the one I would most readily fork out my own money for. It performs great on tar, is a surprisingly hardcore off-roader and is pretty well priced. Yes, the rear is claustrophobic and tough to access, but the front is airy, spacious and quiet. Few serious 4x4s are this plush and refined. The only thing that would give me pause when considering the FJ is its fuel consumption. With its smallish tank, you need to fill up very often.

Honourable mentions

I think our judges scored the vehicles fairly accurately. I think, though, that the Juke deserved a place on the podium. If you look at value for money, it’s tough to beat, which is why Nissan is selling so many of them.

I also think that the Wrangler got a bit of a raw deal. We wanted a SWB Sahara for the test, but couldn’t get hold of one, which is why our long-term Rubicon Unlimited was used. The Rubicon Unlimited is too much of a hardcore 4×4. The Sahara SWB would have done better in this test.

Overall, I’m happy with the results. The Evoque is certainly the most fashionable SUV available at the moment. Moreover, it offers a great drive, so it deserved to win. That said, price and practicality will be significant considerations for most buyers. So, while a vehicle such as the Evoque is undoubtedly chic and trendy, it will not be the ideal vehicle for all. If you care only about trendiness, the three-door Evoque is for you. However, if you need something affordable and practical, you’ll need to look elsewhere. So, in my opinion, vehicles such as the Juke, Countryman, ASX and XV would be the best choices for a lot of buyers. These vehicles are trendy, frugal, (reasonably) practical and well priced.

If the Evoque is the stiletto of the SUV world, these vehicles are the kitten heels – not quite as dramatic or fashionable, but probably easier to live with.