Some are real 4x4s that come standard with “stuff” like differential locks and low-range gearing. Others are 4x4s, but they are designed to – at best – mount a pavement at the local mall. And some are two-wheel drives, yet look as though they could mount that curb.
This is the brave new world of the Fashion Utility Vehicle (FUV). We gathered a group of 18 Fashionably Urban People (FUPs) to help us decide which FUV was the best around. This is the Leisure Wheels FUV shoot-out, sponsored by Yokohama.
It’s our FUV shoot-out. Can you help with a car?” The reply was standard from the person at the other end of the telephone line. “An FU what?” FUV is not a term you’ll find in the dictionary. The reason is simple: that’s what we have christened this new fad of trendy and hip 4×4 city-slicking vehicles.
Fashion utility vehicles, or FUVs.
Essentially, an FUV is a hip and trendy SUV-ish vehicle that appeals to hip and trendy people. Our nine FUVs differ from one another in a lot of ways. Some are big, some are small. Some are serious 4x4s and some prefer to stick to tar. Some are expensive, some are cheap(ish). But they all have one thing in common: they’re very fashionable! But why choose these specific FUVs? We realised it would be easier to find a solution to SA’s toll road disaster than select the perfect group of FUVs for this test. However, our mission was as follows: find an SUV-like vehicle, in either two or four-wheel drive format, that is desirable because of the fashion statement it makes. In other words, one that a trendy person would see and say: “I want that – it’s cool!”
So there are no limitations or complications such as practicality, 4×4 capability, fuel economy or performance at stake in this process. It’s simply a case of “I want it because I want it. And I want other people to see me in it.”
That’s why 4x4s such as the Jeep and the FJ Cruiser made it onto our FUV short list, and a more family-oriented van such as the latest VW Tiguan did not. Visit any trendy parking lot at a school or shopping centre and you’ll see a contingent of Jeep Wranglers and FJ Cruisers. These “real” 4x4s are often driven by manicured, high-heeled ladies. And sure enough, most of them probably have absolutely no idea what that second gear lever is supposed to do.
This is the world of the… FUPs.
As mentioned, FUVs are aimed at FUPs (Fashionable Urban People). So in order to obtain real-world results in real-world conditions as decided by real-world people, our 18-member panel consisted of said FUPs. The typical FUP is stylish, funky and female. Our FUPs’ mission was simple: find the typical FUP’s favourite FUV. The panel was duly briefed about the myriad factors to consider in deciding how much to score each vehicle. Factors such as safety features, cabin comfort, engine performance, handling, fuel consumption and value for money all had to be considered.
So, which FUV has the grace of Grace Kelly? Which one has the glamour of Sophia Loren? Which has the thirst of Lindsay Lohan? Which has the nose of Barbara
Streisand? And, which one is a bit of an exhibitionist, like Paris Hilton? Before we get to the results, let’s take a quick look at each of the FUV contenders – in alphabetical order.
BMW’s trendy X1 is a strong seller for the Bavarian brand, blending trendy looks with a surprising amount of practicality and versatility. In the xDrive28i model, you also get some serious performance. The engine is not a 2,8-litre straight six, as BMW tradition would have it, but a twin-turbocharged four-cylinder mill. Using BMW’s Twin Power technology, this modern two-litre engine delivers 180 kW of power and 350 Nm of torque (between 1250 and 4800r/min), and in our test unit the power is transferred to all four wheels via an eight- speed automatic gearbox.
In standard trim the BMW X1 xDrive28i retails for R456 500, which includes a five- year/100 000km motorplan. However, the vermillion red metallic X1 used in this test was loaded with optional extras that took its asking price to a painful R617 686.
Ford’s new Kuga compact SUV recently made a somewhat perplexing appearance on local showroom floors. The Kuga has been on sale internationally for four years, but now that an all-new model is due for international launch, we suddenly get the “old” Kuga. It seems to be a case of Ford needing to get rid of previous generation Kugas before the new model arrives in Europe. Which is sad really, because if Ford had introduced the Kuga here four years ago, we bet it would have been one of the top sellers in its segment. But alas, let’s leave the spreadsheet management for the spreadsheet managers. Let’s talk Kuga. It shares its platform with the Ford Focus, and it also gets the 2,5-litre five-cylinder turbo engine that powers the now legendary Focus ST hot hatch. In the Kuga, the engine delivers 147 kW of power and 320 Nm of torque at 1600r/min. Power is transferred to all four wheels via a five-speed automatic shifter. Performance is very brisk and there is a certain degree of unexpected flair involved in the driving process, too. The entry-level Trend model – as tested here – retails for just about R400 000. This includes a four-year/90 000km service plan. So it seems to offer reasonable value and performance for the money.
Whether our panel would agree is another matter, of course.
There is something about Jeep’s iconic Wrangler that seems to ignite a flame of motoring passion in even the most ardent non-motoring person. The iconic and boxy styling, the ruggedness of the design, the oversized door hinges, the protruding wheel arches – it’s all very Jeep-ish, and fashionable.
The Wrangler was recently upgraded with Chrysler’s modern 3,6-litre V6 Pentastar petrol engine, along with a new six-speed manual and five-speed automatic gearbox option. The Pentastar engine delivers 209 kW of power and 347 Nm of torque – a massive leap of 63 kW over the old 3,8-litre engine’s 146 kW of power.
We had arranged a Wrangler Sahara Limited for this specific test months ago, even though a Wrangler Rubicon Unlimited model had joined our long-term test fleet soon after the local launch. The reason was simple: the short-wheel base Sahara version rides on an independent front suspension while the more hardcore Rubicon is equipped with a solid front axle for improved off-road ability.
Unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond our control, the fashionable Sahara was – at the last minute – no longer available. So we had no choice but to rope in the tougher and more hardcore Rubicon Unlimited. Would that solid front axle and slightly comprised ride count against it? Or would our panel fall head over heels for the Jeep’s charm? And would the competitive R414 000 asking price swing a few votes?
The Range Rover Evoque epitomises the new segment that we’ve christened fashion utility vehicle (FUV). It’s
designed to attract a trendy and fashion- conscious crowd that has no particular desire to venture off the beaten track, even though it comes with a surprisingly capable 4×4 drivetrain.
Well-heeled fashionisti who buy the Evoque are generally not too bothered about practical matters such as boot space, fuel consumption and resale value. They just like the look of the Evoque, and the way it makes them feel when they drive it. There is little doubt that the expensive Evoque, which is selling up a storm the world over, is the first of a new generation of trendy, upmarket compact SUVs. Volkswagen has already jumped on the bandwagon with its new Cross Concept model, and other brands are sure to follow. The three-door Evoque lined up for this test. It is powered by a turbocharged two- litre petrol engine that delivers 177 kW of power and 340 Nm of torque at 1750r/min. Power is sent to all four wheels via a six- speed automatic transmission.
With its not-so-subtle blend of colour and swoopy, mostly impractical lines, the Evoque’s interior may be considered over the top and not so user-friendly by some. Then again, the exterior styling is rather dramatic and beautiful, most punters would agree. So, what would our panel of ladies make of the flashy Range Rover Evoque that retails for R600 000?
There used to be only one Mini. It was small, economical to run and amazingly roomy on the inside, especially considering the compact exterior dimensions.
When German company BMW took over the brand in 2000, there were a lot of big plans for the small Mini. They paid off, too: Since 2000 the company has sold more than one million New Minis. Today you can have a long Mini, a short one, one that supposedly looks like a baseball cap, a fast one, and even a 4×4 Mini.
However, the Mini in this test is the latest two-wheel drive Countryman. Its 1,6-litre four-cylinder mill is turbocharged and delivers 135 kW and 240 Nm of torque (between 1600 and 5000r/min). The power is sent to the front wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission. The four-door Mini Countryman is trendy, surprisingly practical and most certainly sporty, thanks to the gutsy 135 kW engine and that traditional, go kart-like feel behind the wheel.
Selling for R345 000 (with a three-year/75 000km Motorplan included) in standard trim, the True Blue metallic Countryman Cooper S in this test retails for R438 600, with a host of factory options fitted.
Mitsubishi’s new ASX compact utility vehicle is aimed at clients who don’t need the off-road capabilities of a 4×4 but want the versatility of a compact SUV, along with the peace of mind in knowing that the front-wheel driven ASX won’t rattle itself to pieces on a dirt road. So it’s really aimed at the lifestyle segment, and at motorists who want to buy into this lifestyle.
Only one engine is on offer… a two-litre, four-cylinder petrol mill with 110 kW of power and 197 Nm of torque, peaking at a high 4200r/min. You can choose between a five-speed manual and a six-speed continuously variable transmission (CVT). At first appearance the ASX may look bland and dull and not worthwhile at all. The real-world advantages become more evident when one scratches deeper than the surface. For instance, the top CVT model has seven airbags. It also comes standard with a panoramic glass roof with a cool LED lighting system, a top end Rockford Fosgate sound system with nine speakers, and stability and traction control systems. So although it may seem like a Plain Jane at first glance, there is much more to the Mitsu than you probably think. The top CVT version – as tested here – retails for R319 900, which includes a five- year/90 000km service plan.
Can the Mitsubishi’s real-world practicality sway our panel members its way?
The Nissan Juke has steadily been selling up a storm in SA. In fact, one Nissan dealer insists that, if he could actually get hold of units, he would sell every last one of them. So, what’s the story with Nissan’s very compact crossover?
Firstly, there is… the look. It’s a mixture of Nissan 370Z and GT-R, and goodness knows what else. It is – quite simply – a bit weird. Yet it is also easy on the eye, in a weird way. Judging by the sales numbers, there are a lot of customers who like the look of this Nissan. Secondly, there is the performance. The 1,6-litre turbocharged model, as tested here, has 140 kW of power and 240 Nm of torque, the latter available at a very high 5000r/min. For now only a six-speed manual gearbox and front-wheel drive combination is available. Performance is startlingly brisk. In fact, the Juke feels more like a hot hatch than a crossover jobbie. Then there’s the price. Selling at R258 000 (which includes a three-year/90 000km service plan), the 1.6 DIG-T Tekna version represents a whole lot of performance crossover for not a lot of money.
It’s not perfect. The boot is mostly a token effort, the interior is maybe a bit too funky, and its slightly ruffian driving experience, like a more mellow version of the Opel Kadett Superboss 16V of the nineties, may not be to everyone’s liking. Will our panel agree?
Japanese automaker Subaru is clearly on a road to revival after some indifferent times. The brand’s new BRZ mid-engined and rear-wheel driven sports car (jointly developed with Toyota) is rapidly turning into an international performance phenomenon. And while the BRZ is wooing the performance crowds, the new XV is intending to do the same to the more practical 4×4 crossover segment.
Based on the latest Impreza platform, and
sharing the same all-wheel drive system and two- litre boxer petrol engine, the XV also features increased ride height (220mm clearance), really cool wheels and some in-your-face colour options. It’s new, it’s bold and it’s brave. But sadly, it is also somewhat underwhelming. The interior is of reasonable quality, but bland. Performance is adequate, but far from perky. The two-litre boxer engine delivers 110 kW of power and 196 Nm of torque at 4200r/min, and you can choose between a six-speed manual and Subaru’s Lineartronic CVT gearbox. We had the CVT version for this test. It retails for R340 000, including a three-year/75 000km maintenance plan.
The thing is that Subaru has always been synonymous with performance, to some degree. And that’s seemingly the one major ingredient this cool Scooby doesn’t count in its inventory. Will our panel of judges mind, or will they appreciate the more laid back character of the XV?
Toyota’s FJ Cruiser, just like the Ford Kuga, is a late arrival on the local market. The Cruiser was originally built only in left-hand drive format, and has sold in vast numbers in North America since 2005. It was only in 2010 that the right-hand drive version finally went on sale, ironically in Japan. Toyota’s domestic market only got access to the new Toyota five years after it went on sale, which is rather unusual. The FJ was introduced here in 2011, and has
been selling in steady numbers. Based on the underpinnings of the Prado, and with some of the best 4×4 numbers of all the Land Cruisers, this FJ is as real a 4×4 as you can get. It’s also trendy. With its retro-style exterior, rear doors that are hinged on the “wrong” side, and funky interior, this Cruiser represents a substantial fashion statement. It is powered by a four- litre V6 engine that delivers 200 kW of power and 380 Nm of torque at 4400r/min, and the power is normally sent to the rear wheels only via a five-speed automatic gearbox.
A second lever selects 4H, and 4LOW. Not that it matters much in the context of this test, but the FJ also has A-TRAC traction control, a rear differential lock, and spectacular 4×4- ing capabilities. However, our panel of FUPs probably don’t give a hoot about matters such as differential locks. So what will they make of the Toyota, that retails for R457 000 (including a five-year/90 000km service plan)? Oh FUPs!
THE ABC OF THE FUV TEST
As is usually the case with our panel-based shoot-outs, we required our judges to complete a comprehensive scoresheet. But, since there would be no 4×4 driving involved, and since we didn’t want to get too technical on the ladies, we refined our scoring system to fit in with this unique FUP-cum-FUV format.
However, this doesn’t mean we went all easy on the ladies. Oh no, they had lots and lots of scoring to do.
Also unique to this test was the fact that each team was responsible for one scoresheet. In other words, both ladies in the team had to agree about the point allocations. This – we reckon – resulted in more balanced results. We also asked the ladies to use the maximum and minimum scores (5 and 0) sparingly, and only if they believed a vehicle absolutely and without any doubt deserved such a score. And yes, there were a quite few zeros in there, too. To sum up: our panel of FUPs were extremely honest and brutal in their scoring. And this is a very good thing as far as the results are concerned, because these are real-world results, delivered by real-world people. Or, er, FUPs.
Traditionally we use a standardised route for our panel-based shoot-outs. This allows each panel member to drive each vehicle over the same section of road, allowing a most direct comparison. However, our group of FUPs would have perished of boredom if we’d used the same route nine times over. So, instead, we found some scenic roads in the Hartbeespoort area, with an interesting stop after each leg. This way our FUPs were happy and not bored to smithereens, and they still had ample opportunity to drive each FUV. So, without further ado, let’s get down to business, and the results of the Yokohama FUV shoot-out.
Here the FUPs had to judge each vehicle by its jacket. Yep, here it is mostly about looks – and in the new frontier that is the FUV segment the way a vehicle looks counts a lot. In this segment the ladies also had to judge the perceived build quality of each vehicle. In other words, how they perceived the quality of the exterior trim, the panels, the fittings.
The Scooby scored the lowest in this section (53,3%). Apparently the fancy wheels were not enough to impress our panel. Said one team: “We love the mag wheels, but the rest is boring.”
The Mitsubishi ASX scored 60%, and most of the judges agreed that it was nice, but just too plain. “As I’m a sporty and funky girl, the Mitsubishi will not be the choice for me,” said a sporty and funky FUP.
Next up was – surprisingly – the BMW X1, which managed just 64,4%. Sure, BMW’s designs have to grow on you, but we never expected it would be so low down the field. “Unfortunately there is just no sexy factor in the BMW,” said a rather stylish FUP. More surprises were on the menu, though, as the Mini Countryman finished in sixth position, with a lowly score of 68,8%. What? Are our FUPs mad? This is an iconic style icon!
“I don’t know, I’m just not crazy about the steroid look of this Mini,” said one panel member. Considering the overall score, several other panel members agreed. Ford’s new-old Kuga followed in fifth position, with 71,1%. No-one really said great things about the Kuga’s looks, but no-one said anything bad, either. So consistently high scores allowed the Kuga to sneak ahead of the Mini and BMW. Next up was the love-hate Nissan Juke. With a score of 76,6%, our FUPs seemed to like the quirky styling. “It’s really cool,” was the general consensus among the ladies.
The Jeep Wrangler earned itself a podium position with a score of 80%, again demonstrating the collective “cool” that the Jeep brand, and specifically the Wrangler, can still garner after all these years. One lady was particularly excited about the look of the Jeep: “This is cool personified – it’s like sex on wheels! Phew!” Scoring a handy 83,3% was the retro-styled Toyota FJ Cruiser. Some would say that the Cruiser is so ugly it’s actually, well, cute. Overall though, our FUPs gave the retro Cruiser a big thumbs up.
“The designers have contemporised the original FJ40 so well in the new FJ. But it is still very functional and not flashy. The ‘fridge’ doors are good, except if you have a baby seat in the back,” said one crew. Gee, we didn’t think the average FUP even knew the FJ40 existed!
On to the winner of this segment:
We had suspected that the stylish new Range Rover Evoque would do well in this specific test. We just didn’t realise how well! Recording 94,4%, the Evoque blew all the other FUVs out of the trend-setting parking lot. And, you have to admit, it would be a tough task to argue that the Evoque is not the best looking FUV in this company. Modern, sleek and sexy, it draws more attention than a Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan or Jessica Simpson can muster. The perfect ride then, for most FUPs. “I love this car! I want it!” said one FUP, eloquently. We’ll rest our case with this all-encompassing statement.
In this segment the panel of cool FUPs had to allocate points for categories such as perceived build quality, the cool factor, practicality, space, features for the price, storage space, ease of use of controls, standard safety kit, sound system, front and rear seat accommodation, air-conditioning, and how easy or difficult it is to get in or out of the vehicle.
If you are a staunch Jeep fan it’s time to brace yourself, because this is where it starts to wrong for the “cool” Wrangler. It scored a total of 64,8% in this category – the lowest total of the nine FUVs. “The Jeep’s interior is so cool, but is also very old fashioned,” said one team. The Subaru XV followed next with 65,6%. Unfortunately the FUPs were not extremely impressed by the XV’s car-like interior versus the more spacious cabins of some of the other FUVs, “It just feels like a car, and certainly not an FUV, never mind a 4×4,” commented one FUP. It was a sentiment shared by several ladies. The fact that the XV is essentially an Impreza hatch with increased ride height and cool wheels did not seem to impress our panel.
Scoring a surprisingly meagre 67,9% was BMW’s spunky X1. This was unexpected. The car sells for around half-a-million rand, and the BMW’s interior is a plush and classy affair. So what went wrong?
The X1’s interior received a number of compliments, but some FUPs bemoaned the fact that it was surprisingly compact, even small. No-one really hated the Beemer’s interior but with a string of below par scores, the X1 tumbled down the leaderboard in this segment. The unassuming Mitsubishi ASX followed next, with a commendable 69,4%. In general the ladies loved the simple yet comfortable and feature-rich interior. “So awesome – uncomplicated and comfortable,” said a particularly impressed FUP.
Then came the Mini Countryman. With the more practical four-door arrangement, boosted by an interior that oozes fashion
appeal, the Mini proved somewhat controversial. It sure has style, but is it “over the top”?
“Too many features make the interior ugly,” said one FUP.
“The interior is a bit off putting,” commented another.
Still, scoring above average in most categories, the Mini managed 70,5% – enough to claim fifth position.
Nissan’s little Juke gathered a total of 72%, for a fourth position in this segment. The weird and wacky interior may not be too big on space, but the FUPs seemed to dig it anyway.
“It’s soooo cool!” summed up one particularly excited FUP.
Earning another podium position with a score of 72,5% was the Toyota FJ Cruiser. Although some FUPs regarded the retro- styled interior is old-fashioned and bland, others loved the high seating position and the, well, “Command and Conquer” feeling you get when driving this big piece of retro metal. However, the bland styling wasn’t a particular favourite.
“The interior styling is ugly, and adjustments are limited. It’s also a mission to get to the rear seats,” said one team. And in second place… What? The Ford Kuga? Yes sirree! With a score of 74,1% the Kuga’s mostly funky interior proved quite a hit. “A nice surprise! We didn’t think we would like it but it really has good features,” commented one team. The Kuga 2.5T Trend model was on test here – and but for the slightly absurd orange hue used on the centre console and other panels, the Kuga might well have won the interior category. (For interest’s sake, the top Titanium model’s interior is finished in a more palatable aluminium-look.)
And the winner is… the Range Rover Evoque.
However, it was a much closer call this time round, as the Evoque managed “only” 77,1%. The Range Rover’s interior, famously co-designed by international style guru Victoria Beckham, is bright and colourful, with more gadgets and buttons than any other FUV in this test. Most FUPs loved it all. But a few didn’t like it. “Sure, it’s awesome, but for us it didn’t live up to the hype. There’s almost too much going on,” commented one team. For the rest, it was mostly one-way traffic.
“This is style personified!” said one team. “We loved this car. The beauty, both inside and out, almost makes it worth the price!” said another.
ON THE ROAD
In this segment our panel had to judge each FUV in categories such as comfort, handling, engine performance, gearbox, stability, braking, visibility from the vehicle, confidence factor on tar and gravel respectively, and the fun factor.
After all, a typical FUV is not supposed to be boring, dull and oh-so-practical – it should be perky and fun. But it should inspire confidence, too.
The Jeep Wrangler and the Subaru XV ended up with exactly the same number of points in this test – 68%. In the Jeep Rubicon, that tough, solid front axle most certainly had a role to play in the result – the Sahara version’s more pliant independent front suspension would have ensured a more comfortable, less bouncy ride. More comfortable and less bouncy would have meant more confidence.
One has to take into account that the Rubicon model can go, even in stock standard trim, where only highly modified 4x4s dare. So there is no question that the less than ideal ride quality is a necessary compromise for the Rubicon to perform as well as it does in an off-road environment.
“It drives like an old-fashioned car, and the ride is not smooth at all,” said an FUP.
Other judges didn’t care about the ride quality. “It’s so cool, even though it’s not the best on the road,” countered one FUP. The Subaru’s hatchback origins again came to the fore in this test, with some ladies again highlighting the fact that it felt more like a normal passenger car than any of the other FUVs. It scored reasonably well in most categories – but in the “gearbox” and “fun factor” sections, the Scooby did not shape so well. The test unit was fitted with the brand’s Lineartronic continuously variable transmission (CVT) – quite an amazing piece of automotive kit. But, in our experience, it is only amazing when it is coupled to an engine with sufficient horsepower and torque. Sadly, the XV has neither.
On the Reef, the flat-four engine, combined with the CVT box, is a disappointing affair. Floor the accelerator and the revs climb to near the redline district – and stay there while the Scooby battles to pick up speed. Our ladies didn’t like the combination, either.
“The XV feels very underpowered. You floor the gas pedal and it revs, but there’s no power. Very disappointing for a two-litre,” said one team. On the upside, the Subaru recorded the lowest average fuel consumption on this shoot-out, with a figure of 8,2 litres/100km.
Next up was the Mitsubishi ASX, with 71%. Like the Subaru, the Mitsu has a two-litre engine with 110 kW of power as well as a continuously variable transmission (CVT). In the ASX, though, the engine and gearbox form a much better alliance. The Mitsubishi is a 4×2, with only the front wheels providing propulsion. Yet, according to our panel, it was patently more composed, more relaxed and more comfortable than the four-wheel driven Scooby. And better to drive, too.
“So awesome to drive! It’s so easy, and functional,” said an FUP team.
The Nissan Juke was next in line. It scored 76,3%, and the only FUV in this test with a manual gearbox had most of the ladies smitten by its performance. “Really great drive,” said one FUP. “Absolute favourite pick of the event. Lots of fun on the road, and fast too!” claimed another. However, the short-wheel base Juke’s edgy handling – a trait most hardcore petrolheads appreciate – left some of our FUPs, well, a little on edge. “The handling is great, but it’s not very stable,” said an FUP. Next followed another points tie – the BMW X1 and Toyota FJ Cruiser both scored 78,6%. Not that the BMW and Toyota offer the same driving experiences. On the contrary, they are vastly different. The Cruiser fared very well on the rough dirt road sections, and less great on the tar.
The BMW was less happy on gravel, but in its element on tar, especially in the corners. There the X1’s advanced Twin Power two-litre engine, with its 180 kW of power linked to a slick eight-speed automatic gearbox, really blew our FUPs’ hair back.
“It has power! Probably the best drive, but not very comfortable,” said one team. “The acceleration is excellent, and the brakes are really responsive.
This is a speed ticket magnet!” exclaimed another. The Toyota has 20 kW more power than the Beemer, courtesy of its big-bore V6 engine, but it also has more weight and some hardcore 4×4 mechanical systems to lug around.
“On dirt it is fantastic, but on tar the Toyota lags behind in the performance department,” said one team. “We want to take this bad boy into Africa!” quipped another FUP team. Then came the Mini Countryman Cooper S, with 79,3%. The Mini brand has always been associated with spirited, enthusiastic driving, combined with go kart-like handling. The bigger Countryman is no different. Its 135 kW engine, the sporty suspension and the direct steering are always game for bit of action. The FUPs liked this aspect. On less than smooth dirt roads, though, the combination of the sporty suspension and very low profile 19-inch wheels was not ideal.
“Poor suspension!” said one FUP. “This car is for tar roads only.” Others disagreed – and loved the more hardcore ride quality, “Lots of fun to drive, with a bit of a kick!” said another FUP.
And in second position… what? The Ford Kuga? Again? Oh yes.
The Ford scored a surprising 83,5%, mostly courtesy of its comfy yet sporty ride, and the combination of a slick five-speed automatic gearbox and a five-cylinder engine borrowed from a legendary hot hatch.
It is fast and agile, yet this Ford is not scared of some rough gravel roads. Grip is quite outstanding.
“The Ford was excellent on gravel. It has very good suspension and good traction,” said one of our panel members. “It really is nippy and powerful,” said another.
And the winner? Well, by now you’ve probably recognised a bit of a trend going on – and in this segment that trend continued. With 85,6% it was again the Evoque that ruled the roost. Despite its low profile rubber, and its dynamic on-road prowess, the 177 kW Range Rover was equally at home on a rough dirt road. It’s not just one factor of the Evoque’s driving qualities that is so impressive — rather it’s a combination of all the factors.
“This is the ultimate FUV! Easy to drive, luxurious, classy. And, extremely powerful!” said a besotted FUP.
“Very funky, snazzy and hot! This really is a fantastic vehicle,” commented another. Clearly, considering the results thus far, it is.
VALUE FOR MONEY
In this segment we asked our FUPs to score each vehicle on real-world matters such as service plans, features for the price, and overall value for money perceptions. And again, it was clear that what makes one person’s boat float may very well torpedo the next person’s ship. And in last place… the Mini Countryman Cooper S. Despite it performance credentials, the steep asking price – inflated because of a list of optional extras that added almost R100 000 to the base price – saw the little-big Mini record a lowly 52% in this segment.
The same fate befell the BMW X1 xDrive28i, which had R161 000 worth of extras fitted, making it the most expensive FUV in this test. The BMW managed 57,3%. At the base price of around R450 000, it would have been a much more equal fight.
Next was the Jeep Rubicon, with 61,3%. The Rubicon’s R414 990 asking price excluded the MyGIG TM Navigation/sound system which adds R10 900 to the price, but for the rest it was a case of “what you see is what you get”. However, some of the FUPs said that, even though the Jeep was reasonably affordable in this company, it was still too much money for an old-fashioned design. Scoring 66,6%, the Mitsubishi ASX was next. With a cabin loaded with cool standard kit, and the added bonus of seven airbags, the comfy ASX seems to offer a compelling option.
In this segment the Subaru XV kicked dust in the eyes of the Mitsubishi, scoring a wholesome 72%. No doubt the standard all-wheel drive system, along with some cool interior features and those mag wheels, helped it a lot.
The Toyota FJ Cruiser again didn’t make it onto the podium, scoring a middle of the road 73,3%. Selling at a price similar to some top-end double cab bakkies though, the cool FJ offers a lot of 4×4 for the money. However, our FUPs judged it solely as an FUV.
The Ford Kuga again put in a sterling performance to claim third position with 74,6%. At the price, the Kuga offers a heck of a lot of performance, space, comfort and ability. It even looks okay, too.
Second place went to the mighty little Nissan Juke (76%). With an asking price of R260 000, which includes all the bells and whistles, the front-wheel driven Juke offers a major performance bang for your bucks. In this segment, it’s an absolute performance bargain!
And the winner? Yes, it’s that Range Rover again. We thought our realistically minded FUPs would shoot the expensive Evoque out of the sky in this segment. Instead, with an unassailable 86,6%, they gave it a major thumbs up. Indeed, the majority of our panel agreed that the Evoque may be expensive, but that it is worth each and every cent of that R600 000 asking price. And then some.
Let’s not fluff about here – the Range Rover Evoque walked this competition. With an overall score of 82,8%, the Evoque is our reigning FUV champion.
Sleek, modern, fashionable, fast, efficient, desirable, sexy… the Evoque seems to have it all. Sure, the impracticalities of its three-door arrangement and the cramped interior cost it some points – but in the bigger picture these “imperfections” hardly hurt the Range Rover’s performance in this test. So, well done to Victoria and friends.
And in second place… the surprise of the shoot-out. Ford’s new-old Kuga scored a total of 77%. The Kuga’s perky performance and good ride on all surfaces counted in its favour, along with a keen asking price. If the Kuga, which is due for replacement late this year, performed so well in this test, the question beckons: what the heck was Ford thinking? If the company had introduced the Kuga here four years ago, it would surely have sold like hot cakes.
Toyota’s trendy and very capable FJ Cruiser claimed the last podium position, with 75,9%. The big Toyota was not to everyone’s liking, but many of the ladies did enjoy the big and powerful nature of this machine.
There is something about driving the FJ – you just feel invincible and bullet proof. And there’s the knowledge that you can – if you need to – go just about anywhere, thanks to its 4×4 abilities.
The plucky little Nissan Juke just missed out on a podium position, scoring 74,3%. At the price you can’t beat the combination of performance, handling and character. It’s fun, funky and even functional. Sure, the boot is small. Sure, it looks a bit weird. But it’s still a phenomenal little FUV.
Next is the Mini Countryman Cooper S, with 71,8%. Like the Juke, it’s a fun and funky machine that can put a smile on your face every day of the week. However, our test vehicle’s low profile tyres and sporty suspension did not help its cause on the rougher dirt roads. So yes, it’s a really cool little FUV, but it prefers tar to gravel. And on tar, it is maxi fun. Some practical issues and a steep asking price didn’t help the Mini, either.
BMW’s X1 came in next, with a disappointing 70,4%. Despite the 180 kW of power, an eight-speed automatic gearbox, the xDrive 4×4 system, the optional Msport package and a typically BMW drive, the X1 failed to stir the emotions of our group of FUPs. Maybe it was that asking price, dramatically inflated by a string of factory extras, that put the ladies off.
Mitsubishi’s ASX, displaying a surprising amount of charm and comfort, earned itself 68,7% to take up the next slot. Straightforward and in typical Japanese no- nonsense fashion, the ASX does exactly what you expect it to do.
This version is loaded with standard kit. For the average FUP who is after something practical and comfortable, and not overly flashy, the ASX certainly is worth a test drive.
The Jeep Wrangler, sadly, did not impress the FUPs on the road. Or in any other segment really – except for the looks and “cool” departments. Yes, we reckon the Sahara version, with its independent front suspension, would probably have garnered a few more percentage points than the hardcore Rubicon’s 67,2%, but it probably wouldn’t have got it more than two or three places higher on the leaderboard.It is cool, though. No arguments about that!
The Subaru XV managed 65,7%. The gearbox and engine combination, combined with the hatch-like aura of the interior, did not impress our group of trendy ladies. Those wheels are mighty cool though, and we reckon that, if Subaru adds about 50 kW to the engine and throws in a manual gearbox, the XV will be all the better for it.
And so ends the 2012 Yokohama Fashion Utility Vehicle (FUV) shoot-out. Viva the Range Rover Evoque! Viva!