Winner: Toyota FJ Cruiser
Runner-Up: Ford Escape

Vehicles in this category are expected to do everything: carry gear, go off-road, tow a small trailer or a boat, and provide a comfortable ride during the week. It's no easy task, but the Toyota FJ Cruiser achieves much of what a compact SUV should. It can tow 5000 pounds, provides plenty of power, good fuel economy, and seating for five, and in regular form is great off-road--and that capability gets even better with the Trail Teams edition. However, there are rumors it will be going away in the near future, and its cool design means there are blind spots.

Looking for a more traditional option? The Ford Escape gives you a choice of three powertrains (with up to 240 horsepower), 3500 pounds of towing capacity, comfortable seating for five, and some capability off the beaten path. As long as you aren't tackling the Rubicon Trail, the Escape (and Mazda Tribute/Mercury Mariner sibs) is an excellent all-around vehicle.


Compact SUV, AWD/4WD (UNDER 106-in WB) -- A to F
Vehicle Acura RDX Audi Q5 Ford Escape
Base price $35,330 $38,175 $24,705
Wheelbase 104.3 in 110.5 in 103.1 in
Engine 2.3L DOHC T I-4 3.2L DOHC V-6 2.5L DOHC I-4
Opt engines     3.0L V-6 $2815, 2.5L hyb $7630
Power, SAE 240 hp 270 hp 171 hp (240, 194)
Torque, SAE 260 lb-ft 243 lb-ft 171 lb-ft (223, 136)
Airbags Fr, f side, f/r curt Fr, f side, f/r curt Fr, f side, f/r curt
Brakes, f/r Disc/disc, ABS Disc/disc, ABS Disc/drum, ABS
Tires 235/55R18 235/60R18 235/70R16
Fuel cap 18.0 gal 19.8 gal 16.5 gal
EPA fuel econ, city/hwy 17/22 mpg 18/23 mpg 20/26 mpg (18/23, 30/27)
Seating cap 5 5 5
Curb weight 3931 lb 4244 lb 3504 lb
GVWR 4800 lb 4800 lb 4200 lb
Payload 900 lb 1400 lb 1080 lb
Cargo cap 60.6 cu ft 57.3 cu ft 67.2 cu ft
Max towing cap 1500 lb 4400 lb 3500 lb

Don't agree with our winner? Then tell us which vehicle would you have picked as the 2010 Best in Class Compact SUV, AWD/4WD in the comment box below.