Third place goes to the CR-V, largely on the strength of its handsome interior. Smacks of a one-trick pony, but this is a really nice interior-and let's face it, that's where we spend our driving time, right? As with all Hondas, everything about the CR-V feels like it's built to tolerances alien to the hands of slapdash humans.
The Saturn VUE pops the RAV for fourth on two counts: One, its ride could stir Tempur-Pedic's patent lawyers; and two, in this era of gas-price muggings, the Green Line's combined mileage is 4.7 mpg higher than the average of the rest (although it evaporates once in maniacal magazine-test-driver mode). "What could this thing do if it weighed 440 pounds less?" St. Antoine wonders. What indeed. And what's the RAV4 lacking? Nothing really-except for a focused argument.
"Another cappuccino?" the waiter asks. No thanks. St. Antoine pays the bill, and we head back to the cars, into the afternoon traffic, and for home. Five compact sport/utes heading in five different directions-literally this time. One is velvety riding and frugal, another is X-Games gonzo, the third has an interior crafted like a Rolex, the fourth has the personality of an IBM controller. The final one? That's the winner.
1st Place Subaru Forester 2.5X Premium
Exorcized of cramped rear legroom and graceless styling, the Subie's charm becomes hard to resist.
2nd Place Nissan Rogue SL
The 'ute for the PlayStation generation. Fun and affordable-but bring a kidney belt.
3rd Place Honda CR-V EX
Quality construction and a handsome interior don't trump a busy ride and soupy handling.
4th Place Saturn VUE Green Line
Price premium isn't erased by its tax credit and better mileage, but it's fun to poke OPEC in the eye, isn't it?
5th Place Toyota RAV4
College-entrance committees are looking for more than solid SATs these days. You need a compelling story, too.