I need to buy a new car this year. I am presently driving a 2013 VW Tiguan. One of the reasons I bought the Tiguan was that it hugs the road and also has an extremely short turn radius compared to other SUVs. I have really enjoyed driving it and might get another one. But, I was just wondering if maybe now, six years later, some other SUV manufacturers have also shortened their turn radius. – Geeske, Toronto
Richardson: Hmmm - this is not a question we get every day, is it Petrina?
Gentile: Nope. It’s not. But a nice, tight turning circle can be very important, especially for urban drivers.
Richardson: There’s a limit to the amount the wheels should be able to turn, though. Too much play and the overall stability at speed is compromised. And the tires bump into the inside of the wheel wells.
Gentile: Do you remember the Jeep Hurricane at the Detroit auto show back in the mid-2000s? It would literally turn in its own wheelbase, like a salad spinner.
Richardson: Yes. That thing was wild. Probably just as well it was only a concept and never made it to the road.
Gentile: It could turn its rear wheels at 90 degrees, as well as the front wheels. Like you say - just a concept. But there are some cars that can turn their rear wheels for better cornering at speed.
Richardson: The Porsche 911 is one, though you have to buy the right option, and it’s very expensive.
Gentile: And it’s only a sports-car thing. Porsche calls it active rear-axle steering – if you’re steering into a corner, the rear wheels go in the opposite direction to the front by just a couple of degrees. This shortens the wheelbase and makes it easier to go into a bend with less steering input from the driver.
Richardson: I don’t think Geeske is considering a Porsche.
Gentile: No! It’s a different thing entirely.
Richardson: Generally, the rule of thumb is the shorter the wheelbase, and smaller the car, the less space it needs to turn between curbs.
Gentile: The Volkswagen Tiguan does have a nice, tight turning radius. In fact, the turning radius on Geeske’s 2013 Tiguan is 11.9 metres, but what’s remarkable is that the turning radius on the 2019 Tiguan is exactly the same despite having a larger wheelbase. How’s that even possible?
Richardson: Those German engineers are pretty clever, you know.
Gentile: And so are the Japanese engineers. The turning radius on the 2019 Toyota RAV4 is 11.0 metres. That’s a fair bit tighter than the VW.
Richardson: The smaller SUVs will turn even more tightly, though. If Geeske doesn’t mind going down in size, the Toyota C-HR will turn in just 10.4 metres. The Mazda CX-5 is also 11.0 m, while the smaller CX-3 is 10.6 m. The Honda CR-V and Chevy Equinox are both rated at 11.4 m. The Nissan Rogue and Ford Escape both have larger turning circles.
Gentile: Geeske should think smaller and perhaps, South Korean. The Kia Sportage’s turning circle is 10.6 m, just like the CX-3. And Ford’s new EcoSport is close too – it’s 10.7 m.
Richardson: So now we’ve figured out the tightest turners - Toyota, Mazda and Kia - which do you think Geeske should consider?
Gentile: My pick is the Kia Sportage – not just for its tight turning radius, but it’s also value-packed.
Richardson: I like the two Mazdas, and especially the new CX-5, which will be offered with a 250hp turbo engine. Mazda really sweats the small stuff these days. But that said, you’ll never go wrong with a RAV4. And there’s always that Porsche.
Gentile: So much for picking your favourite, Mark.
What car should you buy? Write to Mark and Miranda at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stay on top of all our Drive stories. We have a Drive newsletter covering car reviews, innovative new cars and the ups and downs of everyday driving. Sign up for the weekly Drive newsletter, delivered to your inbox for free. Follow us on Instagram, @globedrive.