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2013 BMW X1 (BMW)
2013 BMW X1 (BMW)

Best of the Lot

Crossovers are great – just don’t call them station wagons Add to ...

As a reader of the Globe Drive section, I value your commentary. We are in the market for a new SUV/crossover and have been looking at the BMW X1, Toyota Venza, Nissan Rogue and Hyundai Santa Fe. Would you have any opinion as to quality, reliability, value, etc., of these or any other models up to the low $40,000 range? – David in Calgary

Cato: Our man Dave is looking at some pretty heavy hitters. Last year, Canadians bought 300,000 small SUVs/crossovers and these four – X1, Venza, Rogue and Santa Fe – accounted for about 55,000 of these station wagon-wannabes. I like all four. But each is so different from the other.

Vaughan: Then let’s take them one at a time.

First up would be the Bimmer. The little X1 might be my favourite BMW. Yes, I know you can drop $100,000 and get outstanding luxury and performance at the top end – the BMW X5 – but, for me, this crossover is the right size; has the right engine (2.0-litre, turbocharged, four-cylinder); the right transmission (eight-speed automatic); and the right close relative (the BMW 3-Series).

What it doesn’t have is the right price; you can spend 50,000 bucks for one of these.

Cato: Yeah, but Davey strikes me as sensible. A man of restraint. He’d be happy with the starter X1 with all-wheel drive for $36,900. Not everyone needs a panorama sunroof, heated steering wheel, auto-dimming mirror and parking sensors. Forget about that $1,500 package. Options like navigation, voice recognition, “teleservices” and all that? Keep that $2,500 in your pocket.

Look, the $37,000 X1 is just as nimble and has just as much turbo power (241 horsepower) as the $50,000 one. Show restraint and the X1 is a decent value.

But an even better one is the Venza. The base version with AWD starts at $30,490, which is less than the 2012 model – and because of slowing sales, Toyota Canada is throwing as much as $2,000 at the Venza. Discounts. I love ’em.

Vaughan: Well, they’ve given the Venza a bit of a facelift for 2013 and it is an improvement style-wise. Toyota’s stuffed shirts have a fit when you call it a Camry station wagon (and not a sport activity vehicle or some such) but a worthy station it is. Venza comes in FWD or AWD.

I particularly like the AWD with a 3.5 litre V-6 and a six-speed automatic. Plenty of power, plenty of comfort, excellent safety and reliability, and you should be able to hit your 40K target.

2013 Toyota Venza

Cato: Forty thousand! No, no, no – $30,000, Vaughan. Didn’t you hear what I just said about pricing and discounts.

Vaughan: I ignore you whenever possible.

Cato: Your loss. The Camry wagon is much roomier than the X1 and the four-banger version gets top marks from Consumer Reports for reliability. Ignore Vaughan; the four-banger is the best choice. Although the Venza isn’t exactly a looker.

Vaughan: We also must discuss the Rogue, the bargain basement in the segment. As you can tell by my wardrobe, I like to shop in the bargain basement. I like the Rogue’s design and I like the 2.5-litre, four-cylinder, 170-hp engine.

I like the continuously variable transmission, too. I think Nissan does the best job on CVTs and don’t let Cato tell you they make the engine sound like a snowmobile. It’s fine and it saves gas. The AWD version delivers power to all four wheels, as required.

Cato: The value story here: the AWD starting price at $26,778, minus the $1,500 in discounts. You’ll save on gas, also.

But, David, the Rogue is on the small side. The Venza feels like a motorhome in comparison. Quality and reliability? Mid-pack. In this field of four, I’d rate it fourth. The 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe, on the other hand ...

2013 Hyundai Santa Fe

Vaughan: Well, this is probably the most important vehicle in the Hyundai lineup. It’s certainly the one that put the company on the map for mid-market SUV shoppers. I’ve always liked it and the 2013 third-generation Santa Fe is the best yet.

They’ve taken some weight out of it and made it bigger. The 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine with 190 horsepower is excellent and the AWD system works fine.

David, you asked for other suggestions and there are nearly 30 vehicles in this category. We could spend all day, but you might walk across the street to the Kia dealer and look at a Kia Sorento – it’s basically the same vehicle.

Cato: This updated Santa Fe is excellent and it starts at $30,299 with AWD – minus discounts like the $1,100 Friends and Family rebate. I like it, but, for Dave, I like the X1 more.

Vaughan: David, you can’t make a bad selection here, but I have to admit the Venza station wagon has grown on me. It has a lot going for it and provides lots of choice in engines and drive trains. Give it a serious look.




2013 BMW X1 xDrive 28i2013 Toyota Venza AWD base2013 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.4 Premium AWD

Wheelbase (mm)


Length (mm)


Width (mm)


Track, front (mm)



2.0-litre four-cylinder, turbocharged2.7-litre four-cylinder2.4-litre four-cylinder

Output (horsepower/torque)

241/258 lb-ft182/182 lb-ft190/181 lb-ft

Drive system

All-wheel driveAll-wheel driveAll-wheel drive


Eight-speed automaticSix-speed automaticSix-speed automatic

Curb weight (kg)


Fuel economy (litres/100 km)

9.1 city/6.2 highway10.2 city/7.1 highway10.5 city/7.7 highway

Base price (MSRP)


Source: car manufacturers

Jeremy Cato and Michael Vaughan are co-hosts of Car/Business, which airs Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. on Business News Network and Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. on CTV.


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