My commute to work is about 65 kilometres in each direction. I wish to trade in my 2008 Mazda3. Most of my commute is on back country roads that are often snow-covered in the winter in a region infested with deer and small animals such as racoons. I would like to purchase a crossover or small SUV, preferably something that is all-wheel drive or has four-wheel drive capacity; that is higher off the ground than the Mazda3 (the Mazda3 has succumbed to minor damage due to small animals); and that is relatively fuel efficient. Any suggestions? – Melanie in Mississauga, Ont.
Vaughan: I can just see Mel out there mowing down small animals in her Mazda. She'd better hope Mr. Moose doesn't pop out of the woods or it will be curtains for both of them.
Cato: Whoa! Mowing down? Ouch!
Vaughan, Melanie's back-country dilemma is not unusual. I was once tagged at dusk by a deer on my motorcycle somewhere between Revelstoke. B.C., and Banff. Just jumped out of the bush at the side of the road. I saw it at the last second and swerved, but still caught a small piece of Bambi. Scared us both.
And then there was the time a wasp found its way into my helmet. A dozen stings later I squashed that bug and …
Vaughan: Are you done sharing your Crocodile Hunter stories?
Cato: Just pointing out that Melanie has a dilemma shared by many drivers – animal crack-ups in the wild. So I want to steer her toward this new Nissan Rogue. Drives like a car, has a good AWD system, lots of safety features, higher ground clearance and a bit of size.
All those attributes are real. Nissan is playing them up in its Winter Warrior ad campaign – more than two million YouTube viewers to date. This is an effective ad campaign and it plays right into Melanie's game.
Vaughan: You watch too much television, Cato. But that Rogue really impressed me. They're gonna sell a boatload of them. Like you say, excellent AWD with electronic stability and traction tricks. And so comfortable inside. It has some of the best seats of any vehicle – important when you're commuting 130 kilometres a day.
Cato: Why so little from you regarding price? I mean, Rogue prices are down: $23,408-$33,098 versus 2013 pricing, $23,978-$34,398. The AWD one starts at $25,498.
After the Rogue test drive, Mel should head to her Ford dealer to play with the Ford Escape. I am a huge fan of the design and the technology is class-leading. Melanie, you're going to love how this rig drives – no wagon is better and only a couple are as good from behind the wheel. The Mazda CX-5 leads that list.
Vaughan: I'm not that keen on the EcoBoost turbo. If you have a heavy foot, that thing is going to slurp gas like a dragster. If you drive gently – which I don't – then maybe you'll save some fuel.
Cato: Lead-foot Vaughan. Leaves them in the dust on Highway 401. And you, such a mild-mannered, humble fellow. Who'd a thunk?
If Mel opts for the 1.6-litre turbo – plenty of power there, at 173 hp – she will love every trip to the country. And look at the incentive money!
If she's a Costco member, grabbed her auto show discount coupon, tacks on the factory discount and nails down Ford's First-Four-Payments-on-Us promotion, she'll slash at least $3,000 off the sticker. That brings the $29,199 AWD base down into Rogue-land.
Vaughan: So Mel has to negotiate for a long list of discounts. Sure, Cato. That's the sort of work every buyer enjoys.
A third option suitable for Mel is the made-in-Canada Honda CR-V. It's popular, safe and fuel-efficient; Mel could drive it worry-free for ages. It also has AWD for her country roads and sufficient size and weight to wipe out anything smaller than a mid-size bear.
Cato: There's more, although I have no applause for that oddball rear-end design. It's weird, unbalanced. Remind you of anyone?
The CR-V is wonderfully reliable, the 2.4-litre four-banger – 185-hp – is fuel efficient, though not the most advanced engine in this crop of compact crossovers.
Safe? Yes. Good seats? So-so. Easy-to-use controls? Absolutely. The AWD version starts at $28,290 – minus $2,500 in factory discounts available.
Vaughan: The discounting seals it for me – and that made-in-Canada angle that Honda does not play up enough.
Cato: Rogue first, Escape second, CR-V third. You know I'm right.
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.
HOW THEY COMPARE
2014 Honda CR-V LX AWD
2014 Ford Escape SE 4X4
2014 Nissan Rogue S AWD
1.6-litre four-cylinder, turbocharged
Curb weight (kg)
Fuel economy (litres/100 km)
9.2 city/6.6 highway using regular fuel
9.2 city/6.6 highway using regular fuel
8.2 city/6.2 highway using regular fuel
Source: car manufacturers
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