CHOOSING a compact soft-roader has never been harder - there are now more than two dozen models.
French brand Peugeot has just joined the fray, so we gathered three of the best for a fresh contest.
The Peugeot 3008 is the reigning European Car of the Year, the Volkswagen Tiguan is our pick of 2016 and Honda has just released a new generation CR-V. We have the second model up in the Honda and VW ranges (which both brands say are their most popular variants) and the cheapest ticket into the new Peugeot. Here's how they compare.
HONDA CR-V VTi-S
Despite its familiar appearance, the CR-V is a completely new model, with a larger cabin and a new super-efficient 1.5-litre turbo engine - which, unlike most other modern turbos, can run on regular unleaded.
It's one of the roomiest in the class for people and cargo, with large storage areas in the centre console, door pockets and glovebox. The low rear bumper makes it easier to lift heavy items into the back.
Ingeniously, the Honda still stows a full-size spare in its cavernous boot - which is the biggest of this trio according to our tape measure, even though the volume figures are lower than its rivals in the brochure. Honda measures cargo space to the window line, VW and Peugeot measure to the roof.
The digital instrument display and large central touchscreen (with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and built-in navigation) give the CR-V an up-market appearance. Unique among this trio, the CR-V has a sensor key with push-button start, power tailgate and four USB ports (three of which are fast-chargers).
The cabin materials are better than in the predecessor but can't match the plushness of the European peers.
On the road the Honda feels sure-footed in corners and comfortable over bumps. However, the tyres are much noisier than the others.
The CR-V is zippiest among this trio despite its continuously variable transmission (CVT), which usually saps performance.
It's almost two seconds faster to 100km/h than the Tiguan and almost a second faster than the Peugeot - a pointer to how they might handle hills, a full load, or both.
Much of the Honda's appeal is in the stuff you can't see. It's the cheapest car here yet the best equipped, has a five-year unlimited kilometre warranty (versus three years for the others) and the lowest service costs.
PEUGEOT 3008 ACTIVE
The 3008 measures up closest to the new Tiguan - in size and the way it drives.
The interior - with its small, square-ish steering wheel, carpet-like trim on the dash and doors, shiny tabs for cabin controls and a wide-screen digital instrument display - could be out of a science fiction movie.
The cabin will appeal to many buyers but be aware - it can take several frustrating steps to complete some basic functions such as adjusting the air-conditioning, dimming the screen or switching between AM and FM.
As with the others, the Peugeot has good oddment storage in the centre console and doors, and a sizeable cargo hold, though the spare is a skinny space-saver.
Unique among the three, it has speed sign recognition, which unlike earlier examples works well, even detecting road works and school zones.
As with the Honda, automatic emergency braking (AEB) is not available on this grade.
The 1.6-litre turbo engine matched to a conventional six-speed auto feels perky, shifts smoothly and stood out from the others. But it requires premium unleaded.
We're splitting hairs but the Peugeot had a more supple ride over bumps than the VW - surprising given both had identical Michelin tyres on their 17-inch wheels.
The biggest blot on the Peugeot's report card is in the financials: the relatively high price, expensive servicing and uncertain resale value as Peugeot's first SUV of its own design.
We asked for a Trendline 110TSI for this test as it lines up closest on price at $39,000 drive-away. However VW put forward its better equipped - and biggest selling - Comfortline 110TSI at $41,700 drive-away.
As with the others it comes with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, built-in navigation, digital speed display, front and rear parking sensors and rear view camera.
Helpful touches include fold down "tables” on the front seat backs, adjustable reclining for the second-row seat back (as well as fore-and-aft sliding), shopping bag hooks in the cargo hold, coat hooks next to the front seats and temperature adjustment for rear occupants.
Each car has two Isofix child seat points. The VW has three top tether points on the seat backs versus two on the Peugeot and three in the Honda's roof, which can limit cargo space.
The VW wins points with AEB - with pedestrian detection - at city speeds, and crash mitigation at freeway speeds.
On the road, the Tiguan is very refined, although the suspension feels a touch more taut than the Peugeot and Honda. And it has the biggest turning circle.
The 1.4-litre turbo has the least power but, on the move, it's quicker than its 0-100km/h time suggests. The twin-clutch auto has a slight delay moving from rest but you learn to release the brake pedal earlier, so the gearbox engages.
The 3008 is a class act to drive but its high price and servicing costs weigh against it.
The Tiguan, still a favourite in the office, deserves recognition for standard AEB but its price premium is hard to justify in this company.
The CR-V may lack the driving finesse and interior polish of the European pair but it excels in ways that will matter to most buyers. It's the best equipped in this line-up - with the exception of AEB - and has the longest warranty and cheapest servicing.
It runs on regular unleaded, has a roomier cabin and cargo area and a full-size spare, while practical extras include a sensor key and power tailgate.
The fact it's $4500 cheaper than the VW and $2800 less than the Peugeot simply seals the deal.
Honda CR-V VTI-S
PRICE $37,185 drive-away
WARRANTY/SERVICE 5 years/unlimited km, 12 month/10,000km intervals, $1180 over 3 years
ENGINE 1.5-litre 4-cyl turbo, 140kW/240Nm, regular unleaded
SAFETY 6 airbags, 5 stars, front and rear sensors, rear-view camera, fatigue monitor, tyre pressure monitors, AEB not available
SPARE Full-size alloy
BOOT 522L/1084L to window height
PEUGEOT 3008 ACTIVE
PRICE $39,990 drive-away
WARRANTY/SERVICE 3 years/100,000km, 12 month/ 20,000km intervals, $1587 over 3 years
ENGINE 1.6-litre 4-cyl turbo, 121kW/240Nm, premium unleaded
SAFETY 6 airbags, 5 stars, front and rear sensors, rear-view camera, speed sign recognition, lane wander alert, fatigue monitor, AEB not available
BOOT 591L/1670L to roof
VW TIGUAN 110TSI COMFORTLINE
PRICE $41,736 drive-away
WARRANTY/SERVICE 3 years/unlimited km, 12 month/15,000km intervals, $1336 over 3 years
ENGINE 1.4-litre 4-cyl turbo, 110kW/250Nm, premium unleaded
SAFETY 7 airbags, 5 stars, front and rear sensors, rear-view camera, city AEB, highway speed crash mitigation, lane wander alert, fatigue monitor
BOOT 615L/1655L to roof
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