Magazine article Insight on the News

Sporty 4x4s Hit the Roads

Magazine article Insight on the News

Sporty 4x4s Hit the Roads

Article excerpt

`Mini-utes'get good gas mileage and are cheap - two reasons twenty-somethings like them.

The latest fad sweeping the automotive world has four-wheel drive and knobby off-road tires. But unlike traditional 4x4s and sport-utility vehicles, the new crop of "mini-utes" are designed for a crowd of two - and maybe your dog.

Vehicles such as the Geo Tracker Kia Sportage, Isuzu Amigo, Suzuki X90, Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V arose in response to a real problem: Full- and mid-sized utes have become inordinately expensive - far beyond the means of young singles and couples. But it is precisely this demographic group (active, under 40, image-conscious) that hungers for off-road capability.

Instead of stripping down their big models and offering them at discounts, several manufacturers went back to the drawing board. The results have proved enormously popular - and profitable. By the 1998 model year, every full-line automaker will offer a "personal" ute of some kind.

These capable hybrids - half-truck, half-car - are more than just affordable and trendy, however. They really are kicky and spontaneous, with personality to spare. And they feature fuel-efficient, four-cylinder engines that don't burn anywhere near as much gas as the profligate V-6 and V-8 engines in Ford Explorers, Range Rovers and Toyota Land Cruisers.

For example, Toyota's RAV4 shares its chassis with the company's popular Celica sports car. As a result, the RAV4 handles much more like a car than a truck, inspiring confidence in abrupt maneuvering. …

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