Consumers shopping for the best small AWD SUVs can expect to pay a bit more than front-wheel drive versions, but the payoff is well worth it. Compact SUVs typically are built to a price point, meaning they share parts with those for economy cars. Most have standard 4-cylinder base power plants, although a few have V-6 engines. There are no V-8 engines in the small SUV class. Still, you can find some great bargains in the crop of new or vastly improved compact ‘utes.

Here are our three top picks for Best Small AWD SUVs:

  • Subaru ForesterThe compact crossover 2010 Subaru Forester is a standout in the small SUV class for its standard AWD. The base engine is a 170-hp horizontally-opposed 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine in 2.5X, 2.5X Premium and 2.5X Limited. In the turbocharged 2.5XT Premium and 2.5XT Limited, the engine produces 224 horsepower. Motor Trend hailed Forester as its 2009 Sport/Utility of the Year and it’s a Consumer Guide 2010 Recommended pick. Edmunds comments: “Fully redesigned last year, the Forester is bigger than its wagon-like predecessors and certainly more SUV-like. Virtually every dimension has grown, thereby increasing interior space and providing a more rugged stance and image. Indeed, among compact SUVs, the Forester looks most likely to excel in an off-road environment…Most people will be pleased with the latest Forester’s combination of adequate handling and comfortable ride quality.”
  • Volkswagen TiguanReviewers love the high-quality German engineering and attention to detail in the 5-passenger 2010 Volkswagen Tiguan. AWD is available in the Wolfsburg and SEL models. The single Tiguan power plant is a 200-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine. Six-speed automatic transmission is standard on AWD models. The quality-conscious cabin features flexible rear seats – another favorite among consumers. Consumer Guide names Tiguan a Best Buy, noting that “Tiguan’s prices are higher than most compact sport-utility competitors,” but its “sporty-for-the-class road manners, a comfortable interior, and three years of no-cost scheduled maintenance offset the difference enough to make it worth a look.”
  • Audi Q5With seating for 5, and Audi’s standard Quattro AWD system, the 2010 Audi Q5 compact crossover SUV offers consumers plenty of luxury at a reasonably inexpensive starting base manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $37,350. Smaller than the Q7, the Q5 has an available Bang & Olufsen stereo. Automobile says, “Although the Q5 is clearly not intended to be a rock-crawling off-roader, Audi maintains that it has the capability to handle most off-pavement tasks that owners will throw at it. Ground clearance is 7.9 inches, the approach and departure angles are both 25.0 inches, and the Q5, Audi claims, can climb hills with up to 31 degrees of incline. Hill descent control is standard.” Audi Q5 is also a 2010 Consumer Guide Best Buy making this an excellent contender for Best Small AWD SUVs.

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