2012 BMW X3 in the grass

The turn of the year didn't merely lead us into the Year of the Dragon, but also the year of the Land Rover Range Rover Evoque. Halewood's small softroader won a boodle of awards: Autoweek's Best of the Best, Top Gear magazine's and Jeremy Clarkson's choice for Car of the Year, Motor Trend magazine's SUV of the Year and the North American Truck of the Year. For starters. Consumer Reports, however, isn't as swayed, saying that the new BMW X3 "handily outpointed its European rival" in a head-to-head between the two compact luxury crossovers.

We expect there's an Evoque out there with a sore backside because CR did not spare the rod, saying the Evoque scored near the bottom of its category because of "a cramped cabin, stiff ride, artificial-feeling steering and troubling emergency handling." On top of that, its "rear view is poor," its "cargo area is small" and its interior is "noisy" albeit "well finished," and was outdone by the X3's "lavish interior." The baby Land Rover finished so far in the hole that CR couldn't give the vehicle its coveted Recommend rating.

That seems a bit harsh at first glance, especially since comparing interior measurements between the two seems disingenuous when the BMW is so much larger that it's basically in another class. That said, we haven't read the full piece yet, so we'll withhold further commentary. For CR's press release on the Evoque vs. X3 cage match and its comments on the Toyota Prius V, Volkswagen Tiguan and Jeep Wrangler, look no further than after the jump.
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CONSUMER REPORTS: BMW X3 OUTPOINTS LAND ROVER RANGE ROVER EVOQUE IN TESTS OF COMPACT LUXURY SUVS

New Prius V hatchback provides excellent efficiency and utility


YONKERS, NY - The BMW X3, which originated the compact luxury SUV market, handily outpointed its European rival, the Land Rover Range Rover Evoque, in a head-to-head match up.

While the X3 scored an 80 in CR's road test, the Evoque received a Road Test score of 60, scoring near the bottom of its category. The X3 is one of the few SUVs that feels sporty to drive, and a new eight-speed automatic transmission helps bring its fuel economy to a respectable 22 mpg overall on premium fuel. With its unique styling, the new Evoque turns heads, but it has many shortcomings, including a cramped cabin, stiff ride, artificial-feeling steering, and troubling emergency handling.

The new Prius V, also included in the March issue, received an Excellent road test score. No other vehicle comes close to its blend of versatility and fuel economy. This wagon version of the Prius hatchback has a big cargo area and roomy rear seat yet still returns 41 mpg overall.

"The X3 does an impressive job of combining sporty handling, a lavish interior, and surprising fuel economy," said David Champion, senior director of Consumer Reports' Auto Test Center in East Haddam, CT. "Although the stylish Evoque has won lots of accolades in the press, including North American Truck of the Year, our more thorough testing reveals quite a few flaws."

CR also tested three other vehicles in the magazine's March issue: The Volkswagen Tiguan which got some updates for 2012 and scored a Very Good test score; the Toyota Prius V, a family-friendly wagon version of the Prius; and the Jeep Wrangler. Despite some recent improvements, the iconic off-roader remains CR's lowest ranked vehicle with a Road Test score of 20.

The BMW X3 was redesigned for 2011 while the Land Rover Evoque is new for 2012. The Volkswagen Tiguan competes in this class but at a lower price; it was updated for 2012. The iconic Jeep Wrangler got a new modern drivetrain for 2012. Despite a familiar name, the Prius V is a new model for 2012.

The full report on compact luxury SUVS and the other cars mentioned here will be available on www.ConsumerReports.org on January 26th and in the March issue of Consumer Reports on newsstands February 7th. Updated daily, Consumer Reports.org is the go-to Website for the latest auto reviews, product news, blogs on breaking news and car buying information. Check out CR's ongoing Twitter feed at @CRCars.

The Prius V, X3, and Tiguan are all Recommended. The Evoque and Wrangler scored too low for CR to Recommend. Consumer Reports only Recommends vehicles that have performed well in its tests, have at least average predicted reliability based on CR's Annual Auto Survey of its more than seven million print and Web subscribers, and performed at least adequately if crash-tested or included in a government rollover test.

The X3 rides firmly and provides decent isolation from bumps and road imperfections. Noise levels in the cabin are hushed overall. With limited body lean and quick, responsive steering, the X3 is aggressive in the corners. The BMW X3 xDrive28i ($43,375 MSRP as tested), is powered by a 240-hp, 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine that provides strong acceleration and 22 mpg overall in CR's own fuel economy tests. The eight-speed automatic transmission is smooth and quick-shifting. Braking is Very Good. The interior is well-finished and has a very roomy cargo area. The X3 scores well in its category; it outscores eight other previously tested compact luxury SUVs in Consumer Reports' Ratings and is only outpointed by the Audi Q5 3.2.

The eye-catching Evoque has impressive acceleration and braking, but the ride is choppy, the cabin is cramped and noisy, and the rear view is poor. Too much road and engine noise enters the cabin. The Evoque tackles corners well but its steering feels artificially weighted, impairing feedback. When pushed to its handling limits at our track, the tail slid out and the vehicle repeatedly lifted a wheel during our avoidance maneuver. The Range Rover Evoque Pure ($45,745 MSRP as tested), is powered by a 240-hp, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that delivers 21 mpg overall on premium fuel. The six-speed automatic transmission is well-mated to the engine. Braking is Very Good. The interior is well-finished with a neat full-length glass roof, but the driving position feels cramped and the cargo area is small.

The Tiguan is a compact SUV with a dash of luxury, but for a model without a luxury nameplate, it comes with a bit of a sticker shock. Along with the X3, the Tiguan is one of the few SUVs that can be driven with gusto through corners where it handles well with little body lean. Steering is quick with good feedback. The Volkswagen Tiguan SEL ($37,020 MSRP as tested), is powered by a 200-hp, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that delivers lively performance and gets 21 mpg overall. The SEL model's large low-profile tires hurt the ride and increase road noise. The six–speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly. Braking is Very Good. The interior is well-finished with quality materials but the cargo area is modest.

The iconic Wrangler Unlimited is a distinctive and rugged off-roader whose appeal wanes on the daily commute. The ride is unsettled and wind noise is pervasive. Handling is clumsy and the body leans even in low-speed cornering. Braking distances are long and emergency handling has very low limits. The Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara ($36,340 MSRP as tested) is powered by a 285-hp, 3.6-liter V6 engine. Acceleration from the new modern V6 is much improved; it gets 17 mpg overall. Climbing up into the Jeep's austere interior is difficult through small doors. Removing or installing either the soft or hard top takes two people, but panels easily lift off the hard top for open-air driving. The Wrangler has great ground clearance and axle articulation for off-roading but our Sahara version struggled for traction on our rock-hill course.

The Prius V is an impressive combination of utility and efficiency. Its ride is composed and compliant. Handling is sound but not agile; the steering offers scant feedback. The Toyota Prius V Three ($28,217 MSRP as tested), is powered by a 134-hp, 1.8-liter-four-cylinder engine with electric assist. Acceleration is loud and leisurely but fuel economy is impressive with test results of 33 mpg in city driving and 47 mpg on the highway. At 41 mpg, overall fuel economy is three less than the regular Prius hatchback. The continuously variable transmission is smooth. Transitions between gas and battery-only power are nearly seamless; the car can be driven on low speeds on electric alone. The interior is nicely finished but not luxurious. Rear seat and cargo room are both generous. Visibility is better out of the large windows of the Prius V than out of the regular Prius hatchback.

Consumer Reports is the world's largest independent product-testing organization. Using its more than 50 labs, auto test center, and survey research center, the nonprofit rates thousands of products and services annually. Founded in 1936, Consumer Reports has over 8 million subscribers to its magazine, website and other publications. Its advocacy division, Consumers Union, works for health reform, food and product safety, financial reform, and other consumer issues in Washington, D.C., the states, and in the marketplace.