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Big guy wants fuel efficiency and AWD - is that possible?

2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek


Hey guys: Hope you can point me the right direction. Like many of your readers, fuel economy is at the top of the list when I think about replacing my '04 Honda Accord, which has been great. On weekends, my wife and I often run up to our cottage. This, the recent snow and my perception of better safety has me thinking AWD (all-wheel-drive). Is there such a thing as a fuel-efficient AWD vehicle? P.S. Can't be too small: I'm 6-foot-3 and 230. – Paul in Winnipeg

Vaughan: Paul, you ask: "Is there such a thing as a fuel-efficient AWD vehicle?" No. You're dragging around a heavy mechanical drive, with lots of friction from extra cogs and wheels. Besides, front-wheel-drive (FWD) and good tires will get you to the cottage and back unless you have a vertical driveway.

Cato: I'm all in with Vaughan, Paul. Don't spend money on fuel-sapping bits and pieces unless you need it, and it sounds like you don't. And because you're a Honda guy, I want you to think about holding off on a new ride until the end of this year.

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That's when Honda's Acura brand is going to launch an AWD car with great fuel economy – the RLX Hybrid sedan. As I understand it, Acura's 21st-century AWD system will have electric motors on two wheels doing the hybrid piece, while the gas motor will power the other two.

So sometimes the RLX Hybrid will run on electric drive, other times on gas and yet others on a combination of both. Excessive mechanical bits and pieces creating drag – gone! The next NSX super car will have the same. Wait, Paul.

2013 Honda Crosstour Honda Honda  

Vaughan: Well, I'll grant you Paul is a Honda guy, but does he want to twiddle his thumbs only to become the canary in the coal mine? I wouldn't want to own one of the very first batch of these things to hit the market. Call me back in a couple of years and tell me how it turns out.

In the meantime, Paul, if you like your Accord, consider the Crosstour, which is something between a large wagon and an all-wheel-drive crossover utility vehicle. It's built on the Accord platform. I think it's a bit goofy-looking, although it has been cleaned up a bit this year. I think you'll do fine on the cottage run with the 192-horsepower four-cylinder.

Cato: Nope. Can't agree. You, Vaughan, are talking about the front-drive Crosstour. And I don't think Paul is going to buy into our view on FWD. So he must go AWD in the Crosstour and it's overpriced at $37,350.

So I want you to switch brands, Paul. Much as I want you to, I don't think you'll wait for a hybrid AWD. That being the case, zip down to your local Subaru dealer to test the all-new XV Crosstrek. And think about splurging – $28,895 for the loaded Limited version. Subaru isn't going all high-tech on AWD, but this one is at 148 hp and can be had with a thrifty CVT or continuously variable transmission for an extra $1,300.

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Vaughan: That Subie could well be the answer.

Cato: No. It is the answer. Paul gets the AWD he covets, he gets reasonable fuel economy, he gets the reliability of a Subaru, which if you believe the research is a hugely reliable brand. Look here, Vaughan, he's driving a nine-year-old Honda. He wants a car designed to last a decade. That's a Subaru – the Crosstrek.

Vaughan: Here's one from left field and, I admit, Cato put me on to this. It's an oddball choice (did I mention it was from Cato?) that actually makes sense – the unknown and totally unappreciated Suzuki Kizashi.

Cato: Unappreciated? Forgotten and now ignored.

2013 Suzuki KIzashi Suzuki Suzuki  

Vaughan: This Suzuki is a mid-size sedan with a brilliant AWD system that makes it a terrific handling machine. Just the right balance between comfort and sport. It has a smooth 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine with 180 horsepower pumping through a CVT. It is available with wheel-mounted paddle shifters, so you can pretend you have a six-speed.

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Yes, I know Suzuki is departing Canada with its tail between its legs – but that means deals, deals, deals.

Cato: Look, by law Suzuki must provide parts for 10 years after a model is sold, so Paul, if you're worried about getting a five-year-old Kizashi repaired, don't. The bits and pieces will be available.

I know the Kizashi is an unknown to you, Paul, but I threw this one in the mix for a couple of reasons. First, you hold on to your cars for a decade, so the plunging resale value of a 30-day-old Kizashi is of no concern. Second: well, it's everything you want in a car. Third, when last I checked, Suzuki has at least $3,500 in cash discounts in play.

Vaughan: Go drive all three, Paul. If you like the Kizashi and get the price you want, I can guarantee you'll be the only kid on the block who has one.



2013 Honda Crosstour EX-L2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek Limited AWD2013 Suzuki Kizashi AWD Sport

Wheelbase (mm)


Length (mm)


Width (mm)


Track, front (mm)



3.5-litre V-62.0-litre four-cylinder2.4-litre four-cylinder

Output (horsepower/torque)

278/252 lb-ft148/148 lb-ft180/170 lb-ft

Drive system

All-wheel driveAll-wheel driveAll-wheel drive


Six-speed automaticFive-speed manualCVT

Curb weight (kg)


Fuel economy (litres/100 km)

10.5 city/6.6 highway8.9 city/6.7 highway9.3 city/6.8 highway

Base price (MSRP)


Source: car manufacturers

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.

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About the Author
Senior writer, Globe Drive

In 25 years of covering the auto industry, Jeremy Cato has won more than two-dozen awards, including three times being named automotive journalist of the year. Jeremy was born in Montreal and grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. More


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