Compact SUVs are the hottest segment in the auto industry. They're promoted as all-wheel-drive vehicles that can go anywhere in any weather, especially snow.
But before you get overly confident, Consumer Reports found big performance differences in all-wheel-drive vehicles.
At its snow-covered auto track, Consumer Reports put three of the most poplar small SUVs to the test -- the Honda CR-V, Subaru Forester, and Toyota RAV 4. All are equipped with their standard all-season tires.
"All-wheel-drive SUVs aren't all the same," said Mark Rechtin, Consumer Reports' ear editor. "Their tires, their stability control, their all-wheel-drive systems, when taken together- that's what determines how well they will perform in the snow."
All were several seconds slower accelerating from 0 to 60 in the snow than in dry pavement. But there was a two-point-three second difference between the Forester and the RAV4.
The Forester also did markedly better climbing a hill covered with fresh snow.
"The Forester's drive system allows for a certain amount of wheel slip, which really helps it maintain momentum while it's climbing a hill," Rechtin said.
In Consumer Reports braking tests from 60 miles per hour, the RAV4 and Forester were able to stop in about the same distance, though about twice as far as on dry pavement. But the CRV took an extra 50 feet to come to a stop.
The handling course showed the most dramatic differences. The RAV4 had a tough time cornering, with unresponsive steering.
The Honda CRV's stability control kept it from spinning out, but it required a lot of driver input to stay on course.
The Subaru Forester cornered the way advertisements make you think an all-wheel drive should perform.
All in all, the Forester did the best of the three in Consumer Reports' all-wheel-drive winter competition.
Consumer Reports recommends that you equip your car or SUV with winter tires in any area with high snowfall. All-wheel drive is great at getting you started in the snow, but good winter tires will aid more in braking and certain cornering situations.
All Consumer Reports Material Copyright 2016. Consumers Union of U.S. Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Consumer Reports is a not for profit organization which accepts no advertising. It has no commercial relationship with any advertiser or sponsor on this site. For more information visit consumer.org
Consumer Reports: Best small SUV in snow