The 2.0 liter engine with manual 5-speed is snappy and responsive. Drop it into 4th on the highway and you have plenty of passing power. On back roads, it clings to gravel and dirt, and it handles great in snow (assuming you actually know how to drive in snow). This car has walked through mud, snow, tall weeds, and easily navigates city streets (drove it through downtown Chicago with ease). The newer six-speeds lack the snap and downshifting is finicky, so I'll be keeping my 5-speed rather than trading up. Best car in its class, especially for the money.
The selectable drivetrain (FWD, AWD or 4WD).
The responsive 5-speed transmission shifts well both up and down; much better than the 6-speed in newer models.
It has more sure-footedness and handling in all situations, including dirt roads and snow, than the Rav4 and CRV (I have owned and driven all three). It is on par with the Forester.
Hatch wide enough to store optional crossbars (whether hauling kayaks or IKEA boxes ... ).
Less-sensitive/delicate tire sensors (often come one even when tires are inflated properly).
Better visibility between windshield and door window (the A-window is too small) -- rounding corners can cause blind spots.
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