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2006 Cute Ute Buyer's Guide
2006 Small Sport Utility Vehicle's Buying Guide

by Martha Hindes

We think of them as spunky. We think of them as bold.
We think of them at getaway time, or when we're trapped on hold.

They used to all be trucky, 'though on a smaller scale.
But now with lush amenities they cruise o'er hill and dale.

These are the "cute utes." No matter what we call them, they serve us well, and they're simply fun to drive. They're (usually) the smaller, less pricey versions of big, bolder sport utilities, often car-based junior models that can substitute as cars both in passenger capability and purely indulgent comfort. In a pinch, they can maneuver over a hefty-sized berm to reach the only remaining empty parking spot when there's no other way to get there. (That's just to explain their capability, not a recommendation.)

Seriously, thanks to the higher stance and more rugged purpose of many models, a cute ute can usually maneuver out of trouble spots such as water-logged roadways or a bumpy dirt path with more ease than an auto, especially when equipped with all-wheel or four-wheel drive. They're like the kid down the block who's been taking karate lessons on weekends and finds strength and tenacity when it's needed for a showdown. Sometimes these cute utes are the rugged black-belt variety, like the feisty Jeep Wrangler that set the world on sport utility wheels many vehicle lifetimes ago. And sometimes they're the ones that more readily resemble an auto based wagon, but still surpass the perceived limitations of "car."

With delight and a sense of exploration, we offer you 10 of this year's best cute utes from an ever-expanding stable of contenders. We invite you to read on...