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When referring to small SUVs, these are not rugged....these are city vehicles, although some can handle pretty abusive driving and terrains.
I would first thing of the nissan x-terra...then, the toyota rav4, then the mitsubishi outlander
Xterra: the most rugged.....best 4wd drive aboard...although a bit long...
Rav4: most confortable ride....good equipment and best finishing on the inside....have a bit of squarish geometry (wheels)....the bad point would be that this one is a bit bulky so you need more engine power for abusive driving
outlander: good engine....good 4wd.....good inside equipment...however the front clearance is not very helpful when tackling steep obstacles......other bad side, the front transversal axle is known to break in heavy conditions.
I would go with the Nissan.
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