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2013-2014 Compact Crossover Shootout

Price, content, fuel economy and style: which compact crossover has it all?

 |  Oct 02 2013, 2:28 PM

Second Place: Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD


After nearly four months as our long term test car the AutoGuide staff is pretty familiar with this particular CX-5. Heading into the competition we figured it would fare pretty well and Mazda didn’t disappoint, scoring a solid second place finish.

See Also: 2014 Mazda CX-5 vs 2013 Toyota RAV4

The handling, steering and grip are stupendous. Of course, this handling prowess comes at the expense of ride comfort and the CX-5 ranked third worst in this category.

More than just a solid chassis, the 184 hp 2.5L four-cylinder engine is a gem as well. The six-speed automatic transmission is designed to return good mileage over speed, so the transmission spends a lot of time in lower rpms, which can be frustrating at times. But it works. The CX-5 returned the second-best observed fuel economy.

AN ALL-AROUND PACKAGE Mazda-CX-5-Exterior-5.jpg

But sportiness and efficiency are only a few of the factors that make a compact crossover great. If this is all the CX-5 had going for it, it would have finished much lower. But the CX-5 is not a one (or two) trick pony. Inside the CX-5 really is an all-around package. The front seats are very comfortable and the steering wheel feels great. The Mazda ranked second in both driver comfort and interior style thanks to great materials throughout. The HVAC system looks upscale, and although small, the Tom Tom GPS system is a snap to use.

Despite a small exterior appearance, the CX-5 is actually bigger inside than you might think. Rear seat comfort tied for third place and cargo usability actually tied the Santa Fe Sport for first place. Not as deep as the Hyundai, the CX-5’s hatch opening offers good width and a low loading floor. The second row seats split 40/20/40 and there are remote latches for all three sections in the cargo area.

See Also: 2014 Mazda CX-5 Long-Term Update 1: The Road Trip

The CX-5 is also quite the looker. Even after four months in the fleet, its exterior design still impresses us, which is perhaps the most telling detail of all.

Fast Facts: Mazda-CX-5-Interior-7.jpg

  1. PRICE AS TESTED: $31,790
  2. ENGINE: 2.5L four-cylinder, 184 hp, 185 lb-ft
  3. TRANSMISSION: 6-speed automatic
  5. CARGO CAPACITY (behind second row): 34.1 cu-ft






  • Handsome on outside
  • Handles well
  • Flexible cargo hold
  • Easy on gas






  • Mediocre ride confort
  • Annoying transmission quirks

GALLERY: 2014 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD



First Place: Subaru Forester 2.5i Touring


How did an old, out-of-date Forester win this comparison? We’ll let you in on a secret, it’s not old. Despite still wearing a familiar boxy shape that swaggers into the room shouting, “I’m a Subaru,” the Forester is actually all-new for 2014. Many of us like the easily identifiable shape for both its aesthetics and practicality. The square rear end gives it usable rear side windows; the only vehicle in the comparison we can say that about. As well, the Forester has a nearly vertical, flush rear hatch that allows for greater usability of the cargo area.

See Also: 2014 Subaru Forester Review

The 170 hp 2.5L may be the least powerful engine here, but it feels so much punchier than it is thanks to a decent 174 lb-ft of torque that comes on early, plus a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). That CVT is one of the reasons the Forester placed so high. Those who think CVTs are a passing fad, or an automotive anomaly that will hopefully disappear from vehicular landscape need to think again. They are here to stay and like any automotive technology, they keep improving.

Subaru’s CVT doesn’t try to mimic gears like some others do, but is constantly changing ratios to avoid any hanging rpms that cause the dreaded CVT drone. It is also fairly quiet and incredible responsive. The point of a CVT is return good fuel economy and at an observed 28 MPG, the Forester did exactly that.


Aside from being efficient and responsive, the Forester scored top marks for driving position, ride comfort and having low NVH. Its sound system is also actually decent. Yes, after years of producing some of the world’s worst audio systems, it seems Subaru finally listened and gave the new Forester a respectable stereo. If only it weren’t confusing to use.

But value is the real ace up this crossover’s sleeve. It may have been the second most expensive vehicle here, but it nearly matches the pricier Outlander option for option and those features are effective and easy to use. Plus, you don’t have to option it out, and you’ll still get the majority of what makes this Subaru a winner. Add efficiency and usable space and it’s easy to see why the 2014 Forester is the best choice.

Fast Facts:Subaru-Forester-Interior-1.jpg

  1. PRICE AS TESTED: $33,220
  2. ENGINE: 2.5L four-cylinder, 170 hp, 174 lb-ft
  3. TRANSMISSION: Continuously Variable Automatic
  5. CARGO CAPACITY (behind second row): 34.4 cu-ft






  • Impressive fuel economy
  • Comfortable ride
  • Boxy space = Usable cargo capacity






  • Price
  • Noisy engine

GALLERY: 2014 Subaru Forester 2.5i Touring


  • Robby G

    The Forester? Yuck. Who wants to drive a box.

  • Adam

    You guys truly suck at rating these. You picked the ugliest, most likely to leave you on the side of the road, and cramped vehicle as your winner.

  • Alfie

    It has LOTS of room. It’s the most fuel efficient and sounds like it drove the best. I’ll agree it’s not much to look at… but it’s a solid ride.

  • RB

    We LOVE our 2014 Forester!

  • Robby G

    Who is we? You work for Subaru or something?

  • Realness

    Subaru and Hyundai were the only dealers earning record profits after the economy went bad since 2008. Subaru is fully established, and thats why Toyota is supporting partner. Hyundai just needs a proven record of reliabilityand better R&D to compete with Honda and Toyota. Time will tell who survives……I hope Mazda never dies, they need better financial support

  • VW Fan

    Where’s the Freaking Tiguan? It would have cleaned up?

  • Zoom-Zoom

    Maybe they couldn’t get in touch with the Freaking Dealership. I’ve been Googling and flipping through the phone books. I can’t find any Freaking Dealerships where I live. Where are you? I’d love to drive one of these Freaking products, I hear only great things!

  • RB

    “We” is my wife and I. We are first time owners of a Subaru. Traded in our 1993 Toyota T-100 pickup. Have owned mostly Toyotas. Our other car is a 2000 Honda Accord with 180K on it (our first Honda … great car). So far the Forester is the best car we’ve ever owned. We’ll see how she holds up over the next 12-15 years. I have no problem pointing out flaws in vehicles I own. I bought it, I didn’t personally design it! The very first vehicle I ever owned was a 1971 Ford Pinto. Talk about a POS!!!

  • Sarah Zimmerman

    I have my doubts the Subaru will last like a Honda or Toyota.

  • Ben H

    A bullshit indeed! LOL

  • Snerha

    Labeling the “Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited” as the last place finisher, greatly diminishes the credibility of this test. Of course it was the lowly Jeep Compass in the test. not the GC. Who proof reads this for AutoGuide anyway?

  • Rando

    That Outlander really is BUTT UGLY!

  • ColumWood

    Our apologies. It has been corrected and was most certainly an embarrassing error… especially considering how good the GC is.

  • Alfie

    All of Mazda’s new products are getting rave reviews. If people actually start to buy them the company’s investment in new products and engineering will certainly have paid off.

  • naren

    This review is crappy.. The forester should be 7th or 6th. I drove all these SUV. The forester leans and has loose steering feel. The seats are also horrible. The Mazda.and the outlander are way better. Your point about bad fuel economy is wrong. I own the outlander and I get 500 km in mixed driving. Carandriver and other magazine got it right. Out of the forester, rav 4, and cx -5, the forester came 3rd, the rav 4 2 nod and the cx-5 1 st. Do you guy get funding from Subaru ? This is why consumer should take your reviews with a grain of salt and test drive for themselves.

  • Alfie

    “The car I like didn’t win so the reviewers are idiots and must be taking bribes.” Really? STFU!

  • naren

    Have to ask the question because all other credible automag place it last or close to last. However, we all have different taste when it comes cars. Yes, some auto companies do fund some auto mag. Wake up and smell the coffee.STFU!

  • Alfie

    Maybe they rated the 2013 Forester last. The new one (the 2014) is WAY better… it just looks like the old model. LOL.

  • naren

    No, it was the 2014.They have good all wheel drive and are safe but the Mazda is the best here is you like driving. I drove the xt and it has good acceleration but steering was loose and no thigh support. Also worried about head gaskets, oil consumption and over all reliability of Subaru. We own 3 and had head gasket and oil consumption problems. The outlander v6 is fast, good handling and ride, good brake feel and nice steering feel. Just missing some storage and could be wider in the back

  • Binkus

    “1.7 million units sold last year”….and 20% of those are CRV’s…what does that tell you?

  • Mark

    You should throw out styling points, because anyone the gives CX-5 those high scores needs glasses
    Driving position of the CX-5 I would give it a one , seat in for a minutes and that was enough for me

  • Bill

    OMG….Snap out of it….anyone who knows anything about center of gravity and REAl all wheel drive systems, safety, quality engineering, resale would have ANY Subaru at the top of the list against any of these….a lot of yahoos here!!

  • Fred

    Since this is a compact crossover shootout why did you pick the Hyundai Santa Fe Sport and not the Tuscon? The Tuscon is their compact. The Santa Fe Sport their mid-sized and the regular Santa Fe their larger 3 row.

  • naren

    You Must work for Subaru and a BS er. If u own a Subaru, you will have to replace the engine. Add oil between oil changes. Worst in reliability.

  • roundthings

    I just bought a 2013 Mazda 3 and the ride is rearranging my internal organs. Definitely only for those who like a tight ride

  • guest

    you must be an idot with IQ below 50

  • Unhappy

    Are you kidding me? The Ford Escape could not make it??? These are currently available at the dealers for rental. This is the most biased review I have ever seen. The Escape is a best seller in the industry. How could you not include it?

  • ColumWood

    Great question. The ONLY Escape Ford was willing to give us was an EcoBoost 2.0T Titanium. We declined. We tried to keep all of the vehicles around $32,000 or less and use only base (volume) engines. The Escape we had offered to us cost around $36,000. That car wouldn’t have finished very highly either. Sure, its features and power would have delivered good numbers in some areas, but it’s poor fuel economy and price would have dropped it well down the list. We felt including it wasn’t just unfair to the others in the competition, but actually unfair to Ford as well.

  • ColumWood

    A good question. As the vehicles in this category have grown, the Tucson is now small and Hyundai is marketing the Santa Fe Sport against compact crossovers. Also, it works perfectly based on price.

  • Dental_FlossTycoon

    As a 2010 Subaru Forester owner I’m not surprised at it winning. I’ve driven in snow and rain half of these vehicles and for the $27K price tag I got Real All Wheel Drive, a Porsche like Boxer engine and leather seats with Cold Weather package. I also know with maintenance it’ll last me 10+ years and has a 5 Star Crash rating. With a bike rack on top it looks pretty cool too.

  • Brad R

    I don’t know, I’ve had two stellar Subaru experiences….Mazda as well for that matter. We all lean to one or another, Honda and Toyota are great vehicles too (though I have test driven, only test, I’ve not owned, Toyota and find the vehicles a bit dull). I’ve had friends with stories of high mileage Toyota (I’ve had up to 275,000km on my Subaru, no problems) so clearly yes they are quality but exciting…..not so much.

  • Stang70Fastback

    What are you talking about?! The Forester has been winning all the comparisons left and right…

  • DonC

    I love my 2012 Forester and this new models supposedly much better.The great thing with Subaru is you get AWD in the base model,with Toyota,Honda,Kia etc.you can’t get AWD in the base model so they were all $3-5000 more to get one w/AWD.Plus Subaru’s AWD is better in snow and ice conditions,most other systems are actually FWD till the wheels spin.

  • sam101200

    No surprise here, the Forester is ranked best small SUV from consumer reports and is Motor Trend’s SUV of the year.

  • magicmarker

    I think you guys put too much emphasis on the looks…I think it should be just about the car…let the buyers determine if the styling is good or not. When I was shopping for compact SUV, I went with reviews like this and ’12 Forest consistently places 3rd in a lot of reviews. Not until later I realize these reviewers were knocking a lot of points down because of the Forester Boxy looks (which I find to be an attractive part, look at Land Rovers! they never get knocked down on how it looks). Guys, rate the cars on the inside: Interior materials, comfort, cargo space, suspension, handling, safety, tech features, mpg, offroad ability, etc

  • magicmarker

    I agree, I think the compass and the CRV are the ugliest…I really care how the car stack up performance, features, safety, and comfort wise.

  • TikiMonger

    In regard to “driving a box”, if ease of loading cargo and ease of seeing out the windows and changing lanes in busy traffic are important to you, you’ll appreciate the boxy design of the Subie. It’s the only one with such good visibility, which to me makes the car safer to drive. I have driven the 2014 XT and own a 2007 XT with 145k miles. I only change the oil every 7-10k miles with synthetic oil, and this car has had ZERO problems. It runs great, is fast, and handles great. It’s a sports car with a nice cargo hold and higher driving position. The only fault I have with it is it’s a bit noisy, and is missing some of the new tech features available now. I added a nice aftermarket 7″ touch screen stereo with NAV, BlueTooth, USB connection, etc, but I’m still missing leather, power seats, steering wheel controls, HID headlights (which make a HUGE difference!). The 2014 model added a lot of noise dampening material, so the cabin is much quieter now. Yea, the boxy look can be a little boring, but when you need to change lanes quickly, the openness is very much appreciated. I also have a 2010 RDX AWD, and I had planned on selling the Subie. I hate the RDX and it’s currently for sale, and I love the Subie. Would just like a few upgrades. The 2014 is not quite as fast as my ’07, but the gas mileage is much better.

  • 06Forester

    I own a 2006 Forester XT turbo, Best car ever. However I would not purchase a new one as it does not have a standard shift with turbo and it’s ugly, no style as prior years. I will say that until you need the all-wheel drive you don’t what your missing.

  • sean9plus

    good marketing

  • RayK

    HIDs? Check out TheRetrofitSource.Com for the right way of getting them in your XT. Just need a bit of elbow grease.

  • Brad R

    I’ve had three Subaru, overall reliability excellent. Mazda too for that matter, loved my Mazda. I did have a gasket issue with one Legacy wagon, I knew it was unwise to buy a high mileage 2003 but I did and had an issue. I drove a 1999 Subaru to 275000km with no issues. The gasket issue was dealt with by mid 2000s.

    I drive an ’09, all good. That said I bet the CX5 is great too, have not driven, would like to. Mitsubishi I have never warmed too, don’t like the look, hate the interiors.

  • Rhett

    i own the new XT and its phenomenal…drive one..you’ll be happy you did…they knocked it out of the park with this one.

  • naren

    Mitsu interior is much improved in the new outlander. Has excellent steering feel. The V6 engine is powerful. Have 10,000 km in over 4 months. Fuel economy is very good. My wife has the cx-5. Steering is very good and handling. I find it could use a little more power. I choose the oulander mainly because of the drive train. Very smooth and powerful.

  • 2011FXT

    SO far we are very impressed with our Forester XT. Good dealer support, easy in/out, great ride and smile-worth performance. Complaints are with snow buildup in wheel wells, on deep hood recess and rear cargo door. Overall I wish I had a car with this versatility, comfort and cargo ability when i was a student. What a great vehicle!

  • RoseFlorida

    I like visibility. Who wants to drive a box that has styling gimmicks to try to make it look sleek, gimmicks that cut rear visibility?

  • Jack

    Should have waited on the 2014 Rogue.
    Should have taken off points for any that have unpainted plastic on the exterior (like the RAV4), that will turn white in a few years.

    Subaru doesn’t even make the Forester. It’s made by Fuji Heavy Industries.
    The boxer engines have some reliability issues.


    This test is not adequate at all to compare these CUVs. Sure the vehicles tested are in overlapping category, but their price / trim level was not. A lot of different configuration is available in the given price, especially for Forester and Santa Fe Sport where they have turbo/non-turbo version. The article has no mentioning of available options for the vehicles tested either. I hope no buyer take this to serious consideration when selecting a new cuv.

  • william wipperdink

    it tells you how many simpletons like you there are out there

  • william wipperdink

    bumblebrain, fuji owns subaru
    like toyota owns lexus and scion

  • william wipperdink

    I test drove almost all of these and purchased a 2014 forester and am delighted with it so far

  • naren

    William if you like it that is ok. I think we all have different taste. Hope your forester will be reliable. We own 3 Subaru. 2003 forester. Had problem with head gaskets, clutch, crack windshields in winter etc. 2007 legacy. This was was good to 80000 km then start consuming oil. 2010 forester 140000 km crack windshield and oil consumption . Wife got tired with the brand. We have a cx 5 that she loves. I have the outlander gts. I have had Mitsubishi in the family. My sister had 2000 galant with over 300000 km. I also had a mirage with over 249000 km and only change the alternator. I also had a 1991 Honda accord. Believe or not the Mitsubishi was more reliable.

  • naren

    Yes, we know you are an uneducated BS idiot

  • naren

    It is much better looking than the pictures indicate. Styling is always subjected. Lot of people thins the front of the forester is ugly. Also the jeep Cherokee styling is subjective. I think it is different and interesting. Most will think it is ugly.

  • Jack

    Oh name calling. Grow up.
    Regardless of who owns Subaru, the Forester is made by Fuji, not Subaru. Fuji made the cruise ship I was on earlier this year.
    Fuji also owns 16.1% of Toyota. So by your philosphy, doesn’t Fuji partly make Toyotas?

  • JC

    Just ordered the 2014 Forester because it impressed me BIG TME when i test drove it. Anytime anything (or anyone for that matter) gets rated #1, other people will try to pull it down. Just buy the one that suits your need and desires. I OWN A MAZDA 3 2011 and it runs amazing. I was planning on trading it in for a CX-5 but our dealership here is a bit undesirable. And to keep the warranty, you have to go to a dealership for service. Unfortunately for me, it’s the only Mazda dealership near me and the other one’s are at least 140k away from our city. But once I drove the Forester I was sold immediately. It doesn’t get a #1 rating consistently for nothing. And FYI, most of their vehicles earn top ratings year after year. That being said, it’s high rating is not a fluke. And let’s face it. ALL VEHICLES WILL HAVE PROBLEMS ONE WAY OR ANOTHER ONCE IT GETS OLD, THAT’S A FACT. Regardless of what brand your vehicle is, it will break down if you don’t take care of it. But if you are looking for a safe and reliable ride, SUBARU is on top of the game.

  • RickRayFSM

    A 2002 Subaru Forester owner here ! I’m 64 yrs. old and owned a lot of different cars. This is by far the best vehicle I’ve ever owned. Extremely reliable, not like Chrysler products.

  • LouHodo

    Isnt the Nissan Rogue a crossover? Why was it not included?

  • ColumWood

    Good question. When we did this the 2014 Rogue wasn’t yet available and Nissan didn’t have a 2013 to use. They were likely aware that with it just about to be replaced, the 2013 model would have wound up at the back of the pack.

  • Michael Huynh

    I love this video but i have to say in terms of pricing and trim level the santa fe 2014 fully loaded which i got mine for $33,000 has the turbo and everything from back up camera to beautiful 19s. I think it would of been more fair to use that trim level due to pricing and package options.

  • Crsovrking

    Where is the Mitsubishi RVR?

  • Jerry C.

    Subaru boxer engines DON’T have “reliability issues”. OTOH, they are reputed to be among the most reliable by most review and survey magazines.

  • Jay

    Don’t let a dealer con you with the “you have to get it serviced here to maintain your warranty”; US Federal law allows you to get it service anywhere without invalidating your warranty. Just follow the mfr’s service recommendations and keep your receipts!

  • will wipperdink

    get some intelligence your statements are so incredibly stupid I don’t know how to address them

  • heidi

    Dodge Journey?

  • Mike Schlee

    We find the Journey borders on a mid-size crossover competing against a larger class.

  • Mike Schlee

    The RVR (Outlander Sport) is a class smaller. It would compete more against the Juke, XV Crosstrek and Chevy Trax when it comes out.