Price, content, fuel economy and style: which compact crossover has it all?
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
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.
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.
- PRICE AS TESTED: $31,790
- ENGINE: 2.5L four-cylinder, 184 hp, 185 lb-ft
- TRANSMISSION: 6-speed automatic
- OBSERVED FUEL ECONOMY: 26.4 MPG
- CARGO CAPACITY (behind second row): 34.1 cu-ft
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How did an old, out-of-date Forester win this comparison?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.
THE ALL AROUND CHOICE
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.
- PRICE AS TESTED: $33,220
- ENGINE: 2.5L four-cylinder, 170 hp, 174 lb-ft
- TRANSMISSION: Continuously Variable Automatic
- OBSERVED FUEL ECONOMY: 28.0 MPG
- CARGO CAPACITY (behind second row): 34.4 cu-ft