Editor’s Picks: Which of the Eight Would We Want to Drive Home?
When it comes time to buy our next family vehicle, it will most likely come from the compact crossover segment. When I brought home the Mazda CX-5 a year or so ago during a review, my wife and I were both highly impressed with it and deemed it would be our next vehicle.
Then my wife got some seat time behind the wheel of the 2013 Toyota RAV4 and it suddenly became a two horse race. But after a drive in the 2014 Forester, we have both been converted; this will be our next vehicle (until the next latest and greatest crossover arrives of course).
Hyundai’s electric steering drives me nuts. It feels inconsistent and twitchy like a muscle you’ve exercised too rigorously. That’s still not enough to keep me from naming the turbocharged Santa Fe Sport as my top pick. Humor me for a minute if you think I’m wrong.
Compact crossovers aren’t really about putting handling first. For me, it’s more like fourth place behind style, power and space. The Santa Fe Sport isn’t the best, but it’s competent. I would choose the Hyundai’s entrant because it’s a stripped-down, no-frills vehicle with affordable horsepower. I’ll take that over a touch screen every time.
It’s fun to drive, practical and good looking – what isn’t there to like about the Mazda CX-5? The transmission is its biggest letdown, feeling a bit lazy and rough around the edges. Otherwise, the CX-5 checklist reads a lot like what was right about the Mazda6.
The 2.5-liter engine is responsive and the steering and suspension are engaging and enjoyable. Even the interior, a sore spot for Mazda in the past, reminds me of the conservative, sporty and focused design of an entry level BMW. While comfort isn’t its strong point, the CX-5 hits all the emotional checkmarks and a few practical ones too.
Who wants to drive fifth place? When it’s the CR-V: I do.
The Honda cute ute’s placement in our comparison has as much to do with our ranking structure as it does the car’s shortcomings. We put a lot of weight on looks as we believe most consumers, particularly in this segment, value a vehicle’s style highly.
If you’re neutral on its styling, or the importance of a car’s design in general, take a look at our results sheet, give every car a middling 5 out of 10 and suddenly CR-V moves up two spots for a podium finish.
Add in a responsive transmission, peppy engine, good handling, lots of passenger and cargo room and what will presumably be superior reliability and I can look past the less-than-ideal cabin noise.