And the Competitors Are...
2013 Mazda CX-5
The 2013 Mazda CX-5 came out of nowhere at the beginning of this year and snagged Autobytel’s “Crossover of the Year” award right out of the hands of the still deserving 2012 Honda CR-V. Sure, everyone expected the CR-V to be excellent but no one thought Mazda with its SkyActiv Technology would not only create a compact SUV that was light and efficient but also very fun to drive. It doesn’t hurt that the CX-5 has a class leading interior as far as quality goes even if the exterior is a bit frumpy from some angles compared to CR-V. No matter, we think that the 2013 Mazda CX-5 and 2012 Honda CR-V both belong on your compact SUV test drive short list. The rest are really just the wild cards.
2012 Kia Sportage
The Kia Sportage was the first harbinger of exterior style in the compact SUV class what with its vaguely European rear pillar which culminates in one of the tightest near-hofmeister kinks in the auto design world. The 2012 Kia Sportage also appeals thanks to the fact that buyers can specify nice features like in-dash navigation system with a full length panoramic sunroof, multi-colored premium leather or a turbocharged optional 260 horsepower engine. Admittedly, the interior plastics in the Sportage are subpar compared to the Mazda and Honda as is the basic refinement of the 2.4 liter 176 horsepower 4-cylinder engine that comes with most Sportages that are sold. Beyond that, however, the 2012 Kia Sportage is a solid choice.