Compact crossovers continue to draw attention from automakers and buyers alike. The constant parade of new and redesigned models is good news for buyers looking for reasonable utility and efficiency in an affordable package.
Santa Fe Sport Virtues
A slightly smaller variant of the regular Santa Fe, the five-passenger Sport follows Hyundai's current trend of generous standard equipment and ambitious interior refinement. There's evidence of both traits in the Sport's dashboard, a rather elegant affair that's color-keyed to match the seats and door panels. Cargo space comes in at 72 cubic feet, about as good as it gets in a small crossover.
All models carry a six-speed automatic transmission and driver-selectable electric steering. The standard 2.4-liter four-cylinder produces 190 horsepower and delivers 24 mpg in combined city and highway driving, or 22 on all-wheel drive models. The optional 2-liter turbo provides a boost to 264 horsepower and takes the Hyundai from zero to 60 mpg in a 8.1 seconds, which is commendable for this class.
Like the Santa Fe Sport, the CX-5 is more athletic than its rivals, with confident braking and smile-inducing responsiveness on twisty roads. Fuel economy with the standard 2-liter four-cylinder is top notch: 29 mpg in combined driving. Although its 155 horsepower is at the low end of this class, the CX-5 accelerates just as well as other non-turbo crossovers. The upper trim levels get a 2.5-liter with 184 horsepower, which delivers robust acceleration with only a slight loss in efficiency.
The CX-5's interior design is mature and highly functional, devoid of any questionable ornamentation. Cargo space is competitive at 65 cubic feet, and the load floor is nearly flat.
What Matters More?
As usual with strong competitors, the choice comes down to personal priorities. The Santa Fe Sport offers more space and refinement, whereas the Mazda excels in efficiency and driving dynamics.
Our Verdict: Mazda CX-5
The Mazda raises the bar on fun and fuel economy in a small crossover.