If you lust for a hot hatch but need the versatility of a small SUV, Acura may have the perfect compromise: the RDX. Despite sharing its basic architecture with Honda’s popular CR-V, the RDX exhibits a completely different — and much more dynamic — personality. Even with its tall roofline and higher ground clearance, the SUV behaves like a subcompact. The rorty, snorty 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder packs a substantial wallop, and the available SH-AWD system — which aids handling by sending power to the outer rear wheel during cornering — helps the already-poised RDX exhibit tenacious grip. Dynamically, the RDX is still quite impressive, but it is starting to show its age elsewhere. That’s most evident in the cabin. Although the interior is chock-full of clever cubbies and storage areas (including a locking center console designed to hold a laptop computer), its aesthetic generally feels dour and dated. Buyers may be wooed by a number of advanced features, such as ELS surround sound, perforated leather seating, and GPS-linked climate control, which are typically found in more expensive vehicles, but the RDX’s true party trick remains its on-road demeanor. The compact utility segment has grown increasingly crowded, but the RDX is one of the few that convincingly meld the soul of a sports car with the shape of a sport-utility vehicle.

Drive: Front-wheel, 4-wheel
Body style: SUV/crossover, 5-passenger
Engine: 2.3L turbo I-4, 240 hp, 260 lb-ft
Transmission: 5-speed automatic
Passenger volume: 101.4 cu ft
Capacities: Towing 1500 lb; cargo (rear seats up/down) 27.8/60.6 cu ft

As was the case last year, the RDX is seeing no substantial changes for the 2012 model year. Today’s RDX is largely the same as the original 2005 model, although front-wheel drive and revised front and rear fascias were tossed in a couple years ago.

Dual-stage front, side, and side curtain air bags are standard. ABS, electronic brake distribution and assist systems, and traction and stability control are standard. Blind-spot detection is not offered, but a rearview camera is available as part of the technology package.

All: 17-19 mpg city/22-24 mpg highway

  • Drives like a hot hatch
  • SH-AWD = superb handling
  • ELS surround-sound system
  • Turbo four is thirsty
  • Interior is somewhat dated
  • Clunky navigation interface

Still fun, but showing its age.

  • Infiniti EX
  • Kia Sportage SX turbo
  • Volkswagen Tiguan
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