Back in May, we conducted a comparison test between the three newest offerings in the compact crossover segment: the Mazda CX-5, the Ford Escape, and the Honda CR-V. We proclaimed the CX-5 the Goldilocks of the bunch ("it's just right") and gave it the crown of the competition. Since then, we've gotten another crack at the Escape and at Hyundai's all-new (and larger) Santa Fe Sport and driven them with our Four Seasons CX-5 fresh in our minds.
After driving our CX-5 back-to-back with a new 2013 Ford Escape equipped with the 1.6-liter turbo-four and a traditional six-speed automatic, associate web editor Ben Timmins remarked that "while the Mazda's transmission is not revolutionary, it is well ahead of many competitors, including numerous dual-clutch 'boxes." While the six speed may not be our favorite part of the CX-5 thanks to its insistence to hold sixth gear, it's a trade-off we're willing to make to have a crossover that is both engaging to drive and efficient at the pump.
"The Hyundai does a lot of things better than the Mazda," notes associate editor David Zenlea. "It's roomier and more versatile, has a richer looking interior, boasts a more advanced infotainment system, has more power, and gets the same fuel economy." Granted, the Hyundai is a class larger and costs more than our $29,165 CX-5 - a the loaded Santa Fe Sport 2.0T Zenlea drove retailed for $35,625 and its 2.0-liter turbo-four produced an additional 109 hp over our CX-5's naturally-aspirated unit. However, that didn't sway his feelings for the CX-5: "Yet, the moment I got back into the CX-5 after my flight home and turned toward the parking lot exit, my mind was made: this is the crossover I'd want. The CX-5 doesn't just steer and handle well for a crossover - it steers and handles well, period. And it's actually fun."
Associate web editor Jake Holmes wasn't quite as enamored with the Mazda in comparison to the Hyundai or the Ford, though. "I don't dislike the interior design of the CX-5 and it's considerably easier to use than that of the 2013 Ford Escape, but boy does this cabin look old-fashioned compared to rivals like the Hyundai Santa Fe Sport and Escape thanks to the orange digital clock and burnt-orange climate control illumination." Ultimately it comes down to this: how much sport would you like your sport utility vehicle to have? If you know what "body roll" is, you'll buy the Mazda. If you're more concerned with on-ramps and plush rides, you'll go for the Ford; if you want more cargo space, head for your local Hyundai dealership.