Mazda CX-5 and Hyundai Sonata

| August 1, 2016


Mazda CX-5 | Starting price: $21,800

Mazda’s M.O. is to infuse sports-car spirit into everything it builds. The CX-5 is no exception. This compact SUV remains at the top of its game among competitors like the Ford Escape, Honda CR-V and the Hyundai Tucson.

When it first debuted in 2013, it was the antidote to the compromise compact crossovers seem to make. Later, it was given a more powerful engine option, and this year, the cabin gets a bit of a facelift.

The CX-5 just feels and drives differently than its competitors. Its overall attention to design, detail and handling is well executed. It drives with the spirit of a sports car and not like a station wagon on stilts. The exterior dimensions are tight yet the interior is generous. The cargo space is easily accessible and the tiny lip where the lift gate latches prevents your grocery bags from sliding back against the gate and falling on the ground when you open it.

Buyers have two engine choices: a capable 155-horsepower 2.0-liter 4-cylinder, or the more thrilling 184-horsepower 2.5-liter engine, which is available on either the FWD or AWD models. You’ll pay a little more for gas, but not in a punishing way. Average MPG on the AWD is 24/30. Either way you go, there is plenty of zip, or rather, zoom to be had. A 6-speed manual is standard, or you can opt for a 6-speed automatic. Steering is sharp and handling is on point. The body is solid and the doors shut with an authoritative “thud.” You have good visibility and ride height without needing a step ladder to enter or exit the vehicle.

The CX-5 parlays that solid, well-designed body structure into ride, handling and safety benefits. The car rides just a touch choppy for my taste but that’s part of what allows the superior handling that this vehicle has. Its lower center of gravity makes the CX-5 fun around a corner, a curve, or a nicely banked freeway. Not only does it handle and corner very well but the feedback from the steering communicates back to the driver what’s happening down on the pavement where the rubber literally meets the road.

The CX-5 is a safety haven and with all the airbags, traction and stability gear, it gets a coveted top safety pick award.

It’s hard to improve on something that works really well, but this mid-cycle refresh gives us a classier interior with nicer instrument panel materials and some accent trim for a more finished feel. An electronic parking brake means there’s now space on the center console for two USBs and an auxiliary jack, located in a new storage bin. A new infotainment system feels upscale.

The CX-5 is not a fast vehicle but the thoughtful design and construction, nice drive, excellent economy and attractive price make it a compelling option.



Hyundai Sonata | Starting price: $21,750

If you’re planning to base your next car purchase purely on emotion, which as we all know, most people do, then you probably shouldn’t buy a Hyundai Sonata. However, if you’re looking for a practical, stately-looking family sedan that gets excellent fuel economy, keep reading.

Logically, the Sonata just makes sense. It’s safe, fuel efficient and reliable. The Sonata is roomy and comfortable and has the best in-class warranty.

The Sonata features styling reminiscent of the flashier Genesis, though toned down for the mid-size crowd. Its lines are clean and conservative, though 18-inch wheels and dual twin exhaust pipes do add a touch of sportiness on some models.

With several different trim levels to choose from, there’s a Sonata that can meet the needs of just about any family. This is considered a family sedan, after all. The Sonata features class-leading passenger space, with plenty of head and legroom in the back seat.

With those trim levels comes a choice in powertrains. Standard for the SE, Sport, and Limited models, you get the 185-horsepower, 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine. Meanwhile, if you’re looking for a little more pep, you can opt for the 2.-0 liter turbo-charged engine in the Sport and Limited models. All get the 6-speed automatic transmission. The Eco model is its own kind of animal with the turbo mated to a 7-speed, dual clutch transmission for an average of about 3 more mpg than the standard combined rating of 29 mpg on the other models. And those numbers are nothing to shake a stick at, despite recent drops in oil prices.

The ride is as you might expect from this very practical, logical car. It’s not going to wow you as you make winding, exhilarating drives in the country. However, the cabin is quiet and roomy and you’ll feel none worse for the wear after a longer trek. The steering wheel feels good in your hands and the driver’s seat offers plenty of support.

The Sonata rides on MacPherson struts up front and an independent multilink rear suspension. This suspension provides excellent ride and handling characteristics that make this the car you don’t think about while driving — and I mean that in a good way. Its ease of handling makes this an effortless commuter’s car. However, if you want something a little more engaging, there’s the sport-tuned suspension and steering that come along with the turbo editions.

Options can add upwards of $13K to the base price and include everything from leather surfaces to a panoramic sunroof. Unique options like side and rear window sunshades, a heated steering wheel and cooled seats are loved by owners. Notable standard features, however, are steering wheel-mounted audio, Bluetooth, and cruise controls.

Base price on the Sonata starts out at $21,750. Maxed out on a 2.0T Limited, you’ll pay $34,075. Yes, there is plenty to like about the Hyundai Sonata — as long as you’re buying from the head and less from the heart.

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Category: New Automobiles

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