Should I Buy a Subaru Forester, Subaru XV Crosstrek or Mazda CX-5?

Should I buy a Subaru Forester or Subaru XV Crosstrek? What about the Mazda CX-5?

Ron S., Sheridan, N.Y.

We could find reasons to endorse your purchase no matter which of the three you bought, though we rank the redesigned 2014 Forester as the best overall choice.

The 2014 Forester is about the same exterior size as the previous version but roomier inside and much quieter. Noise suppression and interior quality haven't been strong points on previous versions, but the new one is significantly improved.

Base prices range from $22,820 to $33,820, including destination charge (the latter price is for the potent turbocharged 2.0 XT Touring), and all models have standard all-wheel drive. Fuel-economy ratings for models with the 2.5-liter four-cylinder and continuously variable automatic transmission are 24/32 mpg city/highway.

In comparison, the smaller XV Crosstrek  has less cargo room — a modest 22.3 cubic feet behind the rear seat compared with the Forester's 34.4 cubic feet — though surprising passenger space. Its 2.0-liter engine generates a modest 148 horsepower and is noisy.

The Crosstrek also has standard all-wheel drive, and its fuel-economy ratings of 25/33 mpg are just 1 mpg higher than those of the larger Forester. Base prices start at the same level as the Forester, $22,790, but top out at $25,290. However, we tested a well-dressed version that was more than $27,000, so the compact Crosstrek overlaps the midsize Forester's price range.

The Mazda CX-5 is a fun-to-drive compact SUV with crisper handling than rivals, but it has a noticeably firmer ride. The 2.0-liter engine is low on power and high on noise, so we prefer the more potent and refined 2.5-liter added for 2014. There's little penalty in fuel economy from the larger engine, which has EPA ratings of 24/30 mpg with all-wheel drive versus 25/31 mpg for the 2.0-liter, also with all-wheel drive.

Though 2014 CX-5 prices start at $22,190, all-wheel drive is optional. We tested a 2014 Grand Touring model with a sticker price of $31,890, so you will have to be prudent with the model and options you choose to keep the price at a more reasonable level.

The Cars.com Compare feature will let you see how these three SUVs size up in other ways. Selecting specific models of each, which you can do here, will allow you to compare them in greater detail.

Have a car question you'd like us to answer? Send us an email at tips@cars.com.

Related
2014 Subaru Forester Review
2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek Revew
2014 Mazda CX-5 Review

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