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As Hyundai refines its lineup of compact SUVs for 2023, the upscale Hyundai Tucson continues climbing the critics’ rankings. However, getting to the top requires climbing over the top-ranked 2023 Mazda CX-5. So while the gap between the two very different compact SUVs is closing, the Mazda CX-5’s performance is Tucson’s tallest hurdle. 

Front angle view of red 2023 Hyundai Tucson compact SUV.
2023 Hyundai Tucson | Hyundai

Comparing the top two compact SUVs: 2023 Mazda CX-5 vs. 2023 Hyundai Tucson

First, although U.S. News lists base model prices of the 2023 Mazda CX-5 2.5 S and the 2023 Hyundai Tucson SE that indicate that the Tucson is less expensive, all CX-5 trim levels feature AWD, a $1,500 upgrade on the Tucson SE. However, if AWD isn’t a deal breaker, for 2023, the base Tucson SE with front-wheel drive has an MSRP of $26,450 compared to the $26,700 CX-5. 

In addition to closely matched base MSRP, the two contenders’ overall U.S. News scores are also close, with the CX-5 keeping a slight edge with an 8.7 of 10 compared to the Tucson’s 8.5.

While the Tucson bounced back to win the ‘Interior’ rating by 1.2 points, the Mazda CX-5 dominated the other categories, winning the ‘Critics’ Rating’, ‘Reliability’, and ‘Performance’ categories. The most significant margin of victory occurred in the Performance rating, with the CX-5 earning an 8.4 compared to Tucson’s 7.1. 

How the Mazda CX-5 outperforms Hyundai Tucson

Both compact SUVs feature base engines that deliver 187 horsepower, enough to propel either around town or on the highway under typical driving conditions. However, the CX-5’s six-speed automatic transmission and AWD allow it to accelerate from zero to 60 mph about half a second quicker than the FWD, eight-speed automatic Tucson. Driving both compact SUVs led reviewers to call them equally comfortable, adding “sporty” to the CX-5’s driving description and “agile” to the Tucson’s. 

If this sounds like a tie so far, let’s introduce the 2023 CX-5 2.5 Turbo as the performance tiebreaker. Starting at $36,850, the CX-5 2.5 Turbo features a 227-horsepower turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder with 310 lb-ft of torque that shaves a full two seconds off the base engine equipped CX-5’s zero to 60 mph time.

However, there is about a two mpg fuel economy penalty for the more powerful drivetrain as it receives an EPA-estimated rating of 22 mpg city and 27 mpg highway. 

Is the Hyundai Tucson more practical than the sporty Mazda CX-5?

The Mazda CX-5 is the sportier of the two compact SUVs, but the Hyundai Tucson’s practicality shines through on many levels. Not the least is Hyundai’s industry-leading five-year/60,000-mile limited warranty and 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty. That’s significantly more coverage than Mazda’s three-year/36,000-mile limited warranty and five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty.

If you prefer the Tucson’s poised demeanor but desire turbocharged zip during your commute, consider the $30,900 2023 Hyundai Tucson Hybrid Blue. The Tucson Blue tied the Mazda CX-5’s U.S. News Overall score, nearly equaled its ‘Performance’ score, and dominated the ‘Interior’ rating. The Blue trim retains Hyundai Tucson’s upscale interior, raises the drivetrain’s power output to 226 combined horsepower, makes AWD a standard feature, and gets up to 38 mpg. 


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