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The 2023 Toyota RAV4 might be the best selling non-truck in America, but according to one source, it still isn’t the best compact SUV for the money. 

Toyota RAV4 is the best-selling SUV in America, but not the best value

A blue Toyota RAV4 drives on a city street. The RAV4 failed to earn the title of best compact SUV for the money.
2022 Toyota RAV4 | Toyota

The Toyota RAV4 sold over 400,000 units in 2022 to claim the bestselling SUV in America title. Beyond that, Toyota sold 1,132,000 RAV4s internationally – making it the best selling car in the world

You might assume the best-value compact SUV award would go to the model that sold the most units. But that’s not the case. Even with its enormous sales number, the RAV4 failed to take home the title of best compact SUV for the money. That award went to a different Japanese compact SUV.

What’s the best value compact SUV for the money?

According to U.S. News and World Report, the best compact SUV for the money in 2023 is the Mazda CX-5. 

Starting at just over $26,000, the CX-5 has been a staple of the Mazda lineup for years. It’s a direct competitor to the Toyota RAV4. However, it aims for a sleeker and sportier look than the RAV4’s soft-roader aesthetic. 

Notably, Mazda’s 2022 CX-5 sales numbers are only a fraction of the RAV4’s. According to the manufacturer, 151,594 CX-5 units were sold in the U.S. last year. 

What makes the Mazda CX-5 a good compact SUV?

U.S. News and World Report points to a few of the Mazda CX-5’s strengths – especially its performance. The publication nods to the compact SUV’s sharp handling and “zippy acceleration.” It’s no surprise – Mazda long distinguished itself from larger competitors like Toyota by emphasizing sporty driving dynamics. Even compact crossovers like the CX-5 get firmer suspension tunings and tighter steering racks than rivals like the RAV4.

Mazda has also moved its lineup upmarket over the last few years. Most of its models now sit in a middle ground between entry-level and luxury – what the brand calls “premium.” The new CX-5 is no exception, aiming for a more upscale aesthetic than many of its competitors. At the same time, Mazda offers the CX-5 at a lower starting price than the class-leading Toyota RAV4. That price advantage may play a part in its title as the best compact SUV for the money.

Is the Mazda CX-5 better than the Toyota RAV4?

The Mazda CX-5 offers a blend of sporty performance, upscale design, and fair pricing that is unique in the compact SUV segment – but that doesn’t mean it is inherently superior to the Toyota RAV4. 

On the contrary, the RAV4 thrives in serving a wider variety of driver needs. It has three distinct powertrains, including a high-demand RAV4 Prime plug-in hybrid option. Its interior is spacious and practical. And its more aggressive styling appeals to the current popularity of off-road culture. 

At the end of the day, while the CX-5 may be the best compact SUV for the money, the Toyota RAV4 is the best-selling compact SUV in the world. And that counts for something. 


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