The traditional contenders in the compact SUV segment are boring. Yes, they have their charms. But you don’t want the same crossover two friends and three coworkers have. You have too much personality for that.

Two of the more interesting new options in 2023 are the Kia Sportage and the Mazda CX-50. The Sportage is a brand new design, with a more up-to-the-minute look and an exceptionally long feature list. The CX-50 brings Mazda’s traditional sportiness to the table but adds a new off-road character the brand hasn’t touted before.

Let’s take a closer look at two choices that might make you seem a little more interesting.

2023 Kia Sportage

The Kia Sportage used to be known for a long feature list, a long warranty, and somewhat uninspiring looks. Kia has kept the first two but completely changed the last for 2023. A complete redesign for 2023 brought a contemporary look to the Sportage’s body, and perhaps the best-looking cabin in the class inside it. Pricing starts at $26,290.

Kia Sportage Highlights

Real design panache: Outside, the 2023 Sportage features thin LED lighting, a blend of curves and angles, and interesting color choices. Inside, it’s even better. Not long before this redesign, Kia hired a new design chief, formerly with BMW. It shows. The Sportage’s cabin looks like something from a European luxury marque. The CX-50 isn’t bad looking, but it doesn’t have the Kia’s assertiveness.

Hybrid options: The Sportage is available with a choice of traditional gasoline engines, hybrid power, or as a plug-in hybrid that can go up to 34 miles on electricity alone. Mazda is quite simply behind on electrification. The CX-50 has no hybrid options.

Excellent warranty: Kia may be improving its designs, but it hasn’t given up the feature that built its name. The Sportage is covered by a 5-year/60,000-mile basic warranty and a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty. Mazda doesn’t come close.

Check this week’s Fair Purchase Price or see the Kia Sportage models for sale near you.

2023 Mazda CX-50

2023 Mazda CX-50 on GMR at sunrise.

Mazda has long been known for great on-road performance. The CX-50 is something new for the brand – an SUV meant for the trail as much as the highway. Standard all-wheel drive (AWD), an available turbo engine, and an upscale cabin make the CX-50 a compelling new alternative. Pricing starts at $27,550.

Mazda CX-50 Highlights

Standard AWD: Kia will sell you an AWD Sportage, but it adds $1,800 to the price tag of most trim levels. Mazda doesn’t build a CX-50 without it. If you’re going to take your new SUV on the trail, Mazda’s i-Activ AWD system is a plus.

Optional turbocharged engine: CX-50 buyers have the option of a 2.5-liter turbocharged engine making up to 256 horsepower (227 without premium fuel). It’s pricier but gives buyers more interested in performance an option most rivals don’t give them. The Sportage plug-in hybrid variant has 261 horsepower but weighs more, making the CX-50 turbo a touch quicker.

Fun to drive: The heart of almost every Mazda is the brand’s famously responsive steering enhanced by the G-Vectoring torque system. The Sportage can be fun to drive but can’t quite match the CX-50 on a winding road. We should note that Sportage models equipped with AWD have a torque vectoring system of their own.

Check this week’s Fair Purchase Price or see the Mazda CX-50 models for sale near you.


These are two of the newest compact SUVs on the block, and each comes with a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine making 187 horsepower.


Compact SUV shoppers have a lot of options. But not many of them are interesting. Both the 2023 Kia Sportage and the 2023 Mazda CX-50 offer unique character. The CX-50, as essentially Mazda’s Subaru, has hiking-boot looks and a bit of the off-road capability to back it up. The Kia Sportage is more stylish and more flexible, available with conventional, hybrid, or plug-in hybrid powertrains. X-Line and X-Pro light off-roading trims can help you get your Sportage on the trail, too.

Choosing between them is largely a matter of style, though we’d be remiss not to note the warranty difference, too.


2023 Kia Sportage 2023 Mazda CX-50
Starting Price $26,290 $27,550
Popular Powertrains
Engine 2.5-liter 4-cylinder 2.5-liter 4-cylinder
Horsepower 187 hp @ 6,100 rpm 187 hp @ 6,000 rpm
Torque 178 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm 186 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm
Transmission 8-speed automatic 6-speed automatic
Fuel Economy 25 city/32 highway/28 combined mpg (FWD) 24 city/30 highway/27 combined mpg
Also Available AWD, Hybrid, Plug-in hybrid 2.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder
Basic Warranty 5 years/60,000 miles 3 years/36,000 miles
Powertrain Warranty 10 years/100,000 miles 5 years/60,000 miles
Max Seating Capacity 5 5
Wheelbase 108.5 inches 110.8 inches
Overall Length 183.5 inches 185.8 inches
Width 73.4 inches 80.8 inches
Height 66.1 inches 63.5 inches
Turning Diameter 38.6 feet 36.0 feet
Headroom, Front 39.6 inches 39.1 inches
Headroom, Rear 39.4 inches 38.6 inches
Legroom, Front 41.4 inches 41.7 inches
Legroom, Rear 41.3 inches 39.8 inches
Shoulder Room, Front 57.5 inches 55.9 inches
Shoulder Room, Rear 55.6 inches 53.6 inches
Cargo Volume 39.6/74.1 cubic feet 31.4/56.3 cubic feet


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