Ryan ZumMallen has worked in the automotive industry since 2012. He has written thousands of car-related articles and tested and reviewed hundreds of vehicles over the course of his career.
November 14th, 2022
Three all-new 2023 models battle for small SUV supremacy.
Redesigned for 2023, the Honda CR-V is immediately a top contender.
Can it beat the Kia Sportage Hybrid to be our No. 1 small hybrid SUV?
CR-V also targets the sporty Mazda CX-50 for non-hybrid shoppers.
The arrival of a new Honda CR-V always grabs our attention. And that's exactly what's happening now. The redesigned 2023 CR-V has begun to arrive at dealerships across the country. Should it be at the top of your list if you're shopping for a small SUV? That's what we wanted to find out.
For our test, we compared the sixth-generation 2023 CR-V against two of our favorite small SUVs. First there's the athletic Mazda CX-50. And then there's the Kia Sportage Hybrid. The CX-50 is our top-ranked non-hybrid small SUV, while the Sportage Hybrid is our top-ranked hybrid small SUV. Like the CR-V, both of these rivals are new designs for 2023.
It may seem strange to compare the CR-V to both a hybrid SUV and a non-hybrid SUV. But if you look at how Honda markets the new CR-V, it makes perfect sense. Honda does not distinguish the hybrid version of the CR-V as being separate from the non-hybrid. Instead, some CR-V trim levels come with the hybrid powertrain, while others only offer a conventional internal-combustion engine. So the new CR-V is kind of a two-in-one. Here's how they all stacked up when the dust settled.
Notably, we left our lead feet at home for this comparison, as we consider attributes like comfort, value and cargo space to be more important than performance in a small SUV. Not surprisingly, the 2023 Honda CR-V scored well in all three areas.
But the Kia Sportage Hybrid impressed in these aspects, too. In fact, the redesigned 2023 Sportage has a better ride quality and a quieter cabin than the CR-V, plus effectively the same cargo space. It also has the best real-world fuel economy and the lowest starting price of these three vehicles.
As for the Mazda CX-50, it favors personality and driving fun over the more practical values. Compared to the CR-V and Sportage Hybrid, it has a rather stiff ride, less storage and a higher price tag. It's also the least fuel-efficient in this group. But, boy, it looks good.
Check out the video above to see how all three SUVs measured up during everyday use.
There's no question about it, the redesigned 2023 Honda CR-V is an excellent small SUV. It's just that the 2023 Kia Sportage Hybrid is better. We like its trifecta of powertrain, tech and price. For some extra spice, the Mazda CX-50 is a blast to drive and looks great too. But the Sportage Hybrid is our pick of the bunch, not to mention a substantial improvement over the non-hybrid 2023 Sportage, which suffers from lackluster acceleration and actually lost to the outgoing 2022 CR-V in our last small SUV shootout.