2016 Mazda CX-5
2016 Mazda CX-5 (Mazda North American Operations)

SUVs generally aren’t the go-to choice for driving fun, but there are several models on the market today that the automotive press says are engaging to drive. Due to their smaller size, compact SUVs tend to be the more agile than midsize or large SUVs, and several also have standard or available engines with potent power for even the most enthusiastic drivers. If you need the utility of an SUV but don’t want to sacrifice an entertaining drive, consider one of the following fun-to-drive compact SUVs.

Some test drivers say the 2016 Mazda CX-5 has the agility of a sports car, and even those that don’t go that far agree it handles exceptionally well for an SUV. Its responsive steering and available 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine also earn reviewer praise.

The 2016 Ford Escape is available with a 1.6- or 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, both of which deliver impressive power, critics report. They also say its precise steering and nimble handling make it one of the best-driving models in the class.

2015 Volkswagen Tiguan
2015 Volkswagen Tiguan (Volkswagen of America, Inc.)

Among standard engines in the class, the 2015 Volkswagen Tiguan’s 200-horsepower turbocharged four cylinder is one of the most powerful. Test drivers say the Tiguan accelerates quickly, and they like the six-speed automatic transmission’s smooth and precise shifts. Through turns, the Tiguan handles more like a sedan than an SUV, critics say.

If you’re willing to spend a little more money for a fun-to-drive crossover, there are several luxury compact SUVs that won’t disappoint. The 2016 Porsche Macan comes standard with a 340-horsepower V6 engine and a seven-speed automated manual transmission that together deliver sports car-like acceleration, according to test drivers. The Macan also has adept handling, critics say, and its standard all-wheel drive system comes with an off-road mode that optimizes performance and traction on the trails. 

The 2016 BMW X3 has three available engines, all of which earn reviewer praise. The optional turbocharged 300-horsepower six-cylinder engine, in particular, impresses test drivers with its ample punch. They also like its sharp steering and excellent agility on twisty roads.

2015 Infiniti QX50
2015 Infiniti QX50 (Nissan North America, Inc.)

Likewise, critics praise the 2015 Infiniti QX50 for its exceptionally rapid acceleration and sports sedan-like handling through turns. The QX50’s base 3.7-liter V6 engine pumps out 325 horsepower, which is the second highest output (trailing only the Macan) in the class among standard engines.

If you need more space than a compact SUV offers but don’t want to give up sporty performance, the 2015 Ford Edge Sport, 2015 Land Rover Range Rover Sport, 2015 Porsche Cayenne and 2015 BMW X5 are a few midsize SUVs that critics report are exceptionally fun to drive for the class.

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