This month of Editors’ Picks sees us recognize a strong pair of Japanese cars designed for the driving enthusiast. Both having just been totally redesigned, we found their latest versions to be even more satisfying than the last. In addition to the Nissan Z and Subaru WRX getting the nod, Mazda gets similar recognition for its new crossover. The CX-5 is still highly recommended, but we prefer the CX-50 over it at this point.
In case you missed our previous Editors’ Picks posts, here’s a quick refresher on what’s going on here. We rate all the new cars we drive with a 1-10 score. Cars that are exemplary in their respective segments get Editors’ Pick status. Those are the ones we’d recommend to our friends, family and anybody who’s curious and asks the question. The list that you’ll find below consists of every car we rated in May that earned an Editors’ Pick.
2023 Nissan Z
Quick take: Tons of power, excellent handling, a gorgeous design and a supremely affordable price make the Nissan Z a killer sports car proposition.
What it competes with: Toyota GR Supra, Subaru BRZ, Mazda MX-5 Miata, Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro
Pros: Powerful twin-turbo V6, excellent handling, pretty design, agreeable pricing
Cons: Cramped interior, automatic option is subpar, base trim is sparsely equipped
From the editors
Road Test Editor Zac Palmer — “I fell for the Z quickly. A new sports car with a dynamite engine, solid manual transmission, very good handling and stunning looks is an instant winner today. We’re living in a golden age of Japanese sports cars/sport compacts, and the Z is one of the best options of them all. It should make everyone looking to buy a Toyota GR Supra take pause to consider the Nissan.”
Associate Editor Byron Hurd — “I was a believer in the Z even when others weren’t, so I’m happy that Nissan left most of the formula well enough alone. The new engine makes the Z feel punchier and more alive without giving up all of the high-revving character that made the 3.7-liter V6 an outlier in a space now overrun with turbocharged four-cylinders. Just stick to the manual.”
In-depth analysis: 2023 Nissan Z First Drive Review: The Z is back again!
2022 Subaru WRX
Quick take: The WRX gets big upgrades where it counts, making it better to drive than before. We’re not fully sold on the styling, but it’s tough to beat if AWD performance is king.
What it competes with: Toyota GR86, Mazda MX-5 Miata, Honda Civic Si, Hyundai Elantra N, Hyundai Veloster N, VW GTI
Pros: Cheap AWD performance, greatly improved engine, sharp handling
Cons: Controversial styling, mediocre tech
From the editors:
Associate Editor Byron Hurd — “The new WRX doesn’t look like a massive leap forward on paper, but the latest iteration of Subaru’s compact chassis delivers an excellent balance of ride quality and superb handling. The harder you drive it, the harder it wants to be driven. The only thing I’d change is the infotainment.”
In-depth analysis: 2022 Subaru WRX Road Test Review | Subie’s new turbo top dog
2022 Mazda CX-50
Quick take: The Mazda CX-50 is a crossover that doesn’t penalize you for choosing a crossover. It’s engaging and fun to drive on top of being utilitarian and useful in day-to-day life.
What it competes with: Hyundai Tucson, Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-5, Toyota RAV4, Subaru Forester, Nissan Rogue, VW Tiguan, Chevrolet Equinox, Ford Escape, Mitsubishi Outlander
Pros: Top-notch handling, attractive styling, simple but beautiful interior
Cons: Driver assistance tech is lacking, overall utility is lacking
From the editors:
Features Editor James Riswick — “If you want a sporty, more premium answer to the RAV4s and CR-Vs of the world, the answer is no longer CX-5. It’s CX-50. It basically shares the same pros and cons as the CX-5, but it’s more attractive and more capable off the beaten path.”
Road Test Editor Zac Palmer — “For those that don’t want a crossover, but still need a crossover, this is the one you should get from Mazda. It’s shockingly luxurious, has easy-to-use tech and drives so well. I can’t say enough good things about the CX-50, because it’s truly the most satisfying to drive non-luxury compact crossover out there.”
In-depth information: 2023 Mazda CX-50 Review | 50 really is greater than 5
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