Big and small winter wheels

By Don Armstrong

Despite what some may say, size does matter. This month, we look at a couple of SUVs at different levels of the size spectrum, one with three rows of seating and another, a new entry, that is smaller than a VW Golf, yet it is labeled as an SUV.

Mazda CX-9

The CX-9 badge from Mazda has been around for 22-years but sales are still strong for this SUV stalwart.

Even though it is considered a mid-size, it’s hard for us to imagine that a third row would ever fit back there, but it does, albeit a tight fit.

The second-generation exterior hasn’t changed much since it’s 2016 debut. Mazda designs its vehicles for a longer run than typical American brands, so, with occasional refreshes, you’ll find a lot of bang for the buck here.

Short front and rear overhangs, new-style lighting and an aggressive grille give the 2021 CX-9 a design edge over many of its competitors.

You’ll find high quality materials in a beautifully designed cabin. A new 10-inch infotainment screen ups the ante from the outgoing system but can still be frustrating to get acquainted with.

The 227-HP 4-cylinder averages 24-MPG.

Ride and handling are so good, we gladly give it two-thumbs up. Like all of the SUV’s that we test, ours are strictly on-road adventures.

Pricing begins at 33,960.   

Hyundai Venue

Teeny tiny is the best way to describe Korean automaker Hyundai’s latest SUV entry. But describing the Venue as an SUV might be a misnomer, not just because of its diminutive size but it is only offered with front-wheel drive. We’d like to think of this newcomer as more of a hatchback with an SUV “look.”

The Venue’s front-end styling reminds one of the brand’s new, larger sibling, Palisade, with its larger front light pods below smaller ones – most cars and SUV’s are designed with larger lights above the smaller ones.

The Venue’s interior is very straight forward, with a center-dash mounted infotainment screen sandwiched between two air vents, simple climate controls and a nice console. An elongated storage cubby is conveniently located above the glove box. From the driver’s seat, the oversized C-pillar can hamper a direct rear side view.

Power is delivered to a CVT transmission from a 121-horsepower, naturally aspirated, 4-cylinder engine. That combo gets an average 31-MPG.

The Hyundai Venue starts at $18,750.

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