Game On, Honda CR-V vs. Mazda CX-5: Which One Wins?

Game On, Honda CR-V vs. Mazda CX-5: Which One Wins?

In the popular compact SUV segment, two players lead the way year after year, the Honda CR-V and Mazda CX-5. They're both a nice mixture of all-wheel-drive utility, useful cargo space, and convenient technology.

When comparing the Honda CR-V and the Mazda CX-5, which is the better choice for the compact SUV buyer? It's a close call but comes down to which design elements are most important to you.

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Honda CR-V vs. Mazda CX-5: Styling and design

Take a look at the 2021 Honda CR-V, and it's a good-looking, nicely proportioned vehicle. It gives off an air of reliability and sensibility, just like the Honda Accord and Honda Civic. And being made by Honda, you know it's a vehicle that will stand the test of time. 

On the other hand, the 2021 Mazda CX-5 has the swooping, elegant lines of a sports car, with its Mazda Kodo design language that's all about the idea of "less is more." The open grille harkens back to classic sports cars, and the flowing bodywork adds a touch of excitement to a vehicle designed for utility.

When making your choice between the two, it comes down to preference. Do you want a compact SUV that's attractive but prudent? Or do you want something that adds fun to the equation with styling that rivals a sports car? If it's the latter, the better choice is the Mazda CX-5.

Honda CR-V vs. Mazda CX-5: powertrain options

The 2021 Honda CR-V and Mazda CX-5 have base engines that are similar in output but take a different approach to get there.

Honda used their experience with turbocharging to produce an engine that's both spirited and fuel-efficient. The standard turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder in the CR-V is good for 190 horsepower and 179 lb-ft of torque. Despite those strong stats, the CR-V still returns an EPA-rated 28/34 mpg city/highway.

Mazda went a different route and chose a naturally-aspirated powerplant, using a 2.5-liter four-cylinder that makes 187 horsepower and 186 lb-ft of torque. And though slightly less fuel-efficient than the Honda's turbo four-cylinder, the CX-5 gets a solid EPA-rated 25/31 mpg city/highway.

Up to this point, the CR-V and CX-5 are basically even. But here, the two brands deviate in their approach, with Honda aiming for higher fuel economy and Mazda for increased performance. Optional engines on each illustrate this. 

With the CR-V Hybrid trim level, Honda uses a 2-liter four-cylinder Atkinson cycle engine paired with an electric motor. Combined, the two are good for 212 horsepower and 232 lb-ft of torque. But where the CR-V Hybrid excels is fuel economy, returning a frugal EPA-rated 40/35 mpg city/highway.

On the other end of the spectrum, Mazda goes with their Skyactiv-G 2.5 T engine. With its Dynamic Pressure Turbo system, this engine puts out an impressive 250 horsepower and 320 lb-ft of torque. Despite these excellent power stats, the CX-5 Turbo returns a respectable EPA-rated 23/28 mpg city/highway.

When comparing the engine options on the Honda CR-V and Mazda CX-5, the standard power plants are about even. But if you decide to go for their optional choices, it comes down to the excellent fuel economy of the CR-V Hybrid or the sports car performance of the CX-5 Turbo and deciding which you find more appealing.

While base models of both the CR-V and CX-5 are front-wheel drive, all-wheel drive is available on all trim levels of each.

2017 Honda CR-V LX (from $20,950)

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Honda CR-V vs. Mazda CX-5: Interior design and technology

With today's cars reaching new levels of design, features, and build quality, it can be challenging to choose between competitors. That can be especially true when comparing interiors on different makes and models, as almost all of them offer refined, comfortable cabins.

The Honda CR-V and Mazda CX-5 are no different, with each of them having a distinctive take on what a compact SUV's interior should be. 

The CR-V has a roomy interior that's a comfortable place to be, whatever type of trip you're taking. The standard CR-V interior has a logical and easy-to-use layout, with everything you need in your field of view. If you want a more upscale feel, the CR-V Touring trim has a mixture of faux-wood accents, chromed plastic, and brushed satin finishes. 

Comfortable front seats support you during long days on the highway, and an infotainment system lets you control an array of features. While the base LX models use a 5-inch color radio screen, all other trims come with a 7-inch touchscreen with an infotainment system with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and SiriusXM satellite radio. Also available are navigation and a nine-speaker audio system.

Like the exterior styling on the CX-5, Mazda uses a more elegant interior design that appeals to the senses. With an environment that rivals cars from top European luxury brands, the CX-5 interior uses high-quality materials and an intelligent layout. A floor-hinged accelerator, usually only found on high-end sports and luxury cars, offers increased throttle control and modulation. A steering wheel that looks handmade is positioned directly in front of the driver instead of slightly offset at an angle like on most cars. 

On the infotainment front, the CX-5 takes the lead over the CR-V with a standard 10.3-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and a rotary knob on the center console that controls the system. For music lovers, there's an optional Bose audio system.

Similar to their exteriors, the CR-V and CX-5 are a contrast in approaches. If you prefer simple and good-looking, go with the CR-V. If you want something with a little more flair, choose the CX-5.

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Honda CR-V vs. Mazda CX-5: interior space

An important aspect of any SUV, whether compact or full-size, is its cargo space and room for passengers. 

While both the Honda CR-V and Mazda CX-5 have plenty of cargo space, the CR-V has a clear advantage.

With its rear seats folded down, the Honda CR-V has a spacious 75.8 cubic feet of storage. 

The Mazda CX-5 has 30.9 cubic feet of storage in the same configuration.

In terms of passenger room, the Honda CR-V and Mazda CX-5 are about even. The CR-V has 41.3 inches of front legroom compared to 41.0 in the CX-5. And the CR-V has 40.1 inches of front headroom compared to 39.7 in the CX-5. 

Whether you choose the Mazda CX-5 or Honda CR-V, you'll have plenty of room. But if you routinely need extra storage space, the CR-V is the way to go.

2019 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring (from $29,950)

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Honda CR-V vs. Mazda CX-5: Which is better?

The CX-5 and the CR-V are both excellent vehicles with value-driven pricing that starts at $26,370 and $26,525, respectively. If you decide to buy used, you'll save thousands on either one. Shift offers fair, no-haggle prices driven by powerful machine learning algorithms and tons of data. 

For the buyer who wants a compact SUV that focuses on well-engineered, everyday function, the Honda CR-V is the better choice. And the CR-V Hybrid trim level takes compact SUV fuel economy to new heights.

For the buyer who wants a little passion with their utility, the Mazda CX-5 is the way to go. The CX-5's dramatic styling, high-end interior, and optional 250 horsepower turbocharged engine impart excitement into the compact SUV segment. 

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Author
Shift Editorial Team