We’re putting two popular family SUVs – the Toyota RAV4 and the Mazda CX-5 – head to head, to help you decide which is for you. While the CX-5 has received some great reviews, the RAV4 is the car that started the SUV craze more than 20 years ago. Read on to find out if the newest version has what it takes to beat the Mazda.
Toyota RAV4 vs Mazda CX-5 styling
While they go about it in different ways, both cars deliver the goods when it comes to style. Although the RAV4 has been around for two decades, its new poised, angular headlights set it apart from its previous incarnation. Sharp lines dominate much of the RAV4’s styling giving it decent road presence but we can’t help but think the front end is needlessly fussy.
The CX-5 is marginally shorter than the RAV4, but it’s still an imposing vehicle. While it’s also chunky, its lines are softer and less aggressive than the Toyota’s. This gives it a somewhat friendlier face and, to our eyes, a more cohesive look. Nevertheless, the flared wheelarches, projector headlights and bold front end help it stand out from the crowd.
Toyota RAV4 vs Mazda CX-5 interior
Step inside the RAV4 and things aren’t as exciting as the exterior styling suggests. Toyota is known for making durable, high quality products but some of the interior trim in the RAV4 feels a little dated. The infotainment system is also showing its age up against many similarly priced rivals, too. Ergonomically, things are as good as ever – the driver will find everything within easy reach when on the move.
The Mazda’s interior big enough for five adults to sit comfortably and, while some lower plastics leave a little to be desired, most visible plastics are soft to the touch, resulting in a more luxurious feel than the Toyota manages. The dashboard is more up to date too – a 5.8-inch infotainment system sits in the middle of the dashboard and is controlled by a straightforward rotary controller. Pick for a higher trim and the leather interior compliments the interior’s upmarket ambiance well.
If you’re after space, the Toyota comes out on top – there’s plenty of passenger room and lots of scope for adjusting the seats. It’s one of the best in class for boot space too – with 547 litres on offer, it not only trumps the Mazda’s 503 litres, but also the popular Nissan Qashqai.
Toyota RAV4 vs Mazda CX-5 driving
Behind the wheel is where these two differ the most. While it’s a capable car, you couldn’t really consider the RAV4 a fun-to-drive car. Older RAV4s were praised for being sure-footed and agile, but the latest model has made ride comfort a top priority. This means that, while it cushions occupants from the worst bumps, the raised suspension means you get some body lean – something many SUVs now manage to avoid.
The Mazda is not only a capable car, but fun, too – a quality many SUVs struggle to achieve. Some critics have even said it’s as fun as many sporty hatchbacks thanks to its impressive suspension setup. There’s lots of grip and the controls respond in a quick and intuitive manner. It’s also comfortable and, unlike the Toyota, body lean is well contained. Its standard kit list is worth a mention too – you won’t have to pay for cruise control or climate control like you would with the RAV4.
Toyota RAV4 vs Mazda CX-5 engines
The RAV4 has an engine to suit everyone but the new hybrid model arguably makes the most sense. Using electric motors working in tandem with a 2.5-litre petrol engine, the system offers 55.4mpg average fuel consumption while its 197hp gives a 0-60mph time of less than nine seconds. It can only run on electric-only power for two miles, however – 30 short of its main hybrid-SUV rival, the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. The 2.0-litre diesel and petrol engines are relatively refined, but don’t expect them to be any more fun than the frugal hybrid.
The CX-5 gets two engines – a 2.0-litre petrol engine producing 163hp and a 2.2-litre turbo diesel which is offered with with 148hp or 173hp. All of them are relatively frugal but, even opting for the most powerful diesel, you’ll see well over 50mpg and get loads of torque making it a great choice for towing. Even the petrol manages around 47mpg and, thanks to its six-speed manual or automatic gearbox, you should get even more on long motorway runs.
Both can be ordered with four-wheel drive – it’s standard in the RAV4 hybrid. Neither are especially well suited to venturing far off the tarmac so, unless you’re planning on towing heavy loads regularly, there’s no real advantage choosing four-wheel drive. In fact, you’ll find the systems on both these cars will harm fuel consumption by 5 to 10mpg.
Toyota RAV4 vs Mazda CX-5 verdict
This is a difficult question – both these cars are practical SUVs offering buyers lots of space and those all-important SUV looks. Taking into consideration their wowscores, the RAV4 manages 6.5/10 while the CX-5 gets 7.6/10 – suggesting the Mazda is the critics’ favourite.
While it’s a little roomier inside, the RAV4 misses out on the Mazda’s sporty drive and its cabin’s materials and styling leave a little to be desired. On the other hand, the CX-5 can’t compete with the RAV4’s extra space and hybrid system that helps it incur a much smaller road tax bill.
Of course, which you prefer is up to you, but we think the best all-rounder is the CX-5 – the basic models are slightly cheaper than the equivalent RAV4 and it comes with several standard features that are pricy options on the Toyota. Combine this great value with the spacious interior, desirable styling and engaging drive and it’s safe to say you’ll get more for your money by picking the Mazda.
Save money on your new SUV
Whichever you prefer, check out our Toyota RAV4 deals page or Mazda CX-5 deals page to get the best price on your new SUV. If none of these cars are for you, our car chooser is here to help narrow down your search.