Honda CR-V vs. Mazda CX-5 vs. Toyota RAV4: 2019 Compact-SUV Comparison Test

of pickup trucks, small crossover SUVs are the
most popular class of vehicles. Considering how versatile,
convenient, and easy to drive they are, it’s
really no surprise. Last year, we pitted
our favorites– the Honda CR-V and Mazda CX-5– against the sales
leading Toyota RAV4. But that really wasn’t
such a fair fight, considering the RAV4 was
just about to be redesigned. This year, the RAV4 is
the new kid on the block, while the Mazda and Honda
have gotten some key updates. That means this battle should
be closer than ever before. WILL KAUFMAN: As
always, you can get more information and great
deals on these three vehicles and all of their
competitors at Also, we’ve got more
comparison videos coming up, so make sure to subscribe. But back to these three. ELANA SCHERR: We’ve got
the Toyota, the Mazda, and the Honda. All have an MSRP between
$35,000 and $38,000. All three seat five,
offer all wheel drive, and come with a full
suite of active driver safety aides. But which one does it best? Let’s meet our fighters. [MUSIC PLAYING] This is the Honda
CR-V in Touring trim. It’s friendly and predictable,
but is it stellar or a snoozer? Oh, wait, I forgot to tell
you what’s new on the Honda. It now comes with a volume knob. MARK TAKAHASHI: The last time
we ran this test, the Mazda CX-5 got big points for
performance and refinement. This time around, it gets
a new turbo charged engine, as well as a top Signature trim. Those promise more power
and luxury than ever before. WILL KAUFMAN: Well,
brace yourselves, because this is the 2019 Toyota
RAV4 Limited all wheel drive. For 2019, Toyota completely
redesigned the RAV4 from the ground up. It’s more powerful, has
more technology, and more off road capability. But more than that, it’s
got way more attitude, both inside and out. Still, the old RAV4
lost the comparison test last time around. Does this redesign give the
RAV4 the edge it needs to win? Let’s find out. ELANA SCHERR: When it
comes to bragging rights, the Mazda CX-5 is the most
powerful in the bunch with 250 horsepower. The Toyota RAV4 is
next with 203 horses, and the CR-V is
third with only 190. But what’s in a number? When we tested the cars’ 0 to
60 times at the Edmunds track, the CX-5 was quickest. That’s no surprise. But the RAV4 took a whopping
8.9 seconds to hit 60, while the CR-V did
it in only 7.9. Power isn’t everything. WILL KAUFMAN:
Obviously, the numbers don’t tell the whole story. To find out how
these cars stack up, we’re going to
have to drive them in their natural habitats– the suburbs. Let’s hit the road. [MUSIC PLAYING] MARK TAKAHASHI: Will, Elana,
this is the Mazda CX-5, which I consider the prettiest– the best driving of the bunch
for a number of reasons. It’s got more power and I think
the suspension is just tuned a little more sporty. ELANA SCHERR: Do you think that
the sportiness and the power make you feel more like
a dad or more like you’re on a road trip with your super
attractive and fun friends? MARK TAKAHASHI: I don’t
know how to answer that, but I’ll take door number two. Yeah, it doesn’t feel
like I’m sacrificing driving engagement for the
convenience of driving an SUV. WILL KAUFMAN: How do you feel
about that upgraded engine, though? Do you think that’s
worth the extra money? It’s a pretty big price bump. MARK TAKAHASHI: I don’t
see a big enough difference between that and
the base engine. The base engine already has
plenty of punch, I think. WILL KAUFMAN: It
feels like they’ve aimed for luxury a
little more than sport, like a premium feel. The engine just doesn’t
have a very sporty response, even though it’s strong. ELANA SCHERR: The Mazda
is fast, but it really wants you to know that
it’s working hard for it. Like it’s like, I am going
to be very loud about this. MARK TAKAHASHI: It doesn’t
sound terrible, though. It almost has that
weird Subaru flutter. Here we go. [ENGINE REVVING] ELANA SCHERR: Oh. MARK TAKAHASHI: Right? It doesn’t sound like
you’re hurting the engine. It sounds decent. It’s almost to
the point where it encourages you to drive
just a little bit harder. ELANA SCHERR: But it
does sort of sound like it’s going, like, woo! [LAUGHTER] Get some! [LAUGHTER] MARK TAKAHASHI: This is
a nice looking interior. You are paying more
for it in this car. Mazda is making this push to be
more of an entry level luxury brand, and you know what? The materials quality, I think,
is better than the other two. I like the design. It’s less cluttered. You know, are you going to
buy this against an Audi? Probably not. So I have two USBs
under my elbow. Hey, Elana, how many USBs
do you have back there? ELANA SCHERR: I don’t see any. [LAUGHTER] MARK TAKAHASHI: Trick. It’s behind you. It’s in that center armrest. You have to flip it
down, and that’s also where the seat
heater controls are, which seems like a really
bad place for both. ELANA SCHERR: You aren’t lying. MARK TAKAHASHI: All right. Good. How’s comfort wise back there? ELANA SCHERR: If we were
going a long distance, I would prefer to be on
one of the side seats because there’s a big
hump in the floor here and it makes it sort of awkward. There’s nobody else in here,
so it’s fine right now, but I wouldn’t want to be
in here with other people or with car seats. How’s the comfort up there? MARK TAKAHASHI:
Will, you’re pretty particular about seat comfort. Let’s hear it. WILL KAUFMAN: I am. They’re pretty
supportive, they’re a little narrower
than they need to be– a little more sport oriented. But the support is good and
the cushioning is pretty good. I mean, I like
sitting in the Mazda. It’s one I could
sit in every day. It really does feel like more
of a four passenger vehicle, though, with the
placement of the seat heaters and the USB ports
and sort of the narrowness of that back seat. It just doesn’t feel like it’s
meant to carry five people. MARK TAKAHASHI: Which might
be a reason why I like it. I like smaller cars. I like cars that feel
like it’s wrapping around. You’re almost wearing them, and
this certainly has that feel. ELANA SCHERR: Of the
three cars in this test, this is the one I would
take if I was going on a road trip with my friends. It just felt like the
most adult fun car. WILL KAUFMAN: Yeah, this is
also the car with the best stereo in the group,
which means that when I get sick of listening
to you guys talk, I can just drown you out. [MUSIC PLAYING] Yeah. ELANA SCHERR: We’re
in the Honda CR-V, and Mark, before we
started this test, you told me that I was going
to be surprised by the Honda. MARK TAKAHASHI: Yes. ELANA SCHERR: And
you were right. Everything about it is better
than I expected it to be. The performance, the comfort,
even the styling outside and inside is just
not as soul sucking as I associate with small SUVs. MARK TAKAHASHI: And we
have this conversation mirror so you can keep tabs
on the rugrats in the back. WILL KAUFMAN: That’s good. I need supervision. ELANA SCHERR: Stop that. The biggest surprise
for me, though, was– [ENGINE REVVING] It actually moves out. I mean, I’m not
going to go crazy. I’m not going to say it’s fast,
but it is considerably faster than I was expecting it to be. WILL KAUFMAN: But it’s
only a second slower to 60 than the much more
powerful CX-5. MARK TAKAHASHI:
And it has a CVT, which generally have a
tendency to suck the life out of any car. It’s impressive how they tuned
it, how they engineered it. It just works. ELANA SCHERR: I think that if
you put somebody in this car and you had them
guess the power train, they would never say 1.5
liter turbo 4 with a CVT. MARK TAKAHASHI:
But handling wise, I mean, not that it’s a
priority for a lot of people– how does it feel
behind the wheel? ELANA SCHERR: It’s
certainly not scary. I mean, you’re
not going to worry about driving on a
twisty road like, oh man, I’ve got to slow
down to like 30 miles an hour and, you know, everyone
behind me is going to be mad. MARK TAKAHASHI: As
far as ride quality, though, I really like it. It’s smooth. It’s got the right
amount of compliance to soak up all the bumps. This is just a much
nicer ride quality. ELANA SCHERR: Oh yeah. I mean, comfort is
probably the first word I would think of
to describe this. The seats are big and plush. They’re supportive enough. I really think SUV
manufacturers tend to err on the side
of making the seats, like, really stiff
like, oh man, everybody wants to be in a sports car. And it’s like, nope, nope. I want to feel like
I’m in a recliner. I want the car to be quiet
and I want everything to be soft and gentle. MARK TAKAHASHI: Speaking
of quiet, floor it. [ENGINE REVVING] WILL KAUFMAN: Yeah,
it doesn’t sound bad. MARK TAKAHASHI: It doesn’t. WILL KAUFMAN: It’s not as nice
an engine note as the CX-5, but it doesn’t sound like
you’re hurting the car. ELANA SCHERR: I also don’t
think it’s very loud. I mean, that was floored, and– MARK TAKAHASHI: Yeah. ELANA SCHERR: If
I had music on, I don’t even think you’d hear it. Hey Will, how’s the backseat? WILL KAUFMAN: The
backseat in here is– I mean, there’s a lot
of space back here. I actually think the side
seats are really comfortable. The center seat is wide enough. I actually think you could
fit three people across here, especially if you’re
dealing with kids. This is actually a five
person SUV for a family. ELANA SCHERR: Among
the many things that are easy in the
Honda, visibility is one. There is plenty of room to
see around the front pillars, the rear window is big,
and you could see out even if there were three
people in the backseat. Talking about
surprises in the CR-V, I expected it to cost
more than it does. MARK TAKAHASHI: I did, too. This is the top trim, and it
comes in just a few hundred dollars under the RAV4,
which means both of them are a couple thousand
dollars less than the Mazda. It’s impressive. You get a lot for that money. WILL KAUFMAN: Yeah, and I
mean, it’s really practical. There’s a lot of smart
solutions and thoughtful design. It’s a car that does
everything you need it to. It really helps
you get everything that you need to do done, but
it actually goes a little bit above and beyond that mission. It’s a little nicer
than just practical. ELANA SCHERR: Yeah, it
solves all of your problems and it’s a little bit fun. WILL KAUFMAN:
Welcome to the RAV4. This is completely
redesigned for 2019, so it’s the newest
vehicle in the bunch. It’s also, in some
ways, the oldest. The RAV4 was really
the vehicle that started the small SUV craze. It’s clearly changed
a lot since then. For starters, it is
much bigger in here. ELANA SCHERR: It’s
huge in here, actually. I mean, I know you meant that
the whole car was bigger, but is it possible for a
front seat to be too big? Like, I feel like
I’m bouncing around. MARK TAKAHASHI: I actually
am totally fine back here. I’ve got a ton of room
underneath the seats. My knees aren’t
banging into anything, and Elana’s seat is
actually moved further back than what she normally needs. I’m totally fine back
here, but that said, I didn’t go on the RAV48
Tour, so I’m probably not the best person to talk
about long distance comfort. WILL KAUFMAN: Yes. Elana and I each took
a turn driving a RAV48 across all 48 contiguous
states in just seven days, which meant we spent a lot
of uninterrupted time sitting in these seats. ELANA SCHERR: A lot of
the things that came up are still things that are
coming up in this review. WILL KAUFMAN: Yeah. I mean obviously, the
wheezy engine, you know, and I actually had
issues with seat comfort in this car on a long drive. I found the front passenger seat
just a little uncomfortable. These head rests are
sort of aggressive. From the three cars
we have here today, this has got to be
my least favorite to sit in for a long time. ELANA SCHERR: One
of the things that going on a long road
trip in winter meant for testing this car is
that we got to see what it was like in snow, in ice. WILL KAUFMAN: Yeah. I mean, it handled all
of that stuff fine. You know, the vehicle
sort of is the only one of this group that makes any
even nod towards being off road capable. Even in this street oriented,
feature filled version, you get a terrain select knob. You have a button specifically
for a snow mode in the car, and it handles those
things perfectly fine. MARK TAKAHASHI:
But we’re talking really light off roading. ELANA SCHERR: Do you feel like
the big weakness is ground clearance or do you feel
like the big weakness is the fact that it can barely
make it up a paved hill? [LAUGHTER] WILL KAUFMAN: Yeah, the fact
that you get all that torque way up high in the rev range
and there’s no low range gearbox in here
means this is not at all a serious off roader. Let’s see what happens when
you actually stand on this car. [ENGINE REVVING] Oh, and you can– oh, you can hear
and feel the shifts are just sort of slow
and a little slushy. It’s not the best transmission. ELANA SCHERR: I feel bad. I feel bad for this car. I think it’s embarrassed. WILL KAUFMAN: There is a
solution to the problem of this engine, fortunately. For about $800 over a regular
all wheel drive model, you can get the
RAV4 Hybrid, which makes a bunch more torque, and
the electric motors actually fill in some of that low
end torque that you miss. And you get 40
miles to the gallon. It is an amazing
deal, and I think if you were going
to buy one of these, that’s the one that you get. Of course, most people won’t. One nice thing about the RAV4– it actually has the best
visibility of all three. The pillars are
relatively narrow and they’re placed
so that they don’t get in the way of your view. It has nice, big mirrors. It’s got a big
view out the back. It even has, in this
trim, a camera mirror, just in case you’ve packed
the back up with so much stuff that the regular
mirror won’t work. ELANA SCHERR: I
definitely think the RAV4 is one of those vehicles where
it was first to the market, it has a great reputation,
people still believe in that great reputation,
and when you actually get in the new one– got laurels. They’re being rested on. [MUSIC PLAYING] MARK TAKAHASHI: The Mazda CX-5
is gorgeous on the outside, but it’s also really
nice on the inside, too. It’s my choice, as far as
refinement and luxury go. If you look at the design,
it’s simple, but elegant. It also gets my vote for the
best infotainment system, and I use those quite a bit. Sure, Apple CarPlay evens
the playing field some, but this is the only one
with one of these knobs here that we’ve become
accustomed to from BMW, Audi, and Mercedes. But it’s also a
touchscreen, and that’s great because Apple CarPlay– it lends itself to
being a touchscreen. Technology is also
well represented because it has a
head up display. That makes it unique
among this group. It allows you to keep
your eyes on the road, but still see all the
vital information you need, including navigation,
turn by turn prompts, speed limit signs. It all puts it right there,
right in front of your view. Materials quality is
excellent throughout. It fights well above
its weight class, when it comes to the interior. Everything that you touch is
nice, soft touch material, and it’s well grained and it has
excellent stitching throughout. With Mazda eyeing the
entry level luxury market, this is a really
promising start. When it comes to
interior storage, however, it’s not at
the top of its game. I actually think the
RAV4 and CR-V beat it. But I do have more than
enough space for my stuff. If I had a car full
of people, that might be a little challenging. There isn’t a wireless
charging pad, unfortunately. You have two USB
ports under here, two moderately
sized cup holders, and the bins in the doors– you can put a decent size
water bottle in there, but not much else. When it comes to
visibility, the CX-5 is a little bit challenged. This roof pillar here in
front is pretty thick. That means in a really
sharp left turn, you kind of have to bob
your head back and forth to see past it. Another bright
spot in technology is the driver assistance
features that the CX-5 has. It doesn’t have more
than the others, but I contend that
it’s better tuned. I didn’t get any false
alarms for frontal collision or for lane keep assist. And the other assistants, like
the adaptive cruise control, is full range, all the
way down to a stop. Even better, it reacts
more like I drive. It just drives nice and
smooth, in a logical manner that the RAV4 seems to be
challenged by even more. WILL KAUFMAN: Toyota definitely
gave the interior of the RAV4 an upgrade, in terms of design,
personality, and material quality. Everywhere you look,
the design is solid. There’s some contrasting
colors and textures. Most of what you touch is
soft touch, padded materials. There are definitely still hard
plastics around to bump into, but it’s not that
objectionable in this class. It’s also nice they’ve
added some rubberized knobs, these chunky climate
control knobs, and the chunky grab
handles on the door. Interior storage
space is interesting. It’s not as good
as the CR-V. It’s a little better than the CX-5. You get a big tray for your cell
phone on higher trim levels. It’s a wireless charging pad,
which some people really like. The center console box
is relatively small, but to make up for that, you
have these nice little shelves that are placed around
the cabin that neither of the other vehicles have. They’re big enough
for a cell phone. They’re pretty useful. Something else I’d point out
that I like in this vehicle, versus the other two, is
the really big sunroof. There’s a lot of light
that comes in through that. This is a top trim vehicle, so
you’d expect all the goodies on this, and it has stuff
like dual zone climate control with a separate
cutoff for the back seat. You have heated seats, and
of course, the technology features. One thing you don’t get is
a heated steering wheel. You also don’t get
ventilated seats, which you can get on that CX-5. Even on the base trim,
you get a pretty good set of active safety features. This car has the whole package. It has adaptive cruise
control and lane keep assist. Those features work
OK if you’re at speed, but once you get into
stop and go traffic, it just doesn’t
know how to behave. It wants to leave a lot
of room between the RAV4 and the vehicle in front. Overall, it doesn’t
behave the way that you’d want when you’re
in stop and go traffic. One thing this vehicle offers
that the other two don’t is lane centering. Now, what that does
is it tries to keep you centered in the lane, rather
than sort of ping ponging back and forth between
the lane markers like with regular
lane keep assist. It’s a system that
works well at speed, but when I’m driving around
town or on my commute, I just want it turned
off because it is always beeping at you. It loses track of
the right lane. It beeps at you. It drops out of lane centering
to regular lane keep. It beeps at you. It goes back. It beeps at you. Loses track of the left lane. It beeps at you. You drift a little too far. It beeps at you. Every once in a while, it
gives you a false positive and beeps at you. It just is always making noise. It’s one of those things
that’s kind of nice to have on a long freeway
cruise, but when I’m driving around the city
or when I’m on my commute, I just want it turned off. Toyota gave this a pretty
big infotainment screen. You get a volume knob
and a tuning knob. Unlike the CR-V, you
get hard buttons, so it’s easy to navigate
between the different menus that you want to use. Unfortunately, it’s just not
the easiest system overall. It doesn’t look
fantastic, the graphics look a little low
resolution and dated, and some of the functions
are a little harder to access than I’d like. It took me a little
while to figure out how to pair Bluetooth on my phone. And sadly, the RAV4 only
offers Apple CarPlay, and not Android Auto,
which means about 50% of smartphone users
are out in the cold. You can download the
Entune connected app. That gives you a little
bit more functionality, but it’s not the
easiest thing to use. I would rather
just use Bluetooth, and then, I guess, rely on the
kind of lame nav in this car. They came to this generation
after the CR-V and CX-5, so they had an opportunity
to leapfrog them. And instead, what they’ve done
is make something that’s fine. It gets the job done. It does the things
you need to do. There are one or
two nice things. It’s a little bit more
rugged and off roady. You can get the hybrid version. Beyond that, what
you have here is a vehicle that just
doesn’t seem to offer as much as its competitors. [MUSIC PLAYING] ELANA SCHERR: The CR-V’s
biggest strength in its interior is the use of space. There’s so much of it. The console is really
low, so it doesn’t get in your upper body area. Lots of room for your elbows. Lots of room for your passenger. The console doesn’t
come out too far, so it doesn’t hit your knees. Just in general, the driving
position is comfortable and it gives you a lot
of room all around you. The materials are a
mix of soft coverings and hard plastics, which is
pretty much to be expected in a car at this price range. Everywhere you’re
actually touching, it’s pretty nice and squishy. The thing Honda has
going for it is not just that there’s
a lot of space, but it makes smart use of it. The console is divided into
specific and convenient little cubbies, including
a sliding tray that you can put your phone on,
or you can tuck it away where the USB ports are. Even though I like the
design of the center stack, I think Honda made some
weird choices about where it put some of the controls. Like the Economy button
is huge and over here, and the other driving buttons,
like the things for your lane watch and the emergency
braking warning– that’s over here. It seems like all
those driving things should be in the same place. There’s also this big screen,
but only, like, this much of it is being used. I don’t understand
that decision. I do love the fact that
they added in a volume knob. I mean, we joke
about it, but this is a really valuable thing. I like the layout of
the dash on the CR-V. It has this cool design
for the fuel gauge and for the temperature,
although it’s not super legible. So definitely sacrificing style. Plus, even though it has a
digital dash in the middle, they got really stingy on
the controls for cycling through that menu,
and you have to switch it using this
information button to say whether you want to
control the center menu or you want to control
the menu on the screen. It’s very confusing
and not awesome to do while you’re driving. The CR-V has adaptive
cruise control, and it works really well. You can set it even
at a very low speed. You can change the speed
that you want it to go at. And I felt like overall,
the car does a good job of controlling its
speed on the freeway, depending on the traffic. But it’s a very, very small
icon on the dash that tells you when it’s on, and because it’s
very easy to turn it off by, like, tapping the
brake or something, I feel like it’s dangerous to
not have it be more obvious. I know Honda can make a
really obvious warning because when the emergency
braking warning is on, it’s, like, this big and
bright orange and flashing. They should do the same thing
for when the adaptive cruise control is on. WILL KAUFMAN: One of
the big reasons people choose SUVs over sedans is how
much cargo space they offer. So let’s see how
these three stack up. The CR-V easily fit all of
our very precious cargo, and it actually could
have taken more. We had the floor in
the higher position, and it can be lowered a bit. The RAV4 looks like it
took almost as much, but what you can’t see is
how much more time we spent trying to make everything fit. The CR-V was just a lot easier. And obviously, the
CX-5 comes in last. Behind the rear seat, it’s more
than 20% smaller than the CR-V, and you can really
tested them on the track and we have driven
them in the suburbs. I think we’re ready
to declare a winner. Will, do you want
to start us off? WILL KAUFMAN:
Well, the 2019 RAV4 has been completely
redesigned, and it’s definitely got more attitude
and more personality. It’s also the most
rugged of this bunch, but it’s been slipping in
terms of performance and value, and for that reason,
it’s both fallen down our rankings at Edmunds, and
it comes in third in this test. MARK TAKAHASHI: The
CX-5 remains my choice for the power, the
performance, and the luxury. But I realize it does
have some shortcomings, so I yield to the CR-V. WILL KAUFMAN: Way
to ruin my surprise. I mean, nobody knew
what was coming next. The CR-V is good at
everything and bad at nothing, so it’s the big dog in
our small SUV comparison. Undisputed winner. Number one. MARK TAKAHASHI: For
more information on all three of these SUVs, as
well as its competition, head on over to To see more videos like
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