For many car shoppers, a compact SUV hits all the right notes. They’re affordable, offer enough space for all but the largest families, and are small enough to easily slip through traffic and powerful enough to tackle an open road.
The Toyota RAV4 is the best-selling compact SUV in America. The Mazda CX-5, though, may deserve more popularity thanks to its crisp handling and stylish looks. Let’s see how they compare.
2023 Mazda CX-5
Mazda styles itself the premium affordable automaker. Its cars are priced like rivals from Honda and Toyota, but answer them with attractive styling and sporty character. The CX-5 is Mazda’s classic compact SUV, with fun-to-drive character and a sleek body. Prices start at $26,700.
Mazda CX-5 Highlights
Standard all-wheel drive (AWD): Many drivers associate SUVs with sure-footed performance in foul weather or off of paved roads. But AWD is the key to that security, and some affordable crossovers don’t have it. It’s standard on the CX-5. It’s available on the RAV4 but adds $1,400 to the sticker price.
Lower base price: Speaking of prices, the CX-5 starts at $26,700. The RAV4 technically starts at a higher $27,975. But to build a truly comparable model, you’d have to add AWD to the RAV4, bringing its minimum price to $29,375.
Fun to drive: Price aside, the best reason to drive a Mazda is that the drive is entertaining. Mazda’s G-vectoring control torque vectoring system can vary the speed of each wheel to help keep the CX-5 flat through turns. It makes driving more fun.
Check this week’s Fair Purchase Price or see the CX-5 models for sale near you
2023 Toyota RAV4
More Americans buy a Toyota RAV4 than any other compact SUV. The RAV4 is famously well-rounded, earning a solid A-minus in every subject and doing it all for a fair price. Toyota builds it in gas-powered, hybrid, and plug-in hybrid versions. Prices start at $27,975.
Toyota RAV4 Highlights
Excellent fuel economy: The least fuel-efficient RAV4 is still more efficient in combined driving than the most fuel-efficient CX-5. If you’re shopping small because of gas prices, this might make a difference in your decision.
Cargo room: The RAV4 and the CX-5 have similar dimensions for passengers. But they’re not similar when it comes to cargo space. The RAV4 holds more with the rear seats in use and a lot more with them folded down. If cargo space is what has you SUV shopping, the Toyota might be the better call.
Flexible lineup of options: Toyota builds gas-powered RAV4s, hybrid RAV4s, and plug-in hybrid RAV4s that act like electric cars around town and gas-powered cars for longer trips. They build not one but two off-road models – the soft-roader Adventure edition and the more capable TRD Off-Road variant. Mazda builds the CX-5 in an impressive eight trim levels, but none are electrified, and none are built for the trail.
2.5-liter 4-cylinder standard engines, 3-year warranties, and strong reliability reputations make these two a lot alike
The Toyota RAV4 has been the right choice for millions with its flexible lineup, bulletproof reliability reputation, and excellent cargo space. But there’s no doubt that it’s more fun to drive a Mazda CX-5, even before you take into account the CX-5’s optional turbocharged engine upgrade. Similar prices and warranties make the two comparable up-front investments. Different character, though, means one may be more right for you than the other.
|2023 Mazda CX-5||2023 Toyota RAV4|
|Engine||2.5-liter 4-cylinder||2.5-liter 4-cylinder|
|Horsepower||187 hp @ 6,000 rpm||203 hp @ 6,600 rpm|
|Torque||186 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm||184 lb-ft @ 5,000 rpm|
|Transmission||6-speed automatic||8-speed automatic|
|Fuel Economy||24 city/30 highway/26 combined mpg||27 city/35 highway/30 combined mpg|
|Also Available||2.5-liter turbo-4||Hybrid, plug-in hybrid, AWD|
|Basic Warranty||3 years/36,000 miles||3 years/36,000 miles|
|Powertrain Warranty||5 years/60,000 miles||5 years/60,000 miles|
|NHTSA Overall Safety Rating||5 stars||5 stars|
|Max Seating Capacity||5||5|
|Wheelbase||106.2 inches||105.9 inches|
|Overall Length||180.1 inches||180.9 inches|
|Width||72.6 inches||73.0 inches|
|Height||65.6 inches||67.0 inches|
|Turning Diameter||36.0 feet||36.1 feet|
|Headroom, Front||39.7 inches||39.5 inches|
|Headroom, Rear||39.0 inches||39.5 inches|
|Legroom, Front||41.0 inches||41.0 inches|
|Legroom, Rear||39.6 inches||37.8 inches|
|Shoulder Room, Front||57.1 inches||57.8 inches|
|Shoulder Room, Rear||54.8 inches||56.4 inches|
|Cargo Volume||30.8/59.3 cubic feet||37.6/69.8 cubic feet|