The newest kids on the most competitive block

It’s no secret the compact crossover segment has exploded in popularity over the last several years. Nearly every automaker sells some form of vehicle in this class, including the Ford Escape, Hyundai Tucson, Jeep Cherokee, Kia Sportage, Toyota RAV4, and Subaru Forester. But it’s the Honda CR-V and Mazda CX-5 that have attracted the most attention in the recent months. Both enter the 2017 model year with heavy changes and big improvements. The two aren’t the only new contenders in the compact crossover class, but they sure stand out.

That’s why we’ve chosen to take a close look at the CR-V and CX-5 as they compare to each other. From exterior aesthetics and interior features, to drivetrain options and trim level pricing – everything is detained below.

Of course, we’ll have to save driving impressions until we can get behind the wheel of each, so consider this a more objective run-down of features rather than a subjective comparison of in-person impressions.

Continue reading for the full comparison.

Exteriors

Honda and Mazda have taken very different design routes with the CR-V and CX-5. Obviously both vehicles follow their brand’s corporate design language for the most part, so there is little surprise here.

Starting with the 2017 Honda CR-V, it has a rather unique appearance that shares Honda’s out-there styling found on vehicles like the Civic. The large upper and lower grilles serve as a dark backdrop for bright chrome work and the large Honda badge. LED-encrusted headlights flow from the grille into the fenders while continuing the character lines already established.

2017 Honda CR-V High Resolution Exterior
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2017 Mazda CX-5 High Resolution Exterior
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While Honda pursues a funky design styling, Mazda goes for the upscale look with the CX-5.

Chrome is found around the lower fascia, the fog lights, along the rocker panels on the doors, around the side windows, along the roof rails, and running between the taillights. Speaking of the rear, the Honda’s rump is very unconventional. Volvo XC90-like vertical taillights flow onto the liftgate at a high position, making nighttime visibility a non-issue for following drivers. It also keeps the lights out of harms way from fender benders. The CR-V is popular with city-dwellers and suburbanites, after all. The lower bumper consists of black plastic, with a nice set of dual exhausts at each corner. The black plastic continues around the sides, protecting the bottom of the doors and the wheel well openings.

Overall, the updates for 2017 make the CR-V look more sporty and youthful, while keeping the crossover closely tied to the Honda brand. There’s no doubt Honda will sell gobs of CR-Vs across North America.

While Honda pursues a funky design styling, Mazda goes for the upscale look with the CX-5. Mazda’s design language is called Kodo, and it is seen on just about every model offered in the U.S. Oddly enough, the CX-5’s new appearance comes just one year after Mazda reworked its face. That’s right, the current CX-5 debuted for the 2013 model year, and for 2016, gets an updated look. Now for 2017, the CX-5 is again rocking an updated style.

2017 Honda CR-V High Resolution Exterior
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2017 Mazda CX-5
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The updates for 2017 make the CR-V look more sporty and youthful, while keeping the crossover closely tied to the Honda brand. The exterior’s Kodo design combines an air of sportiness with luxury, making the CX-5 appear far plusher than its price tag suggests.

The two-row CX-5 borrows its new aesthetics from its big brother, the three-row CX-9. The two share very similar elements in the grille, headlights, and hood design, marring the two crossovers together as a family. The design similarities continue inside the cabin, as well.

The exterior’s Kodo design combines an air of sportiness with luxury, making the CX-5 appear far plusher than its price tag suggests. Despite the classy styling, the CX-5 has plenty of SUV-like details. Black plastic runs along the bottom of the front bumper, up and over the wheel wells, travels along the rocker panels, and rounds out the bottom of the rear bumper. Chrome-tipped dual exhausts are found here, as well.

The CX-5’s upper portion lends a touch of gracefulness to the design. A strong character line comes off the headlights and runs above the front fenders. The line gradually falls along the sides of the crossover. Another strong line is picked up just above the taillights. The Mazda’s roofline takes a deeper dive than the Honda’s. It might add a level of dynamic styling, but it does cut into interior space behind the CX-5’s second row. Nevertheless, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more fluid yet properly reserved compact crossover in today’s market.

Exterior Dimensions

Honda CR-V Mazda CX-5
Wheelbase (inches) 104.7 106.3
Length (inches) 180.6 179.1
Height (inches) 66.1/66.5 (2WD/AWD) 66.2
Width (inches) 73.0 72.5

Interiors

Inside the 2017 Honda CR-V resides a cockpit full of technology and driver-focused controls. Fans of Honda will rejoice knowing the volume know returns to the infotainment system, replacing the ill-fated and generally hated touch-sensitive slider control. We expect the rest of Honda’s lineup to follow suit. Also gone is the double-stacked dashboard, replaced by a more conventional design.

The 7.0-inch infotainment screen Tri-zone climate controls reside below the screen, with the gearshift mounted just below. This opens up the center console for more storage space. Two USB ports, and a 12-volt power outlet reside here, along with two cup holders, space for coins and cell phones, and a cushioned center armrest. The driver is treated to a tri-spoke steering wheel with controls, along with a digital gauge cluster that takes a full departure from the typical round gauge appearance.

Rear seat passengers have more room to spread out in the 2017 CR-V thanks to a 1.6-inch longer wheelbase that translates to 2.1 inches of increased legroom. Two 2.5-amp USB ports reside back here for device charging and the seatbacks recline for better long-distance comfort. What’s more, thanks to the longer wheelbase, there is roughly 10 inches more cargo room with the rear seats folded flat. The official cargo volume now measures 39 cubic feet.

2017 Honda CR-V High Resolution Interior Drivetrain
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2017 Mazda CX-5
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Inside the 2017 Honda CR-V resides a cockpit full of technology and driver-focused controls. The Mazda’s interior gives owners of this reasonably prices crossover a posh place to sit.

Of course, modern features about like keyless entry and push-button starting, HD and SiriusXM radio, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth, and automatic climate controls. Adaptive cruise control and a suite of safety features are also available, including automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning and lane keep assist. Honda offers five trim levels with the CR-V. They are LX, EX, EX-L, EX-L with Navi, and Touring. The EX and above get that seven-inch touch screen.

Over at the Mazda camp, that same reserved, classy design language is found inside. The cabin is a wonderfully luxurious place to sit with a low-slung dashboard with rich trim pieces and a wide center console. The Mazda’s design isn’t nearly as functional as the Honda’s, but it’s obvious the designers placed function behind form. For many though, the high-class cabin is worth losing a few cubbyholes over.

Traditionalism continues in the Mazda’s gauge cluster, too. It uses analog gauges to deliver information to the driver, while a small TFT screen shows detailed information. A three-spoke steering wheel is also a part of Mazda’s recipe, though it shares its same with other Mazda products. Bright trim work peppers the cabin, with the front air vents beautifully wrapped in the metallic finish.

Mazda also sticks with its non-touch infotainment screen. Users rely on the console-mounted knob for inputs, which does keep the driver from having to reach and keeps the screen free of fingerprint smudges. A heads-up display does keep the driver informed without having to look down. Dual zone climate controls, heated front seats, and a heated steering wheel all find their way into the 2017 CX-5. Mazda also promises the new CX-5 will be quieter than before thanks to new insulation and better interior acoustics.

Rear passengers will have the same amount of room as in the 2016 CX-5. That’s because the new generation continues to ride on the same 106.3-inch unibody platform. The rear seats do fold down, revealing a moderately sized cargo space. Mazda has not released official specs on dimension as of this writing, however.

Overall, the Mazda’s interior gives owners of this reasonably prices crossover a posh place to sit. We imagine fit and finish will be on-par with the Mazda CX-9, which happens to be rather good.

Interior Dimensions

Honda CR-V Mazda CX-5
Headroom (front/rear) (inches) 40.1/39.2 40.1/39.0
Legroom (front/rear) (inches) 41.3/40.4 41.0/39.3
Shoulder Room (front/rear) (inches) 57.9/55.6 57.5/55.5
Hiproom (front/rear) (inches) 55.1/49.5 55.2/53.7

Drivetrains

Honda and Mazda both propel their compact crossovers with four-cylinder engines, automatic transmission, and available AWD systems. Beyond that, the brands differentiate themselves with their own technology that brings a unique character to the respective crossovers.

At the Honda camp, the 2017 CR-V is available with two engines: a 2.4-liter with 184 horsepower and 180 pound-feet of torque or the new 1.5-liter turbo-four that makes 190 horsepower and 179 pound-feet of torque. While both offer similar power ratings, the 1.5-liter turbo is the fuel miser, getting an EPA-estimated 27 mpg city, 33 mpg highway, and 29 MPG combined when equipped with AWD. FWD versions get one MPG better in each category.

The 1.5-liter turbo is only available in EX and Touring trims, so those wanting the base LX must choose the carry-over 2.4-liter four-cylinder. It’s not a terrible engine by any means. In fact, it’s the same powerplant used in the Honda Accord. Fuel economy with the 2.4-liter in FWD CR-Vs is EPA-estimated at 26 city, 32 highway, and 28 combined. Opting for AWD drops those numbers by one MPG in each category, just like with the 1.5-liter.

2017 Honda CR-V High Resolution Drivetrain
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2016 Mazda CX-5 Drivetrain
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Note: 2017 CR-V drivetrain (left) - Outgoing CX-5 drivetrain (right)

Honda and Mazda both propel their compact crossovers with four-cylinder engines, automatic transmission, and available AWD systems.

Regardless of engine choice, the CR-V uses a continuously variable transmission. Honda says the CVT helps with fuel economy and driving smoothness. While we’re bigger fans of traditional automatic transmissions, modern CVTs are far better than those a decade ago.

Mazda takes a slightly different approach. It’s standard engine is the carry-over 2.5-liter four-cylinder with Mazda’s Skyactiv technology designed to improve fuel economy without dulling the driving experience. The engine makes a respectable 184 horsepower and 185 pound-feet of torque – just like it did in 2016 – and comes mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. FWD comes standard, but Mazda’s i-ACTIV AWD system is optional. The 2.0-liter from last year isn’t available, but that’s no big loss. Why? Because Mazda is going diesel.

Yes, Mazda will bring its 2.2-liter Skyactiv-D turbodiesel to the U.S. market the latter half of 2017. Despite the rather ominous climate for diesel engines these days, Mazda’s Skyactiv-D promises to deliver clean yet powerful performance. As of this writing, horsepower and torque specs weren’t published. However, overseas applications of the 2.2-liter four-cylinder produce 173 horsepower and a whopping 310 pound-feet of torque. Besides being peppy, Mazda says the turbodiesel will offer class-leading fuel economy. We’ve also got our fingers crossed Mazda will bring the Skyactiv-D’s six-speed manual transmission along for its U.S. tour. For now, Mazda has only confirmed the six-speed automatic transmission. AWD will be offered with the turbodiesel as well.

Fuel economy estimates have not been released by the EPA, but we see no reason for change for the 2017 model year. (Mazda hasn’t messed with the CX-5’s drivetrain in this revamp.) The 2016 CX-5 in FWD with the 2.5-liter earned an EPA-estimated 26 MPG city, 33 MPG highway, and 29 MPG combined. Opting for AWD brings the estimates down to 24, 29, and 26 respectively.

Following Mazda’s “Zoom Zoom” branding, The CX-5 is expected to be the better driver’s car over the Honda CR-V. Mazda is known for delivering a rewarding driving experience without incurring the usual drawbacks of a sporty ride. Also helping the experience is the brand’s G-Vectoring Control system. It helps smooth steering inputs, especially in cornering, for a more refined driving experience without jerking or harsh body movements. G-Vectoring Control will be available across the CX-5 lineup, regardless of engine, drivetrain, or transmission.

Honda CR-V LX Honda CR-V EX Mazda CX-5
Engine 2.4-liter In-Line 4-Cylinder 1.5-liter In-Line 4-Cylinder SKYACTIV®24-G 2.5L DOHC 16-valve 4-cylinder with VVT
Horsepower 184 HP @ 6,400 RPM 190 HP @ 5,600 RPM 184 HP @ 5,700 RPM
Torque 180 LB-FT @ 3,900 RPM 179 LB-FT @ 2,000-5,000 RPM 185 LB-FT @ 3,250 RPM
Transmission Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) with Sport Mode Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) with Sport Mode SKYACTIV®24-Drive 6-speed automatic transmission with manual-shift mode and Sport Mode
Curb Weight (lbs) 3,307/3,421 (2WD/AWD) 3,349/3,463 (2WD/AWD) 3,433/3,589 (FWD/AWD)
Towing Capacity (lbs) 1,500 1,500 1,500
Fuel economy City/Highway/Combined 26/32/28 28/34/30 26/33/29

Safety Systems

Both Honda and Mazda have a long list of safety features designed to keep accidents from happening and protecting passengers if they do. Honda bundles its safety features in what it calls Honda Sensing. These active safety features come standard on every trim above the base LX. The safety suite includes the Lane Keeping Assist System, Adaptive Cruise Control with Low-Speed Follow, Collision Mitigation Braking System with Forward Collision Warning, and Road Departure Mitigation System.

2017 Honda CR-V High Resolution Interior Drivetrain
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2017 Mazda CX-5
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As of this writing, the 2017 CR-V has not been evaluated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. However, we fully expect the 2017 model to meet or exceed the 2016 model’s results. The NHTSA rated the 2016 with five stars in every category besides rollover, which earned four out of five stars. The results form the IIHS were just as good, with each crash category getting the best score of “Good.” The CR-V’s front crash avoidance and Mitigation systems were rated as Superior.

The same situation exists with the 2017 Mazda CX-5 – it’s simply too new for either agency to have tested. However, like the Honda, we expect the CX-5 to score as good or better than its previous version. For 2016 the CX-5 scored four out of five stars from the NHTSA in overall, frontal crash, and rollover. It earned five stars in side crash protection. The scores were better with the IIHS. The 2016 CX-5 scored “Good” in all categories and a “Superior” in front crash prevention.

As mentioned before, both the 2017 CR-V and 2017 CX-5 have not been tested for crash worthiness yet, we’re having to wait for more accurate information.

Year/Make/Model Overall Frontal Crash Side Crash Rollover
2016 Honda CR-V SUV AWD 5 star rating 5 star rating 5 star rating 4 star rating
2016 Honda CR-V SUV FWD 5 star rating 5 star rating 5 star rating 4 star rating
2016 Mazda CX-5 SUV FWD 4 star rating 4 star rating 5 star rating 4 star rating
2016 Mazda CX-5 SUV AWD 4 star rating 4 star rating 5 star rating 4 star rating
Honda CR-V Mazda CX-5
Crashworthiness
Small overlap front G G
Moderate overlap front G G
Side G G
Roof strength G G
Head restraints & seats G G
Crash avoidance & Mitigation
Front crash prevention Superior with optional equipment Superior with optional equipment
Headlights A (only certain trims) M
Child Seat Anchors (LATCH) ease of use M A

Pricing

Honda will begin selling the 2017 CR-V inside the U.S. on December 21, 2016. Prices will see a moderate increase over the outgoing model. The base CR-V LX will start at $24,945 – a $200 increase over the 2016 model. The EX model will start at $27,595 – a $580 increase. The range-topping Touring trim will carry a starting price of $33,295. AWD will add $1,300 o the price across all trim levels and an $800 destination and delivery fee will be tacked onto the MSRP.

As for the Mazda, the 2017 CX-5’s price is still unknown. Going off the 2016 CX-5’s prices should provide a close guess as to what we can expect. The entry level Sport trim starts at $22,500; the mid-range Touring model starts at $26,000; and the range-topping Grand Touring trim starts at $29,300.

Honda CR-V LX (2WD) $24,945
Honda CR-V LX (AWD) $26,245
Honda CR-V EX (2WD) $27,595
Honda CR-V EX (AWD) $28,895
Honda CR-V EX-L (2WD) $30,095
Honda CR-V EX-L (AWD) $31,395
Honda CR-V EX-L W/ Navi (2WD) $31,095
Honda CR-V EX-L w/ Navi (AWD) $32,395
Honda CR-V Touring (2WD) $33,295
Honda CR-V Touring (AWD) $34,595
Mazda CX-5 Sport $22,500
Mazda CX-5 Touring $26,000
Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring $29,300

Conclusion

2017 Honda CR-V High Resolution Exterior
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2017 Mazda CX-5 High Resolution Exterior
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The crossover market is growing ever larger as time progresses. Automakers are realizing the lucrative market with these high-riding wagons and the competition is continuously growing stronger. Both the contenders from Honda and Mazda bring high levels of refinement, comfort, safety features, in-dash technology, an exciting choices with drivetrain options. Neither the CR-V nor CX-5 is a bad choice. Both are safe, efficient, stylish, and well-trimmed. The question, however, is which vehicle best suits your individual needs and wants.

This objective overview has hopefully given you more information into the two contenders, but we highly recommend driving both the CR-V and CX-5 before signing the dotted line. In reality, we’d recommend driving everything in the compact crossover class. Perhaps the Ford Escape, Hyundai Tucson, Jeep Cherokee, Kia Sportage, Toyota RAV4, or Subaru Forester better fits your needs. Perhaps one of them appeals to your driving tastes more than you guessed it would. A hands-on comparison is far more valuable than many give it credit.

As for the Honda and Mazda contenders, both should find great success in the marketplace, though Honda will likely continue selling three CR-Vs for every Mazda CX-5 sold. Then again, the Mazda’s new upscale design and classy interior might win over some Honda customers. Only time will tell. In the meantime, let us know what you think of the 2017 Honda CR-V and 2017 Mazda CX-5 in the comments below.

2017 Honda CR-V

  • Leave it
    • CVT only transmission choice
    • Polarizing exterior styling

2017 Mazda CX-5

- * High-class styling inside and out - * 2.2-liter turbodiesel coming mid 2017 - * Should have excellent driving dynamics
- * Less function interior than CR-V - * Will high-class win over funky-filled crossover segment?
What do you think?
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