- Helping you drive happy

Comparison: 2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature vs 2019 Toyota RAV4 Trail

Is it better to follow one's head or one's heart? More specifically for our purposes, how to choose between the reliability of the 2019 Toyota RAV4 and the dynamism of the 2019 Mazda CX-5 2019? We pit two of the most popular compact SUVs in Canada against one another.

Mazda CX-5
The Mazda CX-5 arrived on the scene in 2013, and it’s been an established fixture with Canadian consumers ever since. It was first revised in 2017, and this year Mazda is introducing a new Signature version. We first saw that range-topping designation applied to the CX-9.

The Signature comes with a wider range of standard equipment, and it also runs on a 2.5L turbo engine that delivers 250 hp (when using 93-octane gasoline; use regular and you get 227 horses). This powertrain also features torque vectoring that helps produce a more dynamic drive. Modifications have been brought as well to the chassis for the Signature.

The compact SUV is also produced in GX, GS and GT trims, and for those the product offering includes a default 2.0L 4-cylinder engine (155 hp) as well as a 2.5L 4-cylinder engine (187 hp).

Our review of the 2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature
Photo: Mazda
2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature

While other models in this category offer more interior space and/or more cargo capacity, none match it for the driving pleasure it delivers - a too-rare quality in the segment, in our view. What’s more, the CX-5 is pleasant to look at. It moves with firm confidence and flattens out the road’s imperfections without fuss, even when shod with 19-inch wheels connected to a firmer suspension system.

The inside of the CX-5 Signature features brown Nappa leather seats and a dashboard dressed in wood accents. For 2019, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility is included for the first time, accessible via a 7-inch touchscreen. This version of the CX-5 will cost you in the neighborhood of $40,000, but in terms of features, quality and performance, it compares with premium German and Japanese models that retail for more.

Toyota RAV4
A true pioneer in this category, the RAV4 has been with us since back in 1997. The thing about the RAV4 is, even as the outgoing generation was starting to show its age, its sales slowed down not one whit. In fact they’ve doubled over the course of the last five years, and surpassed the 50,000-unit mark for the 2018 year in Canada.

That makes the RAV4 Toyota’s best-selling model in Canada, and the top-selling vehicle in North America (outside of the Big Three’s pickups). So, wrinkles be damned; it’s clear that many consumers are placing other factors ahead of styling on their list of priorities.

Our review of rthe 2019 Toyota RAV4

Specifications of the 2019 Toyota RAV4

2019 Toyota RAV4 Premier
Photo: V.Aubé
2019 Toyota RAV4 Premier

For 2019 we get a whole new model, manufactured in Ontario by the way. Like it’s done with several of its new models lately, Toyota is showing a little more daring in its stylistic approach. Japanese automakers generally like to give particular designations to their models, and for the RAV4, Toyota is going with adventurous and refined.

While the hybrid version of the 2019 RAV4 leans more towards the refined and elegant, the Trail version projects a more rugged, adventure-minded mien, and is equipped appropriately. Now, aside from the styling that vaguely brings to mind a Jeep, the notable aspect of this fifth-generation RAV4 is that it’s bigger.

The interior is rather sober, although this Trail version does get a few slightly eccentric touches. Included are the latest multimedia technologies and a few nicely-considered surprises. Toyota is still relying on its Entune system for managing the multimedia functions. Note that the system is Apple CarPlay-compatible but doesn’t integrate Android Auto (some Toyota models are finally getting that for 2020, as we recently reported).

Toyota also did some renovation work under the hood for the new edition. The new RAV4 runs on the same 4-cylinder engine that powers the Camry. Output has been increased and is now 203 hp for the gasoline-only versions of the SUV, and 2019 hp for the hybrid. Wedded to an 8-speed automatic transmission that supplies a better power range than the old 6-speed unit, the engine is also more fuel-efficient. In the RAV4 hybrid, the engine is associated with the Toyota II (THS II) hybrid system and works with an electronically controlled CVT.

2019 Toyota RAV4 Trail
Photo: V.Aubé
2019 Toyota RAV4 Trail

The RAV4 has never been a model that’s particularly fun to drive, and this new edition is no different. There’s just nothing impressive about the drive, but on the other hand you can feel the quality of the product overall.  The SUV is built on the new TNGA (Toyota New Global Architecture) platform and features a well-appointed interior that prioritizes comfort, safety and functionality. The fact that the 2019 RAV4 has a longer wheelbase and a wider track than before ensures a more stable ride.

Advantages of the Mazda CX-5
If the ability to elicit emotion is one of your criteria when choosing your next ride, the CX-5 offers a more dynamic driving experience behind the wheel, well-proportioned looks and a healthy dose of power from the new turbo engine. And the new Signature edition is also prettier.

Advantages of the RAV4
A veritable monument of reliability, the RAV4 definitely appeals more to buyers’ reason. It’s a little bigger, it’s more efficient in its hybrid configuration, and the mechanics at your local dealership will remain virtual strangers to you.

The two vehicles are reliable. In both cases, buyers have access to all-wheel drive which makes them excellent choices for all four seasons.

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature
Photo: Mazda
2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature

Our choice: 2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature

We would never minimize the importance of quality and reliability as factors to consider when choosing a vehicle. However, in the case of these two vehicles neither is really an issue. That gives us free rein to go with our emotions, and in that domain the Mazda CX-5 Signature is the bigger charmer, one that we liked best. That’s not to say that the RAV4 is a bad choice, far from it. It’s just a more rational choice.

Mazda CX-5

We liked

The inspired styling
The inspired finishing
The driving pleasure

We liked less

Complicated screen menu
Needs Super gasoline to get the most from the engine
Automatic transmission has just 6 speeds
Price point is high

Toyota RAV4

We liked

Spacious interior
Reassuring drive, even if it is uninspiring
Quality of the finishing

We liked less

Its styling not a winner to everyone
Bland driving experience
Interior environment a bit noisy
No Android Auto


 RAV4 TrailMazda CX-5 Signature
Transmission8-speed automatic6-speed automatic   
Fuel consumption (city)9.9L/100 km10.8L/100 km
Fuel consumption (highway)7.5L/100 km8.7L/100 km
Fuel tank size55 litres58 litres
Output           203 hp     250 hp
Torque184 lb-ft310 lb-ft
Cylinders4 cylinders4 cylinders
Volume2.5 litres2.5 litres
Trunk1,065 L, 2,080 L875 L, 1,687 L
Towing capacity680 kg (reg) /1587 kg (Trail)907 kg
Length4,610 mm4,550 mm
Width1,864 mm1,842 mm
Height1,742 mm1,680 mm
Wheelbase2,690 mm2,698 mm
Warranty3 yrs/60,000 km3 yrs/unlimited

Article by

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature
Photo: D.Rufiange
2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature