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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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 Trail||Mazda CX-5 Signature|
|Transmission||8-speed automatic||6-speed automatic|
|Fuel consumption (city)||9.9L/100 km||10.8L/100 km|
|Fuel consumption (highway)||7.5L/100 km||8.7L/100 km|
|Fuel tank size||55 litres||58 litres|
|Output 203 hp 250 hp|
|Torque||184 lb-ft||310 lb-ft|
|Cylinders||4 cylinders||4 cylinders|
|Volume||2.5 litres||2.5 litres|
|Trunk||1,065 L, 2,080 L||875 L, 1,687 L|
|Towing capacity||680 kg (reg) /1587 kg (Trail)||907 kg|
|Length||4,610 mm||4,550 mm|
|Width||1,864 mm||1,842 mm|
|Height||1,742 mm||1,680 mm|
|Wheelbase||2,690 mm||2,698 mm|
|Warranty||3 yrs/60,000 km||3 yrs/unlimited|