What are they like inside?
An elevated driving position is provided by all three contenders. However, you do feel slightly nearer terra firma in the BMW X1, and that might not appeal if you’re downsizing from a larger SUV. The X1 is also the only one here without adjustable lumbar support, although its seats are more supportive around the shoulders than the Volkswagen Tiguan's and, to an even greater extent, the Mazda CX-5's.
All three cars have simple dash layouts with clearly marked buttons. However, everything you touch in the CX-5 feels a bit low-rent. The main face of the dashboard is soft to the touch, but there are lots of harder plastics elsewhere. The Tiguan and X1 feel classier, and the X1 just edges its German rival for quality, with the plushest materials.
Given the CX-5 is the largest of the three, you’d expect it to play its trump card on practicality, but it has the least front head room. Its standard sunroof is largely to blame for this, although only those more than six feet tall will feel cramped.
The X1 and Tiguan both have sliding rear seats, and with them slid right back all three cars have similar leg and head room. However, the X1 is the least accommodating for three rear seat passengers due to its relatively narrow seat area. Folding tray tables on the front seatbacks are standard on the Tiguan and a £145 option on the X1; they aren’t offered on the CX-5.
Take the manufacturer boot capacity figures with a pinch of salt. The CX-5 swallows the most luggage and its boot has the widest opening, although the Tiguan’s load bay isn’t much smaller with the rear seats slid forward. The X1’s main luggage area is shallow but has a useful amount of underfloor storage as long as you do without a spare wheel.
All three cars have 40/20/40 split-folding rear seats that fold using handy levers in their boots; the Tiguan’s front passenger seat even clamshells down to allow longer loads. This feature costs £145 on the X1 but isn’t offered on the Mazda.
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