New Honda CR-V & Toyota RAV4 vs Mazda CX-5

With admirable fuel economy and CO2 figures, Toyota’s new hybrid RAV4 promises to be one of the cheapest large SUVs to run. But should you choose it over frugal rivals from Honda and Mazda?...

Honda CR-V Hybrid driving

Buying and owning

Costs, equipment, reliability, safety and security

When it comes to which car will cost you the least to buy and own, things start to get complicated.

You’ll no doubt already have noticed the CX-5’s appealing list price, and after discounts it’s the cheapest of the trio by a whopping £4500. However, that’s only really relevant if you’re paying for the whole car up front, something few buyers have the wherewithal to do. And even if you do, the CX-5’s comparatively heavy depreciation means that, if you buy now and sell after three years, it will work out only around £1000 cheaper than its hybrid rivals in the long run.

If you’re planning to take out a PCP finance agreement, the CX-5 is once again your cheapest option. Put down a £3500 deposit on a 36-month deal and you’ll pay £411 a month. The RAV4 and CR-V will cost you an extra £44 and £91 a month respectively.

The hybrids are much more compelling as company cars, though. With a CO2 output of just 105g/km, the RAV4 qualifies for a lower rate of benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax than either of its rivals here; as a 40% taxpayer, you’ll sacrifice £279 each month to run one.

Mazda CX-5 driving

The CR-V is still remarkably efficient in comparison with conventional petrol and diesel rivals; you’ll need to cough up £310 a month in BIK tax. With the CX-5, that monthly sacrifice rises to £326 – largely because diesels are taxed at a higher rate.

There’s little to split our trio when it comes to real-world fuel economy. In our tests, the CR-V averaged 43.3mpg, the RAV4 42.3mpg and the CX-5 41.2mpg –proof that hybrids can be more economical than diesels. However, while the hybrids are undoubtedly far more frugal in town driving, the CX-5 delivers better real-world economy on the motorway.

All three cars are really well equipped as standard, coming with climate control, leather seats (heated in the front), keyless entry, adaptive cruise control, emergency city braking, blindspot monitoring, lane assist and traffic sign recognition. The CX-5 and RAV4 go one step further with a heated steering wheel.

Toyota RAV4 driving

The independent safety experts at Euro NCAP hadn’t completed testing of the RAV4 at the time of writing, but they awarded strong marks for crash protection to both the CR-V and CX-5. The latter was slightly better at protecting adult occupants, mainly due to its superior whiplash protection for people sitting in the back, while the CR-V scored higher marks for keeping children from harm.

Toyota was the third best-performing brand in the 2018 What Car? Reliability Survey, behind only Suzuki and Lexus. Historically, Honda has a good reputation for reliability too, but it ranked only 15th (out of 31 brands) in the same survey. Mazda came a slightly more impressive 12th.