Used test: Audi Q3 vs Honda CR-V vs Mazda CX-5 vs Toyota RAV4

These four family-friendly used SUVs all purport to offer dependable, practical and cost-effective motoring all year round. But which one does it best?

Words By What Car? team

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Honda CRV vs Audi Q3 vs Mazda CX5 vs Toyota RAV4

Our Verdict

The Toyota RAV4 has always been a sensible SUV choice, and it remains so. It’s the most reliable car here and should be the cheapest to service and maintain – once it hit five years old, that is. It’s also extremely spacious, and came as standard with a sizeable equipment list – and there’s that longer warranty to consider, too. Certainly, if those are your top priorities, it won’t disappoint you.

But while the Toyota pleases the head very well, it struggles to satisfy the heart. The lacklustre engine makes it frustrating to drive when you’re in a hurry; the cheap-feeling interior, meanwhile, makes spending time in the RAV4 a chore, rather than a pleasure, and it’s hardly the last word in ride or handling.

By contrast, the Audi Q3 is a delight to drive – even if its ride is rather firm – and inside, its high-quality interior makes it a delight to travel in. And of the four cars here, it’s arguably the one you’ll want to turn up to a special event in, with its upmarket badge and smart styling.

There are, of course, sacrifices in terms of interior space. Getting children into the back of the Q3 is more of a chore than in the rest, and you’ll be able to fit less of their clobber into the boot, too. And while we might be willing to forgive the Q3 those flaws for its top-notch driving experience, it’s harder to forgive its high price: that the Q3 is the most expensive car here by such a margin, yet also the least family-friendly, means it can finish no higher than third.

By contrast, the Honda CR-V offers you far more for far less money. It’s considerably more spacious than the Audi, for starters, not to mention a fair chunk cheaper, even with four-wheel drive specified (if you’re willing to settle for a two-wheel-drive CR-V, you’ll pay even less). Inside, it can’t match the Audi’s sense of quality, but it still feels robust enough to withstand the travails of family life. And for the most part, it’s more comfortable to ride in, too.

It’s not cheap to tax, however, and it does feel rather ponderous to drive. The latter will be of little concern to some buyers, but the short equipment list might be more of an issue. It’s not that the CR-V is poorly equipped – but it does miss out on some key bits of equipment that the other cars here came with as standard.

That’s why the CR-V has to play second fiddle here to the Mazda CX-5. Mind you, neither is the Mazda perfect; its ride is a shade on the firm side, while it can get a little noisy at speed.

But really, there’s little else wrong with the Mazda. It’s great to drive, of course, but that’s not all it has going for it. It’s very nearly as roomy as the larger Toyota; the engine manages to be punchy, efficient and quiet, too; then there’s the robustly-built dashboard, and the low annual tax cost. Yet for all this, you don’t have to pay over the odds, as the CX-5 is also the cheapest car here. Terrific value, then, for a great all-rounder – which is why it takes the win.

Read our review of the all-new Mazda CX-5

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Also consider:

1st – Mazda CX-5

For Great handling; spacious; low tax bills; well equipped; smooth engine

Against Too noisy; firm low-speed ride

Verdict A spacious and powerful family car, yet one that’s also seriously cost-effective

Rated 5 out of 5

Read the full used Mazda CX-5 review

Find a used Mazda CX-5 in the What Car? Classifieds

2nd – Honda CR-V

For Strong performance; roomy interior; good value; well built

Against Below-par equipment; sloppy handling

Verdict Impressively competent in almost every area

Rated 4 out of 5

Read the full used Honda CR-V review

Find a used Honda CR-V in the What Car? Classifieds

3rd – Audi Q3

For Comfortable and agile; classy interior; great image

Against Limited interior space; expensive to buy

Verdict Refined and fun, but not as practical as rivals

Rated 4 out of 5

Read the full used Audi Q3 review

Find a used Audi Q3 in the What Car? Classifieds

4th – Toyota RAV4

For Enormous inside; big boot; reliable

Against Sluggish engine; unremarkable to drive; cheap interior

Verdict Performs well, but falls behind formidable opposition here

Rated 3 out of 5

Read the full used Toyota RAV4 review

Find a used Toyota RAV4 in the What Car? Classifieds

Specifications: Mazda CX-5 2.2D 150 SE-L

Engine size 2.2-litre diesel

List price when new Β£22,995

Price today Β£11,500

Power 148bhp

Torque 280lb ft

0-60mph 9.5sec

Top speed 120mph

Fuel economy 61.4mpg (Official average)

CO2 emissions 119g/km

Specifications: Honda CR-V 2.2 i-DTEC S 4x4

Engine size 2.2-litre diesel

List price when new Β£24,605

Price today Β£12,000

Power 148bhp

Torque 258lb ft

0-60mph 9.4sec

Top speed 116mph

Fuel economy 50.4mpg (Official average)

CO2 emissions 149g/km

Specifications: Audi Q3 2.0 TDI 140 SE

Engine size 2.0-litre diesel

List price when new Β£25,065

Price today Β£13,000

Power 138bhp

Torque 236lb ft

0-60mph 9.7sec

Top speed 118mph

Fuel economy 49.6mpg (Official average)

CO2 emissions 137g/km

Specifications: Toyota RAV4 2.0 D-4D Icon

Engine size 2.0-litre diesel

List price when new Β£24,295

Price today Β£12,000

Power 57.6bhp

Torque 229lb ft

0-60mph 11.6sec

Top speed 108mph

Fuel economy 46.9mpg (Official average)

CO2 emissions 127g/km

Price today is based on a 2013 model with average mileage and full service history, correct at time of writing

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