Used test: Citroën C5 Aircross vs Honda CR-V vs Mazda CX-5
Buyers of used SUVs are still loyal to diesel, but could petrol versions of the Mazda CX-5, Citroen C5 Aircross and Honda CR-V tempt them away from the black pump?...
What are they like inside?
All three cars offer pretty sound seating positions, but there are a number of key differences. Firstly, in the trims we’re testing here, the C5 and CX-5 have fully electrically adjustable driver’s seats that can be tuned more accurately than the CR-V’s manually moveable perch. All three have adjustable lumbar support, but the CX-5’s seat provides the best support in corners, while the C5 has the most sumptuous cushions. None of them is uncomfortable, though.
The CX-5 is odd in that its seat is set much higher in relation to the dashboard than the others’(which may or may not appeal) and it’s the only one with a centre armrest that doesn’t extend, so you might find there’s nothing to lean on if you have to sit quite far forward.
That said, the CX-5’s dash is the best laid out. Its analogue instrument dials are simple to decipher and the position of its switches and buttons can be learnt, so you needn’t look away from the road to operate them.
It also has by far the best infotainment system here. For a start, it has a rotary controller, which allows you to keep your eyes on the road for longer while scrolling through menus. Your passenger, meanwhile, has the freedom to use it as a touchscreen if they wish. Either way, the system proves pretty responsive and is logically laid out, so it’s easy to get to grips with. Like its rivals, connected services, such as live travel and weather updates, are included. A 10-speaker Bose stereo is standard in Sport Nav+ trim.
The C5, on the other hand, employs touch-sensitive ‘virtual’ buttons, and many often-used features (such as the climate controls) are hidden away in the touchscreen infotainment system. Its standard digital instrument display is pretty effective, though; it can be configured to show what’s of most importance to you, such as media or sat-nav, along with a variety of instrument designs.
The fact that the C5’s 8.0in touchscreen is positioned high up makes it easier to see at a glance, but it’s not an easy system to operate. It lags between commands, screen resolution isn’t that high, the fragmented menus need acclimatising to and even though it has shortcut buttons to skip between menus, these are touch-sensitive and hard to use on the move. It comes with lots of standard features, though, including a 36-month subscription to online services.
The CR-V has digital instruments too, but they don’t mimic the C5’s functionality, and trying to cycle through the trip computer is so complicated that you might need help from a member of Mensa. Few cars’ instruments have baffled us to such a degree; even with the help of the manual, that simple task took us 10 minutes.
We didn’t fare much better with the CR-V’s infotainment system, which is one of the worst systems on the market. It has all of the C5’s weaknesses, but even more so, such as graphics that resemble an aftermarket sat-nav from circa 2005. Once again, the touch-sensitive buttons used to swap between menus are fiddly when you’re trying to focus on driving. At least standard smartphone mirroring gives you the option to bypass Honda’s software for something more intuitive. SE trim comes with an upgraded nine-speaker stereo.
Other elements of its design are discombobulating too, such as the steering wheel-mounted buttons. To operate the cruise control, you would expect ‘on/off’ buttons, but oh no; here, the challenge is to work out that you need to press a small button labelled ‘Main’.
On interior quality, the CX-5 wins hands down. It seems robust and its materials look and feel of a higher grade than either rival’s.
The CR-V has taken a big step on from its predecessor in terms of quality and also feels solid, but its cheap velour trim, obviously fake wood veneers and greater swathes of hard, shinier plastic do it no favours.
The C5, meanwhile, has an appealing design but very little in the way of luxury. Even the top of its dashboard is made from rigid plastic; that might be acceptable in a small SUV but isn’t good enough in a car that once pushed £30k.
Both the C5 and CX-5 we tested had a panoramic roof fitted, and while these reduce front head room, it’s not by enough to unduly concern six-footers. If, however, you’re very tall, you’ll prefer the CR-V. All three cars have a similar amount of front leg room, but the CR-V’s interior is wider, giving you room to spread out with abandon.
The CR-V has the smallest door bins, but under its front armrest you’ll find an excellent divider that slides, flips around and can even be removed altogether, so you can arrange it to provide segregated areas or a void big enough for a laptop. The C5 has a big trough under its centre armrest but a smaller glovebox, and the CX-5 isn’t tight for storage, either, with a decent-sized glovebox.
Rear space is where we sort the men from the boys. Literally, perhaps, because if you have to transport a couple of mature prop forwards, the CR-V’s vast rear seats will do a grand job; head and leg room are superb and there’s lots of foot space under the front seats. Wide-opening doors make getting in and out the easiest, too. The CX-5 also provides plenty of foot space and lots of head room but far less leg room for big fellas.
It’s the C5 that has the least leg room and foot space, albeit only by a centimetre or so, while head room really is poor, with that panoramic sunroof proving severely restrictive for anyone approaching 6ft tall. At least reclining rear seats are standard (as in the CX-5), allowing you to improve clearance slightly. The C5’s seats also slide, while the CR-V’s don’t do anything clever.
With almost no central floor hump and a comfortable middle seat, the C5 is better than the CX-5 when you need to squeeze three people in the back. The CR-V is best for shoulder space, but its middle seat has a rather annoying hump.
Both the C5 and CR-V have large boots (the former is longer, while the latter is taller); each is able to swallow nine carry-on suitcases. The CX-5 has the most restricted luggage hold and managed to swallow only eight suitcases, plus it’s the only car with a lip that you must lift items over, rather than a boot floor flush with the bumper. If you need more room, the CR-V has 60/40-split folding rear seats, while the C5’s and CX-5’s have more flexible three-part splits.
Best large SUVs 2022
The best large SUVs are practical, luxurious and good to drive, with sensible running costs. Here we count down the top 10 – and reveal the ones that we'd avoid
Suzuki Across long-term test review
Can a plug-in hybrid SUV make sense for someone who covers a lot of motorway miles? Our senior photographer is finding out