Used test: Honda CR-V vs Mazda CX-5 vs Subaru Forester

These automatics should take the strain out of SUV ownership, offering the best all-round package without compromising efficiency...

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What Car? team
4 Feb 2017 10:48 | Last updated: 3 Sep 2018 15:58

Our Verdict

Despite some compelling arguments for both the Subaru and the Honda, the Mazda CX-5 remains the winner. It’s the best by a fair margin when you consider its low price, cabin versatility, safety and driver reward. It’s also relaxing and enjoyable to drive, easy to live with, making it by far the best value.

In fact, there are few areas of real criticism for the Mazda. The Honda has better fuel economy, lower emissions and comfort for three rear passengers, but that’s nowhere near enough to justify paying significantly more for the CR-V.

The Honda is a reasonably good car to drive, with the best gearbox here, but it does have a tendency to run wide and lean badly in fast corners. The Mazda is much more fun to drive and has a less fiddly infotainment system.

The Subaru, meanwhile, is scuppered by its higher used purchase price, so if you really fancy one, we’d suggest sacrificing the sat-nav and getting a much cheaper trim. The problem is, with average performance, high CO2 emissions and road tax, a gruff-sounding engine and sometimes irritatingly unresponsive infotainment screen, this expensive version of the Forester is hard to recommend.

Sure, it’s got genuine charm and off-road ability that many buyers will appreciate, but its shortfalls make it hard to justify next to the Mazda

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

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Also consider:


1st – Mazda CX-5


Used test: Honda CR-V vs Mazda CX-5 vs Subaru Forester

For Great handling; strong engine

Against Slightly firm ride; engine noise under heavy acceleration

Verdict The best all-round family SUV you can buy in this price range

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


Used test: Honda CR-V vs Mazda CX-5 vs Subaru Forester

For Smooth gearbox; low emissions; good rear space

Against sloppy body control; choppy ride

Verdict Nice in isolation, but it is still too expensive compared with the CX-5

Rated 3 out of 5

Read the full used Honda CR-V review

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

3rd – Subaru Forester


Used test: Honda CR-V vs Mazda CX-5 vs Subaru Forester

For Decent boot; glass roof; off-road potential

Against Gruff engine; mediocre handling; high tax

Verdict Cheaper trims make much more sense

Rated 2 out of 5

Read the full used Subaru Forester review

Find a used Subaru Forester in the What Car? Classifieds

Specifications: Honda CR-V 1.6 i-DTEC SE Navi auto

Engine size 1.6-litre diesel

List price when new £30,520

Price today £17,500*

Power 158bhp

Torque 258lb ft

0-60mph 9.6sec

Top speed 122mph

Fuel economy 55.4mpg (Official average)

CO2 emissions 134g/km

Specifications: Mazda CX-5 2.2d 150 AWD SE-L Nav auto

Engine size 2.2-litre diesel

List price when new £27,895

Price today £14,500*

Power 148bhp

Torque 280lb ft

0-60mph 9.2sec

Top speed 121mph

Fuel economy 51.4mpg (Official average)

CO2 emissions 144g/km

Specifications: Subaru Forester 2.0d XC Premium Lineartronic

Engine size 2.0-litre diesel

List price when new £30,995

Price today £19,000*

Power 145bhp

Torque 258lb ft

0-60mph 10.3sec

Top speed 117mph

Fuel economy 46.3mpg (Official average)

CO2 emissions 158g/km

Price today is based on a 2015 model with average mileage and full service history, correct at time of writing