Mazda CX-5 vs Subaru XV

27 February 2012

Mazda CX-5 vs Subaru XV

Mazda CX-5 and Subaru XV go head-to-head in this comparative review.

Value

Mazda CX-5

from $36,040

Prices start at $27,800 for a front-wheel drive, six-speed manual Maxx model. Standard gear includes a four-speaker, Bluetooth-equipped audio, reverse camera, six airbags, sat-nav and even tyre pressure monitoring. The $36,040 here is for the all-wheel drive Maxx Sport six-speed auto that equates to the XV "L'' model. Equipment levels are almost spot-on but you'd save about $2500 by getting the front-wheel drive version.

Subaru XV

from $34,490

Forget Forester. You'd expect to pay mid-$30,000s for a decent compact SUV so the XV's on the money. But it gets better - the "L'' version is comprehensively equipped with sat-nav, reverse camera, 17-inch alloys, all-wheel drive (of course), good audio, cruise and dual-zone aircon. The CVT auto and the mid-spec L model are the best choices.

Design

Mazda CX-5

Cute and in many ways a lot like a Mazda3 hatchback on stilts. The profile and rear-end styling is good but the jury's out on the heavy-handed nose. Cabin is big, functional and attractive but there's a lot of b lack. The soft-touch dash (also on XV) hints at high quality while feature list is impressive. Boot is bigger than XV and luggage cover neatly lifts with the hatch.

Subaru XV

About time - Subaru pens a purposeful and attractive wagon after some previous eye-watering efforts. The XV - sharing sheet metal with the new Impreza launched this week - will win on looks alone, particularly the edgy wheel design, chunky three-quarter panels and Liberty grille. Inside it's a revelation and is so good it severely dates the Tupperware cabin of the previous Impreza. One downside is the small boot, measuring 310 litres (rear seat up) to 741 litres with the seat down.

Technology

Mazda CX-5

Lots here - the CX-5 is the first Mazda to get all the cutting-edge SkyActiv gear. The petrol engine, for example, runs a very high compression ratio, has a spaghetti-theme exhaust system and stop-start that all combines to slash the fuel average to 6.9 L/100km (AWD petrol) to eyeball XV's 7.0 L/100km. New suspe nsion, a tauter body, an excellent electric steering system all debut and will be rolled out in upcoming Mazda's, the next being the 6.

Subaru XV

The horizontally-opposed engine arrives as a new generation unit with a bit more power and claims of lower fuel use. Subaru claims a 7 L/100km average but that seems a bit optimistic. It gets a stop-start system, electric-assist steering and optional CVT automatic that is actually more fuel efficient than the six-speed manual. The L version sports sta ndard sat-nav and a reverse camera.

Safety

Mazda CX-5

Mazda claims five stars for its concrete wall kiss and equips the CX-5 with six airbags, all the necessary brake system electronics and has a big spare wheel, reverse camera and a tyre-pressure warning device.

Subaru XV

This is a five-star wagon with all-wheel drive and a raft of sophisticated electronics to keep it on the road. It also has seven airbags and an oversized temporary spare plus standard reverse camera. It doesn't get much better.

Driving

Mazda CX-5

The 114kW/200Nm doesn't translate into underfoot performance as Mazda tweaks the engine for smooth delivery and fuel econ omy. Mercedes does the same on some cars. So it feels a bit soft underfoot when accelerating. However, get it up past about 4000rpm and it's an eager engine that is matched by a very tight body, supple - well-tied down - suspension and a positive electric steering box. The AWD feels heavier to drive than the front-wheel drive model, so enthusiastic drivers should save their dough. Bets bit: the rigidity of the body and the forgiving suspension.

Subaru XV

This wagon is a winner before you turn the key. But then things become dull. The 2-litre new-gen engine promises lots but serves up a trifle while the CVT auto blunts any engine enthusiasm. Yes, the CVT is vastly better than Subaru's conventional four-speed auto but requires a patient driver. But the ride, handling and control is first rate in its class. It steers really well, is confident through the bends and ride comfort is very good save for some low-speed suspension thumps.

Verdict

Mazda CX-5

Subaru XV

Is it imagination or are all SU Vs going down the same road? The Subaru and Mazda seem to clone their performance, fuel economy, cabin detail and driving feel. Nice try guys, but one of you is better at it. For me it's the Mazda. But the XV must definitely be considered so try before you buy.

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Published 27 February 2012

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We compare, head to head, two similar models of competing manufacturer cars. Which do we prefer? Why? Find out in CarsGuide's Head To Head showdowns.