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Mazda CX-5 vs Subaru XV

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

3.5 stars

VALUE  $36,040

3.5 stars

VALUE $34,490

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.

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.

4 starsTECHNOLOGY 3 starsTECHNOLOGY

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.

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.

3.5 stars

DESIGN

4 starsDESIGN
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. 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.
4 starsSAFETY 4 starsSAFETY

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.

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.

3.5 starsDRIVING 3 starsDRIVING

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.

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.
OVERALL STAR RATING FINAL POINTS
 3.5 stars image
OVERALL STAR RATING FINAL POINTS
3 stars image

VERDICT

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.

Comments on this story

Displaying 3 of 13 comments

  • I bought a CX5 in tree month I sold it cuz too bad for the snow and raining season. Its not at all real AWD and many fails that never fixed it by the dealer, And the gas claim is not true at all spend much more that advertised.

    Ubaldo Varela of Mexico Posted on 10 January 2014 5:01pm
  • i just bought subaru xv, it is about 4k aud cheaper than cx-5 in malaysia. Its a good car and i can get 6.8L/100 drive on highway

    Mohamad Posted on 11 December 2013 1:18pm
  • impreza and xv has the same engine. see mazda- impreza mashed up race. impreza is very slow.

    ferdinand of baguio city philippines Posted on 21 March 2013 2:09am
  • I have bought xv..auto..atleast the awd will work.yes but it is 4kw down on the cx5.. but atleast the xv does out drive the cx on a dirt road and up a sandy hill or muddy hill.

    bob down of brisbane Posted on 03 June 2012 9:47pm
  • Test drove the CX-5 petrol in 2WD and AWD on the same weekend. The 2WD is a timid little mouse.  Wheel spin at take off but gutless on acceleration and hills. The AWD is a different car. Pounces with all four legs from a standing start. Unafraid and quick. The diesel has more torque so would seem more fun, but then you have to maintain a diesel where you can ignore a petrol. Try the CX-5 AWD petrol or diesel before you judge.

    Jase of Adelaide Posted on 30 April 2012 12:44am
  • I have just driven 3 new cars.. all auto all petrol cx5 awd,xv and outlander..now i have to buy1. well cx.. nice -hollow- poor preformance to over take.. xv.. great..but missing torque 1st gear, handles likea race car..bling too…. outlander.. looks basic,handles crap, feels very average…. new models soon in june smile

    bob down of Briz qld Posted on 31 March 2012 9:05pm
  • The CX appears to be a little staid and lacking “oomph” when taking off - a little slow compared to the XV. Disappointing that the only manual option is the entry model of the CX while a manual version is available with all models of the XV. The stop-start fuel saving technology appears effective for both the CX and the XV.

    Geoff Upton of Stonyfell Posted on 11 March 2012 1:07am
  • Wait for the Ford equivalent… called the Kuga,  same shell, but with the 5 cylinder turbo out of the old XR5 !!

    Adam of Tweed Posted on 06 March 2012 2:54pm
  • Mazda reckons they wil sell more petrol CX5s than the diesel models.  Given the widely reported lack of oomph (again sort of downplayed here), I doubt this will be the case.  The diesel should be a much, much better car. Instead of the staid old Subaru, how about a comparison to the Korean equivalents?

    entropy of Brisvague-us Posted on 04 March 2012 11:54am
  • Have you been off road in an XV its the shizzle. What can I say exept Subaru make better cars.

    Trevor of Newcastle Posted on 03 March 2012 6:40pm
  • Doesn’t seem like you’ve considered anything DAVIDZ, the ASX is in a smaller class than the CX-5 . And if you had put just the smallest amount of effort into your consideration you would know the CX-5 runs on regular ULP. You didn’t even know this so how can you say the Mitsu is cheaper to run and own without any facts!?

    falcodore of grafton nsw aus Posted on 01 March 2012 1:09am
  • “Subaru claims a 7 L/100km average but that seems a bit optimistic”
    How can you claim the Subaru is optimistic with its fuel figure of 7.0l when all figures are done independently under lab conditions?  Mazda is claiming all this amazing new technology with Sky-activ, but no one seems to want to mention that many other cars produce similar or more power/torque with 2L motors & similar fuel economy or in most instances have downsized to produce more torque and better fuel economy.

    Peter of Melbourne Posted on 28 February 2012 9:48am
  • Do these need PULP or std. ULP? Throwing a curve ball here, i think the CX5 is THE most over-hyped SUV [Yes same, SUV] of our time. Its ugly looking [yes a Mazda3 on stilts] v the older and for mine vastly superior CX7, and finally the Skycativ is all fluff, no real advantage like alleged. After long and careful consideration i would vote for the Mitsubishi ASX, cheaper to buy, run and own.

    DAVIDZ of AUS Posted on 28 February 2012 8:23am
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