The crowded crossover class has become one of the most closely fought in the UK. Ever since Nissan’s original Qashqai set the fashionable template in 2007, rival makers have been clamouring to get a slice of the action.
Given the stiff competition, it’s no surprise that Hyundai has refreshed its bold-looking ix35 after only three years on sale. With its tweaked styling and uprated chassis, the new model promises to be even more eye-catching and better to drive. We test the popular front-wheel-drive 1.7-litre CRDi diesel in well equipped £22,595 Premium guise.
Yet Hyundai isn’t the only brand with its eyes on this lucrative market – as Honda has launched an efficient two-wheel-drive, 1.6-litre diesel version of its latest CR-V SUV. It’s more expensive, with an entry-level version costing a similar amount to a top-spec ix35. Even so, it has plenty of kit, plus an upmarket feel and the appeal of the Honda badge.
Yet before either of our new contenders can celebrate, they must face our reigning champ in the crossover class: the Mazda CX-5. With its sharp driving experience, strong performance, great practicality and low running costs, the CX-5 represents a formidable challenge for any newcomer.
While the Hyundai and Honda claim similar figures for boot capacity, it’s clear that the CR-V offers more usable room. It has a wider opening and the tailgate swings higher, plus the one-pull seat folding is a great touch. The Mazda falls behind these models for ultimate space, but the separate folding action for the centre section of the back seats is a handy feature. Although the Hyundai has a lower load lip than the Mazda, there’s less usable space under the boot floor.
The CX-5 is offered with four-wheel drive for a £1,700 premium. If you want 4x4 versions of the other two cars, you have to go for bigger, more polluting engines – namely the 2.0 CRDi (£25,495) in the ix35 or 2.2 i-DTEC (£24,940) in the CR-V.
The ix35 has the beating of its rivals here, with kit that wouldn’t look out of place on an executive saloon. Heated rear seats are standard on SE models and above, while our Premium version comes with sat-nav, Bluetooth, leather, privacy glass and keyless entry. Aside from metallic paint, all three cars offer little in the way of optional extras. Instead, you’re expected to move up to a higher specification. In the Hyundai, that means the Premium Panorama, with a big glass roof, for £800 extra, while the top-spec CR-V 1.6 i-DTEC SR is £26,880.
It’s another comfortable win for the excellent CX-5. While it’s not the cheapest of our test trio to buy, it compensates with its sparkling driving dynamics, low costs and excellent refinement. And what the Mazda lacks in cabin space it makes up for with a neat design that’s packed with versatile touches.
The addition of a smooth and efficient 1.6-litre diesel has transformed the Honda CR-V. With its low emissions and punchy performance, the engine has given the spacious SUV a new lease of life. And while the entry-level car can’t match the Hyundai or Mazda for kit, it gets all the essentials.
Make no mistake: the facelifted ix35 is still a desirable family car. Not only is it attractively priced, it comes packed with equipment as standard and is backed by an impressive warranty. It’s just held back by its high CO2 emissions, lacklustre driving dynamics and relatively cramped interior.
|Mazda CX-5 2.2D SE-L||Honda CR-V 1.6 i-DTEC S||Hyundai ix35 1.7 CRDi Premium|
|On the road price/total as tested||£23,295/£24,525||£22,800/£27,380||£22,595/£22,695|
|Residual value (after 3yrs/36,000)||£11,205/48.1%||£11,104/48.7%||£12,043/53.3%|
|Annual tax liability std/higher rate||£837/£1,673||£819/£1,638||£1,075/£2,150|
|Annual fuel cost (12k/20k miles)||£1,746/£2,909||£1,826/£3,044||£2,068/£3,446|
|Ins. group/quote/road tax band/cost||18/£349/C/£30||24/£408/C/£30||17/£324/F/£140|
|Cost of 1st/2nd/3rd service||£105/£193/£227||£995 (5yrs/62,500)||£499 (3yrs/30k)|
|Engine||4cyl in-line/2,191cc||4cyl in-line/1,597cc||4cyl in-line/1,685cc|
|Peak power/revs||148/4,500 bhp/rpm||118/4,000 bhp/rpm||114/4,000 bhp/rpm|
|Peak torque/revs||380/1,800 Nm/rpm||300/2,000 Nm/rpm||260/1,250 Nm/rpm|
|Transmission||6-spd man/fwd||6-spd man/fwd||6-spd man/fwd|
|Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel||56 litres/foam||58 litres/space saver||58 litres/foam|
|Boot capacity||503/1,620 litres||589/1,669 litres||591/1,436 litres|
|Turning circle/drag coefficient||11.7 metres/N/A||11.8 metres/N/A||10.6 metres/N/A|
|Basic warranty (miles)/recovery||3yrs (60,000)/3yrs||3yrs (90,000)/3yrs||5yrs (unltd)/5yrs|
|Service intervals/UK dealers||12,500 (1yr)/170||12,500 (1yr)/196||20,000 (1yr)/162|
|Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos.||4th/17th||6th/4th||14th/20th|
|Euro NCAP: Adult/child/ped./stars||94/87/64/5||93/74/68/5||90/88/54/5|
|0-60/30-70mph||8.4/7.9 secs||10.8/11.0 secs||12.5/14.0 secs|
|30-50mph in 3rd/4th||3.1/4.5 secs||4.4/6.0 secs||4.0/5.8 secs|
|50-70mph in 5th/6th||5.9/8.0 secs||8.0/10.1 secs||8.6/11.0 secs|
|Top speed/rpm at 70mph||126mph/2,000rpm||113mph/2,100rpm||108mph/2,250rpm|
|Auto Express econ (mpg/mpl)/range||43.0/9.5/530 miles||41.1/9.0/524 miles||36.3/8.0/463 miles|
|Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket||176/119g/km/18%||184/119g/km/18%||209/147g/km/24%|
|Automatic box/stability/cruise ctrl||£1,300/yes/yes||No/yes/yes||No/yes/yes|
|Climate ctrl/leather/heated seats||Yes/no/no||Yes/no/no||Yes/yes/yes|
|Met paint/xenon lights/keyless go||£530/no/no||£500/no/no||£520/yes/yes|