Honda CR-V vs Mazda CX-5 vs Ford Kuga
Has a facelift breathed life into the Honda CR-V? We find out as it meets the Mazda CX-5 and Ford Kuga
The crossover market is still booming, but to stay competitive in this crowded class, high-riding, family-friendly cars still need to be kept fresh. The latest mid-size SUV to be brought up to date is Honda’s CR-V.
It’s retained the old car’s practicality, but with sleeker looks, a 1.6 turbodiesel and a nine-speed auto box, it’s more efficient than ever and has all the tricks to really compete.
Mazda has also upgraded its CX-5 – a firm crossover favourite of ours thanks to its great value and fun chassis. The looks aren’t that different and the engine line-up is unchanged, but a much-needed interior revamp makes it a strong challenger to the facelifted Honda.
We’ve also lined up Ford’s new top-spec Kuga Titanium X Sport to see if it can stake a claim as the best-driving 4x4. This new model aims to combine thrilling dynamics with an even higher-quality cabin. However, just like the Honda, it’s on the pricey side, so does the Mazda’s excellent value speak volumes?
Click the links above to read individual reviews, and scroll down to see which car comes out on top in this test...
Chic or sporty?
Crossovers have to be eye-catching to compete in such a crowded market, and it’s the Kuga with its sporty add-ons that turns heads the most here. Honda’s chic tweaks to the front of the CR-V have worked wonders to its previously gawky face, while the Mazda’s exterior alterations are subtle on the range-topping Sport model.
All three of our SUVs get powered tailgates as standard, but the Ford adds hands-free opening for £350. Honda’s ‘Magic’ seats move the bases up and backs forward in one motion. A 2,000kg towing limit is good, too, but don’t expect these three to venture far off-road.
Our top-spec test cars have lots of gadgets, but it’s the Mazda’s slick infotainment system that takes the prize. The Honda’s touchscreen (above) looks and feels cheap, while the Kuga’s device has a small screen and is frustratingly fiddly to use.
1st place: Mazda CX-5
Our big gripe with the old CX-5 was its dull interior design and fiddly sat-nav, but the updates have elevated the facelifted crossover to a five-star car. Finally, the cabin matches its looks and the superb chassis. It might be lacking luggage and cabin space, but for most buyers, we reckon the Mazda will be practical enough. Plus, low running costs and strong performance are a bonus.
2nd place: Ford Kuga
The Kuga still can’t outgun the Mazda when it comes to driving enjoyment, but it remains more engaging than most SUV models, plus it’s a punchy performer. While Ford claims demand is high for fully stocked Kugas, we’d advise you to save some cash and go for a Titanium X or even a Titanium version, and then spend some of your savings wisely on a few choice options.
3rd place: Honda CR-V
Compared to the other two crossovers here, the Honda is something of a one-trick pony. It’s incredibly practical, undoubtedly, but beyond that, the CR-V is the priciest car and the least fun to drive. While the new engine and gearbox combination is smooth, even around town you’ll find drawbacks pretty quickly. High running costs don’t help its case, either.
Other options for the same money…
New: Nissan Qashqai Tekna 1.6 dCi 130 XtronicPrice: £28,430 Engine: 1.6-litre 4cyl, 128bhp
For quite a bit less than you’ll pay for the Honda, you could pick up a top-spec Nissan Qashqai automatic. The 1.6-litre diesel is down on power by comparison, but it’s smooth and refined.
Car group tests
- Honda CR-V Advance Hybrid 2023 review
- Honda CR-V e:PHEV Advance 2023 review
- New Honda CR-V Hybrid 2019 review
- New Honda CR-V 2018 review
Used car tests
USED: Audi Q5 2.0 TDI S line S tronicPrice: £34,000 Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl, 175bhp
Similar money will buy you a nearly new Audi Q5. The badge carries more prestige, and with 175bhp from the 2.0-litre TDI, it’s faster, too. A well equipped S line with Audi’s S tronic auto is yours for around £34,000.
|Mazda CX-5 Sport Nav 2.2 175 AWD
|Ford Kuga Titanium X Sport 2.0 TDCi 180 AWD
|Honda CR-V 1.6 i-DTEC EX 4WD Auto
|On-the-road price/total as tested
|Residual value (after 3yrs/30,000)
|Annual tax liability std/higher rate
|Annual fuel cost (12k/20k miles)
|Ins. group/quote/road tax band/cost
|Cost of 1st/2nd/3rd service
|£649 (3 years)
|£590 (3 years)
|Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel
|60 litres/space saver
|58 litres/space saver
|Boot capacity (seats up/down)
|Turning circle/drag coefficient
|Basic warranty (miles)/recovery
|Service intervals/UK dealers
|Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos.
|Euro NCAP: Adult/child/ped./points
|30-50mph in 3rd/4th
|50-70mph in 5th/6th/7th
|Top speed/rpm at 70mph
|Noise levels outside/idle/30/70mph
|Auto Express economy/range
|Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket
|Auto gearbox/stability/cruise control
|Climate control/leather/heated seats
|Metallic paint/xenon lights/keyless go