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2019 Toyota RAV4 vs. 2019 Mazda CX-5: Which Is Better?

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author photo by Chris O'Neill February 2019
  • The 2019 Toyota RAV4 is all new.

  • The Mazda CX-5 gains a potent new turbocharged engine and a new Signature trim level for 2019.

  • The new RAV4 is available in unique Adventure, Hybrid, Hybrid XSE, and Limited trims.

Editor's note: You may want to read more of Autotrader's model vs. model comparison car reviews as well as the 2019 Toyota RAV4 review, and the 2019 Mazda CX-5 review.

The 2019 Toyota RAV4 and the Mazda CX-5 are two of the best compact SUVs on the market, but for different reasons. The RAV4 is all new for 2019 and offers as standard what is likely the most comprehensive suite of active safety technology in the industry, along with a great new design and a fun Adventure trim level. The CX-5, which was redesigned for 2017, but still heavily based on the first-generation model that came out for 2013, is one of the best values in the industry today, offering luxury car quality and design along with great driving dynamics at a very reasonable price.

So which one is worthier of your hard-earned dollars in 2019? Below, we'll compare the two in a number of categories to find out.

2019 Toyota RAV4 vs. 2019 Mazda CX-5 basic specs

Basic Specs

The new RAV4 improves upon the outgoing generation in every way, starting with a new engine.

The 2019 RAV4 comes with a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder putting out 203 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque. On most trim levels, this engine earns 26 miles per gallon in the city, 35 mpg on the highway and 30 mpg in combined driving with front-wheel drive, or 27 mpg city/34 mpg hwy/30 mpg combined with optional all-wheel drive. The Adventure trim sees slightly reduced efficiency, earning 25 mpg city/33 mpg hwy/28 mpg combined with standard AWD.

The RAV4 Hybrid, which is scheduled to officially go on sale this spring and will be available in sporty XSE guise, uses a similar version of that 2.5-liter 4-cylinder that's paired with a hybrid component. As a whole, the system puts out 219 hp and comes with standard AWD. While the EPA has yet to release fuel economy figures for the RAV4 Hybrid, Toyota's estimates peg it at 41 mpg city/37 mpg hwy/39 mpg combined.

In addition to offering two different powertrains, the new RAV4 can be had with three different AWD systems. Basic LE, XLE and XLE premium models get a basic car or crossover-style system. Standard on the Adventure trim and optional on the Limited is a more sophisticated torque vectoring system with the ability to disconnect the rear axle. Finally, the hybrid uses an electric motor at the rear to power the rear wheels.

Tow ratings for the new RAV4 are as follows. Basic LE, XLE, and Limited variants can tow up to 1,500 pounds. The Hybrid is rated to tow 1,750 pounds, while the Adventure can tow 3,500 pounds, which is suitable for pulling a small camp trailer or a boat.

The 2019 Toyota RAV4 starts at $26,545, while fully-loaded Limited and Adventure models will exceed $38,000. Hybrid models require carry about a $2,200 premium. See the 2019 Toyota RAV4 models for sale near you

The CX-5 was redesigned for 2017. Two powertrains are offered. Lower trims come with a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder putting out 187 hp and 186 lb-ft of torque. With FWD, the non-turbo CX-5 returns 25 mpg city/31 mpg hwy/28 mpg combined. AWD models return 24 mpg city/30 mpg hwy/26 mpg combined.

New to the 2019 CX-5 is a turbocharged 2.5-liter 4-cylinder, which is also offered in the CX-9 and the Mazda6. The new turbo four makes 250 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque, assuming the use of premium fuel. With the new turbo, a FWD CX-5 returns 23 mpg city/28 mpg hwy/25 mpg combined, while AWD models achieve 22 mpg city/27 mpg hwy/24 mpg combined.

A diesel CX-5 has been in the works for the past few years and should go on sale in the near future. The EPA has rated the diesel at 27 mpg city/30 mpg hwy/28 mpg combined.

Regardless of powertrain, the CX-5 comes exclusively with a 6-speed automatic transmission. The 2019 Mazda CX-5 starts at $24,350 for a FWD base model and reaches $38,480 in its AWD Signature trim. See the 2019 Mazda CX-5 models for sale near you

2019 Toyota RAV4 vs. 2019 Mazda CX-5 exterior

Reliability

Buyers of either the RAV4 or the CX-5 should see good reliability. If something should go wrong, both manufacturers offer a 3-year/36,000-mile basic and a 5-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty.

2019 Toyota RAV4 vs. 2019 Mazda CX-5 dimensions

Dimensions

The 2019 Toyota RAV4 is 180.9 inches long, 73.0 inches wide and 67.0 inches tall, and offers between 8.4 and 8.6 inches of ground clearance, depending on trim level. In the front passenger area, the 2019 RAV4 offers 37.7 inches of headroom and 41.0 inches of legroom. Move to the second row, and the RAV4 has 39.5 inches of headroom and 37.8 inches of legroom.

The CX-5 measures 179.1 inches long, 72.5 inches wide and 65.4 inches tall, and offers 7.6 inches of ground clearance. Up front, CX-5 passengers are offered 39.7 inches of headroom and 41.0 inches of legroom, while in the back seat, the CX-5 offers 39.0 inches of headroom and 39.6 inches of legroom.

The 2019 RAV4 offers 38 cu ft. of cargo area that expands to 70 cu ft. with the second row folded. The CX-5 offers 31 cu ft. with the second row up, or 60 cu ft. with it folded.

Altogether, the exterior dimensions of the RAV4 and the CX-5 are very similar, with the RAV4 offering more cargo room and better ground clearance. The CX-5 makes up for some of these shortcomings by offering more legroom in its second row, which back-seat passengers are likely to appreciate, especially on long drives.

2019 Toyota RAV4 vs. 2019 Mazda CX-5 interior

Interior Design

The Mazda CX-5 has a gorgeous interior, offering a leather-wrapped dashboard and center console. The infotainment screen is mounted atop the dash and controlled by a stately looking rotary knob aft of the gearshift on the center console. Plastic is kept to a minimum. Vents are all trimmed in a brushed aluminum finish, while unique looking inserts trim the doors and the dash. A new Signature trim is added for 2019, which improves upon the Grand Touring trim with brown Nappa Leather, modern looking real wood veneers and a black headliner, among other things. Overall, the CX-5 offers one of the nicest interiors in the segment, worthy of comparison with products from Acura and Lexus.

The new RAV4 offers a very attractive interior design as well. It's tough to call it luxurious, but that doesn't take away from its charming, modern aesthetics. Like the CX-5, the new RAV4's infotainment screen sits atop the dashboard. A storage shelf runs the length of the dashboard, with pockets in front of the passenger area as well as to the left of the steering wheel. Depending on trim level, controls for manipulating the RAV4's drive modes are present on the center console. The HVAC controls are flanked on either side by substantial looking dials. Orange accents are present on the Adventure trim, which are a nice touch.

2019 Toyota RAV4 vs. 2019 Mazda CX-5 features

Features

The 2019 Toyota RAV4 adds a variety of great features not available on the previous model. Available on the new RAV4 is a panoramic sunroof, a 7-in display in the gauge cluster, a JBL audio system, a wireless charging pad on the center console, a hands-free foot-activated power lift gate, dual zone climate control, heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats and a 3-pronged household power outlet located in the rear cargo area. Every RAV4 now offers Normal, Sport and Eco modes, while AWD models now offer Multi-Terrain select, which allows the driver to switch between a few different traction modes.

Black, gray and beige interior colors are offered, along with a unique Mocha color with orange accents available on the Adventure trim. A contrasting roof is also available.

For a vehicle in the compact SUV segment, the CX-5 offers a very upscale interior, presenting an excellent value. Features offered on the CX-5 include a Bose audio system, heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, a heated steering wheel, power-folding side mirrors and a power driver's seat. Furthering the CX-5's case as a luxury vehicle are unique interior colors, including an almost-white "Parchment" color that's offered on Grand Touring trims, while Signature trims area available with brown Nappa leather. Soul Red Crystal Metallic, available at an extra cost, ups the ante when it comes to the CX-5's exterior.

2019 Toyota RAV4 vs. 2019 Mazda CX-5 infotainment

Infotainment

The new RAV4 offers a standard 7-in infotainment screen on LE and XLE trims. XLE Premium, Adventure and Limited models come with a nicer 8-in screen. Apple CarPlay has been added for 2019, but Android Auto is still absent. The new RAV4 has five USB ports, one of which is used for media connectivity, while the other four are reserved for charging duty. Up to two 12-volt outlets are also offered, as is an optional 120-volt/100-watt 3-pronged home power outlet in the cargo area.

The CX-5 offers a standard 7-in screen controlled primarily by rotary dial located on the console. The screen is also touch-responsive, but only when the vehicle is stopped. Mazda's infotainment system is pretty good, and like many other areas of the vehicle, it uses premium aesthetics. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay were added for 2018. The CX-5 offers three 12-volt outlets and four USB ports.

Safety

Crash test results from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) have yet to be released for the new RAV4. The outgoing model earned a Top Safety Pick designation and we expect the new model to score just as well, likely better.

The 2019 CX-5 earns excellent scores in IIHS crash testing, receiving top scores in just about every category, earning it a Top Safety Pick+ designation, the institute's top designation.

As far as active safety technology goes, the new RAV4 sets the standard. Every 2019 RAV4 comes with pedestrian detection, with low-light pedestrian detection and daytime cyclist detection, lane-departure warning with lane-keeping assist, road edge detection and sway warning system, automatic high beams, full speed range dynamic radar cruise control, road sign assist and lane-tracing assist. Blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert and automated rear braking are still optional extras.

The CX-5 offers standard forward-collision warning, front automated emergency braking and blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert. Adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams, lane-departure warning with lane-keeping assist and rear parking sensors are still optional.

Overall, these two vehicles are at or near the top of the segment with regard to crash test performance and active safety tech. We're splitting hairs here, but as the new RAV4 offers more safety tech as standard, we're inclined to call it the safer vehicle, but it's impossible to say for sure until IIHS crash test results are released.

Autotrader's Advice

The CX-5 and the RAV4 are both at the top of the compact SUV class. The CX-5 is a long time favorite for its attractive exterior design, stately interior, great driving experience and overall value. Altogether, the CX-5 is one of the best dollar-for-dollar vehicles on the market, and offers an overall experience on par with vehicles costing $10,000 or $15,000 more. The new turbocharged engine and Signature trim serve to take the CX-5's case even further. Additionally, the CX-5 passes the "look back test," that is, when you park it and walk away, you'll find yourself looking back at it to admire its attractive lines.

The new RAV4 is a glimpse into the future, offering modern interior design and an exceptional array of new safety features. Additionally, the new model introduces real personality to the RAV4 for the first time, with more sophisticated AWD systems along with fun Adventure and XSE Hybrid trims. As the best-selling non-truck in the U.S., the RAV4 sets the standard for the compact SUV segment going forward. Whether that makes it a better vehicle than the CX-5 is up for you to decide, and we highly recommend test driving both in your search for a new vehicle. Find a Toyota RAV4 for sale or Find a Mazda CX-5 for sale

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2019 Toyota RAV4 vs. 2019 Mazda CX-5: Which Is Better? - Autotrader