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2018 Honda CR-V vs. 2018 Mazda CX-5: Which Is Better?

  • The Honda CR-V was all-new for 2017.

  • The CX-5 gains Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility in Fall 2018.

  • The 2018 Honda CR-V is an IIHS Top Safety Pick, while the 2018 Mazda CX-5 is an IIHS Top Safety Pick+.

Editor’s note: You may want to read more of Autotrader’s model vs. model comparison car reviews as well as the 2018 Honda CR-V review, and the 2018 Mazda CX-5 review.

The Honda CR-V is one of the best-selling compact SUVs on the market, and for good reason. The Mazda CX-5, on the other hand, is an enthusiast’s favorite, offering driving dynamics and refinement on par with some luxury automakers at an excellent value. Since anyone looking for a new compact SUV in 2018 is likely considering the two, we’ve compared them below in an effort to help you decide which is right for you.

The CR-V was fully redesigned for 2017. Factoring in destination costs, the 2018 CR-V starts at $25,245 and tops out at close to $36,000 in the fully-loaded Touring trim. The CX-5 was also fully redesigned in 2017. Entry-level models start at $24,150 and exceed $34,000 in fully loaded Grand Touring spec.

2018 Honda CR-V and 2018 Mazda CX-5 Exterior

Basic Specs

Entry-level CR-Vs come with a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine making 184 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque. Step up to anything but the base LX model, and the CR-V offers a turbocharged 1.5-liter 4-cylinder making 190 hp and 175 lb-ft. Regardless of engine or trim level, all CR-Vs come with a continuously variable transmission and are available with optional all-wheel drive.

Fully maxed out with all-wheel drive and the 1.5-liter turbocharged engine, the CRV earns 29 miles per gallon in combined city and highway driving. Front-wheel drive earns back one mpg overall. See the 2018 Honda CR-V models for sale near you

The CX-5 is available with one engine — a 2.5-liter naturally aspirated 4-cylinder making 187 hp and 186 lb-ft of torque. It’s mated to one transmission — a 6-speed automatic — and is available with front- or all-wheel drive. The all-wheel drive CX-5 earns 26 mpg combined, while front-wheel drive models earn 28.

A diesel variant of the CX-5 has long been planned, but a release date has not yet been announced. Fuel economy ratings for the CX-5 diesel are posted to the government’s fuel economy website, though, and all-wheel drive variants of the vehicle earn 27 mpg city/30 mpg hwy/28 mpg overall. See the 2018 Mazda CX-5 models for sale near you

2018 Honda CR-V and 2018 Mazda CX-5 Exterior


CX-5 and CR-V buyers should both see good reliability from their vehicles. Honda and Mazda offer 3-year/36,000-mile basic and 5-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranties, which is on par with the rest of the industry.

2018 Honda CR-V and 2018 Mazda CX-5 Exterior


The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has named the CR-V a Top Safety Pick for 2018, while the CX-5 scores even better as a Top Safety Pick+. Both models receive scores of Good across the board in all major categories.

All 2018 CR-Vs except for the base LX model come with Honda’s full suite of driver assistance safety features. EX, EX-L and Touring models all come with adaptive cruise control, front automated emergency braking, automatic high beams, blind spot monitoring, forward-collision warning, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist and rear cross-traffic monitoring.

The CX-5 comes with standard blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic detection, and forward-collision warning with front automated emergency braking. Available in an additional package are adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go, automatic high beams, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist and rear parking sensors.

2018 Honda CR-V and 2018 Mazda CX-5 Exterior


The CR-V is 180.6 inches long, 73.0 inches wide and 66.5 inches tall, and offers 8.2 inches of ground clearance. The CX-5 is 179.1 inches long, 72.5 inches wide and 65.4 inches tall, and offers slightly less ground clearance than the CR-V, with 7.6 inches.

Front seat CR-V passengers are offered 40.1 inches of headroom and 41.3 inches of legroom to the CX-5’s 39.7 and 41.0 inches. In the back seat, dimensions are equally similar, with the CR-V offering 39.2 inches of headroom and 40.4 inches of legroom, compared to the CX-5’s 39.0 and 39.6.

In terms of cargo space, the CX-5 isn’t quite as cavernous as the CR-V. Behind the second row, the CX-5 offers 31 cu ft. of space to the CR-V’s 39 cu ft., and with the second rows folded, the CX-5 offers a rather tight 60 cu ft., while the CR-V’s space swells to 76 cu ft. — giving it one of the largest cargo areas in the segment.

2018 Honda CR-V and 2018 Mazda CX-5 Interior

Interior Design

The CX-5’s interior is far more upscale than that of the CR-V and is worthy of comparison to luxury vehicles from Lexus and Acura. Base CX-5 Sport models come with black fabric, Touring models come with either black or beige leatherette and Grand Touring models come with either black or a unique light gray “parchment” leather. A leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob are standard across the board. The dashboard is bisected laterally by a soft chrome trim piece and trapezoidal shaped air vents. The floating infotainment screen is controlled by a console-mounted rotary dial, or by touch when the vehicle is stationary. A variety of different materials and textures adorn the interior, all of which are a cut above the competition in terms of quality and refinement.

The CR-V offers a stately design on par with what you’d expect from the mainstream compact SUV segment. In line with CR-Vs from generations past, the center console is a unique 2-tier design, almost like that of a minivan, and the shifter is mounted higher up than in other cars and SUVs. The infotainment unit is mounted lower on the dash than in the CX-5, while the center air vents are positioned above it. The CR-V comes with either a black or gray interior; LX and EX models come with fabric seats, while EX-L and Touring models come with leather. The CR-V’s interior is attractive, but it could feel more modern overall, and the use of fake wood trim feels like a step backwards in an era where cars are loaded with cutting edge technology.

2018 Honda CR-V and 2018 Mazda CX-5 Exterior


The CR-V offers available LED headlights, a panoramic moonroof, a foot-activated power rear liftgate, power and heated passenger and driver seats, a heated steering wheel and rain sensing windshield wipers on Touring models.

The CX-5 omits some popular features, but does offer an available heads-up display and heated rear seats, neither of which are available on the CR-V. Additional options are power driver and passenger seats, heated front and rear seats, a heated steering wheel and rain-sensing windshield wipers.


CR-V EX, EX-L and Touring models get a 7-in touchscreen infotainment system running Honda’s “HondaLink” infotainment system, which is often criticized for being difficult to use. The presence of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay help to make up for the shortcomings of Honda’s own infotainment system. The CR-V comes with one 12-volt outlet and four USB ports.

All CX-5s come with a 7-in infotainment screen. The primary means for controlling the screen is via a rotary knob mounted on the center console, but the screen also has touch functionality that works only when the vehicle is stationary. Mazda’s “Mazda Connect” infotainment system is easy enough to use, and while the CX-5 hasn’t up until now offered Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility, the functionality is expected to be rolled out on new models in the coming months, with certain older vehicles gaining the feature via retrofit. The CX-5 offers three 12-volt outlets and four USB ports.

Autotrader’s Advice

The 2018 Honda CR-V and Mazda CX-5 is likely to appeal to different buyers. The CR-V offers the added practicality of having slightly more interior space and several additional cubic feet of cargo space. The CX-5 , n the other hand, trades a little practicality for style and driving experience, and it delivers in both areas. The CX-5’s exterior and interior design are both rather stately, and the interior is by far the best in the segment — on par with that of lower-end luxury vehicles. In the end, buyers valuing practicality above all else will probably prefer the CR-V, while anyone who wants a bit of style and excitement out of their vehicle will love the CX-5. You really can’t go wrong with either one. Find a Honda CR-V for sale or Find a Mazda CX-5 for sale

Chris O'Neill
Chris O'Neill is an author specializing in competitive analysis, consumer recommendations, and adventure-driven enthusiast content. A lifelong car enthusiast, he worked in the auto industry for a bit, helping Germans design cars for Americans, and now lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. He runs an Instagram account, @MountainWestCarSpotter, which in his own words is "actually pretty good", and has a... Read More about Chris O'Neill

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  1. A few things on the CRV-Panoramic moonroof is not available. Heated stearing wheel only in Canada. Rain sensing wipers are the worst i have experienced.  Foot activated lift gate gimmick doesn’t work 90% of the time. Infotainment system is glitchy and has to be reset every few months.  Engine has a problem with gasoline getting into the oil & diluting it. No fix from Honda at this point but it is a known problem with the 1.5L turbo. China/Canada vehicles have a recall & 5 states in the US have a service bulletin for it.  I wish i didn’t buy the car on Honda reputation…  

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