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2014 Honda CR-V vs. 2014 Mazda CX-5: Which is Better?

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Doug DeMuro September 2014

If you're searching for a compact crossover, we suspect that the 2014 Honda CR-V and the 2014 Mazda CX-5 have both found their way on to your shopping list. Both models offer excellent equipment, reasonable pricing, roomy interiors and strong build quality, making both SUVs among the most appealing compact crossovers on the market. Which one is better? We have the answer, but first we'll take a closer look to see what's new with the two crossovers for the 2014 model year.

2014 Honda CR-V

The Honda CR-V is completely unchanged for the 2014 model year.

2014 Mazda CX-5

The Mazda CX-5 offers a few key updates for 2014, including a more powerful optional engine, an available forward-collision warning system, and HD and Pandora radio services.

Reliability

Automotive experts at J.D. Power predict that the CR-V will be more reliable than the CX-5. The firm awarded the CR-V four circles out of five in its Power Circle Ratings, indicating better-than-average reliability. The CX-5 is predicted to earn just two circles out of five -- a worse-than-average score. Of course, these figures are just predictions, so it's difficult to tell whether or not they will end up coming true.

In terms of warranty length, the CR-V and CX-5 offer the same plan: 3 years or 36,000 miles of bumper-to-bumper protection and 5 years or 60,000 miles of powertrain coverage. As a result, the CR-V takes the lead in the reliability section due to its strong J.D. Power score.

Fuel Economy

The CX-5 offers two engines: a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder that makes 155 horsepower and a new 184-hp 2.5-liter 4-cylinder. Drivers interested in the best possible gas mileage will want the 2-liter; it returns 26 miles per gallon in the city and 35 mpg on the highway with a manual transmission or up to 26 mpg city/32 mpg hwy with an automatic. Step up to the automatic-only 2.5-liter, and gas mileage drops to 25 mpg city/32 mpg hwy with 2-wheel drive or 24 mpg city/30 mpg hwy with all-wheel drive (AWD).

Meanwhile, the CR-V offers only one powertrain: a 185-hp 4-cylinder. It returns 23 mpg city/31 mpg hwy with 2-wheel drive or 22 mpg city/30 mpg hwy with AWD.

As a result, the CX-5 comes out on top in the fuel economy category, regardless of whether you choose its base-level engine or the more muscular optional 2.5-liter 4-cylinder.

Safety

In government crash-testing carried out by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the CX-5 and CR-V both performed about the same, earning a perfect five stars overall. Testing carried out by the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) paints a different picture: While the CX-5 offers excellent scores and a coveted Top Safety Pick+ designation, the CR-V falls short due to its lack of a collision-prevention system and mediocre performance on IIHS's new small front-overlap test.

It's a similar story when you examine safety equipment. While both the CR-V and CX-5 offer roughly the same level of standard features, the CX-5 has a few extra options that are not available if you choose the Honda. Those features include a blind spot monitoring system and a low-speed automatic-braking function (Smart City Brake Support), which can bring the CX-5 to a stop at speeds below 20 miles per hour.

As a result, the CX-5 emerges as the winner in the safety category -- both for its stellar crash-test scores and its wide range of advanced safety features.

Technology

When it comes to technology, the simple CR-V and the advanced CX-5 are night-and-day different. That's obvious from the moment you consider the powertrain: While the CR-V still uses a dated 5-speed automatic, the CX-5 has upgraded to a far more efficient and modern continuously variable automatic.

The differences continue from there, as the CX-5 offers a wide range of features that aren't available in the CR-V. Examples -- and there are many -- include bi-xenon headlights, adaptive headlights, the aforementioned Smart City Brake Support feature, a Bose sound system and automatic wipers. In essence, the CX-5 emphasizes available gadgets and modern equipment while the CR-V instead focuses on simplicity, making the CX-5 our clear winner in the technology segment.

Value

Although the CX-5 can't touch the CR-V for reliability, it cruises to easy victories in terms of technology, safety and fuel economy. We also love its thoroughly modern and high-end interior. Just how much more do you have to pay to get the Mazda over its increasingly outdated Honda rival? The answer is nothing -- and in fact, the CX-5 is generally priced the same as (or less than) similarly equipped CR-V models. That makes value yet another easy victory for the Mazda over the CR-V.

AutoTrader's Advice

We like the CR-V -- really, we do. But to us, the 2014 Mazda CX-5 is the shining star of the compact-crossover segment. It's high on technology, it offers an excellent safety record, it boasts impressive fuel economy numbers, and its pricing is even more alluring than the CR-V's. In essence, we'd have a hard time choosing the CR-V over the CX-5, unless simplicity was our main priority. Even then, a base-level CX-5 with few options could still overcome the CR-V's simple nature -- and it would cost less, too.

Find a Honda CR-V or 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.
2014 Honda CR-V vs. 2014 Mazda CX-5: Which is Better? - Autotrader