2020 Honda CR-V vs. 2020 Mazda CX-5: Compare Crossover SUVs

February 12, 2020

The 2020 Honda CR-V and 2020 Mazda CX-5 sell two different flavors of practical: hardcore and softcore. The refreshed 2020 Honda CR-V goes by the numbers, whether they’re fuel economy or interior room; it provides one of the roomiest interiors in the class and trades on Honda’s well-earned reputation for reliability, but it’s not the value it once was. The aging 2020 Mazda CX-5 woos with its softly rounded shape and sharp steering; it puts performance first even as Mazda continues to climb into the premium segment with its Signature trim level.

2020 Honda CR-V vs. 2020 Mazda CX-5

2020 Honda CR-V vs. 2020 Mazda CX-5

2020 Honda CR-V vs. 2020 Mazda CX-5

2020 Honda CR-V vs. 2020 Mazda CX-5

2020 Honda CR-V vs. 2020 Mazda CX-5

2020 Honda CR-V vs. 2020 Mazda CX-5

With a price range from about $26,000 to nearly $40,000, these compact crossovers with available all-wheel drive are more similar than different, from their standard 17-inch wheels to their dual exhaust pipes and lower body cladding. They earned nearly identical TCC Ratings of 6.5 out of 10 for the CR-V compared to 6.7 for the Mazda CX-5. For looks and performance, the CX-5 gets the edge. But the CR-V excels at more practical considerations such as space and comfort. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Style and performance

The differences in the refreshed 2020 Honda CR-V can be found under the hood, more so than on the outside. Despite cleaner ends for 2020, the conservative style blends in with other compact crossovers. Available 18-inch wheels buff out the profile. The conservative approach carries over to the inside. The vents and center stack buttons ride higher than on other dashboards, which opens up plenty of clever lower storage areas.Last redesigned for 2017, the Mazda CX-5 takes the tuxedo approach to its interior, with black everything offset by thin bands of plastic chrome. The standard 7.0-inch display screen is mounted high atop the dash and controlled by a dial in the center console for a look that whispers money. 

2020 Mazda CX-5

2020 Mazda CX-5

2020 Mazda CX-5

2020 Mazda CX-5

2020 Mazda CX-5

2020 Mazda CX-5

The exterior has held up well, as the long hood and short overhangs of the CX-5 reflect its sportier vibe. It’s more flowing and less bulbous than the CR-V, and it outperforms the CR-V. 

The base engine in the 2020 Mazda CX-5 is a 187-horsepower 2.5-liter inline-4 with a 6-speed automatic making 186 pound-feet of torque. All-wheel drive costs $1,400 more, but it comes standard on the Grand Touring Reserve ($36,235) and top Signature ($38,255) trims. These models come with a 227-hp 2.5-liter turbo-4 with the 6-speed making 310 pound-feet of torque. It’s quicker, quieter, and boosted by a sport mode that holds the gears longer. Most importantly, the CX-5 handles like a smaller car or tall wagon. It stays low and planted, with less body roll than most of the competitors, including the CR-V. 

New for 2020 in the CR-V is a 190-hp 1.5-liter turbo-4 with a continuously variable transmission. From the base LX ($26,550) to the top Touring ($34,370), AWD adds $1,500. The punchy powertrain is smooth but gets loud the harder you push the throttle. It lacks the responsiveness of the CX-5’s larger engine, and lacks the verve of the CX-5’s suspension tuning. 

But it is more efficient, even before EPA rates the fuel economy for the 2020 CR-V Hybrid, which should average about 45 mpg combined. The front-wheel-drive CR-V gets 28 mpg city, 34 highway, 30 combined. The front-drive CX-5 gets 25/31/28 mpg.  

Comfort, safety, and features

Honda makes them larger, and the inside of the 2020 CR-V proves it. But it’s much more than just a spec comparison. Both models have about 40 inches of second-row leg room, but the CR-V is wider, taller, and longer, good for about 40 cubic feet of cargo compared to 31 cubic feet in the CX-5. Rear-seat CX-5 passengers feel the squeeze on flat seats.

2020 Honda CR-V

2020 Honda CR-V

2020 Honda CR-V

2020 Honda CR-V

2020 Honda CR-V

2020 Honda CR-V

Even on stiffer 19-inch wheels, the CR-V goes long on comfort. The high seat position, great outward vision, 12-way power adjustable seats, deep console, clever storage areas, and plenty of cupholders play to the practical buyer. Up front, the CX-5 fancies itself as more sophisticated, especially in Signature trim with soft nappa leather contrasting genuine wood trim. 

Mazda finally came around to the competition’s way of things by offering more standard safety features in the 2020 CX-5. Life-saving equipment such as automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, active lane control, and blind-spot monitors come standard. The CR-V has this gear as well, which helped earn it an IIHS Top Safety Pick in 2019. But the headlights on the CX-5 helped it best the CR-V with a Top Safety Pick+ designation.

The feature list compares well with either, and for the CX-5 the price differences come down to engine choice. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto won’t come on base models of either, but that is just one reason we’d recommend stepping up a trim level. The CX-5’s Touring trim, which should not be confused with the CR-V’s top Touring trim, costs about $1,600 more than the base model and adds smartphone compatibility, synthetic leather instead of cloth seats, heated front seats, and keyless entry. The 7.0-inch touchscreen on the CX-5 hasn’t kept pace with newer touchscreens, and can be frustrating to use if you don’t utilize the presets.   

Skip the base LX CR-V and its measly 5.0-inch touchscreen. The EX represents a much bigger price jump of $2,500 to the next trim, but comes with 7.0-inch touchscreen, smartphone compatibility, 18-inch wheels, heated front seats, keyless ignition and more. 

The 2020 Honda CR-V and 2020 Mazda CX-5 are more alike than they are different—but their differences will split buyers who prioritize performance and those who value practicality.


Summary

6.5
Expert Rating
The 2020 Honda CR-V hits right at the heart of many buyers’ needs: comfortable, spacious, quiet, and efficient.
6.7
Expert Rating
The 2020 Mazda CX-5 trades family-ready space for fine handling and good power.

Styling

4.0
Expert Rating
The restyled 2020 CR-V favors mass appeal over outward style.
Read More
8.0
Expert Rating
The 2020 Mazda CX-5 has a sophisticated look that should age well.
Read More

Performance

5.0
Expert Rating
The 2020 CR-V now offers a hybrid powertrain alongside an excellent turbo-4.
Read More
6.0
Expert Rating
The 2020 Mazda CX-5 boasts a fine balance between ride and handling, but we’re not impressed with what’s underhood.
Read More

Comfort & Quality

9.0
Expert Rating
The 2020 CR-V excels in hauling people and cargo.
Read More
7.0
Expert Rating
The driver-focused 2020 Mazda CX-5 leaves passengers and their gear wanting more.
Read More

Safety

9.0
Expert Rating
Great crash-test scores are complemented by exceptional outward vision in the 2020 Honda CR-V.
Read More
8.0
Expert Rating
The 2020 Mazda CX-5 comes with standard active safety tech and top-rated safety scores.
Read More

Features

7.0
Expert Rating
There’s not a bad pick in the 2020 CR-V lineup.
Read More
6.0
Expert Rating
The 2020 Mazda CX-5 is a good value, but its infotainment system can be frustrating.
Read More

Fuel Economy

5.0
Expert Rating
The 2020 CR-V is efficient among rivals, a hybrid version is even better.
Read More
5.0
Expert Rating
A new turbodiesel could give the 2020 Mazda CX-5 more competitive fuel economy.
Read More

MSRP

from $25,150
from $25,190

Invoice

from $23,617
from $24,719

Fuel Economy - Combined City and Highway

29
28

Engine

Intercooled Turbo Regular Unleaded I-4, 1.5 L
Regular Unleaded I-4, 2.5 L

Drivetrain

All Wheel Drive Read Full Specs
Front Wheel Drive Read Full Specs
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