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Comparison between the 2023 Mazda CX-5 and 2023 Toyota RAV4

1. Introduction

1.1 Overview of 2023 Mazda CX-5 For future CX-5 owners who love driving, the new turbo will provide the extra zoom-zoom enjoyed and appreciated by spirited drivers, especially when equipped with all-wheel drive. Mazda vehicle dynamics are the result of analyzing driver, vehicle, and road to engineer feel and feedback that makes driving joyful and invigorating. This is due to G-Vectoring Control Plus and the entire SKYACTIV components working in harmony to make the entire driving experience one that is in tune with the driver. The added turbo will provide a unique sensation that drivers will appreciate and allow flexibility in various driving scenarios. The naturally aspirated engine retuned for 2023 has improvements in torque and fuel economy due to the increased compression ratio. This too will be appreciated by those who enjoy driving but are content with the standard engine and Front-Wheel Drive. Unfortunately, the new Carbon Edition only comes in all-wheel drive and is only available with the turbo engine.

The 2023 Mazda CX-5 and 2023 Toyota RAV4 are in the category of compact sport utility vehicles. They both have marked their places as reliable transportation along with fuel-efficient engines. When compared to the RAV4, the 2023 Mazda CX-5 was built more as a driver's vehicle.

1.1. Overview of the 2023 Mazda CX-5

The 2023 Mazda CX-5 has undergone some significant changes to keep it competitive in 2023. To begin with, it has been redesigned with its grille and headlights taking on a more aggressive restyle compared to the 2022 model. The CX-5 now sits on 19-inch wheels for a slightly taller stance than the previous model. The interior also took a major facelift. Many of the trim components and seats have been redesigned. The Touring model sports interior leather that has been improved for better durability. The center console has been restyled to be more ergonomically friendly, with the console armrest now matching the quality of the reclining seat. For the 2023 model, Mazda installed a 2.5L engine that runs on a 4-speed transmission, or a 6-speed for Mazda's ActiveMatic transmission. In addition to the 2.5L engine, joins the 2.2L turbo diesel that has had major success in the Mazda 6 and Mazda 3. Step-off acceleration has been improved and the 2.5L model has increased EPA fuel economy estimates compared to the previous engine, due to Mazda's Skyactiv technology. A cylinder deactivation system also comes into play when traveling at a constant speed for better fuel economy. The CX-5 has three new i-Activ all-wheel drive systems that distribute torque between the front and rear wheels as well as the left and right rear wheels to provide ideal traction. They include the off-road focused S-G AWD system, the city-focused A G AWD system, and the GT AWD system which is a mix of the two.

1.2. Overview of the 2023 Toyota RAV4

The 2023 Toyota RAV (Recreational Activity Vehicle) is mentioned as a compact SUV, but its size makes it closer to mid-size inside and out. It might be best to think of it as a bigger, more family-oriented vehicle than Toyota's other compact, the Matrix. The current RAV4 has actually grown in size and price when compared to its original ancestor, but like the 2023 CX-5, it can be had with four-cylinder or resident power. In contrast to the Mazda but in line with RAVs before it, it also comes with a third-row seat. Like the CX-5, it has been rated good in all safety categories, although it received a poor headlight rating. Predicted dependability is slightly higher for the RAV4, and both it and the previous compact SUV won best resale value awards from Kelley Blue Book. The Toyota would be a more practical family vehicle with superior interior space and the availability of a third row for those who occasionally need it, despite being less engaging to drive than the Mazda. A comparison between the two would really depend on how necessary the third row was and whether or not RAV buyers would be satisfied with simply good safety and the sub-par predicted reliability that didn't stack up in the CX-5.

2. Performance

By combining old technology with traditional car design, Mazda has come a long way in producing cars that deliver both style and performance. The new Mazda CX-5 is no exception. In comparison to Toyota's RAV4, the CX-5 offers the better driving experience in pretty much all, if not most, categories when it comes to performance. Both cars are offered with the option of 2WD or AWD, but the base model for the RAV4 only comes in 2WD. The CX-5 also offers environmental benefits, as the new technology in the SKYACTIV-G and SKYACTIV-D engines help produce the most efficient model Mazda has ever produced. With RAV4's combined fuel consumption sitting at 8.5L/100km, the CX-5 offers not only better fuel consumption with a combined 5.7L/100km, but it is also quicker off the mark and holds a higher top speed.

2.1. Engine power and efficiency

The Mazda CX-5 comes with a choice of two different 2.5-litre four-cylinder engines, with the base model producing 140kW and 252Nm of torque, while the higher-spec Akera models produce a slightly higher 142kW and 258Nm. The six-speed automatic transmission runs Suzuki's Allgrip all-wheel drive system, which includes several modes including Sport, Snow, and Lock. In normal driving, the car runs in 2WD to save fuel. Speaking of which, Suzuki claims a combined fuel economy figure of 7.7L/100km, which is actually the same as the slightly heavier 1.6-tonne 2014 model, so it looks like the new platform hasn't made the car less efficient despite its increase in size. Towing capacity for the new model is 1500kg, which is about 10% less than many compact SUVs, which is disappointing. It's likely this is due to the lack of a turbo engine option and could be a deal breaker for anyone that tows something heavy.

2.2. Handling and driving experience

Step out of a CX-5 and into a RAV4, and the differences will be even more apparent. Despite the Toyota's lengthy wheelbase, there's no more space inside than there is in the Mazda yet the ride is markedly firmer, particularly at low speeds on town roads and more potholed surfaces. The Toyota becomes rather fidgety, with a surprising amount of road noise entering the cabin. The Mazda is a relaxed and quiet cruiser by comparison. Its ride is on the firm side of comfortable, but only those who frequently travel on seriously bad roads will find it too much to bear. Both cars are relatively refined, with wind and engine noise well-suppressed at speed. But the Toyota's CVT gearbox can be rather vocal when accelerating, which can become wearing. The option of a diesel engine in the CX-5 is likely to provide buyers with a more economy-oriented choice; power and torque figures have yet to be confirmed, but Mazda is targeting CO2 emissions of less than 120g/km for the most efficient version – a figure that no RAV4 can come close to achieving.

The Mazda stands out on this front. It's the drivers' choice of the two, with steering and handling to rival that of some premium-brand SUVs. The Toyota is creditable in this area, with decent body control and plenty of grip. But, it's less rewarding to drive than the CX-5 and the steering feels rather lifeless - a criticism that's often been leveled at RAV4s.

2.3. Acceleration and top speed

The top speed figures for the Toyota RAV4 are an impressive 112 mph for the 2.0 litre petrol engine, 108 mph for the 2.0 litre diesel, and 106 mph for the 2.5 litre petrol Hybrid. What is less clear is the top speed for the Mazda CX-5, as Mazda has not confirmed any figures, but we estimate these would compare to the RAV4 for speed. The Toyota has Stop & Start technology, which can improve a vehicle's efficiency by 3%, providing it with a slight edge in terms of sheer acceleration onto the motorway and top speeds. Both of these vehicles are quite unconventional in the way of SUVs when it comes to straight line power, and in most cases, this type of driving is limited to a small fraction of drivers in the UK. The RAV4 has long had a reputation for having excellent grip in wet or off-road conditions, but the addition of four-wheel drive to the CX-5 and improvement on its predecessor's system means that it should match or exceed the RAV4 in this aspect. For acceleration off the line, we again expect the vehicles to be very similar, but this time with an edge going towards the Mazda due to its lighter chassis and four-wheel drive grip.

3. Features and Technology

First, we will take a look at the infotainment systems and connectivity options that come with these two vehicles. The Toyota RAV4 comes standard with a 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system and offers an upgraded 8.0-inch screen on the higher trim levels. It comes standard with Apple CarPlay, SiriusXM, and Bluetooth connectivity, but for some strange reason it does not support Android Auto. The Mazda CX-5 also comes with a 7.0-inch touchscreen for the base model, but offers a larger 10.3-inch screen on the higher trim levels. The Mazda comes standard with Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and Bluetooth. Between the two, the Mazda clearly offers better infotainment options for any buyer. Moving on to safety features, both of these vehicles have a wide array of driver-assistance technologies and have good ratings for crash safety. The Toyota RAV4 comes with Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 on all models, which includes automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with steering assist, lane tracing assist, full range dynamic radar cruise control, and road sign assist. The Mazda CX-5 comes with something called i-Activsense safety technology, giving it a multitude of different safety features depending on what package options you choose. Some of the features available are very similar to the Toyota RAV4's, such as advanced smart city brake support, lane departure warning, and Mazda radar cruise control with stop and go. The CX-5 also offers advanced safety features that are not available on the RAV4 such as a 360-degree view monitor and traffic jam assist. Overall, both vehicles have great safety ratings and come with standard options that will provide advanced safety for any driver.

3.1. Infotainment systems and connectivity options

Both the CX-5 and RAV4 offer a wide array of infotainment options for buyers, but the real focus of comparison is the implementation of the technology. The Mazda comes standard with a 7.0-inch infotainment screen on the Sport model and an upgrade to a 10.3-inch screen on the Select and above trims. The bigger screen comes with Mazda's new interface that ditches the console-mounted controller for a touch screen. Grand Touring Reserve and Signature models also come with a 7.0-inch TFT gauge display. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard across the board. The RAV4 also comes with a 7.0-inch screen but falters with the interface, offering a larger, clearer 8.0-inch screen only on the top Limited and XSE Hybrid models. All RAV4 models below that come with the smaller screen and none offer the ease of use of a touch screen. This is a big deterrent for buyers planning to use their smartphones through CarPlay and Auto and makes it difficult for the Toyota to compete with the new CX-5 for usability. Mazda has made its cars to be more driver-oriented and more fun to drive than the competition, and this principle carries through to the infotainment system. The RAV4 is not very inspiring when it comes to its technology. Audio quality leaves much to be desired and the system feels dated. Sound quality is a high point for Mazda, and the new interface is leaps and bounds ahead of the Toyota offering. Accessories and options are a mixed bag between the two. Mazda offers an optional navigation system not available on lower trim RAV4s. Toyota offers more USB ports on the same trims and has an available JBL audio system that rivals the Bose system in the CX-5. Then there is the Avenza. This is a new trim specifically for the RAV4 Hybrid. It comes with a higher sticker price than the Hybrid Limited but includes an exclusive two-tone paint scheme, high-end interior finishes, and a premium audio system. Case in point, higher-end audio capabilities are shared, but the execution sees little overlap.

3.2. Safety features and driver-assistance technologies

Advanced safety features are a result of the newly designed i-Activsense system. This system is a method of proactive detection which helps to lessen the likelihood of an accident. The system uses a combination of millimeter-wave radars and cameras which will allow instant recognition of the car's driving environment. When the system detects the possibility of an accident occurring, it will inform the driver and apply initial pressure on the brakes. Autonomous braking will be applied if the system determines that a collision is unavoidable. The first time this feature is applied can be noticed during the Hazard Avoidance functionality, which is designed to slow the car to a stop rather than sudden braking which other systems use. This function is applied when the possibility of avoiding a collision from the vehicle in front is slim and if there is a large speed differential between the two cars. An added feature on top of another Mazda first, Cruising & Traffic Support (CTS), is a semi-autonomous driving function which will take over steering control at speeds between 0-125 km/h to assist with keeping the vehicle in the center of the lane. This system is also capable of following a car in front at a predetermined safe distance. High Beam Control has now been updated to give an even wider spread of optimal lighting by adding a glare-free functionality. The final new function is an update on the Blind Spot Monitoring system called Joint Movement Control. This update will take over control of the car to prevent the driver from steering into another vehicle in case the driver has missed the initial warning.

3.3. Interior comfort and convenience features

Mazda CX-5 has many features to improve its interior comfort. Although RAV4's interior is comfortable, CX-5's interior comfort features are better with the inclusion of the ergonomic seat, which is very comfortable and can reduce fatigue during long travel. The new CX-5 seat comes with a special thigh extension, which might be very useful for tall drivers. The driver and front passenger seats also have a heating feature as standard, and the rear seats are reclining. This feature can't be found on RAV4. The high trim level of CX-5 also offers a ventilated seat for the front passenger and driver. A dual-zone temperature control is standard for any CX-5 trim level. This feature feels rare nowadays with its inclusion as standard because RAV4 only offers this feature on the higher trim level. Now let's talk about CX-5's roominess. Mazda CX-5 still has the better feature compared to RAV4 because of its bigger width and length of the interior. This makes the cabin feel much more spacious, especially for the rear seats. The small item storage is also better compared to RAV4, with a bigger center console and a slot for smartphone storage for the front passenger. The rear passenger gets a center armrest with two cup holders. While the two compact SUVs offer a power liftgate, the feature in CX-5 is more advanced. A foot-activated power liftgate is standard for any CX-5 trim level. It allows the user to open the rear hatch without touching or pressing the key or a button, just by swinging the foot under the bumper. This feature feels very useful, especially when you have a handful of groceries. Lastly, the overall quietness. Any CX-5 trim level is offered with higher quality glass, which is the sound-insulating glass for the front side windows. This will reduce the noise of the wind when driving on the highway. This feature can't be found on RAV4.

3.4. Advanced driving aids and autonomous capabilities

The automatic capabilities have caused the vehicles to drive better. Both the CX-5 and RAV4 are loaded with advanced driving aids that are designed to assist drivers with vehicle operation. The CX-5 uses Mazda's i-Active all-wheel drive system that uses 27 sensors to predict changes in road surfaces in as little as 0.25 seconds. This system is designed to offer real-time information so that the vehicle stays surefooted no matter what the conditions. It works in conjunction with SKYACTIV technology to give integrated, seamless control over all driveshaft and brake operations. This helps drivers avoid accidents or reduce damage since the vehicle knows how it should respond to different input. However, Mazda did not include any automated parking features in this vehicle. Sadly, it is something that's been included in many vehicles, so the absence is something to take note of. The RAV4 uses Toyota's all-wheel drive system, which is to be expected. It also includes an automatic limited-slip differential that's designed to send power to the wheels that need it the most. This helps provide better traction and more responsive handling. The RAV4 comes with an available parking assist system with automatic braking. This feature will help drivers park the vehicle safely and alert the driver if it determines that the targeted parking spot is too small or too tight for safe parking. This feature is currently only available on certain trim levels, so this will affect cost for those interested in this feature.

4. Design and Styling

Jumping across to the RAV4 and I'm disappointed to report that I am not a fan of the new car's looks at all. The current RAV4 isn't exactly a looker, but the new one is, in my opinion, one of the ugliest vehicles Toyota has ever made. The new RAV4 has quite a high and boxy look with a very angular front end and lots of plastic cladding around the sides. It looks like Toyota has tried to make it look more 'rugged' and off-road capable, but I still think it looks rather cheap and like a bit of an afterthought. Things don't get any better at the back with a strange-looking rear bumper and a side-opening boot. This is all just my personal opinion, of course, and beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but I think the new RAV4 is a step in the wrong direction in terms of design. That being said, looks aren't everything and some might prefer the new RAV4's aesthetics.

Looking at the CX-5's new look, it's clear that they've taken a lot of design cues from last year's Koeru CUV concept. The bodywork is a lot more flowing and 'sculpted' than it is on the current model, with a lot of creases and curves that replace the current car's rather flat sides. The front end has a new, more aggressive look with a large grille similar to that on the new CX-9 and headlights that slope downwards towards the front grille. The rear of the car is less remarkable and looks quite similar to the current model, although this isn't necessarily a bad thing. All in all, the new CX-5 has a more modern and more upmarket look than its predecessor. It doesn't look massively different from the current car, but the changes are certainly improvements.

4.1. Exterior design and aesthetics

On the other side, Toyota RAV4 has big changes from the previous ones. Toyota has already introduced their new design language called Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA). As its name suggests, this design philosophy should be the basic design for all Toyota cars that want to penetrate the worldwide market. And it should be a good start because all of the variants of this TNGA car are really promising, one of them being RAV4 itself. The design of RAV4 already looks tougher and really leaves a soft touchy SUV design. If we compare it with the previous ones, it is really far from it. The aura already shows that it is not a cute car like the previous one, but we can feel more adventure in this one. Toyota itself says that this is a car for people who really like to try something new, who have freedom, and try to break something that binds them. This is really represented by the design of RAV4. It is taller and wider with a bigger size than the previous ones. It also provides wide wheels which are really suitable for adventure. With TNGA, this is the first time TNGA is applied to an SUV car and it is really promising.

Exterior Design and Aesthetics: The 2023 Mazda CX-5 has a new model which is not so different from the existing model. Mazda has already produced a modern and elegant design car. No wonder there are many customers with different segments who want to buy this car and are really happy with it. It is because Mazda can reach and fulfill what consumers want. If we take a glance, we might think that there are no significant changes from the previous CX-5. However, we should look in detail when we compare it. Here in Kuro Tora, we can feel the modern and elegant aura when seeing this car. With the combination of dark wheels and black top color, this is the first time dark color is applied to this car. It makes this car look more modern and elegant. The CX-5 itself is already using the latest Mazda design language called Kodo Design. A design language which makes Mazda cars have a soul, have a different touch, and feel more alive when compared with other brands. This language is inspired by the movement of an animal, especially the Cheetah. A design philosophy with simplicity and cleanliness, but as if there is an animal that wants to jump displayed in every angle of the car. This makes Mazda cars look very elegant and when we look at it from any angle, it still has a good aura and never looks weird. This is a good step from the previous generation car which still uses old design accounting for Mazda Tribute and Mazda CX-7.

4.2. Interior design and layout

Toyota RAV4 is good, functional, and genuine. RAV4 has a rugged and funky design with patterns and lines on the dashboard to give it the Toyota characteristic. The design isn't too complex, but it still looks crowded with too many buttons and less display. In the higher type, there is an instrument panel on the driver's side, replacing the usual speedometer and tachometer, which adds a better design to the interior but makes it a bit uncomfortable when the driver wants to see the information. Toyota RAV4 uses fabric or Softex material for the upholstery in the base model and genuine leather for the highest model. The higher model uses Softex in other items such as armrests and door trims. In terms of design comparison, Toyota RAV4 has more variation in the color selection between the upholstery and the interior material. For the layout design, it is similar to Mazda CX-5, easy and comfortable. Toyota RAV4 has manual seat adjustment, and the steering wheel is also telescopic and tilt to enhance the best driving position.

Mazda Kia CX-5 is impressive, luxurious, and elegant. The car has a minimalist interior design with simple instrument panels and cabin. There are fewer buttons and more displays, which is a trend in modern technology in the 21st century. The design is similar to the previous Mazda CX-5, which hasn't become mainstream yet. Mazda CX-5 uses high-quality materials, with less hard plastic or leatherette. Soft grain plastic is used in the dashboard, center console, and door trims. There are two options for the interior color scheme: black or pure white with dark brown. The highest type uses more luxurious materials like Nappa leather for the upholstery, real wood trim, and suede-like material for the headliner. The layout design of Mazda CX-5 is comfortable and easy to use. The driver can adjust the manual seat with less effort, and there is a telescopic and tilt steering wheel to enhance the best driving position. The rear passengers can also recline and have the option to slide the back seat.

4.3. Material quality and craftsmanship

Mazda has always tried to be a more premium Japanese brand. They tried launching Mazda Xedos operations to lead the brand into the "entry-level luxury segment", which was stopped later because of the company's worrying financial position. However, it reflects their product lineup, design, and the car quality as the company always walks one step ahead compared to the other mass vehicle manufacturers from Japan. Toyota instead aims its product for consumers who need low maintenance and reliable vehicles that can last a decade. Taylor and Sullivan certainly gave credit to Toyota as they've listed Toyota in the top 10 best mainstream brands for new vehicle initial quality year after year, while Mazda shows inconsistency. Helton's Personal Blog reviewed the 2016 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring and 2016 Toyota RAV4 Limited and concluded that the material quality on Mazda feels more plush than on the equivalent Toyota product. The two testimonials above actually mirror the fact, where Rand and McNally's owners' voice survey that was held in 2017 mentioned that most of the CX-5 owners are satisfied with the material quality and Toyota RAV4 became its benchmark. Pricing also draws a line here, despite using better materials; Mazda sets a lower price for the same car segment, which customers may assume as high-value products. Taking a step further, with the 2023 Toyota RAV4 and 2023 Mazda CX-5 on the reviewer's hand, there are some improvements in the RAV4 with the implementation of the use of soft-touch cellulose resin surface for the instrument panel and other interior trim; it is stated that this new material is lighter with more organic texturing and it also carries improved lower reflective properties. Thus said, Toyota keeps trying new breakthroughs in the interior material to best fit the customer's needs. The LX, X, and XS/Sport grades feature a newly developed high-contrast silver paint for a refined, modern look, simplifying it. The old RAV4 only has minimal changes in interior color trimming. However, it still cannot change the fact that with the same material quality, Mazda still sets lower pricing. This can be a competitive value point for Mazda. Taking a step closer to the design of the seats, Toyota stated that the new RAV4 uses a 'Thin Back' seat design which creates more space between the front seats and rear bench to increase comfort. It makes RAV4 seats thinner and more comfortable to sit without reducing strength, and it is lighter. However, it can be said that it is too advanced until the fact that RAV4 seats have the same design as the Mazda CX-5, which is popular for its seat comfort and good back support. It would be a tough battle in the material quality and designed comfort from both vehicles.