The 2016 Los Angeles auto show has typically been filled with new electrified and luxury vehicles, but this year two family-oriented crossovers took top-billing: the new 2017 Honda CR-V made its auto show debut, and the rival 2017 Mazda CX-5 made its global debut.
Although we won’t be able to rehash our recent compact CUV Big Test until some time next year (hopefully with the 2018 Chevrolet Equinox as part of the mix), the L.A. auto show gave us the opportunity to see how the 2017 CR-V and 2017 CX-5 will stack up.
The new Honda CR-V and Mazda CX-5 may be competing in the same segment, but you wouldn’t necessarily know it by looking at them. Sure, they have the same basic two-box shape, but the exterior executions on both are wildly different.
Let’s take a look at the Honda first. The 2017 CR-V is not a classically pretty vehicle. Honda’s chrome brow-like grille looks like a fighting bull’s nose ring, and its rear view is a bit overstyled, with lots of styling lines competing for your attention. I suspect there’s a reason for this visual complexity though—the CR-V is bigger in most dimensions compared to the previous model, and Honda designers may have done what they could to shrink the new visual mass that allows occupants more room inside.
The 2017 CX-5 on the other hand, hints at Mazda’s aspirations of moving up-market. Adopting the look of the CX-3 and CX-9, the new CX-5 looks sleek, with purposeful, athletic lines that give it a sporty vibe. The new CX-5 is really quite attraactive for a crossover, but then again the last-gen model was, too.
Inside the Cabin
Hop into the cabin of either crossover and you can spot major improvements versus the previous-generation vehicles.
The CX-5, for all its pros, always needed a little improvement to make it more family-friendly. For example, the CX-5’s rear seats are now more spacious than before, are optionally heated, and most importantly, now feature air conditioning vents to keep children and other precious cargo cool on hot days. Like the CR-V, the CX-5 also features single-pull levers in the cargo area that drop the rear seats flat for extra storage. Up front, the CX-5 is more luxurious than before. The model shown at the auto show (likely a CX-5 Grand Touring or Signature model) had its driver-focused cabin tastefully decorated with white leather, piano black and satin metallic accent pieces.
Honda is also moving upward. The CR-V’s leather seats are comfortable, but the molded-plastic “stitching” on the dash and plastic faux wood trim won’t fool anyone into thinking it’s an Acura, though some at the show did like that wood-like trim. Even still, the CR-V has lots to like, with more rear-seat space than before, with a nearly flat floor to boot. As is typical of Honda, it sweats the small stuff, with plenty of storage cubbies for the necessities, and more USB slots for charging phones on the go. The 2017 CR-V’s infotainment system should be more reliable too, now that Honda has given it an actual volume knob, as well as integrated Apple Car Play and Android Auto compatibility.
Under the Hood
Both the 2017 Honda CR-V and 2017 Mazda CX-5 offer big respective nameplate firsts under the hood. The 2017 Honda CR-V is the first CR-V to feature a turbocharged engine. Sourced from the Honda Civic, the CR-V’s optional engine on the EX trim and above is a 1.5-liter turbocharged I-4 good for 190 hp and 179 lb-ft of torque. The CR-V LX’s standard engine is a carryover 2.4-liter I-4 making 184 hp and 180 lb-ft of torque. Though an older engine, we were quite fond of the naturally aspirated 2.4-liter engine in the previous-generation CR-V. A CVT is the only available transmission on the CR-V; front-wheel drive is standard and all-wheel drive is optional.
The CX-5’s under-hood first isa bit more exciting. After years of teasing us by promising its SkyActiv-D diesel engine in the Mazda6 sedan, the automaker says it will finally bring us its diesel in the new CX-5 instead. Mazda’s not talking power figures yet, but the 2.2-liter turbodiesel I-4 should make around the same 173 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque in the new CX-5 as it does in European-trim in the global Mazda6 wagon, while providing a real-world fuel economy benefit to buyers. Like the CR-V, the 2017 CX-5’s standard engines are carryovers from the previous model year, including 2.0- and 2.5-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder gas engines. A six-speed automatic is likely standard across the board as we’d be surprised to see the low-take-rate six-speed manual live on. Like the Honda, the Mazda will be available in front- and all-wheel drive.
The 2017 Honda CR-V is expected to hit dealerships in December, while the 2017 Mazda CX-5 goes on sale in the 2017 calendar year.