The Mazda CX-5 Vs. Toyota RAV4

October 28th, 2021 by

The compact crossover SUV is one of the most hotly contested classes of vehicles, and two of the top contenders are the Mazda CX-5 and Toyota RAV4. While the 2021 RAV4 sees no significant changes, the 2021 CX-5 gets a new Carbon Edition trim, a new infotainment system with a larger screen, and access to remote vehicle functions via a smartphone app. The range-topping Signature trim also adds some new driver-assist features. Let’s take a look at how the Toyota RAV4 and Mazda CX-5 compare. 


Trim Level Comparison

The 2021 Mazda CX-5 is available in Sport, Touring, Carbon Edition, Grand Touring, Carbon Edition Turbo, Grand Touring Reserve, and Signature trim levels, with increasing levels of luxury and equipment. Most models feature front-wheel drive and offer the option of the i-Activ all-wheel-drive system that comes standard on the top two trims. The price of the CX-5 Sport starts at $25,370.

You can opt for the 2021 Toyota RAV4 in LE, XLE, XLE Premium, and Limited trim levels, which come standard with front-wheel drive or optional AWD. Additionally, the off-road specialized Adventure and TRD Off-Road models feature a standard upgraded AWD system. The RAV4 is also offered with a hybrid powertrain in LE, XLE, XLE Premium, XSE, and Limited trims. The starting price for the RAV4 LE is $26,350.

Exterior Design

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and the RAV4’s rugged exterior, with its aggressive front-end styling and sharp, angular profile, will appeal to many drivers. The Adventure trim adds more off-road styling elements, while the TRD Off-Road model is even more capable with its unique off-road features, specially tuned suspension, and all-terrain tires. Depending on the model, the RAV4 offers a choice of nine exterior colors, along with eight two-tone paintwork options.

The CX-5’s design stands out in the class with its signature Mazda grille, long, elegant hood, and the sensual, flowing lines of its profile that create the impression of motion and power, even at a standstill. The all-new Carbon Editions sit on 19-inch black metallic alloy wheels and feature striking Polymetal Gray exterior paintwork. Other models are available in up to seven stunning exterior colors.

Power and Performance Comparison

Standard power for the RAV4 is provided by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that delivers 203 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque via an eight-speed automatic transmission. In hybrid models, the engine is paired with an electric motor and a continuously variable transmission for a total output of 219 horsepower. The standard engine can take you from zero to 60 mph in 8 seconds, while the hybrid does it in 7.1 seconds. The RAV4 has a towing capacity of up to 1,500 pounds or 1,750 pounds with the hybrid powertrain.

Most CX-5 trims feature a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 187 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque. It’s matched with a six-speed automatic transmission. Carbon Edition Turbo, Grand Touring Reserve, and Signature models get a turbocharged 2.5-liter engine that, with premium fuel, produces 250 horsepower and 320 pound-feet of torque. It will get you to 60 mph in just 6.5 seconds. All CX-5 trims give you a higher maximum towing capacity of 2,000 pounds.

Interior Comfort and Space

Both the Mazda and Toyota have spacious and comfortable cabins with supportive seating for five. The CX-5 surrounds you with upscale materials, and the Carbon Edition and above feature leather upholstery. The RAV4 has a more rugged interior feel to match its exterior. The XLE Premium trim and up get simulated leather upholstery.

Each vehicle offers 41 inches of front legroom, but the CX-5 gives rear-seat passengers 39.6 inches of legroom, while back seat passengers in the RAV4 have only 37.8 inches. When equipped with the available moonroof, front passengers in the CX-5 have a headroom of 39.3 inches. In the similarly equipped RAV4, the front headroom is 37.7 inches.

With a full complement of passengers, the CX-5 gives you a luggage area of 30.9 cubic feet, while folding the 40/20/40-split rear seats increases your cargo capacity to 59.6 cubic feet. The RAV4 has a cargo area of 37.5 cubic feet behind the rear seats, which stretches to 69.8 cubic feet with the 60/40-split rear bench folded.

Technology Comparison

For 2021, the CX-5 features a new Mazda Connect infotainment system with a 10.25-inch full-color display. The system includes Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, a Wi-Fi hotspot, Bluetooth, and an audio system with HD and internet radio integration. Carbon Edition and above offer a premium 10-speaker Bose audio system.

The RAV4 offers similar infotainment features, but only with a 7-inch or 8-inch touch screen. You’ll need to step up to the TRD Off-Road for the option of the premium JBL sound system that only comes standard in the top Limited trim.

Comparing Safety Features

Both the CX-5 and Rav4 offer excellent safety credentials. The 2021 Mazda CX-5 received five stars out of five for overall safety from the National Highway Transportation Administration  (NHTSA). The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) awarded the 2021 CX-5 the highest accolade of 2021 Top Safety Pick+. That is only given to vehicles with the top ratings for crash testing and safety technologies.

The 2021 Toyota RAV4 was also awarded a top five-star overall safety rating by the NHTSA. However, the IIHS only gave a Top Safety Pick award to Hybrid RAV4 models with adaptive headlights. But that still marks it as one of the safest compact SUVs on the market.

The CX-5 and RAV4 both come standard with a suite of safety features. They each include lane departure alert, lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, and autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection. The Mazda adds standard blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, which is only offered on higher-spec RAV4 models. Additionally, the CX-5 Signature trim now offers driver attention alert, automatic reverse braking, front and rear parking sensors, and a 360-degree camera system.

So, there you have it. If you need a compact SUV with above-average cargo space and serious off-road capability, the RAV4 might be a good choice. But, when it comes to head-turning looks, turbocharged power and performance, headroom and legroom, technology, and safety, The Mazda CX-5 from Hiley Mazda of Fort Worth comes out on top.