For years, the RAV4 has been one of Consumer Reports’ highest-rated small SUVs, going neck and neck with the Subaru Forester and capturing that class’s Top Pick honor in 2011 and 2012.
Many people have anticipated its 2013 redesign. Would it have the goods to retain its top spot in a class that has seen a number of recent redesigns?
Consumer Reports can now say that the new RAV4 has emerged as a very solid package that’s versatile, efficient and easy to live with. And the redesign brings some welcome changes, such as more agile handling and an easier-to-use rear hatch that lifts up instead of swinging to the side.
But what came as a surprise is that the Mazda CX-5, which received a stronger, more-spirited engine for 2013, edged out the RAV4 in Consumer Reports’ road-test scores, albeit by a single point. Both SUVs placed just below its 2013 Top Pick, the Honda CR-V.
Consumer Reports found the CX-5 and RAV4 are capable, well-equipped vehicles that provide versatile choices for consumers. Its findings include:
— Toyota RAV4. With 24 mpg overall, the RAV4 stretches fuel dollars further than most competitors. Its agile handling and spirited powertrain make the RAV4 enjoyable to drive. A roomy interior, easy access and mostly intuitive controls add to its appeal.
For 2013, Toyota dropped the optional third-row seat, which few people will miss, and the sprightly, efficient V-6 engine, which some will miss. Knocks? The ride borders on being overly firm, the cabin is fairly noisy and some interior trim is quite basic.
— Mazda CX-5. If the CX-5 has been a surprising sleeper among small SUVs, Consumer Reports’ engineers think its new 184-hp, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine will wake up people. Included in mid- and top-trim models, the new version feels more muscular and provides much quicker acceleration than the pokey 155-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder in the CX-5 that we tested last year and that’s now relegated to the base Sport trim. It got the same impressive fuel economy: a best-in-class 25 mpg overall.
Consumer Reports found the CX-5 is also one of the more fun-to-drive SUVs the organization has tested, thanks to its agile handling. Plus, it has a surprisingly roomy interior and comfortable seats. Drawbacks include a noisy cabin, so-so ride comfort and a relatively high price that doesn’t include several features found on competitors, such as heated seats and automatic headlights.
Consumer Reports tested the mid-trim CX-5 Touring stickered at $28,090, and the mid-trim RAV4 XLE priced at $26,802. Because it expects above-average reliability from each, the CX-5 and RAV4 are CR Recommended.
CONSUMER REPORTS FINDS THE MAZDA6 FUN AND FRISKY
In addition to the small SUVs, Consumer Reports also tested the Mazda6 sedan. In a crowded, competitive class, the Mazda6 often gets overlooked by people shopping for a midsized sedan. But with the 2014 redesign, it makes a strong case for the spotlight by blending eye catching, coupelike styling, a sporty driving character and excellent fuel efficiency.
The Mazda6’s 184-hp, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine delivers a frugal 32 mpg overall and a diesellike 44 mpg on the highway. That’s the best Consumer Reports has measured in a conventional midsized sedan, edging out the four-cylinder Nissan Altima (31 mpg) and Honda Accord (30) as well as many compact and subcompact cars.
The key is Mazda’s suite of Skyactiv technologies, including direct fuel injection and a higher compression ratio. An optional diesel engine arrives later this year, for another fuel-efficient choice.