The Mazda CX-5 and Honda CR-V Battle Over Best SUV For City Life

Driving in a city is complicated and frustrating. Between the traffic, parking tickets, and overall wear and tear on your vehicle, big cities like NYC, for example, are a tough place to drive and own a car. However, depending on which car you have, it can dramatically change how difficult it is. Consumer Reports made a list of some of the better big-city drivers, and the Mazda CX-5 and Honda CR-V are locking horns over which is the best. 

As more people take to the roads during COVID, it’s the folks who live in major cities who need them most and have the hardest job picking what to buy. Consumer Reports made a list of SUVs that are the best for city life, by their estimation. Unsurprisingly, the Honda CR-V and the Mazda CX-5 top the list with ease. But these two are locked in a head to head battle with no clear winner. So let’s break down each and see what they offer. 

What is the best SUV for the City?

The Honda CR-V and Mazda CX-5 are both wildly popular small SUVs that are reliable and decently equipped and, most importantly, don’t cost an arm and a leg. CR uses a handful of criteria to decide which cars are the best for our metropolitan centers’ tight and crowded streets. 

A 2015 Honda CR-V parked on the street
A 2015 Honda CR-V | Jonathan Wong/South China Morning Post via Getty Images

The list of key factors according to Consumer Reports are as follows: 

  • A tight turning radius of no more than 38 ft
  • A small enough footprint to park and navigate traffic
  • An efficient idle and good “in-town” mpg rating
  • A soft and comfortable suspension that can suck up potholes
  • A vehicle that is strong and reliable

Is the Honda CR-V a good car for the city? 

It is great for the city. CR names the 2015 Honda CR-V, in particular, so these specs will be based on that, but the CR-V is an all-around good platform for the city. The CR-V is plenty small at 179 inches for squeezing into that tiny parallel parking spot. (Trust me, every inch will matter.) The CR-V can get its turning circle done in only 38 feet. 

A gray 2021 Honda CR-V Touring in a city
2021 Honda CR-V Touring | Honda

RELATED: If the 2021 Honda CR-V Is So Great, Why Does Consumer Reports Disagree?

Is the Mazda CX-5 a good car for the city? 

As far as the size and dimensions, the CX-5 is neck and neck with the CR-V. It measures 179 inches toe to tip and also can knock out a circle in only 38 feet. The competition will come down to how it feels to spend time in each of these rides.

The Honda CR-V and Mazda CX-5 are inexpensive and solid SUVs

The competition here really mounts when we get past dimensions and start looking deeper into what each vehicle is all about. As someone who drives and parks in NYC every day, the interior of your car is of paramount importance. Having good audio, comfortable seats, visibility, and a car you like to be in matters. 

From 2015 onward, the Honda CR-V starting fitting backup cameras, a power driver seat for the EX, and an available power rear gate. For any model, EX and higher, a touchscreen, Honda LaneWatch, and AWD. The downside was that the ride got a little stiff, which makes handling nicer, but potholes more unpleasant. The gas mileage tends to be around the 18 mpg mark in the cities, which for a vehicle with this much passenger and cargo room, is not bad. These models tend to range from around $13,k-$19k. For something with this much room, comfort, and efficiency, this is a solid bet. 

2019 Mazda CX-5
2019 Mazda CX-5 | Mazda

The Mazda CX-5 starts to inch ahead here. The CX-5 has slightly more cargo space than the Honda, 1 mpg better fuel economy, and a sportier feel. After 2014, Mazda replaced the lazy 2.0-liter with a peppier 2.5-liter engine that gave the model much more spark. Although the handling greatly improved, the harder suspension made the potholes all the more powerful, but still don’t hit like the CR-V. 

As far as noise is concerned, the CX-5 is a class leader. Noise is typically only an issue on the highway. Still, cities are loud places and having an insulated cockpit for when the sirens, busses, angry people, happy people, or any other form of noise gets a bit too much is a welcomed amenity. The MCX-5 raises the floor up to $15,400 – $19,525. 

So, which do you choose? 

This, like most car decisions, will have to fall to your taste and budget. The CX-5 is a quieter, more efficient, and smoother ride, but that extra lux will cost you. The CR-V is economical, responsible, and rugged enough for anything the city can throw at it, but it won’t wrap you in the same comfort cacoon that the Mazda will. It’s a tough one, but rest assured, these are both ready to help you navigate the city with the confidence to scream “Ey! I’m drivin’ ‘ere!” at a total stranger.