Honda CR-V vs. Mazda CX-50: Compare Crossover SUVs

Honda CR-V vs. Mazda CX-50: Compare Crossover SUVs

The Honda CR-V and Mazda CX-50 are two strong attempts to unseat the bestselling Toyota RAV4, in what’s become the most popular vehicle segment in America. 

Among these so-called compact crossovers—close to what we considered midsize not long ago—the Honda CR-V remains very popular and the closest on Toyota’s tail for sales. With the inclusion of a hybrid version expected to amount to half or more of CR-V sales in the near future, it’s not to be upstaged in the evolution of the family vehicle. 

The new Mazda CX-50 represents Mazda’s right-sized approach to the American market. There’s no hybrid—yet—but it’s larger, roomier, and roughens up the urbane style of the CX-5 that has been Mazda’s bestseller for years. The CX-50 will likely replace it, as the CX-30 replaced the CX-3 and the CX-90 has replaced the CX-9. 

But how does the upstart compare with one of the most common vehicles on roads today? Is the CR-V Hybrid, in its Sport trims, that much better or will the off-road elements of the CX-50 grab more eyes and more sales?

Here’s how they compare.

2024 Honda CR-V

Mazda CX-50 vs. Honda CR-V price and trims

  • Mazda CX-50 starts at $32,000 and climbs to nearly $45,000

  • CX-50 comes standard with AWD; Honda charges $1,500

  • CR-V starts at $31,000 and runs above $41,000 for Sport Touring

  • CR-V Hybrid Sport starts at nearly $35,000 

  • Best picks: CX-50 2.5S Premium, CR-V Hybrid Sport

2024 Mazda CX-50

2024 Mazda CX-50

How much is a Mazda CX-50? Which CX-50 should I buy?

Mazda offers much more choice than Honda for its compact crossover, spanning a price delta from the entry level to the premium segment. Two powertrain options span eight similar-sounding trim levels in the CX-50. Standard all-wheel drive gives it an advantage over the CR-V—if you don’t consider the modest premium of a hybrid system to be one. 

Both CX-50 and CR-V base models come with good driver-assist tech, cloth upholstery, and smartphone compatibility, as well as a 3-year/36,000-mile basic warranty. 

The CX-50 2.5 S, even in base Select form, makes Apple CarPlay wireless and adds an 8.8-inch infotainment screen. Mazda insists on a console-mounted controller dial as the main interface with it or the larger yet still far-to-reach 10.3-inch touchscreen. It can take at least three functions to change audio or other simple tasks. Honda’s interface relies on larger icons, a simpler layout, and mostly one-touch functions. 

Options such as a 10-speaker Bose audio system, leather seats, heated front power seats and a panoramic sunroof come on our recommended pick, the $35,000 2.5S Premium. 

The more potent turbocharged engine, in the 2.5 Turbo, costs thousands more, at nearly $43,000 for the 2.5 Turbo Premium.

2023 Honda CR-V Hybrid

2023 Honda CR-V Hybrid

How much is a Honda CR-V? Which Honda CR-V should I buy?

Even in loaded Hybrid Sport Touring form, the Honda CR-V costs less than that, at under $42,000. It includes all-wheel drive and Honda’s nicest features, about the same as what you get on the CX-50 2.5 Turbo. It includes a 9.0-inch touchscreen with wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay and charging, leather upholstery, 19-inch wheels, a Bose 12-speaker audio, navigation, and a wifi hotspot.

That’s a pretty good value, and only $11,000 more than the base front-wheel-drive CR-V LX with its 7.0-inch touchscreen. The CR-V includes a 7.0-inch digital instrument cluster standard throughout the lineup, plus keyless start and LED headlights.

We recommend the $37,000 CR-V Hybrid Sport AWD. The Sport grade adds blacked-out trim pieces, black 18-inch wheels, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. A power driver’s seat, heated front seats, a sunroof, and blind-spot monitors are also included on all CR-V Hybrid models.  

And for those who might want a little more with the Hybrid short of the top Sport Touring, Honda has added a Sport-L model for 2024 that includes leather seats, a power tailgate, wireless device charging, and wireless smartphone connectivity via CarPlay or Android Auto—starting at about $38,000.

Advantage: CX-50 for AWD shoppers, CR-V Hybrid for efficiency-minded shoppers.

2023 Honda CR-V

2023 Honda CR-V

CR-V vs. CX-50 performance and specs

  • CX-50 taps a 2.5-liter inline-4 that makes 187 hp and 186 lb-ft 

  • CX-50 Turbo models use a 2.5-liter turbo-4 making 227 hp and 310 lb-ft

  • Honda CR-V’s 1.5-liter turbo-4 kicks out 190 hp and 179 lb-ft

  • Honda CR-V Hybrid Sport models make 204 hp and 247 lb-ft

2023 Mazda CX-50

2023 Mazda CX-50

How does the Mazda CX-50 drive?

The CX-50’s drivetrain is a mixed bag. A 6-speed automatic lets the standard 2.5-liter inline-4 rev higher, so there’s more power available once you’re up and running, but it also infuses the cabin with noise. Sport mode makes the throttle response more sensitive, while Off-road mode dulls it so there’s more torque available at low speeds. It’s fine, but the Mazda’s charm is in its excellent steering and poised handling. 

It cruises in comfort, and its front strut and torsion beam rear suspension keeps it just right, neither too firm nor too soft. It’s not meant for hard cornering, and it’ll respond like a slap to the jowls. But it’s shorter and closer to the ground, so it doesn’t lean as much into turns as the CR-V. The electric-assist steering also keeps the CX-50 true without the need for frequent corrections. 

The available 2.5-liter turbo-4 accentuates those Mazda traits even more (opt for 93-octane and output increases to 256 hp and 320 lb-ft). It pairs with the 6-speed for an all around sportier ride, but the turbo still lags from a stop, even in Sport mode. From about 2,000 rpm and up, it packs a satisfying punch that turns on-ramps and merging into something fun. 

2024 Honda CR-V

2024 Honda CR-V

How does the Honda CR-V drive?

Either CR-V prioritizes efficiency over power, which makes the Sport trim given to these Hybrid models a bit of a misnomer, even if they are technically quicker than non-hybrids. Sport, Sport-L, and Sport Touring grades marry a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine that runs on the Atkinson cycle to a pair of electric motors. Under low speeds with a light foot, the 1.4-kwh battery pack feeds the motors for electric drive. With a heavier prod of the acceleration, the engine starts up primarily as a generator for the system, but it’s so quiet in Eco and Normal modes as to be unnoticeable. Simulated gear shifts drop revs and Sport mode dials in simulated engine noise. It handles with more bounding and leaning than the CX-50, but it feels more in tune with the road than the standard CR-V. 

For 2024 Mazda claims to have recalibrated the power steering and chosen new dampers for the CX-50—an unusual choice for any vehicle’s second model year. We’ll update our impressions on as soon as we can revisit this model.

In non-hybrid CR-Vs, the 1.5-liter turbo-4’s lower peak torque (1,700 rpm, vs. 2,000 rpm) means it’s a tad quicker than the CX-50 Turbo, without that model’s lag. The CR-V’s CVT makes the engine whine when pushed hard, but it’s predictable and quiet around town.

Advantage: CX-50 Turbo for power, CR-V hybrid for everything else. 

2024 Mazda CX-50

2024 Mazda CX-50

CR-V vs. CX-50 fuel economy

  • CR-V turbo-4 rates at 28 mpg city, 34 highway, 30 combined; AWD loses 1 mpg

  • CR-V Hybrid gets 43/36/40 mpg with FWD; it’s 40/34/37 mpg with AWD

  • CX-50 2.5-liter gets 24/30/27 mpg with AWD

  • CX-50 Turbo gets 23/29/25 mpg with AWD

  • Mazda’s 6-speed automatic hurts efficiency

Advantage: Honda CR-V.

2023 Mazda CX-50 Turbo Premium

2023 Mazda CX-50 Turbo Premium

2023 Mazda CX-50 Turbo Premium

2023 Mazda CX-50 Turbo Premium

2023 Mazda CX-50 Turbo Premium

2023 Mazda CX-50 Turbo Premium

CR-V vs. CX-50 size and specs

  • CX-50 is larger than the Mazda CX-5 and the CR-V, yet the CR-V is roomier

  • CR-V has 39.2 cubic feet of cargo space vs the CX-50’s 31.4 cubic feet 

  • CR-V has 41 inches of rear legroom vs 39.8 inches in CX-50 

  • CR-V hybrid battery pack is beneath the cargo floor, sacrificing nothing to gas models

2023 Honda CR-V Hybrid

2023 Honda CR-V Hybrid

2023 Honda CR-V Hybrid

2023 Honda CR-V Hybrid

2023 Honda CR-V Hybrid

2023 Honda CR-V Hybrid

2023 Honda CR-V Hybrid

2023 Honda CR-V Hybrid

How big is the Honda CR-V?

Both models seat four adults in comfort, and the middle seat fifth can be used as a pinch. The interior differences represent how well Honda optimizes its interiors for space. At 184.8 inches long, it’s an inch shorter than the Mazda CX-50 yet the CX-50 has a wheelbase that stretches 4.5 inches longer than the CR-V. That typically translates to a roomier interior, but Honda buffs out the CR-V by making it a half-inch wider and about three inches taller.

The space within that space is optimized to stow the detritus of the modern hustler, with a deep center console, large door pockets, and a tiered cargo floor on gas-only models. Skip the base LX for heated front seats with power adjustments for the driver, but deep seat bottoms can swallow change as well as posteriors. 

The big difference between it and the CX-50 expands behind the front seats, where legroom and headroom of the CR-V outsizes the Mazda. The CR-V’s 41 inches of rear legroom is one of the largest in the class, resulting in one of the roomier interiors overall. 

The vertical advantage also benefits cargo volume, with the reclining 60/40-split rear seats carving out 39.3 cubic feet of space. With the seats folded, it holds 76.5 cubic feet  but it’s not a flat floor as the rear seats stack up higher than the cargo floor. 

2023 Mazda CX-50

2023 Mazda CX-50

2023 Mazda CX-50

2023 Mazda CX-50

2023 Mazda CX-50

2023 Mazda CX-50

2023 Mazda CX-50

2023 Mazda CX-50

How big is the Mazda CX-50?

Mazda finishes the CX-50 nicer than the CR-V, with the plastic dash pieces offset by leather upholstery, stylish cross-stitching, and overall more refined materials on all grades. Yet, on the highway it lets in a good amount of tire and wind noise. The CX-50 was designed to be larger than the Mazda CX-5 for American audiences, and though it’s larger and roomier than the Toyota RAV4, it can’t match the cargo and passenger room of the CR-V. 

The front seats support all frames, and most models have power adjustments and seat heaters. The rear seats have 39.8 inches of legroom, but the headroom of 37.5 inches is 0.7 inch less than the CR-V, when both are equipped with sunroofs. Cargo volume shrinks away from the CR-V, even without battery packaging, measuring at 31.4 cubic feet behind the rear seats or 56.3 with the rear seats down.  

Advantage: Honda CR-V. 

2023 Honda CR-V Hybrid

2023 Honda CR-V Hybrid

2023 Honda CR-V Hybrid

2023 Honda CR-V Hybrid

2023 Honda CR-V Hybrid

2023 Honda CR-V Hybrid

Mazda CX-50 vs. Honda CR-V safety

  • CX-50 earns IIHS Top Safety Pick+ award

  • CR-V has dropped to Top Safety Pick

  • Both earn five-star NHTSA overall ratings

  • Both models include automatic emergency braking, active lane control, and adaptive cruise control

How safe is the Mazda CX-50?

It’s very safe based on the standard driver-assist tech and crash ratings mentioned above—including top “good” crash ratings from the IIHS including in its newly updated moderate overlap front and side impact tests. Outward vision to the rear is not so good, though, so consider the available surround-view camera system and parking sensors.

How safe is the Honda CR-V?

The CR-V gets very good crash-test ratings, with one exception: It flubbed the new IIHS moderate overlap test, with a “poor” result. Otherwise its ratings essentially compare to those of the Mazda, except the CX-50 includes blind-spot monitors as standard while they’re extra on the CR-V. Honda compensates with a rear-seat reminder and a driver attention monitor as standard. Rear vision is slightly better, but not enough for an advantage and it lacks the driver-assist options of the CX-50. 

Advantage: CX-50.

2024 Mazda CX-50

2024 Mazda CX-50

CX-50 vs. CR-V styling

  • CX-50 tries to look more rugged than the CX-5

  • CR-V Hybrids are pitched in Sport guise—and it’s a reach

  • The CX-50 has more interior refinement

Is the Mazda CX-50 a good-looking car?

The CX-50 sheds the smooth skin of the CX-5 for a boxier, bolder, more conventionally SUV take that’s popular with the American market. With its broad grille, cladded bulging fenders, fake air intakes, and squared off ends, it fits in with other compact crossovers pretending to an SUV heritage. 

The interior features a removed center screen sticking out of the center of the dash, but the rest remains uncluttered and clean. Available leather upholstery with tasteful contrast stitching make its mark.

2024 Honda CR-V

2024 Honda CR-V

Is the Honda CR-V a good-looking car?

The CR-V is a mishmash of influences. The sedate LX and EX trims could easily be mistaken for the Volkswagen Tiguan with its flat body panels and high-ridged hood. A broader front grille channels the mid-size Passport, while thin A-pillars nod to the latest Civic. The Sport hybrid models add some pop with black wheels and dark exterior trim elements.

The Civic’s influence shines inside, with a mesh vent panel and tasteful accents that instill a sense of calm. A mechanical gear shifter occupies the center console, and the available 9.0-inch touchscreen sticks out of the top of the dash front and center. Even the cheap plastic parts get some flair, with carbon fiber-like trim on the door panels.

Advantage: Draw.

2024 Honda CR-V

2024 Honda CR-V

 

Which is better: Mazda CX-50 or Honda CR-V?

Since the most popular CR-Vs are the hybrid models, it gets an edge in the TCC Rating system over the Mazda CX-50. (Read more about how we rate cars.) Its calmer, quieter ride quality also gives it a boost to a 7.0 out of 10. The CX-50 comes better equipped and the base engine is more affordable than the CR-V, but the lack of electrification discharges it to a 6.7 out of 10.  

Winner: Honda CR-V Hybrid.

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