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A few weeks ago, I wrote a comparison test between the 2018 Mazda CX-9 and Volkswagen Atlas. It was a close fight, but the Atlas ended up being the victor as it proved to be the better all-around three-row crossover. I find myself comparing these two brands once again, this time with their compact crossovers. Like their larger brethren, the two models take different approaches. The Mazda CX-5 goes for something that provides a premium feel and exciting drive, while the Volkswagen Tiguan uses space and comfort as its guide. Which one of these crossovers  Which one of these crossovers is right for you?

Exterior

Mazda’s design team believed evolution would be the right approach for the second-generation CX-5’s design and we have to agree. Taking the first-generation model, designers added more curves to the body, widened the front grille, and angled the front LED headlights. In what is becoming a very crowded class, the CX-5 stands tall, especially when wearing the optional Soul Red paint.

Like the Atlas, the Volkswagen Tiguan’s shape can be explained as  “looking like a bit of a square, but a posh square.” Little details such as the three-bar grille, LED daytime-running lights, and slightly bulging fenders help give the Tiguan a touch of class. The optional Habanero Orange Metallic paint color on my test vehicle does show Volkswagen is willing to step outside of its comfort zone. In terms of dimensions, the Tiguan is six inches longer in overall length and rides on a wheelbase that is 3.6-inches longer than the CX-5. 

Interior

The Tiguan’s interior follows Volkswagen’s ethos of keeping it functional in terms of the design. It features simple dash and design touches such as a silver finish for various trim pieces. Volkswagen does make up for the boring design with an excellent layout of controls. For example, the climate control system is slightly angled upward to not only make it easier to reach, but also make it less of a hassle to look down and see the current settings. Material quality is average for this type of vehicle with a mix of hard and soft plastics.

The front seats in the Tiguan SE offer a power recline and manual adjustments for fore/aft and height. I really liked the seats in the Tiguan as they provided excellent comfort and firmness for any trip distance. But the Tiguan really surprises in the back seat with head and legroom similar to what you’ll find on a full-size SUV. Passengers sitting back here can also move the seats back and forth, and recline to make themselves more comfortable. The long length of the Tiguan allows for a third-row seat. The seat is standard on front-wheel drive models and optional for all-wheel drive variants. The third-row should only be used for small kids as there is a minuscule amount of legroom. Another downside to the third-row is cargo space. The third-row causes a significant reduction in cargo space. With the third-row folded, it offers 4.6 cubic feet less than the two-row variant (33 vs. 37.6). Fold the second-row and the reduction becomes larger - 7.8 cubic feet. I would recommend skipping the third-row option if you opt for an AWD Tiguan.

Like the exterior, the CX-5’s interior stands out. The dash shows Mazda’s effort on trying to make their interiors feel more like a luxury vehicle with sculpted contours, brushed aluminum, soft-touch plastics with a grain texture, and stitching on certain trim pieces. Compared to the Tiguan, the CX-5’s control layout is more spread out, making it somewhat difficult to find and reach certain controls. 

The Grand Touring tester featured power adjustments for both front seats. The seats will feel a bit too firm for some passengers, but I found them to be just right. It would have been awesome if Mazda provided ventilation for the front seats to bolster their premium ambitions. The CX-5’s back seat offers a decent amount of headroom for those under six-feet. Legroom is somewhat lacking when put against the competition. I found that my knees were almost touching the back side of the front seat. Cargo space is right in the middle with 30.9 cubic feet with the rear seats up and 59.6 when folded.

Infotainment

A seven-inch touchscreen featuring the Mazda Connect infotainment system and a rotary knob controller is standard on all CX-5s. Grand Touring models get navigation as standard, while the Touring gets it as an option. Mazda Connect is a mixed bag. The interface is beginning to look somewhat old due to the use of dark colors and a dull screen. Also, trying to figure out which parts of the system are touch-enabled becomes quite tedious as there is no way to tell except through trial and error. There is no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto compatibility, but I’m hoping the 2019 model will get it.

For the Tiguan, Volkswagen offers three different infotainment systems ranging from 6.5 to 8-inches. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility come standard. The current Volkswagen infotainment system is one of the best thanks in part to snappy performance and a simple interface. You can do various smartphone gestures such as swiping to move around the system. One disappointment is the lack of any sort of haptic feedback when touching any of the shortcut buttons sitting on either side of the screen. We would also recommend keeping a cloth in the Tiguan as the glass surface for the infotainment system becomes littered with fingerprints.

Like in the Atlas I reviewed a few weeks ago, the Tiguan experienced an issue with Apple CarPlay. Applications such as Google Music or Spotify running in CarPlay would freeze up. I could exit out to the CarPlay interface, but was unable to unfreeze the applications unless I restarted the vehicle. Resetting my iPhone solved this issue.

Powertrain

Under the CX-5’s hood is a 2.5L four-cylinder producing 187 horsepower and 186 pound-feet (up one from the 2017 model). Mazda has added cylinder deactivation for the 2018 model that allows the engine to run on just two cylinders to improve fuel efficiency. This is paired with a six-speed automatic and all-wheel drive. For the Tiguan, Volkswagen has dropped in a turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder engine producing 184 horsepower and 221 pound-feet of torque. An eight-speed automatic and all-wheel drive complete the package.

With a higher torque figure and being available between 1,600 to 4,300 rpm, the Tiguan should leave the CX-5 in the dust. But at the stoplight drag race, the CX-5 bests the Tiguan thanks to a sharper throttle response and a steady stream of power. The Tiguan’s turbo-four gets hit with a double-whammy of turbo-lag and a somewhat confused eight-speed automatic transmission, making it feel anything but eager to get off the line. As speeds climb, the story changes. The Tiguan’s engine feels more willing to get moving whenever you need to make a pass or merge onto a freeway. The CX-5’s engine runs out of steam and you’ll need to really work it to get up to speed at a decent rate.

Fuel Economy

The EPA says the 2018 Mazda CX-5 AWD will return 24 City/30 Highway/26 Combined, while the 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan AWD returns 21 City/27 Highway/23 Combined. Both models returned high fuel economy averages; the CX-5 return 28.5 while the Tiguan got 27.3 mpg during my week-long test. Both models were driven on mix of 60 percent city and 40 percent highway.

Ride & Handling

When I reviewed the 2017 Mazda CX-5, I said that it carried on the mantle of being a fun-to-drive crossover set by the first-generation. Driving on some of the back roads around Detroit, the CX-5 felt very agile and showed little body roll. The steering provides sharp responses and excellent weighting. The sporting edge does mean a firm ride, allowing some road imperfections to come inside. Not much road or wind noise comes inside.

Volkswagen took a different approach with the Tiguan’s ride and handling characteristics. On rough roads, the Tiguan provides a very cushioned ride on some of the roughest payment. This soft ride does hurt the Tiguan when cornering as there is slightly more body roll. But that doesn’t make the Tiguan a bad driving crossover. The chassis feels very willing when pushed and the steering provides a direct feel.

Value

The 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan SE AWD begins at $30,230. This particular tester came to $31,575 with the optional Habanero Orange Metallic and fog lights. But the 2018 Mazda CX-5 Touring comes with more equipment such as radar cruise control, lane departure warning, 19-inch wheels, LED headlights, and power adjustments for the driver for only $2,175 less than the Tiguan SE’s base price. You can add navigation, Bose audio system, and sunroof as part of $1,200 Preferred Equipment package. When it comes to the midlevel, it is no contest as the CX-5 walks away.

The script flips however when you put the 2018 CX-5 Grand Touring under the microscope. The AWD version begins at $30,945 and with a few options such as the Soul Red paint and Premium package, the vehicle seen here comes to $34,685. But you can get into the Tiguan SEL AWD that adds adaptive cruise control, power liftgate, and navigation for only $2,295 less than our as-tested CX-5. While the CX-5 does offer more of a premium interior, the larger interior and slightly better infotainment system give the Tiguan a slight edge.

Verdict

It feels weird to describe the verdict between the two compact crossovers as a decision to satisfy your desires or needs. The 2018 Mazda CX-5 falls into the former as it boasts a handsome look that very few models can match, luxurious interior, and handling characteristics that make you feel like you’re driving a sports car. As for the Tiguan, it falls in the latter camp by offering a spacious interior, smooth ride, and a better infotainment system. I consider these two to be the best-in-class. But deciding which one is better will ultimately come down to deciding whether to give into your wants or needs.

Disclaimer: Mazda and Volkswagen Provided the vehicles, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas

Year: 2018
Make: Mazda
Model: CX-5
Trim: Grand Touring AWD
Engine: 2.5L DOHC 16-Valve Inline-Four
Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive
Horsepower @ RPM: 187 @ 6,000
Torque @ RPM: 186 @4,000
Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 24/30/26
Curb Weight: N/A
Location of Manufacture: Hiroshima, Japan
Base Price: $30,945
As Tested Price: $34,685 (Includes $975.00 Destination Charge)

Options:
Premium Package - $1,395.00
Soul Red Crystal Paint - $595.00
Illuminated Door Sill Plates - $400.00
Retractable Cover Cover - $250.00
Rear Bumper Guard - $125.00

Year: 2018
Make: Volkswagen
Model: Tiguan
Trim: SE 4Motion
Engine: 2.0L Turbocharged 16-Valve DOHC TSI Four-Cylinder
Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive
Horsepower @ RPM: 184 @ 4,400
Torque @ RPM: 221 @ 1,600
Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 21/27/23
Curb Weight: 3,858 lbs
Location of Manufacture: Puebla, Mexico
Base Price: $30,230
As Tested Price: $31,575 (Includes $900.00 Destination Charge)

Options:
Habanero Orange Metallic - $295.00
Front Fog Lights - $150.00


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Can VW make vehicles looking more dull and generic?  It is like they are trying to be as ugly and as generic looking as possible.  

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Mazda just does nothing for me much like the VW and yet I will say I saw a black one that had all the emblems removed and smoked rear and front lights and looked really sharp. 

I think they are doing this to allow 3rd party companies to offer exterior upgrade kits.

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CX5 is nice, but in the end most of the time Mazda doesn't do it for me.  But the blandness of the VW.....

I can't fathom how these two could be construed as best in class.  Must be a pretty sad and sorry 'class'.....

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2 hours ago, ocnblu said:

5f9d2268-f763-4a1c-8548-ebe96f15e448.png

Also like the Redline package, just sucks that you cannot get it in other colors as a Redline package in Ivy Metallic would be awesome. Weird that they also do not allow the sunroof option though that I could careless about for myself, others in the family like the big panoramic roof.

image.png

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well and then getting to short drive those two last weekend.  I liked the Tiguan more than the CX-5.  And the CX-5 advertises greatness with its supposedly nice interior.  But to me the Tiguan was more useful, had more room, better dash layout, and i liked the turbo instead of the torqueless CX5.

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So cool!  I like the Sunlit Bronze and Kinetic Blue, although I found GM's CGI representations of their colors can be pretty far off reality.  The Graphite, for example, looks way bluer in the CGI than in realtime. 

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2 hours ago, ocnblu said:

So cool!  I like the Sunlit Bronze and Kinetic Blue, although I found GM's CGI representations of their colors can be pretty far off reality.  The Graphite, for example, looks way bluer in the CGI than in realtime. 

Totally agree with you that the computer website color representation is way off the reality once you see it in person.

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On 9/14/2018 at 8:17 AM, ykX said:

Can VW make vehicles looking more dull and generic?  It is like they are trying to be as ugly and as generic looking as possible.  

They are very generic but I definitely do not see anything ugly about them. I think they are simple and clean looking and that alone is attractive. They're not trying to have bends, creases, swoops, angles, scoops in places they're not needed just for the sake of putting them there.

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19 minutes ago, ccap41 said:

They are very generic but I definitely do not see anything ugly about them. I think they are simple and clean looking and that alone is attractive. They're not trying to have bends, creases, swoops, angles, scoops in places they're not needed just for the sake of putting them there.

To each it is own.  To me personally it looks that the proportions are off, something looks wrong to me the way the lights are positioned and the way overhangs to wheels proportioned.   Also it looks like a most generic car anybody could draw, no personality what so ever.  And I saw few in person and they look even worse in person than in pictures.  But that's my personal opinion.

CR-Cars-Inline-2018-Volkswagen-Tiguan-Dr

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50 minutes ago, ykX said:

To each it is own.  To me personally it looks that the proportions are off, something looks wrong to me the way the lights are positioned and the way overhangs to wheels proportioned.   Also it looks like a most generic car anybody could draw, no personality what so ever.  And I saw few in person and they look even worse in person than in pictures.  But that's my personal opinion.

CR-Cars-Inline-2018-Volkswagen-Tiguan-Dr

While not as ugly as others out there, it is bland that I agree with you on. The bigger brother Atlas is better looking, but VW has always gone with Utilitarian blah look on all their Auto's.

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8 hours ago, ykX said:

To each it is own.  To me personally it looks that the proportions are off, something looks wrong to me the way the lights are positioned and the way overhangs to wheels proportioned.   Also it looks like a most generic car anybody could draw, no personality what so ever.  And I saw few in person and they look even worse in person than in pictures.  But that's my personal opinion.

CR-Cars-Inline-2018-Volkswagen-Tiguan-Dr

Tiguan looks a bit like a wagon in its proportions.

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13 hours ago, ocnblu said:

So cool!  I like the Sunlit Bronze and Kinetic Blue, although I found GM's CGI representations of their colors can be pretty far off reality.  The Graphite, for example, looks way bluer in the CGI than in realtime. 

I'm starting to warm up to a Blazer more and more.  I had an Aztek, so how can I not like the Blazer!

I think chevy put out Blazer pictures into the wild so soon, so people could adjust and get used to it.

Edited by regfootball
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      EX Launch Edtion - $3,210.00
      Carpeted Floor Mats - $125.00
    • By William Maley
      It feels weird to be writing a review of the previous-generation Mazda3 when the new model is currently sitting out front at dealers. But I find this situation to be unique because I had the chance to explore a 2019 Mazda3 to get some first impressions while working on a review of the 2018 model. This gives me a chance to compare the two in certain aspects, along with pondering the question of whether or not the previous model is still a good buy.
      Despite the new model taking the styling up another level, the outgoing model is still a looker. From the bold front end with a large grille and slightly angled headlights, to sculpting running along the sides, the 2018 3 still stands out in the compact crowd. The older design also allows for slightly better rear headroom and a larger area of glass for improved visibility.  But the new 3 holds a significant edge over the old model when it comes to the interior. The modern design and use of high-quality materials really help boost Mazda’s ambitions of becoming something more premium. But the 2018 model I found to have a slightly easier center stack layout and more interior room. One item I didn’t get the chance to play within the 2019 Mazda3 is the infotainment system. Aside from boasting a larger screen, Mazda has also dropped the touchscreen functionality. The latter has been a big issue on some of the recent Mazda vehicles I have driven, including the 2018 3. It is difficult to figure out which parts of the screen are touch-enabled and which aren’t. The system is also beginning to show its age somewhat as the system showed some slowdown in certain areas such as connecting to my phone via Bluetooth. Under the hood of the 2018 model is either a 2.0L or 2.5L SkyActiv-G four-cylinder. My tester had the latter which produces 184 horsepower and 185 pound-feet. This engine can also be found under 2019 Mazda3, albeit slightly tweaked - 186 for both horsepower and torque. I find the Mazda3 to be the best application for the 2.5 engine. The lighter weight of the vehicle allows the 2.5 to provide a smooth and quick acceleration for most situations you find yourself in. However, the 2.5 feels like it is running out of breath when going above 70 mph, making passing and merging onto a highway slightly difficult. Where the 3 really shines is down a twisty road. Very few vehicles can match the sharp handling characteristics on offer. The suspension keeps the vehicle level when cornering and quickly respond to change in direction. Steering is quick and features a nice weight when turning. Ride quality is slightly rough with a fair number of bumps coming inside. Some of this can be attributed to the 18-inch wheels fitted on my tester.  Should you consider a 2018 Mazda3 when the bright and shiny 2019 3 is available now? I can only give a half-answer as I haven’t driven the 2019 model yet. But having sat in one, I can see why someone would consider it. The impressive design inside and out can make you believe you’re driving something from a luxury brand. The 2018 model still has some things going for it such as having slightly more interior space, similar fuel economy figures, and dealers beginning to lower prices on them to get them out. As I am writing this (May 5th), I have seen dealers in my local drop prices by $1,000 to $3,000 on 2018 models. Right now, I would be willing to pocket the extra cash and go with a 2018 Mazda3. Disclaimer: Mazda Provided the 3, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2018
      Make: Mazda
      Model: 3
      Trim: Grand Touring
      Engine: 2.5L SKYACTIV-G DOHC Four-Cylinder
      Driveline:  Six-Speed Automatic, Front-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 184 @ 5,700
      Torque @ RPM: 185 @ 3,250 
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 26/35/30
      Curb Weight: 3,098 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Salamanca, Mexico
      Base Price: $24,945
      As Tested Price: $28,035 (Includes $890.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Premium Equipment Package - $1,600.00
      Soul Red Metallic Paint - $300.00
      Scuff Plates/Door Sill Trim Plate - $125.00
      Rear Bumper Guard - $100.00
      Cargo Mat - $75.00

      View full article
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