If we don’t count the huge pick-up truck, the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V are the most popular cars in the USA. In Europe however, things are different. First of all, that’s because we drive smaller cars over here, but also because Europeans tend to choose other cars in this segment. For example, the Volkswagen Tiguan and Mazda CX-5. Toyota absolutely wants to tackle that problem, and that’s why they’ve aimed at hybridisation for their new RAV4. That means lower emissions, which is good news for a country in which the catalogue price is dependant on the CO2-emissions. However, Toyota isn’t the only manufacturer which has a hybrid in this segment, because Honda has launched the CR-V Hybrid as well. That means it’s now time to see how these two cars hold their own against the established order. And we kick things off behind the wheel of the Volkswagen Tiguan, because this car has the most traditional drivetrain aboard. It’s powered by a small turbocharged engine connected to a dual clutch automatic gearbox. But there’s something new to report anyway. Instead of the 1.4-litre engine that was always in here and in…Other Volkswagen-products, it’s now a 1.5-litre, producing 150 horsepower. That’s a lot less than the hybrids of Honda and Toyota, but we’ll get tot that later, because it’s enough for the Tiguan. This engine has such a nice personality, partly because of the turbo, and it picks up so fluently. The gears change so quickly… that you don’t get the impression that you’re down on power. So yeah, 150 horsepower is enough, but it’s still slower than… the other cars today. Other than that, the drive is just like you’d expect from a Volkswagen. The steering is light and neutral… with a good balance between sturdiness and comfort. Also, it has a very good seating position. Very important of course. When it comes to changing gear quickly, this Mazda CX-5 can learn a lot from the Tiguan. Mazda has chosen for a conventional six-speed automatic gearbox, with a torque converter. It takes a lot longer to decide which gear to select than the Tiguan-gearbox. Luckily, there’s something positive to report as well, because the CX-5 is a very pleasant, dynamic car to drive. Especially for an SUV.The steering gives enough feedback, it remains nice and stable in corners, so if you like dynamic driving, you’ll like this car as well. On the other hand, the chassis is quite sturdy, so you’ll feel the imperfections in the
road surfaces even better than in the other cars. Then, the engine. It’s powered by a 2.0-litre SkyActiv, producing 165 horsepower. Because it’s a big engine, it’s a bit louder. It sounds a tad tougher and richer than a 1.5-litre turbo. 165 horsepower is enough, but I can imagine you want more power. The only problem with that is that you need to upgrade the engine: you’ll need to get the 2.5-litre producing 196 horsepower.If more power is what you want, you can also browse for the Toyota RAV4. Even this front-wheel drive hybrid version already produces 218 horsepower. The four-wheel drive version is even more powerful… because Toyota creates the four-wheel drive through an extra electric motor on the rear wheels. So it’s more economical as well. Anyway, let’s get back to the front-wheel drive version. The drivetrain is entirely new. It’s still a 2.5-litre 4-cylinder, but it’s now the same drivetrain as in the Lexus ES.As Roy said with the introduction of this car, Toyota really knows their way around a hybrid drivetrain. It all works together seemlessly. You almost don’t notice it. Also, because this bigger version always has enough power available, you don’t feel the urge to put… your foot down to get going. That’s good for the amount of comfort, and that’s why it’s very quiet. And that suits this car, because it’s incredibly comfortable. The chassis processes imperfections very neatly, better than the CX-5.At the same time, the steering is communicative enough to involve you in the drive. It’s not a distant, cold-blooded car. On the contrary. It’s a very nice total package which makes for a lot of nice driving. Just like Toyota, Honda has a lot of experience with hybrid cars. Just think of the Civic Hybrid from a few years back. And they handle things a tad differently. This car doesn’t have a CVT-gearbox, but a set drive. Just like a Mitsubishi Outlander plug-in. It kind of reacts like a CVT though. When you put your foot down, the engine bites itself into a certain amount of RPM and it’ll stay there. It’s powered by a naturally aspirated 2.0-litre, so it has a smaller engine than the Toyota and therefore less powerful: 184 horsepower. The engine is louder than in the Toyota, which isn’t very pleasant for the ears. However, it has a very fluent drivetrain. You can’t really tell when you’re driving on the electric motor or when the batteries are charging. Besides that, the Honda is a
very pleasantly driving car with a very communicative steering, as we’re used to from Honda.It does stand out however that the seating position is a tad higher than in the Toyota, so it feels more like an SUV. It’s up to your personal preference if that’s an advantage or not. When it comes to family cars like this, it’s not only about driving characteristics. The offered space is just as important. Especially the CX-5 isn’t doing too well in this crowd. The luggage space is the smallest with 477 litres and on the rear seat… there’s less legroom than in other three. The Tiguan has been doing well in the segment for years now, and it strikes again this time. It’s the most spacious with 615 litres. That doesn’t mean the CR-V and RAV4 aren’t doing well…Because despite their battery packs, the Honda still offers 561 litres, whilst the Toyota has 580 litres to offer. On the rear seat, the three most spacious cars in the segment are really close to each other. Leg- and headroom are incredibly royal in all cars, and the Japanese cars are even able to beat the German car. In the front, the CX-5 makes up ground.Mazda has been building beautiful interiors for years now, and this one isn’t an exception. Very good finishing, beautiful materials and a design which is creative, but not overdone. That’s a very difficult balance not a lot of brands… are able to capture. The way the infotainment system is operated in the CX-5 is very pleasant to use as well. The central turning knob plays a big role here. Because of that, you don’t have to look at a screen all the time.It’s just less of a hassle to operate this system than with a touchscreen. I do have to say that the screen is pretty small. This car has only been around for two years, but it’s already clear that the competition has already moved on. We don’t have to say a lot about the interior of the Tiguan, because it’s a Volkswagen. That means everything looks neat, but it also looks a little boring and simple. I do like the infotainment system. Unlike Mazda, Volkswagen does use a touchscreen. It’s very quick however and everything is within reach, with a very clear menu structure. Another valueable add-on is the digital instrument cluster. We see those quite often, but not as configurable as Volkswagen’s. You’re able to show the map in fullscreen inbetween the dials, you can set traditional dials, but you change it to digital dials as
well.You can almost do everything you want with that screen. The interior of the RAV4 looks just as tough as the exterior. That’s because of the design as a whole, but also because of the details. Just look at these turning knobs for the climate control. They’re big and rugged, but it goes with the appearance. The materials and finishing are good as well. What stands out to me is that Toyota has put extra effort into incorporating their buttons… in the general design. Something which shows in the rest of the interior as well, and that has been different in the past. The same goes for the infotainment system. That hasn’t been a strong point of Toyota, because the systems were usually slow and… look like they’re store bought. Toyota has improved though. The design is very quiet and it follows the other screens. It’s still not the quickest system available, but it’s better than it was before in Toyota-cars.The instrument cluster isn’t entirely digital. Only the middle bit actually, and it’s moderately configurable. You’ve got the round dial in front of you but you can also add a digital speedometer. Of course, you can find all kinds of… information about satnav and fuel consumption, but it’s not as customizable as the Volkswagen. When it comes to used materials, the Honda neatly follows the Mazda CX-5. Everything you see is neatly finished and it all feels very solid. The design is less creative, even though you’ve got lots of details to admire.Take this middle console for example. Non-hybrid versions have the gear lever there, but in here you’ve got buttons for the gears. There’s a lot of space inbetween the seats as well, and lastly we’ve got this screen which looks a little like a waterfall. Unfortunately however, the screen is the big downside to this car. The menu structure isn’t logical at all so you’ll be spending a lot of…time looking for different function. Also, the slow system doesn’t help its case either. When you’re waiting for a reaction, you’ll probably have pressed something else already. We all know how annoying slow touchscreens are. This also comes with a digital instrument cluster, but it’s not as clear because it works with small icons. So that takes some getting used to icons. For my conclusion, we can say that the competition has enough reasons to be worried. Especially the Toyota scores very well, and we haven’t even mentioned price and fuel consumption
yet, and those are points a hybrid car usually scores very well. Both the Toyota and Honda cost around €40.000 in their hybrid forms. A 1.5 TSI Tiguan with DSG is around the same price, but that produces less power. The Mazda is cheaper, but that’s not enough to keep the Toyota from winning. You can read all about the comparison in the new AutoWeek. .