2019 Mazda CX-5 vs. 2018 Subaru Forester

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

Both the CX-5 and the Forester have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, side-impact head airbags, front seatbelt pretensioners, height adjustable front shoulder belts, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, daytime running lights, rearview cameras, available all wheel drive and lane departure warning systems.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration does 35 MPH front crash tests on new vehicles. In this test, results indicate that the Mazda CX-5 is safer than the Subaru Forester:

CX-5

Forester

OVERALL STARS

5 Stars

4 Stars

Driver

STARS

5 Stars

5 Stars

HIC

82

317

Leg Forces (l/r)

160/307 lbs.

310/462 lbs.

Passenger

STARS

5 Stars

4 Stars

Chest Compression

.5 inches

.7 inches

Neck Injury Risk

37%

52%

Neck Stress

205 lbs.

215 lbs.

Neck Compression

86 lbs.

134 lbs.

New test not comparable to pre-2011 test results. More stars = Better. Lower test results = Better.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration does side impact tests on new vehicles. In this test, which crashes the vehicle into a flat barrier at 38.5 MPH and into a post at 20 MPH, results indicate that the Mazda CX-5 is safer than the Subaru Forester:

CX-5

Forester

Front Seat

STARS

5 Stars

5 Stars

HIC

81

106

Chest Movement

.5 inches

.6 inches

Abdominal Force

126 G’s

150 G’s

Hip Force

189 lbs.

314 lbs.

Rear Seat

STARS

5 Stars

5 Stars

HIC

208

235

Hip Force

524 lbs.

598 lbs.

Into Pole

STARS

5 Stars

5 Stars

Max Damage Depth

13 inches

14 inches

Spine Acceleration

32 G’s

44 G’s

Hip Force

435 lbs.

666 lbs.

New test not comparable to pre-2011 test results. More stars = Better. Lower test results = Better.

For its top level performance in IIHS driver and passenger-side small overlap frontal, moderate overlap frontal, side impact, roof strength and head restraint tests, its standard front crash prevention system, and its headlight’s “Good” rating, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety grants the CX-5 its highest rating: “Top Pick Plus” for 2019, a rating granted to only 45 vehicles tested by the IIHS. The Forester was last qualified as only a standard “Top Pick” in 2018.

Reliability

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2018 Initial Quality Study of new car owners surveyed provide the statistics that show that Mazda vehicles are better in initial quality than Subaru vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Mazda 22nd in initial quality. With 15 more problems per 100 vehicles, Subaru is ranked 28th.

From surveys of all its subscribers, Consumer Reports’ December 2018 Auto Issue reports that Mazda vehicles are more reliable than Subaru vehicles. Consumer Reports ranks Mazda third in reliability. Subaru is ranked fourth.

Engine

The CX-5’s standard 2.5 DOHC 4 cyl. produces 17 more horsepower (187 vs. 170) and 12 lbs.-ft. more torque (186 vs. 174) than the Forester 2.5i’s standard 2.5 SOHC 4 cyl. The CX-5 GT Reserve/Signature’s standard 2.5 turbo 4 cyl. produces 52 lbs.-ft. more torque (310 vs. 258) than the Forester 2.0XT’s standard 2.0 turbo 4 cyl.

The CX-5’s 2.2 turbo diesel produces 116 lbs.-ft. more torque (290 vs. 174) than the Forester 2.5i’s standard 2.5 SOHC 4 cyl. The CX-5’s 2.2 turbo diesel produces 32 lbs.-ft. more torque (290 vs. 258) than the Forester 2.0XT’s standard 2.0 turbo 4 cyl.

As tested in Motor Trend the Mazda CX-5 4 cyl. is faster than the Forester 2.5i 2.5 SOHC 4 cyl. (automatics tested):

CX-5

Forester

Zero to 60 MPH

8.3 sec

9 sec

Quarter Mile

16.3 sec

16.9 sec

Fuel Economy and Range

On the EPA test cycle the CX-5 gets better fuel mileage than the Forester:

MPG

CX-5

FWD

Auto

2.5 DOHC 4 cyl.

25 city/31 hwy

2.5 turbo 4 cyl.

23 city/28 hwy

AWD

Auto

2.2 turbo 4 cyl. Diesel

27 city/30 hwy

2.5 DOHC 4 cyl.

24 city/30 hwy

Forester

AWD

Manual

2.5 DOHC 4 cyl.

22 city/28 hwy

Auto

2.0 turbo 4 cyl.

23 city/27 hwy

An engine control system that can shut down half of the engine’s cylinders helps improve the CX-5 2.5 non-turbo’s fuel efficiency. The Forester doesn’t offer a system that can shut down part of the engine.

To lower fuel costs and make buying fuel easier, the Mazda CX-5 uses regular unleaded gasoline (premium recommended on CX-5 GT Reserve/Signature for maximum performance). The Forester 2.0XT requires premium, which can cost 20 to 55 cents more per gallon.

Environmental Friendliness

In its Green Vehicle Guide, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rates the Mazda CX-5 higher (7 out of 10) than the Subaru Forester (1 to 7). This means the CX-5 produces up to 47 pounds less smog-producing pollutants than the Forester every 15,000 miles.

Transmission

The Mazda CX-5 comes standard with an automatic transmission, for driver comfort, especially in the city. Automatic costs extra on the Forester.

Brakes and Stopping

For better stopping power the CX-5 GT Reserve/Signature’s brake rotors are larger than those on the Forester:

CX-5

CX-5 GT Reserve/Signature

Forester 2.5i

Forester 2.0XT

Front Rotors

11.7 inches

12.6 inches

11.6 inches

12.4 inches

Rear Rotors

11.9 inches

11.9 inches

10.8 inches

10.9 inches

The CX-5 stops shorter than the Forester:

CX-5

Forester

70 to 0 MPH

173 feet

180 feet

Car and Driver

Tires and Wheels

For better ride, handling and brake cooling the CX-5 Grand Touring/Signature has standard 19-inch wheels. The Forester’s largest wheels are only 18-inches.

Suspension and Handling

For a smoother ride and more stable handling, the CX-5’s wheelbase is 2.3 inches longer than on the Forester (106.2 inches vs. 103.9 inches).

For better handling and stability, the track (width between the wheels) on the CX-5 is 1.9 inches wider in the front and 1.7 inches wider in the rear than on the Forester.

The CX-5 Signature AWD handles at .79 G’s, while the Forester 2.0XT Touring pulls only .75 G’s of cornering force in a Car and Driver skidpad test.

The CX-5 Grand Touring AWD executes Motor Trend’s “Figure Eight” maneuver quicker than the Forester 2.5i Touring (27.8 seconds @ .59 average G’s vs. 28.6 seconds @ .55 average G’s).

Passenger Space

The CX-5 has 1.3 inches more front hip room, .1 inches more front shoulder room, 1.6 inches more rear legroom and 2.3 inches more rear hip room than the Forester.

Towing

The CX-5’s standard towing capacity is much higher than the Forester’s (2000 vs. 1500 pounds). Maximum trailer towing in the Subaru Forester is only 1500 pounds. The CX-5 offers up to a 3500 lbs. towing capacity.

Ergonomics

The CX-5 offers an optional heads-up display that projects speed in front of the driver’s line of sight, allowing drivers to view information without diverting their eyes from the road. The Forester doesn’t offer a heads-up display.

The CX-5’s front and rear power windows all open or close fully with one touch of the switches, making it more convenient at drive-up windows and toll booths, or when talking with someone outside the car. The Forester’s standard passenger windows don’t open or close automatically. With the Forester’s optional power windows, only the front windows open or close automatically.

The CX-5’s optional wipers adjust their speed and turn on and off automatically according to the amount of rainfall on the windshield. The Forester’s manually variable intermittent wipers have to be constantly adjusted.

Consumer Reports rated the CX-5’s headlight performance “Very Good,” a higher rating than the Forester’s headlights, which were rated “Good.”

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) conducts detailed tests on headlights for their range both straight ahead and in curves and to be certain they don’t exceed acceptable amounts of glare to oncoming drivers. The CX-5’s headlights were rated “Good” to “Acceptable” by the IIHS, while the Forester’s headlights are rated “Acceptable” to “Marginal.”

Both the CX-5 and the Forester offer available heated front seats. The CX-5 Grand Touring also offers optional heated rear seats to keep those passengers extremely comfortable in the winter. Heated rear seats aren’t available in the Forester.

Optional air-conditioned seats in the CX-5 (except Sport/Touring) keep the driver and front passenger comfortable and take the sting out of hot seats in summer. The Forester doesn’t offer air-conditioned seats.

Both the CX-5 and the Forester offer rear vents. For greater rear passenger comfort, the CX-5 Touring/Grand Touring/Signature has standard rear air conditioning vents to keep rear occupants cool in summer or warm in winter. The Forester doesn’t offer rear air conditioning vents, only heat vents.

Model Availability

The CX-5 is available in both front-wheel drive and four-wheel drive configurations. The Forester doesn’t offer a two-wheel drive configuration.

Economic Advantages

According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the CX-5 is less expensive to operate than the Forester because it costs $315 less to do the manufacturer’s suggested maintenance for 50,000 miles. Typical repairs cost much less on the CX-5 than the Forester, including $215 less for a water pump, $10 less for front brake pads, $202 less for a starter, $178 less for fuel injection, $120 less for a fuel pump, $115 less for front struts and $225 less for a timing belt/chain.

Recommendations

The CX-5 was chosen as one of Car and Driver’s “Top Five/10Best Trucks” for 2 of the last 2 years. The Forester has never been a Car and Driver “Top Five/10Best Truck” pick.

© 1991-2018 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved.

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