Hybrid Mega-test part two: doesn't diesel do it better?

Hybrid mega-test - Mazda CX-5 and Honda CR-V

Diesel MX-5 Approves with Honda SG-V

Having beaten off its hybrid SUV competitors, we are now installing the Honda CR-V oil-burning Mazda CX-5

Thus, the SG-V was overthrown by its compatriots and emerged victorious as Japan's leading hybrid SUV. Well done Honda.

The question now, then, is how does the CR-V - and specifically its conventional, non-Plug-in hybrid powertrain - fit into the wider SUV class? This is a class that, historically speaking, has relied mainly on good old diesel engines for light torque, low CO2 levels and the excellent long-distance economy that they so often give, so the CR-V has what it takes to overtake diesel as a transmission choice in this hotly contested segment?

To answer, we roll out the final contender. In the last level, the boss, if you will, which seems quite appropriate for a car that came from the same country that gave us the Nintendo, PlayStation and Sega game consoles.

Conveniently (for the purposes of this metaphor anyway), the oil-burning Bowser that our Mario will have to face in the showdown is also from Japan. The Mazda CX-5, presented here in the £38,010 range, 182bhp, all-wheel-drive sports gt navigation+ Gies, is a car we already love. His eligibility for this test was due to the fact that he placed very highly in our Mega SUV test we ran back in 2018. It may not have won, but the new Volvo XC40 is considered just a little too compact to give it a chance. There is nothing to be ashamed of here.

The Mazda may be more suited to the Honda in terms of its dimensions than the aforementioned Swede, but the CR-V's boxier, more pragmatic form sees it first bleed on the grounds of interior spaciousness. Compared to this handsome, sharply styled Mazda, the SG-V's cockpit is quite an airy affair – even though it doesn't look or quite feel as stylish and neatly minimalistic as the CX-5.

From the front seat, sharper drivers may miss out on the more embraced feeling that is stretched out by Mazda's more focused layout, and that feels like a lower seating position. But if a more commanding view of the road and a heightened sense of 'big SUV' spaciousness is what you're after, the CR-V comes with a trump card. This theme continues aft of the front row, with Honda Mazda chirping in terms of rear passenger space and boot (497 liters vs. 494).

Honda scored the most points for comfort too. Both cars surf with more than enough fluidity and calmness, but where Mazda is to ride and slap its way through potholes and potholes (especially at low speed), it's in the CR-V that better keeps its occupants at arm's length hands, rounding off the effects in a more mature, noble manner. Mazda fights back with a superb sense of handling dynamism: its superbly weighted steering delivers confidence-inspiring precision in turns, while its more assembled chassis and suspension settings for a more immediate and engaging level of response.

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Based on the stated remark alone, I dare say that the average gamer, who hasn't bothered too much about whether or not their next family SUV is truly the most dynamically engaging vehicle of its kind, will probably sum up the Honda as the winner of this test.

The problem is, none of the above strengths and weaknesses is really the product chosen by the vehicle's powertrain. And when you explore the means by which Mazda and Honda create their own driving force in order to answer the question of whether a 'self-charging' gasoline-electric hybrid system is what it takes to usurp diesel, things get a little more interesting.

In terms of direct use, Mazda's superior torque 2,2-liter diesel engine gives it a lighter and more urgent sense of revs. The instantaneous filling torque provided by the SG-V electric motor means it doesn't lag behind, but the comparatively subdued throttle response hinders Honda's efficiency in this regard.

True, in quieter urban environments, the CR-V is quieter and smoother than two at part throttle. But hit by a kick-down switch and a vacuum cleaner-like racket that flares off the SG-V Bay engine with only one-speed automatic engine flares aggressively altogether canceling out a few of its previous efforts. It's not quite as Zen as Mazda is in that regard - and mechanical refinement hasn't always been a hallmark of the results of the CX-5 engine. Of course, not in previous meetings we had, anyway.

So in terms of courtesy, performance and usability, it would seem that diesel remains at the top now – if only.

There isn't much in it when it comes to fuel consumption, either. A 15-mile economy run on Longcross tickets on a test track in a typical A- and B-speed road narrowly ended in Honda's favor: its on-board computer showed 51.9 MPG and 50.9 MPG for Mazda. Taking into account the size of the fuel tank (57 liters on the CR-V, 58 on the CX-5), the difference in theoretical maximum range is only two kilometers. Of course, Honda is probably better than Mazda in the city, but the opposite is probably true once you hit the motorway.

As for the company's car tax, territory where you might think an electrified hybrid should really stand out? Well, from April, when the new, tighter WLTP-based system comes into effect, someone drops in 40% of the income they'll have for a monthly savings of £5 by opting for a Honda. Now, saving is saving, but it's not much. An annual subsidy on one tank of fuel doesn't seem like a dramatic enough bailout to see diesel knocked off its perch.

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So where does it give us? Well, the introduction of WLTP emissions tests and the effect they'll have on how the company's car tax is calculated hasn't really done a conventional hybrid powertrain a favor – at least not tailored to Honda. Under the outgoing NEDC system, there would have been a bit more daylight between the two, with the saving confirm opting for a hybrid at the rate of £94 per month for someone at 40% tax.

From April, that financial incentive will disappear. Could this mean 'self-charging hybrid days number? Maybe. Perhaps they will be better. Time will tell, but I'm guessing the latter is more likely to come true, especially given the Japanese car makers' long-standing commitment to the technology.

In any case, there are two implications to this comparison. First, the Best Hybrid SUV isn't good enough to knock the best diesels off their throne just yet. It's pretty damn close, but it will wipe out any significant, real-world financial incentive thanks to the incoming WLTP mode meaning Mario won't quite beat Bowser this time around.

The second is that everyone tends to spend around £40,000 on a family SUV, while the serious tax savings would be the odds of finding the right plug-in hybrid option far from looking better.

Уровень РёРЅС „Р” СЏС † РёРё

The WLTP redesign means significantly higher CO2 emissions figures for all four hybrid crossovers than were previously quoted using NEDC's 'correlated' calculations. In turn, that means the highest good-of-its-kind course, which is why company-car regulars might flinch at some of these figures. Even our RAV4, whose extraordinarily low CO2 will cost owners a comparatively good financial substitute, from this April cost higher taxpayer rates of £387 each month, where previously it would have cost just £300. The other models are all starting to occupy one of the highest two Bic tax bands, making them no more desirable on paper than any other kind of crossover except for those with power outlets and full plug-in hybrid powertrains.

Those who are lucky enough to be their own choice of car allowance employer can pay less on a monthly basis by opting to purchase a personal contract (PCP) online. You will be paid 40% income tax on your allowance (usually £10,500 for senior management down to £4500 for junior managers) but, of our cars, the RAV4 will be charged £299 per month – by the way, the same amount of Bic payers paid would pre-WLTIM.


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