Premium crossover cross-test: Jeep Cherokee v Mazda CX-5 v Volvo XC60
Most people looking for a mid-size SUV will call off the search as soon as they stumble across the Nissan Qashqai, and understandably so, but what if you want something a little more premium, and perhaps a tad larger?
Well, we’ve lined up three of our favourite upmarket Qashqai rivals to find out which is best. There’s the evergreen Mazda CX-5 in its range-topping Sport Nav guise, the Volvo XC60 D5 R-Design and the Jeep Cherokee, which, as we reported last week, is now better than ever.
In terms of styling, the CX-5 is a clear winner. The Jeep is far more modern than it used to be, but it’s let down by the slightly cheap look provided by the black plastic cladding, while even the XC60’s 2013 facelift can’t hide the fact that it’s starting to show its age.
The CX-5’s ‘Kodo’ design language, however, is so ageless that Mazda didn’t see the need to change anything with the facelift this year. It’s strangely classless yet still classy, and it has a slightly sporty edge to it, making the car appear a touch smaller than it actually is.
Inside, it’s much closer, with each car having its own inexcusable flaw.
In the Volvo, it’s the infotainment system. There’s a bewildering bank of buttons to choose from, but none of them do anything you’d expect, and it makes operating the radio, sat-nav and iPod a bit of a lottery while you’re on the move.
The Jeep is roomy and comfortable and boasts fantastic armchair seats, but there are niggling worries about build quality and the small matter of an enormous but sluggish touchscreen.
Build issues blight the Mazda too, but the infotainment system is by far the most user-friendly thanks to the BMW i-Drive-style rotary next to the gear lever.
No build problems will be found in the XC60 though – everything’s been screwed together beautifully and the materials are excellent.
On the road
If you want your SUV to be a luxury barge, you have to have the Jeep. The combination of the new 2.2-litre diesel engine and nine-speed automatic transmission makes it a smooth operator, and the cushy suspension allows you to waft around in comfort.
The 0-62mph time of 8.5 seconds promises a little sportiness though, and while it is a more enjoyable steer in ‘Sport’ mode, it never really delivers great handling. Certainly, the Ford Focus ST has nothing to worry about.
If you’re more of a thrill seeker, the CX-5 is the better bet. The steering is a tad light, but it’s the most agile car of the three, taking corners in a manner you’d expect from a family hatchback rather than a four-wheel-drive SUV. It’s also endowed with a slick six-speed manual gearbox, which makes every change a pleasure.
Of course, there’s a trade-off, and you’ll be getting the firmest ride of the three cars here.
The Volvo is a good balance of the two thanks to solid handling and decent ride comfort, but we aren’t sure the ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’ approach is enough to win this test.
As tested, the Mazda is the most economical of the three thanks to its manual gearbox, but if you fit them all with auto ‘boxes (the Jeep isn’t offered with this engine and manual transmission), you’ll find them much of a muchness.
The slightly smaller and less powerful Mazda is marginally more frugal, managing 51.4mpg compared to the 49.6mpg of the 217bhp Volvo and 197bhp Jeep. In the real world, though, you’ll manage something in the low-to-mid-forties for all three cars.
It’ll come as no surprise, then, that the Mazda is slightly cheaper to tax. At 144g/km it emits 5g/km fewer than the Volvo and 6g/km fewer than the Jeep, putting it into the 27% company car tax bracket while the XC60 scrapes into the 28% band. The Jeep, however, falls just the wrong side of the 29% tax threshold. Private customers, on the other hand, will pay £145 a year regardless of which you choose.
For businesses looking at these high-spec cars, the three cars are evenly priced, with the CX-5 working out the cheapest at an average of about £335 a month on a typical 6+35, 10,000-mile deal. The Jeep isn’t that much more expensive at around £355 a month, and the Volvo comes in at roughly £365 a month.
Personal customers, though, looking at the same models on the same deal terms, will find a much greater spread of prices. The XC60 is still the most expensive, at about £465 a month, but the Cherokee and CX-5 swap roles, with the Mazda averaging around £400 a month and the Jeep costing just £365 a month.
It’s a close fight between these three, and it pretty much comes down to lease rates. The Volvo lags behind for both business and personal customers, so it’s out of the running despite its excellent all-round ability.
For businesses, the Mazda is the cheapest, as well as the best to drive, so it’s a bit of a no-brainer. The Jeep, however, might be the better bet for personal customers, especially if they want to take it off-road.
These cars take two very different approaches though, so a lot will come down to whether you’d rather have the Jeep’s comfort or the Mazda’s sportiness.
Jeep Cherokee 2.2, Mazda CX-5 2.2d and Volvo XC60 D5 at a glance
|Jeep Cherokee Limited 2.2 MultiJet 200 AWD Auto
|Mazda CX-5 Sport Nav 2.2 175 AWD Auto
|Volvo XC60 R-Design Lux Nav D5 AWD Geartronic
|495 / 1,455 litres
|Average business lease
|Average personal lease