Mazda CX-5 first drive

Mazda doesn't have a large line-up, but it must be said that each model is a good one; certainly a case of quality over quantity. The Mazda CX-5 was one of the models that set the Japanese firm on its way to this high-class portfolio, but now there's a new one. With big boots to fill, it will be interesting to see how the new CX-5 measures up.

Review by Chris Lilly


There is a good choice of petrol and diesel engines available for CX-5 buyers. Mazda's use of non-downsized engines has gone against the trend for some time now, but few have complained at the logic of fitting an engine that has enough about it to deal with the vehicle's size easily. This is in contrast to downsized units that that work well most of the time, but struggle when the going gets tough. As such, Mazda offers one 2.0 litre Skyactiv-G petrol unit which produces 165hp powering the front wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox. It's a good powertrain, but one unlikely to sell in big numbers in the UK. Instead, the diesels are likely to prove more popular, with Mazda’s 2.2 litre Skyactiv-D engine providing either 150hp of 175hp. Both are available with manual or automatic transmissions, but the higher powered version is only available with four-wheel drive – the 150hp offering has an option for front- or all-wheel drive. Performance figures range between 9.0 seconds and 10.4 seconds in the 0-62mph dash – the petrol being the slowest in the line-up.


Mazda’s engineers are good at creating a well balanced car - one that handles well but is comfortable too. They've pulled off the same trick here, offering well controlled body roll and precise steering with a good level of feedback when undertaking some enthusiastic cornering. Keep everything at a more sedate pace though, and the CX-5 settles down to a relaxing and refined cruise at motorway speeds, and will shrug off all but the worst of any pot-holes you might encounter thanks to the SUV’s high ride height. The CX-5 isn't the sportiest of SUVs around, but it is certainly one of the most dynamic in its market, offering a more engaging drive than its direct rivals can. Not too harsh and not too comfortable, the Mazda strikes a good middle-ground, and one that makes a lot of sense for day to day driving needs.


The CX-5 is a stylish SUV, and there will be few that would argue that point I'm sure. Making good use of Mazda's Kodo design language, the CX-5 looks athletic (if you'll forgive the marketing speak), and is unfussy in design. Compare it against a Renault Kadjar for example and the French family SUV looks a bit lumpen next to the Mazda. Space inside is good if not class leading, with both the load area and room for occupants similar to the outgoing model. It's decent, but if you want a real family workhorse, a Skoda Kodiaq will offer greater flexibility. Visibility is good though, and the large rear pillars don't restrict the view as much as you might think from the outside. In fact the interior seems more spacious and airy than I initially expected.


Mazda CX-5 interior

The interior complements the exterior design nicely, using similar themes to help visually stretch the car and make it look wider than it is. The dashboard is a nicely set-up and cleanly designed affair, with a grouping of three dials telling the driver what's going on, and a decent-sized infotainment screen dealing with other systems. Mazda's control for said infotainment system might not be the most sophisticated around, but it works well and is intuitive in its operation, aided by some shortcut buttons surrounding the main dial. It means that the only elements to remain fitted to the centre console are air-conditioning controls, keeping the whole affair fuss-free. Build quality feels solid, and the materials used are high quality, confirming the feeling that Mazda sits somewhere between mainstream and premium – the sort of territory held by VW. The CX-5 won’t challenge the likes of BMW and Jaguar, but it feels a much nicer machine than those offered by Renault and Nissan.


Here Mazda's resistance to downsizing its engines plays against it, as the CX-5 is bettered by many of its rivals when looking at the official fuel economy figures. These stretch from 44.1 MPG for the petrol to 56.5 MPG for the 150hp diesel with a manual gearbox. This latter figure is far from disgraceful but can't match up to other cars in its class for headline fuel economy numbers. I suspect that in real-world driving, the CX-5 will get closer to its official figures than many of its challengers though, since as mentioned above, a downsized engine is liable to struggle at times, whereas a larger engine rarely will. Mazda's units proved economical enough during the test drive, but I didn't have long enough in the car to give a definitive fuel economy verdict.


Mazda's engines are more frugal than their size would make out, thanks to the use of Skyactiv technology used in both the petrol and diesel units. This uses developments such as improved compression ratios and low friction materials to improve efficiency and low- to mid-end torque. The changes added up to a 15% improvement in fuel economy over the outgoing petrol unit, while the diesel is 20% better. This uses lower compression than usual, along with a two-stage turbocharger to again improve driving performance and efficiency. By increasing the compression in petrol units and reducing it in diesels, Mazda is in effect trying to get to a middle ground where the two meet - which is where the Skyactiv-X engine come in. It is set to be free-revving like a petrol, but with the torque and fuel efficiency of a diesel, and the latest generation of petrol and diesels show that Mazda isn't far away. According to our calculations, the model tested has a Next Green Car Rating of 46.


There are two trim levels - SE-L Nav and Sport Nav - and both come well equipped. The entry level SE-L Nav includes features such as 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights and wipers, parking sensors front and rear, leather steering wheel, keyless entry and start, dual zone climate control, cruise control, and 7-inc colour touchscreen infotainment system with USB, DAB, and Bluetooth connectivity. Move up to Sport Nav and the wheels are increased to 19-inches, while also added are a Bose sound system, heated front seats, electric front seats, head-up display, reversing camera, sunroof, and leather seats. In short, the SE-L Nav trim has everything you need and more, while the Sport Nav set-up offers excellent levels of comfort.


My pick of the range would be the CX-5 Skyactiv-D 2.2 150hp, which will cover 0-62mph in 9.4 seconds, and has the highest fuel economy figure. It's plenty powerful enough for the CX-5, with any more oomph a luxury rather than a necessity, and it will prove the cheapest to run too. Out of the two trim levels – SE-L Nav and Sport Nav, the former is better value with plenty of equipment, while the latter was nice to have on the model tested. Standard equipment is good across both trim levels, and though the CX-5 is slightly higher priced than some rivals, it feels good value for it.

Mazda CX-5 rear

Model tested: Mazda CX-5
Body-style: SUV
Engine / CO2: 2.0 litre petrol or 2.2 litre diesel / 132 g/km and up
Trim grades: SE-L Nav and Sport Nav

On-road price: From £23,695. Price as tested: £28,695 (inc options £29,255)
Warranty: Three years / 60,000 miles
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 4.0 Stars

Click here for more info about this model range

Chris Lilly

Author:Chris Lilly
Date Updated:10th Nov 2017

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