Mazda CX-5 review
The Mazda CX-5, is stylish, well-equipped and good to drive - it's one of the best crossovers out there
Here at Auto Express we’re big fans of the Mazda CX-5 – it was our Crossover of the Year in 2013, narrowly missing out this time around to the new Nissan Qashqai (which also saw off the innovative and affordable Citroen C4 Cactus). It also finished 13th overall in Driver Power 2014, so the CX-5 is a hit with owners, too.
That could be down to the pleasing blend of sharp handling, top-notch quality, punchy SkyActiv engines, low running costs and family friendly practicality. While no longer the reigning champ in its class, Mazda’s premium-feel crossover is more than a match for rivals like the Peugeot 3008, and can even compete with compact SUVs such as the Ford Kuga, Volkswagen Tiguan and Honda CR-V.
Mazda offers the CX-5 in a choice of five trims – SE-L, SE-L Nav, SE-L Lux, SE-L Lux Nav and Sport Nav – with Nav models unsurprisingly benefiting from sat nav, plus a couple of other add-ons. Higher specs are particularly well equipped. That's not to say that the Japanese manufacturer has scrimped on entry-level SE-L models, which are attractively priced and feature standard kit like cruise control, Bluetooth, dual-zone climate control and automatic lights and wipers. Range-topping Sport Nav models get extra luxuries in the form of leather seat-trim, a Bose surround sound system, 6-way power adjustment for the front seats, and a reversing camera.
Powering the CX-5 is one of Mazda’s 2.0-litre petrol or 2.2-litre SkyActive engines, designed to deliver sprightly pace but still return the sort of low emissions and high mpg usually enjoyed by hatchbacks like the Ford Focus or Volkswagen Golf. SE-L and Sport models also come in either two or four-wheel drive.
Our choice: Mazda CX-5 2.2D (150) SE-L 2WD
To look at, the CX-5 oozes style with its sleek and sporty lines. Muscular wheel arches, tough body cladding and a raised ride height leave the car’s SUV status in little doubt, but its surprisingly compact proportions are spot on. As a result, the CX-5 doesn’t look as old fashioned as the comparable Subaru Forester.
Mazda has carried this smart exterior over to the interior, and you’ll find everything is solidly built and smartly designed, if slightly lacking in visual sparkle. Material quality is right up there with Honda’s, so it should prove durable enough, and the high-set driving position – overlooking the upright dashboard – offers excellent visibility.
The front end of the CX-5 looks classy, and the sharp creases in the bonnet fit well with the shape of the grille. Mazda fits alloy wheels as standard from entry-level SE-L and up, but the range-topping Sport gets 19-inch rims and powerful bi-xenon headlamps as part of the deal.
If there’s one thing that sets the CX-5 apart from its crossover and compact SUV rivals, it’s the driving experience. Alongside the high driving position we’ve already praised, adjusting the driver’s seat is easy, and there’s a wide range of positions on offer, making for a good start before you even set off.
Major controls in the CX-5’s cabin are well weighted and operate with a precision that’s not normally found in a car of this size. Sharp steering, decent grip and strong body control make for accomplished handling, while the supple ride and refined, insulated cabin take the sting out of long motorway journeys.
Although four-wheel drive versions of the CX-5 can't match the Land Rover Freelander for outright go anywhere ability, they provide confidence boosting traction in tricky conditions, handle sharply and are surprisingly capable off-road.
The 2.2-litre SkyActive diesel engine only serves to boost driving enjoyment. Refinement at idle and on the move is class leading, the two-stage turbo ensures power is delivered smoothly, and even the lower output 2.0-litre petrol has more than enough performance. In basic petrol guise, the CX-5 boasts 163bhp and 210Nm of torque, good for a 0-62mph time of 9.2 seconds and 124mph top speed. The diesel – which gets either 148bhp or 173bhp – can see off 0-62mph in 8.8 seconds when paired to the six-speed manual and all-wheel drive.
The CX-5 fitted with the automatic gearbox has higher emissions than its manual counterpart, but it's a smooth transmission and is cleaner than the automatic boxes found in its rivals.
Mazda has built a strong reputation for producing durable cars, so the CX-5 should provide trouble-free service (it came 31st for reliability in our Driver Power 2014 satisfaction survey and 13th overall).
Adding to the appeal, Euro NCAP awarded the CX-5 a five-star crash test rating, and all versions get six airbags and stability control. The car also benefits from City Safe low-speed collision kit, which monitors the road ahead and automatically applies the brakes if it senses an imminent collision with the vehicle in front. The optional safety pack adds lane departure and blind spot warning.
The Mazda CX-5 is a slightly more practical proposition than the Ford Kuga, thanks to its 503 litres of boot space.
Better still, the seats in the CX-5 can be folded flat in one movement, freeing up a healthy 1,620-litres of luggage space. Another near feature in terms of practicality, is the Mazda 'Karakuri' parcel shelf that lifts out of the way when the tailgate is opened, making it easier to load items into the boot, maximising the tight-looking dimensions.
Despite its compact looks, the CX-5 is roomy inside, and there's plenty of head and legroom in the back, plus Mazda has packed the cabin with useful storage, including deep door bins, a number of cup-holders and a large glovebox.
Mazda's SkyActiv engines mean the sprightly performance of the CX-5 doesn't come at the expense of economy or emissions.
The 173bhp 2.2-litre diesel four-wheel drive CX-5 emits only 136g/km of CO2, and has a combined cycle of 54.3mpg, while the entry-level front-wheel drive 2.2-litre manual CX-5 reduces emissions of just 119g/km of CO2 and a slightly increased combined economy of 61.4 mpg.
The 2.0-litre petrol variant's combined economy is 47.1mpg and has emissions of 139g/km of CO2.
Adding to its appeal, the CX-5 has strong residual figures, with most models holding onto around 50 per cent of their value after three years. However, Mazda does not offer the same long warranty as rivals Kia and Hyundai. Plus, there are no pre-paid servicing packages.