Mazda CX-5 review
Winning the Best Crossover of 2013 at the Auto Express awards, the Mazda CX-5 is stylish, well-equipped and good to drive
The reigning holder of the Auto Express Best Crossover award, the CX-5 has helped Mazda to the top of the compact SUV class, seeing off rivals like the Ford Kuga, Kia Sportage and Volkswagen Tiguan. Fun to drive, efficient and practical the CX-5 it goes straight to the top of the class. Stars of the show are Mazda's economical but powerful Skyactiv engines, which deliver the sort of low emissions and frugal fuel economy normally associated with a smaller family hatchback. The 2.2-litre Skyactiv diesel is offered in 148bhp and 173bhp guise, while there’s also a 163bhp 2.0-litre petrol. There’s a choice of three trim levels - SE-L, SE-L Lux and Sport, with the later pair being particularly well equipped. The CX-5 comes with two or four-wheel drive.
Our choice: Mazda CX-5 2.2D (150) SE-L 2WD
At a glance, the sporty CX-5 looks more like high-riding hatchback than a rugged off-roader. The compact proportions are spot on and it doesn’t look as old-fashioned as rivals like the Honda CR-V or Subaru Forester. The slick front-end looks smart and the sharp creases in the bonnet fit well with the shape of the grille. All versions get alloy wheels and body coloured bumpers, while the range-topping Sport adds 19-inch rims and powerful bi-xenon headlamps. Inside, Mazda has raised the game by using high quality materials and top notch fit and finish. However, the dashboard design doesn’t have the upmarket look of premium rivals like the Audi Q3. Still, the CX-5 comes with plenty of kit, including dual zone climate control, Bluetooth and a touchscreen infotainment system. Sport models add luxuries like leather seat trim, keyless entry and a reversing camera.
With a lovely balance between engaging handling and relaxing comfort the CX-5 sets new standards. The high driving position provides excellent all round visibility, while a wide range of adjustment ensures the driving position is perfect. The short shift gearbox is a joy to use, while the rest of the major controls are well-weighted and operate with a precision not usually found in an SUV. With fast and accurate steering matched to taut body control, on a twisty road the CX-5 feels more like an agile hatchback than a high riding crossover. Yet this dynamic poise does not come at the expense of ride comfort, as the Mazda effortlessly soaks up bumps, while road and wind noise are well suppressed. Four-wheel drive versions provide confidence boosting traction in slippery conditions and handle with even more sharpness, plus they’re surprisingly capable off-road - although it can't match the Land Rover Freelander for go anywhere ability. The 2.2-litre diesel is an eager performer and the two-stage turbo ensures a smooth power delivery. Refinement at idle and on the move is class leading and even the lower output diesel has more than enough performance on tap. Automatic versions have higher emissions but it’s a smooth transmission and they’re still cleaner than auto rivals.
Mazda is a consistent strong performer in our annual Driver Power customer satisfaction survey. Owners seem generally content with the ownership experience and in 2013 Mazda ranked an impressive 4th overall in our manufacturer ranking. As you'd expect from a model boasting six airbags and standard stability control, the Mazda CX-5 gained a full five stars for occupant safety in the Euro NCAP crash tests, putting it on par with the Ford Kuga and Kia Sportage. It's also the only car in its class to get standard city safe technology, 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 depature and blind spot warning.
With a 503-litre boot, the Mazda CX-5 is a slightly more practical proposition than the new Ford Kuga. Better still, the seats in the Mazda can be folded flat in one movement, liberating a healthy 1,620-litres of luggage space. Another neat feature is the 'Karakuri' parcel shelf that lifts out of the way when the tailgate is opened, making it easier to load items into the boot. The cabin is well laid out, too, with plenty of useful storage both in the central bin and large door pockets. There's also enough room on the rear bench for three adults - although the intrusive transmission tunnel means less space for the middle passenger's feet.
Thanks to the Mazda's Skyactiv technology, the sprightly performance of the CX-5 doesn’t come at the expense of economy and emissions. Even the 173bhp 2.2-litre diesel four-wheel-drive model emits only 136g/km and promises to return 54.3mpg. The entry-level front-drive variant reduces emissions to just 119g/km, which is lower than many family hatchbacks. Better still, the Mazda is competitively priced, with the well-equipped SE-L versions undercutting many of its rivals. Adding to its appeal are strong residual figures, with most models holding onto around fifty percent of their value after three years. However Mazda do not offer the same long warranty as rivals like Kia and Hyundai, plus there's no pre-paid servicing packages.