Mazda CX-5 review
The Mazda CX-5, winner of our Best Crossover of 2013 award, is stylish, well-equipped and good to drive
Our current crossover champ blends sharp handling and top-notch quality with low running costs and family friendly practicality, seeing off rivals like the Ford Kuga, Kia Sportage and Volkswagen Tiguan.
The Mazda is also well equipped, while the two-wheel-drive diesel version has the sort of low CO2 emissions and strong fuel returns you’d normally expect from smaller family hatchbacks. It’s attractively priced and packed with kit, too.
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
Neat design and compact proportions give the CX-5 a sleeker, sportier look than its rivals. Still, tough body cladding and a raised ride height leave you in no doubt about the car’s crossover status. The compact proportions are spot on and it doesn’t look as old-fashioned as rivals like the Honda CR-V or Subaru Forester.
Climb aboard and you’ll find it’s solidly built and smartly designed. The dash is clearly laid out, material quality is easily
a match for the Honda’s and the high-set driving position is spot-on. There’s plenty of standard kit, too, including cruise and dual-zone climate control, plus Bluetooth. Sport models add luxuries like leather seat trim, keyless entry and a reversing camera.
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.
On the move, the Mazda really has the edge over the competition. For starters, its 148bhp 2.2-litre diesel is an effortless performer, while its six-speed gearbox has a slick, precise action.
The high driving position provides excellent all round visibility, while a wide range of adjustment ensures the driving position is perfect. The major controls are well-weighted and operate with a precision not usually found in an SUV. Sharp steering, decent grip and strong body control mean it’s just as accomplished through a series of corners, while its supple ride and low noise levels take the sting out of long motorway journeys.
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 has built a strong reputation for producing durable cars, so the CX-5 should provide trouble-free service. Better still, the brand finished an excellent fourth in the manufacturers chart of our Driver Power 2013 satisfaction survey, with top marks for reliability.
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 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.
Despite its compact looks, the CX-5 is roomy inside. There’s plenty of head and legroom in the rear, plus the cabin is packed with useful storage, including deep door bins, a number of cup-holders and a large glovebox.
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 does not offer the same long warranty as rivals like Kia and Hyundai, plus there's no pre-paid servicing packages.