Mazda CX-5 review

Our Rating: 
2012 model
By Auto Express Test TeamComments

The Mazda CX-5, is stylish, well-equipped and good to drive - it's one of the best crossovers out there

Stylish design, well equipped, efficient engines
Dull interior design, not the roomiest in class

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The Mazda CX-5 has long been one of our favourite SUVs, winning our coveted Crossover of the Year award in 2013, and narrowly missing out the following year to the brilliant Nissan Qashqai. What's more, it also finished an impressive 13th overall in the 2014 Driver Power survey, proving the CX-5 is a hit with owners, too.

A decent blend of sharp handling, top-notch quality and low running costs gift the Mazda a place at the top of the SUV tree, while a light facelift 2015 gave top-spec models new headlights and a revised grille. Mazda's premium-feel crossover is more than a 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 SkyActiv 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. 

Group test: Mazda CX-5 vs Honda CR-V & Ford Kuga

Our choice: Mazda CX-5 2.2D (150) SE-L 2WD

Engines, performance and drive


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 Discovery Sport 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.

MPG, CO2 and running costs


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.

Interior, design and technology


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.

In 2015, Mazda added new headlights, grille and foglamps to the CX-5 – but only to range-topping Sport-Nav models. Bizarrely, the changes are only applicable to top-spec models, with the new lights not even available as an option on entry-level cars.

Inside, changes have been made across the range. There's a new button-free seven-inch touchscreen display, with seperate volume control on the centre console. Mazda has freed up some space by adding an electronic handbrake, while some of the old orange dials have been replaced by classier white versions.

As before, 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. 

Practicality, comfort and boot space


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.

Reliability and Safety


Mazda has built a strong reputation for producing durable cars, so the CX-5 should provide trouble-free service (it came 87th for reliability in our Driver Power 2015 satisfaction survey and 64th 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.

Last updated: 9 Mar, 2015