Mazda CX-5 review
The Mazda CX-5 is the firm's entry into the compact crossover sector, and is stylish, well-equipped and good to drive
Mazda hopes to capitalise on the booming compact SUV class with the CX-5. It is the Japanese firm’s first compact SUV for some time and it faces tough opposition from rivals such as the Ford Kuga and VW Tiguan. Happily, the fun to drive, efficient and practical CX-5 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 CO2 emissions and frugal fuel economy normally associated with a smaller family hatchback. There are two trim levels - and both SE-L and Sport are well equipped and can be upgraded to a 'Nav' model with touchscreen GPS guidance.
Our choice: Mazda CX-5 2.2D (150) SEL Nav 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 cumbersome as rivals like the Toyota RAV4. The imposing 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 is a little drab compared to rivals like the Audi Q3. At least there's plenty of kit, with dual zone climate control. Bluetooth and a touchscreen infotainment system featuring throughout the range. Go for the Sport and you'll benefit from upmarket additions such as leather seat trim, keyless entry and a great sounding Bose stereo upgrade.
The high driving position provides the Mazda with excellent all round visibility, while the driving position is perfect. The 2.2-litre diesel is an eager performer and the two-stage turbo ensures a smooth power delivery. The short shift gearbox is a joy to use as well, while the rest of the major controls are well-weighted and operate with precision. As a result, the CX-5 is fun to drive on a twisting back road. This dynamic poise does not come at the expense of ride comfort, though, 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 are surprisingly capable off-road - although it can't match the Land Rover Freelander for go anywhere ability.
Mazda is a consistent performer in our annual Driver Power customer satisfaction survey. It's some way behind Japanese rivals like Nissan and Toyota, but owners seem generally content with the ownership experience. 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 recent 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.
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 entrly 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.