Top-value crossover blends car-like handling with SUV practicality
Agile, car-like handling
Good specification
Competitive mpg, emissions
Dull cabin compared with exterior
Polarising looks
Overly firm ride

Mazda CX-5 review (2012 on)

The Mazda CX-5 is a family car dressed as an off-roader with large tyres, a high stance and a choice of two- and four-wheel drive transmissions.

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What is the Mazda CX-5?

The crossover market, populated with cars such as the Nissan Qashqai, Kia Sportage and Toyota RAV4, is as fiercely contested as any and in recent years has welcomed a new entrant through gritted teeth: the Mazda CX-5. Like all of them it’s a family car dressed as an off-roader with large tyres, a high stance and a choice of two- and four-wheel drive transmissions.

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The CX-5 joins the fray offering what Mazda claims are two new approaches to crossover engineering and design. “Skyactiv” describes Mazda’s mission to reduce CO2 emissions and deliver improved fuel consumption without, it claims, “compromising driving dynamics or price competitiveness.” So no expensive hybrid or pure electric variants, then.  Instead, Mazda has concentrated its efforts on reducing the CX-5’s weight and improving the efficiency of both its engines and its six-speed manual and CVT automatic transmissions.  The result is sprightly performance allied to competitive fuel consumption and emissions figures. Kodo, meanwhile, describes the CX-5’s design philosophy. In short, it’s about giving the car strong emotional appeal. On that score, our test car certainly inspired strong emotions, in particular concerning the nose which looks extended and oversized. Otherwise, the rest of the car looks flowing and lithe enough.

There are two engines with a choice of three power outputs: a 163hp 2-litre petrol, and 148hp and 173hp 2.2-litre diesels. There’s just one five-door body style but four equipment levels ‒ SE-L, SE-L Nav, Sport and Sport Nav ‒ bringing ascending levels of equipment. However, even in standard trim the CX-5 comes with 17in alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control air conditioning and Mazda’s multimedia Commander, all conspiring to make a strong value-for-money case for the new car.


The drive

The 148hp 2.2-litre diesel auto we tested is a spirited performer, scurrying from 0-62mph in a claimed 10 seconds. Some diesels can feel a bit plodding from zero; not so the CX-5. Unlike some rival diesels it reacts instantly to the accelerator, much like a petrol engine.  Of course, it’s in-gear performance where diesels ought to shine brightest; the CX-5 isn’t wanting here, either. With 280lb ft torque to play with between 1800-2600rpm, and an auto gearbox providing seamless reactions, the CX-5 is nimble and effortless to drive. The five-speed manual gearbox has a pleasingly short throw, and a satisfying mechanical feel and preciseness. The more powerful 171bhp CX-5  is available only with four-wheel drive but thanks to the engine’s muscular 310 lb ft, any additional weight or drag is unfelt. It’s an impressively smooth, quiet and responsive engine. This might count for nothing were the CX-5 the sort of crossover that trades entertainment for practical good sense. In fact, it has heaps of both. The ride is a little on the firm side but the pay-off is the kind of sharp handling and direct, communicative steering that would flatter a saloon car never mind a high-riding crossover on all-weather tyres. All this fun needn’t cost a fortune, either. Our test car’s claimed fuel consumption is 51.4mpg, so expect more like 45mpg in the real world. The 171bhp version returned 40mpg in mixed driving.


The interior

Mazda’s Kodo design language may have given the exterior an athletic look but inside the car it’s all quite predictable. As ever, front-seat occupants enjoy the best view; the classy-looking and well-ordered fascia has soft-touch plastics and piano black inserts. But behind, the cabin is gloomy and the trim plastics are hard. Oddments space around the cabin is at a premium. The door bins are next to useless for anything but keys and a wallet. Still, everything is well anchored and unlikely to buzz and rattle annoyingly with the miles. Our SE-L nav trim added a TomTom sat nav to the already generous standard specification. A multi-adjustable steering wheel and driver’s seat coupled with that high roof mean drivers of all shapes should be comfortable.  Rear passengers may wish for a little more room, however, and for less steeply raked seat backs.  The rear seats fold easily with a tug of the remote, boot-mounted lever and fold flat, too, on their cushions. With the remarkably light parcel shelf removed, there’s plenty of room in the load area for awkward things such as a cycle, or family suitcases.

The one to buy

Mazda CX-5 2.2 SE-L (150) 2WD


£22,995 (correct at first publication)
2191cc, 4 cylinders, (diesel)
148hp @ 4500rpm
280lb ft @ 1800-2600rpm
6-speed manual
0-62mph in 9.2sec
Top speed:
54.3mpg (combined)
Road tax band:
L 4555mm, W 1840mm, H 1710mm


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