The Mazda CX-5 is the most popular SUV in Australia - with good reason. It's an example of Mazda's best work, which by extension means an example of Japan's best work (and the car industry's generally). The Mazda CX-5 is one of the best five-seat SUVs on the market - and although it obviously isn't perfect, it certainly should be on your short-list if you're currently considering purchasing a new five-seat SUV.
Need to know
Mazda is one of the very few Japanese car companies at the top of their game right now – and the Mazda CX-5 is a perfect example of some of Mazda’s best work. The Mazda CX-5 was a real step forward in the technological evolution of the compact SUV when it was first released in 2012. The good news for you right now is the comparatively recent release of strong competitors like the Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage (and, to a lesser extent, the Subaru Outback) means the CX-5's reign as king of the soft SUVs will be under increasing pressure in 2016 and 2017 - and the only remedy there is sharper pricing.
The South Korean competitors in particular place the CX-5 under objective pressure, offering better value, longer warranties, longer service intervals and other features like a full-sized spare tyre (the Mazda has a hateful space saver). You owe it to yourself to drive the Tucson and the Sportage (dollar-equivalent versions of the CX-5 you're considering) before dropping the big bucks on the Mazda CX-5. (Happily, this is a proposition in which there are several correct answers, not just one.)
The Mazda CX-5 is an extremely impressive vehicle to drive. The Mazda CX-5 is efficient, powerful, dynamic … and even the price is right. Here's the back story about how Mazda got the product so right in 2016.
Way back in June 2008, Mazda committed to slashing the fuel consumption of its vehicles by an average of 30 per cent by 2015. This is a huge engineering and technological undertaking. Part of that announcement was the commitment to launch new, ultra-efficient diesel engines in 2011. This commitment is what the SKYACTIV badge represents, under the hood, today.
A lot happened in the intervening time - from 2008 to 2011 - including major speed humps like the global financial crisis, and the Japanese tsunami that impacted Fukushima so tragically.
Despite these problems, however, Mazda just appeared to shrug them off, and get on with the job. Right on cue, the new SKYACTIV diesel powertrain arrived as part of the then-all-new Mazda CX-5.
The 2012 release of the Mazda CX-5 represented the most exciting development of the compact SUV segment for some time. A family friendly SUV with a healthy loadspace, which tips the scales at just over 1600kg. The Mazda CX-5’s 2.2-litre direct-injection turbo diesel pumps out 129kW and 420Nm, yet it manages to comply with strict exhaust emission regulations, and returns 5.7 litres/100km. Very impressive.
Given the 58-litre fuel tank, every refill in a Mazda CX-5 diesel represents more than 1000km of mobility.
Let’s put all that in some kind of perspective: the SKYACTIV Mazda CX-5 diesel is around 200kg lighter than a Holden Commodore V6, it drinks about half the fuel, and develops about 30 per cent more torque. It seats the same number of people as the Commodore, costs about the same, and yet it’s far more versatile in the real world, and the build quality would put any locally made car to shame.
This is one of the reasons why the traditional Aussie car has faded away, under an onslaught of innovation and practicality exemplified by vehicles like the Mazda CX-5. Mazda has even punted Holden from the car sales podium, now occupying the second spot after Toyota, a position Holden for years considered its own. Mazda is today the number two car company in Australia, after Toyota, incredibly enough.
Thanks to the popularity of SUVs, the Mazda CX-5 will almost certainly retain its resale value better than a traditional family car as well.
Coupled to a standard six-speed auto, the Mazda CX-5 diesel drive experience in particular is seamless. The 2.5 petrol is also very impressive.
Everything Mazda learned through the development of its superb-handling car range is present in the Mazda CX-5. A lot of owners simply don’t appreciate dynamics, but if you do, you’ll love how rewarding it is to drive on a favourite piece of twisty backroad in the CX-5. Road noise is a little intrusive, but the handling is crisp - a real benchmark.
And if you’re thinking about camping, dirt roads and family holidays, the AWD versions of the CX-5 is not exactly a hardcore off-roader, but the places it will go will surprise you.
There’s a 2.0-litre SKYACTIV petrol engine available as well, but it can’t match the outputs of the diesel, or the fuel efficiency. It's a basic entry-level workhorse, nothing more.
There are two drivetrains: The front-wheel drive version isn’t quite as composed or as versatile as the more expensive all-wheel drive, and of the three model variants – the base-model Maxx, the mid-spec Maxx Sport and the range-topping Grand Touring or Akera – the CX-5 Maxx Sport hits the sweet spot on value, and if you have a little more to spend, the Grand Touring is very impressive as well. Akera is brilliant, but, in a sense, overkill.
The pick of the range is the diesel auto Maxx Sport, with AWD, which lists at just over $39,000 before on-road costs. It comes standard with auto headlamps, dual-zone climate air conditioning, rain-sensing wipers, front fog lamps, leather wheel and shifter knob, three-way split-fold rear seats, Bluetooth for phone and music, and 17-inch alloys with 225/65 tyres.
Here’s another staggeringly simple innovation: The in-dash sat-nav is regulation Tom Tom. That means, in a CX-5, you won’t have to learn how to ‘drive’ another clunky car-company sat-nav system. (Most car company GPS systems are hopeless.)
If you’re in the market for a family-friendly compact SUV at around the $40k-$50k pricepoint, don’t part with any cash until you’ve at least driven the CX-5. And, if you’re in the market for a CX-5, you need to test-drive the Kia Sportage and the Hyundai Tucson, which both deliver more equipment for the price and offer either two more years warranty (Hyundai) or a staggering four more years warranty (Kia). Pick the one of the three you like - they're all good. Contact me here >> to get the best possible price, without the typical dealership negotiation stress.
It's arguable whether the cheaper versions of Mazda CX-5 are really better value than a Mazda3 sedan or hatch, with which the CX-5 basically shares length and width, but the up-spec models are so well equipped and such good value that, on objective criteria they put the cheaper German SUVs (such as the Audi Q3) to shame.
Advice on test-driving new cars
Power: 114 kW @ 6000 rpm
Torque 200 Nm @ 4000 rpm
Economy: 6.4 L/100km
Power: 138 kW @ 5700 rpm
Torque 250 Nm @ 4000 rpm
Economy: 7.4 L/100km
Power: 129 kW @ 4500 rpm
Torque 420 Nm @ 2000 rpm
Economy: 5.7 L/100km
Transmission: 6 sp auto (or 6 sp manual on 2WD Maxx)
Preferred models: Maxx Sport and above
Length: 4540 mm
Width: 1840 mm
Height: 1710 mm
Kerb weight: 1455-1701 kg (model dependent)
Maximum tow capacity: 1800 kg
Seating Capacity: Five
Safety: Five-star ANCAP
Warranty: 3 years / 100,000 kilometres
Service interval: 12 months or 10,000 km
(whichever comes first)
Roadside assist: -
Spare wheel: Space-saver
SUV Sales 2015
SUV Sales May 2016
- Overall presentation and polish is very good
- 12-month service interval beats many competitors
- Excellent SKYACTIV engines - especially the 2.5 petrol and 2.2 diesel
- Has moderate off-road capability (AWD models)
- 1800kg maximum tow capacity is beyond adequate for most moderate towing requirements
- Great handling and ergonomics
- Value proposition eclipses the cheaper Germans (CX-5 Grand Touring & Akera models)
- CX-5 Akera is unbelievably well equipped
- Mazda doesn't play the 'options game' at dealerships to get you to spend more; the model range is presented more as a 'what you see is what you pay' proposition
- Space saver spare tyre is unsuitable for Australian driving
- CX-5's i-Stop system (automatic engine shutdown and re-start) is badly implemented and can't be permanently switched off by the owner
- Warranty and service package can't match Hyundai or Kia
- Lacks rear seat air vents
- 2.0-litre engine is almost a boy doing a man's job
- Lower spec 2WD models are merely pumped-up Mazda3s