Mazda CX-5

Important: Don't buy now

Don't buy a CX-5 between now and about April 2017. A new (purportedly better) CX-5 will be released in about May. Official timing is as yet unannounced. If you buy now, you won't get a significant discount, and the vehicle's value will take a hit when the new one is released. If you wait until April you might get a good run-out deal on the current one. Alternatively, you should delay your CX-5 purchase until about August 2017, when the supply and demand of the new one normalises and dealers are heavily motivated to discount. (And teething problems in the new one, if any, are fixed.)

Watch the video (above, right) for more detail on the new 2017 Mazda CX-5, and purchasing advice.

CURRENT MODEL CX-5

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

CX-5 is one of Australia's best SUVs

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.

Additional resources

Advice on test-driving new cars

CX-5 SPECIFICATIONS

2.0 PETROL
Power: 114 kW @ 6000 rpm
Torque 200 Nm @ 4000 rpm
Economy: 6.4 L/100km

2.5 PETROL
Power: 138 kW @ 5700 rpm
Torque 250 Nm @ 4000 rpm
Economy: 7.4 L/100km

2.2 DIESEL
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
Manufactured: Japan
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

2016 Mazda CX-5

SUV Sales 2016

2016 Mazda CX-5

LOVE THIS

  • 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

HATE THAT

  • 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
2016 Mazda CX-5
2016 Mazda CX-5

UPCOMING 2017 MAZDA CX-5

Video Transcript & Full Report

Mazda CX-5 is Australia’s top-selling SUV - but you should absolutely not buy one right now.

Don’t do it. Put down the credit card, and step away from the dealership. Here’s why. The Mazda CX-5 surprised even Mazda when it replaced the ageing CX-7 in February 2012. Sales ran away, here and overseas. It’s the number-one SUV here in Australia, ahead of the Hyundai Tucson and Toyota RAV4. It’s fully a quarter of Mazda’s sales in the USA.

2017 CX-5 promises more of the same, only better

2017 CX-5 promises more of the same, only better

DON'T BUY

But now is exactly the wrong time to dump your hard-earned cash on a new CX-5. Don’t do it. You’ll be sorry.

I get a lot of Mazda CX-5 enquiries. It’s understandable - it’s a solid product. Great for families. I recommend it. Highly. It’s not perfect, but it’s up there. It’s pretty long in the tooth, however, coming up for its fifth birthday.

And a new one is in the pipeline.

2017 Mazda CX-5

NEW MODEL VARIANT

Launch date - not yet confirmed. But the smart money is saying about May this year for Australia. The wraps came off the 2017 CX-5 at the LA motor show last November, and details continue to emerge.

Just before Christmas it came to light a ‘Touring’ variant would be added to the range, which will comprise Maxx, Maxx Sport, Touring, GT and Akera. With CX-5 Touring, Mazda is effectively spak-filling the gap in price that currently exists between Maxx Sport and GT.

IF YOU BUY NOW

Bottom line: Despite it being a damn good SUV, you’re a nut if you buy a CX-5 right now. The launch of the new one is too far away for the dealer network or Mazda to be unduly motivated to fire sale existing stock, so getting that cracking runout deal is still months away. Strike one for buying the current model now.

Let’s say you jump anyway. You sign the contract and lock yourself in for the three-to-five-year finance. As soon as the new one launches - in May - the value of your CX-5 immediately takes a big, consequential hit. It’s suddenly the ‘old’ one, right? And some of the emotional gloss comes off for you, too - let’s not forget that. You become the chump who didn’t or couldn’t wait. Or bought at the wrong time. Whatever.

2017 MODEL CX-5 IMPROVEMENTS

The upcoming CX-5 is going to be objectively better, too - so if you jump now, buy Australia’s top-selling SUV, in May, yours becomes second-rate on objective criteria. One of the most amusing things about being an industry observer is this: The launch of a new model is the only time a carmaker acknowledges the flaws in the current one. Before that, they don’t exist, officially.

At least, they acknowledge the flaws they bother to fix for the new one. And in this case, Mazda is trumpeting the stiffer body in the 2017 CX-5. Fifteen per cent, apparently. Translation, the old one was a bit too much like bendy Wendy. Mazda is also pumping up the new CX-5’s better external sight lines. (Translation: it was a bit hard to see past the A-pillars on the current one.) So they’ve moved them back 35mm and dropped the sills, and made the mirrors smaller. More forward visibility is a good thing - especially if rigidity in a crash isn’t compromised.

SEATING

The seats in the old - correction: ‘current’ - CX-5 were a bit uncomfortable, too, according to Mazda … for the first time in five years. So they’ve attempted to fix that in the 2017 model. And something they always cop a knee in the nuts over - in-cabin noise - has also been improved, allegedly. In fact - you’ll never see Mazda launch a new model, or even a mid-life makeover, where (allegedly) huge advances haven’t been made in noise, vibration and harshness attenuation. They’re very sensitive to criticism about in-cabin noise.

STEERING

They’ve sharpened up the steering response with what they call G-Vectoring Control - which is already in other models in the range. It’s a fancy name for a computer system that looks at the speed, throttle position and how hard you’re turning the wheel, and cuts engine power briefly to generate more yaw response in the body - if required - so that’s good. The dynamics were already pretty damn good in that vehicle, but the steering will be better. Even more jinba ittai - it’s in the brochure. A Japanese cultural thing about the samurai warrior falling in love with his horse … or something. Perhaps platonically.

The 2017 CX-5’s centre of mass has come down 10mm, apparently. No word on whether that compromises ground clearance to any corresponding extent. And there are styling and minor ergonomic tweaks - the shifter location is improved, the dashboard is clearer. Stuff like that. Externally, they’ve given it that ‘pinched face’ look of the CX-9. Eye of the beholder on that. I think it looks better. They call it Kodo ‘Sould of Motion’ - more Japanese nonsense.

SUMMARY OF THE NEW MODEL & RELATED COVERAGE

So basically, Mazda has the best problem in the universe with the 2017 CX-5. The old one is a runaway success. So they’ve got to try really hard not to trip over their own dicks with the new one. That can be a big challenge. It means incremental change, at best. Minor tweaks, and spin up the benefits as hard as you can.

The press is, of course, lapping this up. Just take my advice here, and read in between the lines: if you search for the details online you’ll find reports from journalists who were flown by Mazda, probably business class, to LA for the 2017 CX-5 reveal. Accommodated, probably five-star, by Mazda, for the duration. Taken to grandiose dinners and other entertainment while on tour. Compliments of Mazda.

The quid-pro-quo of these cushy corporate-media deals is: a) don’t criticise the product, and b) write nice, glowing reports. Disgraceful. That’s why most of the reports don’t include real strategic purchasing advice for you, if you’re in the market now for a CX-5. But hey - why provide that when you can wax lyrical about a new colour - Soul Red Crystal, it’s called, upgraded from Soul Red, and allegedly featuring 20 per cent more colour saturation than that flat old shitty red premium colour in the dated CX-5 you might mistakenly buy tomorrow?

EXTREME MAKEOVER

Bottom line: the new CX-5 due for launch later in the year is more like a heavy-duty makeover. It’s built on - essentially - the same underpinnings as the one you might buy today. It’ll be the same size as the predecessor, and the powertrains will be identical - 2.0 and 2.5 petrol and 2.2 diesel. Or so close to identical the difference is immaterial. Mazda does excellent engine technology, and really good dynamics, and the choice to persevere with conventional epicyclic autos is a real plus over some competitors that roll with badly sorted CVT transmissions - hello Nissan X-TRAIL and Mitsubishi Outlander.

CRITICISMS

Doubtless, unfortunately, Mazda will also stick with the shitty space-saver spare wheel and tyre - which is OK, perhaps, in the suburbs, but completely shonky for towing or use in regional Australia generally, where it can be a very long distance between repairs. And not much fun being limited to 80 kays an hour at night, in the rain, on the freeway, where the space-saver becomes a real safety liability, in my view.

I-stop - the automatic engine shutdown and restart in traffic system - will doubtless continue as well. It saves bugger-all fuel, and it really reduces the refinement of the drive experience in stop-start traffic. It’s mainly there so that they can cook the books on the official fuel tests - I’ll link to more reports on how that works at the end of this report. And the problem with that system is, if you detest it, you can’t turn it off for the duration. You can turn it off, but every time you get in the car for a fresh drive, it re-activates. It’s more annoyingly persistent than Hal in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Perhaps this will change for 2017 - no word on that yet.

LIKELY PRICING

Pricing is likely to remain unchanged for 2017 - Tucson and RAV4 are too close and to compellingly competitive in the minds of many for Mazda to tweak demand down by pumping up the price. If you have the $30-$50,000 burning a hole in your pocket right now, for a new SUV, the smart options are: wait until the new CX-5 lobs, and wait a couple more months after that until latent demand evaporates. Don’t be an early adopter.

If you can wait, dealers get back to their usual state of moderate to severe desperation, and they start discounting. Which is great. If you buy right after launch, there’s a queue of people over the horizon clamouring to buy. There’s no discount for them.

CONCLUSION

If you need to buy now, buy something else - like a Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage, Subaru Forester or Subaru Outback. They’re all great, too. They all have strengths and weaknesses, certainly, and bear in mind Forester is looking down the barrel of a major refresh for 2017 as well. That’s going to include a styling once-over and a new version of EyeSight with even more impressive capabilities. It will see in colour, and feature a longer and wider fields of view, and the turbo petrol Forester will torque vectoring like the the WRX and STI. So it might be good to wait for that, too.

For vehicle recommendations if you’re in the market now, or to save thousands on any new car, in Australia only, sadly, contact me direct using the red link below.

Top Mazda CX-5 Reports