Should I Buy Mazda CX-5, Hyundai ix35 or BMW X3?


Love listening to your program on Radio 2UE in Sydney. I currently have a 2007 Subaru Forester X Luxury with 98,000 kilometres on it. The Forester has been a great car. I previously had a Honda CR-V which was also very nice.

I'm thinking of updating, and I'm looking at Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring or Hyundai ix35 Highlander - and (although I can imagine your thoughts on the subject) possibly a BMW X3 20i or 20d with metallic paint and leather being only options I want in the X3. I know the X3 petrol 20i engine requires 98 RON petrol.

(No VW's under consideration, however - so there is a some sense still left in me.)

This may well be my last or near last car as my health is not too good and I would like a nice one if it is to be my last. I need the seat height of a SUV to ease getting in and out. May do some long runs occasionally but mainly suburban driving. I really don't require a car larger than the ones mentioned- like Goldilocks they are just right.

Your thoughts on my choices are invited and I have a particular question about diesel particulate filters, which seem to be a problem in many vehicles if not regularly doing long runs at appropriate high speeds. It seems they cost a bomb to replace as well especially in a BMW. I gather some Japanese and Korean diesel engined cars have less problems than others - if so please advise on brands and models if appropriate.

I recognise that unless I am doing high distances a diesel may be an unnecessary consideration but my son and daughter in law both have diesels in their respective Toyota Hilux SR5 and Hyundai i30 - and they rave over them, not only regarding the fuel economy. Thanking you in advance for any guidance you can provide.

Best regards,


Thank you for listening on Radio 2UE. I’m glad you enjoy the program. I really enjoy the radio gig - nothing else in the media is as demanding or as rewarding as radio. And I've got the head for it...


The Mazda CX-5 GT is a very nice SUV - certainly in the top of the five-seat SUV category. I think you’d find the performance of the 2.5 petrol more than adequate. I have a full review of the latest Mazda CX-5 here >>

For more Mazda CX-5 reports, click here >>


The Hyundai ix35 is due for an upgrade soon - so I’d either be pausing and waiting until that upgrade takes place, or I'd be bargaining very hard now for the current model. (The value of the current one will take a hit as soon as the upgraded model is launched.) The Hyundai ix35 Highlander doesn’t match the CX-5 in terms of performance in either petrol or diesel spec, but the Hyundai ix35 diesel lacks a particle filter. This lack of exhaust particle filter means it is compatible with no highway running (that is, exclusively or extended urban use) in the way the Mazda CX-5 simply isn’t (because it does have the exhaust particle filter system). I own the Kia Sportage diesel (which is the Hyundai ix35’s clone), and it hasn’t missed a beat since 2011 when I bought it, despite extensive city use.

The Hyundai also has a very impressive warranty package - five years plus unlimited kilometres, with capped price servicing for life. (Its, not yours...)

More Hyundai ix35 reports >>


The BMW X3 is a very nice vehicle - no disputing that. My biggest problem with it is objective value. It costs $18,000 more than the Mazda CX-5 GT. The BMW X3 is made in the USA - and, frankly, that's not an asset. BMW is - like the other two so-called elite German carmakers - sufficiently audacious to sting you the best part of $2000 for any colour but solid white. (Mazda: $0 for most colours. $200 for red. Hyundai will charge you $600 for premium paint.)

You get 19-inch alloys on the Mazda CX-5 GT; 18-inch on both the BMW X3 and Hyundai ix35 Highlander.

There is similar engine performance, between the Mazda CX-5 GT and the BMW X3, although the BMW's eight-speed auto transmission is a joke (in my view). Because the BMW (petrol) makes the same torque from 1250-4500rpm, it hardly needs that many ratios… (As in, they’re not a benefit.) So with the Mazda CX-5 you get the same or better features/performance for $18k less. 

20i & 20d

2015 BMW X3.jpg

Price: $61,100 (RRP, petrol) 
$64,700 (RRP, diesel) 
Safety: five-star
Manufactured: USA
Warranty: 3yr/100,000km
Seats: five

Engine: 2.0-litre diesel 4cyl
Power: 140kW @ 4000rpm
Torque: 400Nm @ 1750-2500rpm
Fuel: diesel
Economy: 5.4L/100km

Engine: 2.0-litre diesel 4cyl
Power: 135kW @ 6250rpm
Torque: 270Nm @ 1250-4500rpm
Fuel: 95 RON unleaded
Economy: 7.5L/100km

Trans: 8sp auto
Length: 4.648m
Width: 1.881m
Height: 1.675m
Kerb weight: 1720kg
Towing: 2000kg
Tyres: 245/50R18 on 8.0-inch alloy
Full-sized alloy spare wheel & tyre

Mazda CX-5

2015 Mazda CX-5.jpg

Price: $43,390 (RRP, petrol) 
$46,590 (RRP, diesel) 
Safety: five-star
Manufactured: Japan
Warranty: 3yr/100,000km
Seats: five

Engine: 2.2-litre diesel 4cyl
Power: 129kW @ 4500rpm
Torque: 420Nm @ 2000rpm
Fuel: diesel
Economy: 5.7L/100km

Engine: 2.5-litre diesel 4cyl
Power: 138kW @ 5700rpm
Torque: 250Nm @ 4000rpm
Fuel: 91 RON unleaded
Economy: 7.4L/100km

Trans: 6sp auto
Length: 4.540m
Width: 1.840m
Height: 1.710m
Kerb weight: 1627kg
Towing: 1800kg
Tyres: 225/55R19 on 7.0-inch alloy
Space saver spare wheel & tyre

Hyundai ix35

2015 Hyundai ix35.jpg

Price: $40,990 (RRP, petrol) 
$38,590 (RRP, diesel) 
Safety: five-star
Manufactured: South Korea
Warranty: 5yr/Unlimited km
Seats: five

Engine: 2.0-litre diesel 4cyl
Power: 135kW @ 4000rpm
Torque: 392Nm @ 1800-2500rpm
Fuel: diesel
Economy: 7.2L/100km

Engine: 2.4-litre diesel 4cyl
Power: 136kW @ 6000rpm
Torque: 240Nm @ 4000rpm
Fuel: 91 RON unleaded
Economy: 9.8L/100km

Trans: 6sp auto
Length: 4.410m
Width: 1.820m
Height: 1.680m
Kerb weight: 1708kg
Towing: 1600kg
Tyres: 225/55R18 on 6.5-inch alloy
Full-sized alloy spare wheel & tyre

Having said this, it’s OK to buy the BMW X3. It will seem nicer - potentially. There are intangibles at play. A Casio G-Shock watch would a) keep better time and b) be more robust - but James Bond still wears an Omega...


Diesel: The particle filters do require a run on the highway to regenerate (as in: burn the particles away, and un-clog themselves). It’s outrageous that the car industry routinely deploys these filters knowing many owners don’t do that requisite highway driving - and the details are locked away in the fine print. The industry is in effect knowingly consigning these owners to expensive repairs in the future.

On the plus side for diesel, it’s not just the economy that’s a reason to buy the diesel. Diesel performs better for most driving.

Let me explain. Taking the Mazda CX-3 as an example: The 2.0-litre petrol makes 109kW @ 6000rpm and 192Nm @ 2800rpm. The 1.5 diesel makes 77kW @ 4000rpm and 270Nm @ 1600-2500rpm. These are peak outputs at wide-open thrrottle against a balancing load. (I know: diesels don’t have throttles. It’s irrelevant here…) So, the petrol is going to be faster around a racetrack. When you’re revving its tits off, that’s going to exploit the petrol’s greater peak power generation. But normal driving is not like that. 

To digress: Power = torque x rotational speed. Kilowatts are Newton-metres per second. So let’s assume the petrol is able to deliver a peak of 190Nm at 2500rpm. (Seems reasonable…) The diesel can deliver 270Nm at 2500rpm. Ususally you don’t need all that, so you back off the accelerator and you cruise up the highway at 2500rpm. But if you need to accelerate, you nudge the throttle, and the diesel can deliver 42 per cent more power at those revs. Which is why they feel so much more - literally - powerful, at mid revs.

Performance in the real world is definitely a justification in and of itself for buying the diesel.

Read my full report on petrol -vs- diesel here >>

On buying this vehicle (whichever one you choose): Let me get the brokerage to call you. They’re the independent experts who can get the best price on your new SUV. They can also help with a good trade-in and competitive, low-rate finance for individuals and businesses, if you need either of those things. They make buying a car easy.