The Mazda CX-5 Akera diesel is what a mainstream five-seat SUV looks like, flying business class … and these are the top six reasons to buy one. I’ll also tell you what I hate about it, just for balance.
I also have a full-range Mazda CX-5 review here >>
Mazda CX-5 was released in 2012 - and it’s already had a mid-life makeover. Same engineering fundamentals - but with a bit of a nip and a tuck. It’s quieter, and tweaked in numerous small ways to bring it into line with other, more recently introduced Mazdas. Here’s what makes it such a compelling choice.
The CX-5 Akera diesel is a sensational ownership proposition up the pointy end of the five-seat SUV domain. You know, if the glorified Volkswagen builders at Audi, the three-pointed pretenders at Mercedes-Benz or the Bavarian Money Wasters could build this vehicle with their badges, at this price - it would be utterly revolutionary. (For them.)
Need a seven-seat SUV? Read my list of the top six 7-seat SUVs here >>
The 2015 Mazda CX-5 Akera gets almost everything standard. (Automated reverse parking is the only thing I can think of that it doesn’t get.) If you were to print out the list of Mazda CX-5 Akera diesel standard features in 12-point Times New Roman, they’ll be able to see it in the International Space Station.
This is important because of the underlying commercial strategy - here’s a great value vehicle up-front. Here’s the price: Enjoy. Many other brands will try to get you in the door for $50,000 - and then they’ll try to up-sell you into $20,000 worth of options and extras.
In this latter commercial case, you walk out the door feeling more than a bit violated, scratching your head about where the extra $20k - which you usually can’t afford - went.
Fully loaded, what you see it what you get with this SUV - all the advanced features standard. One option: red paint, $200. Talk nicely, they’ll throw it in. That’s the Mazda CX-5 Akera diesel specification experience.
CX-5 AKERA SMASHES EURO COMPETITORS
List price of the 2015 Mazda CX-5 Akera diesel is $50,610 plus on-road costs, here in Australia. So this is not a cheap SUV. You can buy a German SUV for that kind of spend. Get the badge you always aspired to.
A spend of $55,000 (rrp) gets you into an Audi Q3 TDI S tronic. BMW will happily sell you an X1 xDrive 20d all day long for $56,900 (rrp), and the three-pointed Teutons at Benz will try to cram a GLA 200 CDI down your throat for the ‘paltry’ sum of just $48,300 (rrp) - all plus on-road costs.
Left to right, above: Audi Q3, BMW X1 and Mercedes-Benz GLA
Everyone’s a brand snob. I get that. But let’s throw the badges away. These four SUVs are practically the same size. There’s a hand span in the length - at best - between them. But the three Germans are all stripped-out poverty packs. You need to spend thousands to option them up. Tens of thousands in the case of the Audi - that brand’s practise of stripping out the car and violating you financially just to get a decent spec is ethically reprehensible. And - bit of salt for those wounds - they’re all going to charge you north of a grand for premium paint. Outrageous.
Look: if you’ve never had a premium branded car, unless you’re spending megabucks it’s a bit like sex with a supermodel. (And, no, haven’t tried it. But any supermodels watching: next Tuesday after five is good for me.) The analogy is: the concept, the idea - it’s better than the reality. Like, I’d always wanted to drive a Ferrari, right? Always. Big goal. And then I got the chance. Two days in a 550 Maranello. Sex with a supermodel. And it was good. But it wasn’t as good as the fantasy I’d had for 30 years. And an Audi Q3 is only a supermodel in the broadest possible sense...
People fall for it, though. All the time. $2700 to remove the 17-inch alloys on the Audi Q3, and bolt up a set of 19s, which the CX-5 Akera has standard - I couldn’t look someone in the eye and sell them that.
MAZDA’S SERVICING COSTS
Mazda’s servicing costs are totally affordable. The service interval on the CX-5 Akera diesel is 12 months or 10,000 kilometres. So if you drive an average 15,000 kilometres every year you’ll need a service every eight months on average.
That’s going to cost you between $300-$400 depending on the service - for the first 16 scheduled services, which is about 10 years, right? Hardly going to break the bank there. Diesel fuel filter: $91. Engine air filter: $100.
Good luck matching those kinds of prices over at the German brands, with your poverty-pack, stripped-out GLA. Ownership costs are absolutely minimised at Mazda.
EXCELLENT QUALITY CONTROL
The Japanese have the automotive market cornered on quality control. It’s that simple. You’ve got to give it to the Europeans on styling, but when it comes to putting cars together repeatably and reliably: Japan. Every time. And South Korea is getting there. The Japanese are worried about that.
So, which Japanese players are up there, right now? The fact is, the Global Financial Crisis and the Tohoku tsunami were a kind of economic double-tap to some Japanese carmakers. Mitsubishi is struggling to get back in the game right now. Nissan is, apparently, rudderless in many ways. And Honda is on its meds, in a rubber room. It’s just a tragedy.
Toyota is a powerhouse. Therefore, so’s Lexus - but Toyota is ultra-conservative. Staid. Even boring - except for the 86, which rocks.
Mazda is match fit, it’s dynamic, enthusiastic, innovative and becoming the BMW of the East - kinda like Honda was in the 1990s. Mazda is currently building the best-built cars on Earth - and the CX-5 is one of the best-built Mazdas. Join the dots.
SUPERIOR DESIGN FUNDAMENTALS
Harking back to these Germans: The Audi Q3 and the Benz GLA have a dual-clutch transmission. Dual clutch transmissions have their place. They’re great to drive in performance cars. Super-fast, positive shifts. Awesome.
But these are SUVs. If you’re just driving like a normal motorist, a dual-clutch transmission is a disadvantage. Not as good as a conventional auto. And the track record of terrible reliability on dual-clutch transmissions is enough to keep any out-of-warranty owner awake at night.
Alternatively, you can pick yourself up the works burger of Mitsubishi Outlanders or Nissan X-TRAILs for slightly less, but similar, amounts of cash. But they’re both CVTs - continuously variable transmissions. (Although the diesel Outlander is a conventional auto - with Outlander, it’s just the petrols that are CVT.) The CVT is not as nice to drive, however hard the manufacturers are working to implement smarter software to make them feel less reprehensible.
So, with the CX-5 Akera diesel, you’ve got a grunty engine driving a slick, conventional six-speed auto. In engineering it’s called ‘elegant design’. The package just works properly.
MAZDA DIESEL ENGINE BEATS COMPETITORS
Let’s look at those Germans again. (That allegedly superior engineering.) The Mazda engine just kills them. And it dismembers their bodies. Then it buries them in a shallow grave in the bush and comes back to spit on that grave every week until the heat death of the universe.
The Mazda CX-5 Akera diesel delivers 11 per cent more peak torque than the BMW and the Audi, and 33 per cent more torque than that shitbox GLA. The BMW’s 2.0-litre engine makes the most power: 135 kilowatts against the Mazda’s 129. So that proposition is: would you prefer to have less than five per cent more power at the revs you’ll never drive at, or 11 per cent more torque at the revs you’ll drive at all day long? I don’t think we need Stephen Hawking to answer this one…
So, on performance as well as on features, this is a no-brain issue. I might be pushing several thousand kilos of idiot uphill here, recreationally, because badge snobs hate the whole premium brand pants-pull-down thing, but you’re a nut if you buy one of these German pretenders ahead of the the CX-5 Akera diesel. The Germans don’t know how to build an affordable SUV, and they don’t look like learning how to do it any time soon.
Meanwhile, back on Planet Mainstream, very few of the competing five-seat diesel SUV’s can keep up with the CX-5 Akera diesel. The Nissan X-TRAIL, Mitsubishi Outlander and Toyota RAV4 diesels are all out-gunned directly.
The Hyundai-Kia 2.0-litre diesel is wound up pretty tight. It makes around five per cent more power, but seven per cent less peak torque - and the Sportage or ix35 it comes wrapped in definitely can’t match the CX-5 Akera on equipment levels.
This is a compelling case for buying the Mazda CX-5 Akera diesel, but I’m not a Mazda evangelist and the Akera diesel is certainly not perfect. So here’s what I hate:
- i-Stop has to change. All Mazda has to do is let you turn it off, and then have it stay off until you turn it back on again. At the moment this active-on-restart default arrangement just sucks - and it’s even more reprehensible on the diesel because the autonomous re-starts against the diesel’s greater compression are profoundly hateful. This is an easy fix, too.
- The diesel particle filter - well that’s a reason not to buy the diesel if you don’t get out on the highway regularly. So that’s bad.
- The Mazda warranty - at three years and 100,000 kilometres, it’s not up there with Hyundai, Kia or Mitsubishi, and I think Mazda needs to step up. On such a reliable vehicle range, adding another two years would make a real difference to consumers, and there would be with hardly any bottom-line penalty for Mazda.
- Finally, the space-saver spare tyre. Tokyo traffic: OK. This is an SUV designed for open roads in Australia - space savers are a joke in that context. Sorry. They’re dangerous and inconvenient - especially on the freeway. Limited to 80km/h - I’ve had fun; that’s not it. How hard would it be to have a full-sized alloy wheel and spare tyre? Hyundai and Kia manage it all the time.
These are easy things to fix. But if they did, I’d have almost nothing to criticise. And I’m just not happy until I’ve found something to be unhappy about, in a car. If you need more information you can contact me below, and I will personally help you save thousands buying the right vehicle at the right price.