Mazda CX-5: Car Review
Great fun to drive, but the hard ride takes its toll.
What’s it like?
The Mazda CX-5 is roomy and practical enough to make a fine family car. Its sports-car character is entertaining on the right road, but ride comfort and refinement could be better.
Would it help me stay safe?
‘Smart City Brake Support’ is a system which applies the brakes at low speeds (up to 19mph) if sensors detect an imminent collision, plus the Mazda comes with all the usual airbags and stability aids.
Who should buy it and how much does it cost?
The CX-5 would suit any SUV buyer who values performance and handling. Prices range from £21,395 to £28,995.
Our review: Good Motoring, Autumn 2012
DRIVING AND PERFORMANCE
Mazda’s tagline for the new CX-5 is “Introducing the family SUV that drives like a sports car.” Allowing for a little advertising exaggeration, that sums up the car rather well – for better and worse.
For better, because the Mazda is great fun to drive. Our test drive took place on near-empty roads in the Scottish Highlands, and the CX-5 cornered eagerly with incisive steering and plenty of grip. Sharp dips and crests that would have your stomach in your mouth in some SUVs never unsettled the Mazda.
The lightest model, the two-wheel drive 163bhp petrol, feels especially agile, turning into corners as crisply as a hot hatch. The engine feels well capable of the claimed 0-62mph time of 9.2 seconds.
The best-seller is expected to be the front-wheel drive 148bhp diesel, and we can see why. It’s right in the sweet spot for performance, economy and value. With 280lb/ft of torque, there’s more than enough clout for swift overtaking. It’s not as quiet as the petrol but the diesel clatter largely stays in the background.
If you want more performance, there’s no arguing with the most powerful diesel 4×4 model. With 173bhp and 309lb/ft of torque, acceleration lives up to the sports car billing, and four-wheel drive helps get all that power to the road even in the wet. It’s the pick of the range if you plan to tow a caravan or horsebox, but the less powerful 2WD diesel is strong enough for most tastes and considerably cheaper.
Both diesel engines can be had with an auto for only a slight penalty in economy, although to our mind the pleasing precision of the manual ’box better suits the car’s press-on character.
So far so good, but there are downsides to the CX-5’s sporty nature. The firm suspension, which seems perfectly judged on an empty country road, is rather stiff around town, and at motorway speeds wind and road noise intrude a little too much.
SPACE AND PRACTICALITY
The CX-5 is more spacious than most similarly priced SUVs. The driver and front-seat passenger have plenty of room, and there’s enough adjustment for the driver’s seat and wheel to suit most shapes and sizes. The dashboard is sensibly laid out although the finish quality can’t match that of some more upmarket rivals.
There’s plenty of room in the back – more than you’ll find in an Audi Q3, for example. A six-foot passenger can comfortably fit behind a six-foot driver, and the cabin is wide enough to seat three abreast without too much elbow-rubbing. It’s a shame there are no vents to blow chilled air at rear-seat passengers’ faces, though.
Luggage space is generous, with 503 litres to fill with the rear seats upright. Fold them down and you’ll have a near-flat load area and 1620 litres to fill. Since the back seats are spring loaded it only takes a moment to lower them.
There’s no shortage of safety equipment whichever model you choose. Six airbags, seatbelt pretensioners and stability control are standard across the range.
That much you might expect, but the CX-5 also features some more unusual safety features. Smart City Brake Support (SCBS) monitors the gap between the Mazda and the car in front using lasers. At speeds of 19mph or less, if it detects that a collision is likely it will automatically apply the brakes.
The Safety Pack is a £700 option on AWD Sport models, and includes a Lane Departure Warning System that detects if the car is drifting out of lane without the driver indicating. It also includes High Beam Control which automatically switches from high to low-beam if an oncoming vehicle is approaching. The Rear Vehicle Monitoring system is also part of the Safety Pack, and warns drivers if there is a vehicle in the blind spot by means of a light in the door mirror on the relevant side of the car. All clever stuff, and good value at £700. However, we’d like to see Mazda make this technology available throughout the range as well as on the top-spec models.
Crash test experts at Euro NCAP have awarded the Mazda CX-5 a five-star rating.
You could stock a branch of Dixons with all the electronic gadgets fitted as standard. Even SE-L spec models have dual-zone climate control, Bluetooth, cruise control and 17-inch alloys.
Sport models gain 19-inch alloys, xenon headlights, a reversing camera and a powerful Bose stereo with nine speakers. As the name implies, SE-L NAV and Sport NAV models add satellite navigation to the standard spec.
The only options are metallic paint and the Safety Pack described above.
Prices start from £21,395 for the most basic 2WD petrol. That’s good value for an SUV of this size and performance.
Diesel prices start from £22,995. That buys the 150PS 2WD in SE-L spec. It sits in insurance group 20, Vehicle Excise Duty Band C, and promises 61.4mpg on the combined cycle.
The more powerful 175PS diesel is only available with four-wheel drive. It costs from £27,195. It’s in insurance group 23, Vehicle Excise Duty Band E, and returns 54.3mpg according to the official figures.
Impressive resale values also keep the cost of ownership down.
Practical, fun and good value, but the ride is too firm.
AT A GLANCE:
Performance: 0-62mph in 9.2 seconds
Insurance: 20 (1-50)
Tax: Band C (£0 first year)
Verdict : 8/10
(Figures for 2.2 2WD SKYACTIV-D SE-L)