The CX-5, Mazda’s mid-sized SUV/Crossover was launched in New Zealand in 2012, with the current facelifted model becoming available in 2015. Using Mazda’s ‘KODO – Soul of Motion’ design language it fits in well with the rest of the current range of cars, and is packed with technology.

It seems everyone wants an SUV at the moment and almost all of the manufacturers have a range of them, Mazda included. Let’s see how it stacks up against the competition in this crowded market segment.

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The CX-5 is available as a front wheel drive with a 2.0l petrol engine, or a four-wheel drive with either a 2.5l petrol or 2.2l turbodiesel. All come with the same 6 speed Skyactiv auto transmission. There’s an impressive amount of technology, including automatic lights and wipers, keyless entry and start, Hill Launch Assist, Lane Keep Assist, Tyre Pressure Monitoring, Mazda’s i-ACTIVESENSE safety technology, which includes Adaptive LED headlamps, Radar Cruise, Blind Spot Monitor, Forward Obstruction Warning with Smart Brake Support, Smart City Brake Support, and ABS, Electronic Brake Force Distribution, Electronic Brake Assist, Stability Control, Driver Attention Alert, the list goes on!

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First Impressions

Our test CX-5 was the top Limited spec with the 2.2l turbodiesel engine, and it came in Mazda’s signature colour, Soul Red Metallic. The car looks great in a bold colour like this and the 19” machined alloy wheels really set it off. It’s available in eight colours, with the Soul Red costing an additional $250 because its deep finish requires more layers of paint.

Step up into the CX-5 and it’s really rather nice. The carpets and seats in the Limited model are all black, but the beige headliner and large windows stop it from feeling overly dark. There’s an electrically operated sunroof if you like to feel the wind in your hair. Contrasting coloured stitching is available as an option on the seats, as is white leather if that’s your thing. There are bold chromed highlights on the doors, wheel and dashboard which I think look great, and lift the perception of quality in the interior. Everything is nicely finished and feels appropriately solid and well made. The view from the driver’s seat is excellent despite the fat A-pillars. They never got in my way at roundabouts like they can in some cars.

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There’s a central touch screen in the dash with the climate and heated seat controls below it. In front of the driver are three gauge pods containing a rev counter, speedo and circular digital information display, all lit very clearly in white. There’s a small array of buttons on the steering wheel to control the phone, stereo and cruise control, and on the central console where you’d normally see the handbrake lever is another cluster of buttons and knobs to control the infotainment and nav system. This sounds like a lot of buttons, and it is compared to some cars, but everything is well laid-out and after a few minutes to familiarise yourself, everything falls nicely to hand and is easy to find.

The perforated leather seats are comfortable with enough padding for the longer journeys and enough side support for the twisty roads. The front seats have three stage heaters, though they seem curiously warm with the heaters off. Must be the seat padding retaining body heat. Both front seats are also electrically adjustable, with the driver’s seat having two memory positions which can be linked to the two keys. The leather-clad steering wheel is nicely shaped, and not too big, and it adjusts for reach and height. There are knee pads on the sides of the centre console for driver and passenger, which add to the comfort level on longer journeys.

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Rear seats are split 40/20/40 and can be dropped flat really easily with levers set into the sides of the boot. There are ISOfix mounts as well as anchor points for child seat tethers. The boot is a good size for all of your family’s gear, and there’s a full sized spare wheel and tool kit under the floor. It would have been nice to see some tethers or hooks in the boot sides for a bit of extra flexibility in loading. There’s a pull-out tonneau cover for the boot which clips to the rear door and stretches out as it’s opened. This is a clever idea as you don’t need to retract the cover manually to load the boot. One thing I noticed was the boot lid when fully opened is only about 4cm above my head, so for anyone 6ft or over it would be just the right height for a bump on the head!

In the front there’s a good-sized glove box as well as a large central storage bin in the arm rest. Inside the central bin you’ll find a power socket and a removable coin tray. There are large cup holders in the central console as well as bottle holders in the doors.

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What’s it like to live with?

For me, the first test of a car these days is its Bluetooth integration, and the CX-5 passed this test with ease. The system is easy to navigate using the touch screen or the nicely knurled knob in the centre console. It’s a twist and click knob which can also be used like a joystick and it quickly becomes effortless to use. There’s a radio, CD player, 3.5mm audio jack as well as two USB ports, and integration with Spotify and other apps. The Limited model has a Bose 231 watt amplifier and nine speakers and it sounds really good. Clear, with decent bass. The phone integration worked flawlessly and calls were clear at both ends.

There’s voice control for a lot of the functions: push a button on the steering wheel and say commands, and you can perform lots of functions such as searching the phone address book, skipping tracks on the stereo etc. This worked pretty well with it occasionally responding “Pardon?”, which amused my daughter, and sometimes saying “This function is only available for USB connected devices”. There are several excellent tutorials which lead you through the system and its commands.

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Push the engine start button and you’re instantly aware you’re in a diesel. It’s not overly noisy but there is a little vibration when it’s cold. I found the electrically operated parking brake button a bit fiddly at first but I soon got used to it. Pulling out into traffic, I was quite surprised at how well the CX-5 moved! The 2.2 litre turbodiesel makes a respectable 129kW, but the 420Nm of torque is the more relevant figure here. Combining that with Mazda’s super smooth-shifting six speed SkyActiv transmission makes for a satisfying drive. The next thing I noticed was the Lane Assist. The array of sensors and cameras at the top of the windscreen monitor the road lines and if you start to drift out of your lane without indicating, it gently nudges the steering back to the correct line. It’s a little eerie at first but these systems can be great on dark roads, where the car can “see” the lines better than you can.

There’s Blind Spot Monitoring as well – an amber light comes on in the mirror if there’s a car in your blind spot, and if you are indicating in that direction there’s an audible warning as well.

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Added to this is Forward Obstruction Warning which senses if a collision is likely and prompts you to take evasive action via audible and visual alerts. If it thinks you might crash it applies initial pressure to the brakes, enabling faster response should you brake. If you take evasive action the system de-activates. If no evasive action is taken, the brakes are applied automatically to prevent or minimise the effect of a collision. There’s a similar system for low speeds, which works forwards up to 30kph and even works in reverse up to 8kph.

There’s a reversing camera, as well as front and rear parking radar, which can be activated at the push of a button if you’re going into a space forwards. It overlays a diagram on the screen showing distances to nearby objects all around, as well as an audible warning.

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When I got out of town I engaged the radar cruise control, which is fantastic – set the desired speed using the buttons on the steering wheel – the set speed is shown on the display – and if the car in front slows down, so do you, going back up to the set speed when possible. This takes a lot of the annoyance out of using cruise control when following a car that is varying its speed. It won’t come to a complete stop – if the car in front slows to less than 30kph, the car beeps and cruise is disabled. Another clever feature is Driver Attention Alert – when speeds above 65km/h are sustained for longer periods, the system monitors driver inputs and provides a visual warning if it detects signs of fatigue. It also prompts the driver to take breaks every two hours.

We had some friends visiting Wellington for the weekend and decided to treat them to a trip to Staglands, my daughter’s happy place! They tell me they were comfortable in the back and had plenty of room with my daughter’s child seat on one side and them sitting in the other two rear seats. Legroom in the back is excellent, and the seats are comfortable, with no complaints on the two hour-long trips.

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We tested out the satnav, which gives clear directions without being too bossy, and has some nice features, like 3D buildings in the city, current speed limit display (which has a yellow square around it it you go 5kph over). It show points of interest and petrol stations, and shows what roads are coming up for the next couple of junctions on the motorway. You can’t set a destination using the screen when driving though. Obviously this is a safety feature. A few other functions are disabled when driving such as phone pairing.

So the CX-5 has a lot of safety equipment and technology, but what’s it like to drive? Pretty good actually. The aforementioned torque figure means it’s no slouch up motorway on-ramps, and it gives a nice push when accelerating out of corners. The transmission shifts so smoothly that most of the time you barely notice it. The electric power steering is light at low speeds, but feels pleasantly weighted on faster roads. The suspension is quite firm, and you occasionally feel ruts or pot holes a little more than you might expect, but this is balanced by minimal body roll for a large, high car. This is probably more down to the 19” wheels fitted on the Limited than the suspension itself, which 99% of the time just quietly and smoothly does what it should.

In fact that sort of sums up the way the CX-5 feels to drive. Everything does its job well, to the extent that you hardly notice it. It’s easy to drive, easy to live with and everything just works.

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What it’s up against

Brand / ModelEnginePowerDrivetrainFuel L/100kmPrice Highest to Lowest
Ford Territory TX2.7l 6 cylinder turbodiesel140kW/440Nm6 speed sports auto8.8$59,990
Hyundai IX35 Elite Limited2.0l 4 cylinder turbodiesel135kW/392Nm6 speed sports auto7.2$58,990
Holden Captiva LTZ2.2l 4 cylinder turbodiesel135kW/400Nm6 speed sports auto8.1$56,990
Mitsubishi Outlander VR-X2.2l 4 cylinder turbodiesel112kW/366Nm6 speed auto6.2$56,990
Mazda CX-5 Limited2.2l 4 cylinder turbodiesel129kW/420Nm6 speed auto5.7$56,795
Subaru Forester Premium2.0l 4 cylinder turbo petrol177kW/350Nm4 speed CVT8.5$54,990
Ssangyong Rexton SPR 3602.0l 4 cylinder turbodiesel114kW/360Nm5 speed sports auto7.3$54,990
Kia Sportage GT Line2.0l 4 cylinder turbodiesel136kW/400Nm6 speed sports auto6.8$54,990
Toyota RAV4 GXL2.2l 4 cylinder turbodiesel110kW/340Nm6 speed sports auto6.6$51,990

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The good and the bad.

ProsCons
  • Torquey engine
  • Impressive tech and safety features
  • Quality interior
  • Plenty of space
  • Boot lid height would be a hazard for taller people

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What do we think?

The CX-5 is loaded with technology and safety equipment, but it’s all simple to operate and nothing is intrusive. It’s smart looking, has loads of space inside, and comes with a five year unlimited km warranty. It’s one of those cars which is competent at pretty much everything your family can throw at it and I think it’s excellent value.

Rating – Chevron rating 4.5 out of 5

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Vehicle TypeMedium Family SUV/Crossover
Starting Price$39,745 + On road costs (2wd petrol GSX)

$56,795 + On road costs (4wd diesel Limited)

Tested Price$57,045 + On road costs
EngineSKYACTIV-D 2.2 litre in-line, 4-cylinder, 16 valve, DOHC intercooled turbo diesel engine with i-stop
TransmissionSKYACTIV-DRIVE 6-speed Automatic with Manual Mode
0 – 100 kphNot quoted
Kerb Weight1,686kg
Length x Width x Height4540 x 1840 x 1710mm
Cargo CapacityWith rear seats up – 403 litres

With rear seats down – 1560 litres

Fuel Tank58 litres
ANCAP Safety Ratings5 stars
Towing Capacity750kg unbraked

1800kg braked

Warranty3 year/100,000km (whichever occurs first) servicing
5 year/unlimited Km Roadside Assistance
5 year/unlimited Km New Vehicle Warranty
5 year/unlimited Km Corrosion and Anti-perforation Warranty

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I love everything about cars! Driving, looking at them, modifying. It's great to see what people do with cars, the different car cultures. If I was rich, my garage would be bigger than my house!

4 COMMENTS

  1. Hi Rob,

    In your opinion, do you think this diesel version Mazda CX5 is a better car and a better buy in all respects than the newly released VW Tiquan TDI Highline 4Motion model retailing at $59,990?

    I was considering buying the VW model, but now after reading your excellent review of the Mazda diesel CX5, l am not so sure.

    Thanks!!

    Phillip

  2. Hi Rob,
    Have you heard of partial seizure and brake down of rear brake system due to electronic hand brake not retracting properly. My 6 month old CX5 has just experienced that and is of the road till parts can be found. No warning signals came up until too late when tyre pressure gauge came on due to overheating.

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