Like the rest of the world, New Zealand is gobbling up SUVs and crossovers like it’s an all-you can eat buffet. Last year the mid-size SUV category made up 15% of all overall new car sales in the country. That’s more than medium-sized sedans, large-sized sedans, people movers, and vans combined. It does seem most families are going down the SUV route.

Who can blame them? On the face of it SUVs and crossovers make a good case for themselves as the ideal family car. There’s space, security, and ease of use. Petrolheads may argue that wagons are better suited for the job, having a lower centre of gravity and better driving dynamics. But clearly the majority of buyers don’t care about that.

Which brings us to the Mazda CX-5. Not only is this Mazda’s best selling car in New Zealand accounting for a quarter of their sales in the country, it’s also the second most popular SUV behind the Kia Sportage. Like a lot of recent cars coming out of Hiroshima, the CX-5 promises to be a family-friendly package for people that prefer their cars to be more than mere appliances.

The Range

The second-generation CX-5 will be offered with a choice petrol and diesel engines in New Zealand. Petrol buyers will get a choice between a 2.0-litre petrol powering either the front wheels or all four. A larger 2.5-litre petrol is also available but only with all-wheel drive. Still with me?

Diesel buyers only get one choice and that’s with the brilliant 2.2-litre SkyActivD engine as previously tested in the Mazda6 Wagon. It’s only available with all-wheel drive, which is a shame because the car I’m testing here is the SkyActiv D Limited powering just the front wheels makes a lot of sense for driving around town.

First Impressions

Mazda can’t seem to do a thing wrong these days. Their range keeps getting better and better as each generation is released, not a feat that can be said for most manufacturers these days let alone mainstream ones. The outgoing CX-5 is still a handsome looking SUV even after all these years and this one builds on those good looks.

It’s sleeker, sharper, and more in line with the rest of its newer CX siblings. Looks are subjective but in my opinion the CX-5 is one of the best looking car its class, if not the best looking. I’d even go as far as to say it’s one of the best looking SUVs on the market right now.

The new car is a little longer, a little bit wider, and just a tad lower than the car it replaces. It’s just about the right size for a SUV that’ll primarily be used to ferry children around town. The CX-5 could do with larger wheels to make it look a little bit sportier but that’d compromise the ride, and we can’t have that.

My test car’s Soul Crystal Red Metallic colour certainly helped. It’s a new paint designed for the new CX-5 and I urge, beg, and plead to anyone thinking of getting a CX-5 to please not go for the obvious neutral shades and get this colour instead. Yes it’s it’ll cost a little extra but just look at it.

The Inside

Like the exterior, Mazda has knocked it out of the park with the interior. By far and away the interiors from Hiroshima are the best from Japan. The rest of the Japanese manufacturers, yes even the posh ones, could learn a thing or two from Mazda.

The design is simple and fuss-free, the controls are easy to find and use, and the materials have a premium feel to them. By materials I do mean plural because there’s at least six or seven different materials used inside. A little consistency never hurt anybody Mazda.

Nevertheless, the ones you felt and looked at the most were what you’d expect from a car costing around $50,000. I do like the updated heads-up display. On other Mazdas, and the mid-spec GSX trim cars, the HUD was simply a flip up screen. In this new car it’s a much larger display projected onto the windscreen. Speed, sat-nav directions, sonar warnings, and road signs are displayed on the HUD. It’s very futuristic and made me feel like I was piloting the Starship Enterprise.

It all felt very, Bavarian. That continues with the infotainment system, or the MZD Connect. Mazda has been doing the touch screen and rotary dial control for years while BMW only just joined the party. It’s a great system to use. It’s largely unchanged from the Mazda6 I previously tested, with the 7-inch screen now sticking out of the dash for a more modern look.

I could go on about how impressed I was at the CX-5’s interior, especially when you compare it to some of its Japanese rivals. But it’s also good for carrying people too. Being a little bit wider and longer than the outgoing model there’s ample space for four adults inside. The middle seat wasn’t so bad either, it’s not a hump like in other cars. However, in the all-wheel drive models the transmission tunnel maybe an issue.

What passengers won’t be complaining about is comfort. All passengers, bar the unfortunate soul sat in the middle seat at the back, get heated seats. The driver also gets a heated steering wheel. There’s lots of cubby holes dotted around the cabin to put whatever it is families need to store.

For larger things the boot opens and closes electrically. No manual labour required here. You do have to touch the boot though, whereas some of its rivals’ boots can be opened by waving your foot under the bumper. When the boot is finally opened you’ve got 455L of storage to play with. The rear seats fold down with a 60/40 split too increasing that to 1355L. Again, that’s slightly more than the car it replaces.

One nice touch with the boot is the little net cover which lets you see into the interior while the boot is up. Because you know, parents need to keep an eye on their children.

The Drive

Here’s where the CX-5 impresses. Yes it’s a family SUV from a mainstream Japanese brand so that should foreshadow a sensible car at best. Most of the time though, whenever I drive one of these types of cars I feel every ounce of enthusiasm leaving my body. It’s like the automotive equivalent of getting a vasectomy.

Not so in the CX-5. Sure, it won’t be winning any Grand Prix anytime soon but for a car of this type it’s surprisingly good to drive. The diesel engine is a torque machine. 420NM isn’t an insignificant amount of grunt and for most everyday situations it’s plenty. It’s also quite frugal. Mazda claims an average fuel consumption of 6L/100km, I got pretty close with 7.3L/100km.

It sounded quite nice too, for a diesel. It made a low growl and is a testament to how far diesels have come in recent years. The stop/start system shuts down all the rattly idle noise usually associated with diesels too. On a cruise the diesel hushes to a refined volume. There were times I did forget it was a diesel engine up front.

The steering was light yet provided all the communication I could want from the front wheels. The controls felt tight and solid, not the norm for Japanese cars. It’s not a pulse-racing thing but you do get the sense it was made and developed by people who wanted it to be more than a tool to get from A to B.

It’s got something called G-Vectoring Control, which sounds like a special ops division. What it does is it takes away some of the torque when you turn into a corner then as you exit pushes the torque back to the powered wheels to aid traction. Clever stuff and gives you the confidence it’ll stick on to the road on those last-minute school run dashes.

There’s not much point in me talking about this car’s cornering ability because that’s not what it was designed for but body roll is kept in check nicely. It doesn’t lean as much as others in class, which is a good thing if you have easily car-sick passengers in the back. That could do with the 15 percent stiffer body than the previous CX-5.

It rode nicely too. The suspension is supple and absorbs bumps well. Admittedly, it’s not the softest in its class. There are others out there with cushier rides but the CX-5 is one of the best to balance decent ride comfort and body roll control.

Over a long distance drive the CX-5 felt like a good companion and could go on for many more miles. The car came with radar guided cruise control as standard, couple that with the large wing mirrors (which are heated by the way), blind spot assist and lane departure warning meant motorway driving was a breeze.

The CX-5’s safety features are seemingly endless. The spec sheet is an acronym orgy with things like ALH (Adaptive LED – hell, there’s even acronyms within acronyms now – Headlights), SBS (Smart Brake Support), SCBS-R (Smart City Brake Support – Reverse), DAA (Driver Attention Alert), RCTA (Rear Cross Traffic Alert), TSR (Traffic Sign Recognition), and ASCBS-F (Advanced Smart City Brake Support – Forward). That’s on top of the aforementioned MRCC (Mazda Radar Cruise Control), LDW (Lane Departure Warning), LAS (Lane Assist System) and BSM (Blind Spot Monitoring). Basically, all this means the CX-5 is easy and stress-free to drive.

Around town, the CX-5’s ideal dimensions made it light work to weave through urban traffic. In a city as dense and as busy as Tokyo, the CX-5 never felt cumbersome or intimidating to drive. The light steering made it easy to zip through small streets and parking lots too.

The raised ride height means going over speed bumps and car park ramps is light work. Getting in and out is easy too, you sort of just step in rather than climb on. That also means putting stuff in the boot doesn’t require a lot of lifting. It’s all very sensible and practical.

The Competition

Brand/Model Engine Power (kW)/Torque (NM) Fuel L/100km CO2 g/km Price – High to Low
Hyundai Tucson 2.0-litre, four-cylinder diesel 136kW/400NM 6.8L/100km 178g/km $63,990
Toyota RAV4 2.2-litre, four-cylinder diesel 110kW/340NM 6.7L/100km 176g/km $61,690
Volkswagen Tiguan 2.0-litre, four-cylinder diesel 110kW/340NM 5.7L/100km 149g/km $59,990
Jeep Cherokee 3.2-litre, six-cylinder petrol 200kW/324NM 10L/100km 232g/km $59,990
Holden Captiva 2.2-litre, four-cylinder diesel 135kW/400NM 8.1L/100km 231g/km $56,990
Mitsubishi Outlander 2.3-litre, four-cylinder diesel 112kW/360NM 6.2L/100km 162g/km $56,990
Mazda CX-5 2.2-litre, four-cylinder diesel 129kW/420NM 6.0L/100km 154g/km $57,495/¥3,235,000
Kia Sportage 2.0-litre, four-cylinder diesel 136kW/400NM 6.8L/100km 178g/km $54,990
Ford Escape 2.0-litre, four-cylinder diesel 132kW/400NM 5.4L/100km 140g/km $54,990
Renault Koleos 2.5-litre, four-cylinder petrol 126kW/226NM 8.3L/100km 192g/km $54,990
Subaru Forester 2.0-litre flat-four petrol 177kW/350NM 8.5L/100km 197g/km $54,990
Mini Countryman 1.6-litre, four-cylinder turbo petrol 135kW/220NM 7.3L/100km 171g/km $54,200
Nissan X-Trail 2.5-litre, four-cylinder petrol 126kW/233NM 8.3L/100km 192g/km $53,290


Pros and Cons

Pros Cons
  • Stylish looks
  • Rear visibility restricted
  • Great real world economy
  • High starting price for diesel/awd model
  • Interior design and quality
  • NZ doesn’t get the FWD diesel
  • Packed with all the features you could ever want and need
  • Drives like a taller Mazda3
  • Torquey diesel
  • Infotainment system works well
  • 3 years free servicing

What We Think

I don’t like giving out five chevrons because there’s no such thing as perfection. But for what it is and what it was designed to be, the CX-5 is about as good as it gets for a family SUV. It genuinely covers all the bases and some. There’s space, practicality, safety, technology, comfort, and convenience wrapped up in a handsome, stylish, and surprisingly good to drive package.

There’s very little to fault. Okay, the rear visibility isn’t the best in its class and and if you want the diesel but don’t need all-wheel drive, tough luck. But in the real world the CX-5 is king. It’s not a cheap car but for once I can genuinely say it’s worth its asking price.

No one asked Mazda to make a family SUV that was good to drive and pleasant to the eye, that’s what Porsche’s supposed to be doing, yet they have and it’s here for the masses. You could look at other SUV choices out there but there’s a reason why the CX-5 is the best selling model for New Zealand’s fourth most popular brand. This new car will undoubtedly continue that success as well.


Vehicle Type Mid-size SUV
Starting Price $39,995
Tested Price $45,090/¥3,493,800*
Engine 2191cc four-cylinder turbocharged diesel
Transmission 6-speed automatic
0-100 kph 8.8 seconds
Kerb Weight 1630kg
Length x Width x Height 4545mm x 1840mm x 1690mm
Cargo Capacity 455L
Fuel Tank 56L
ANCAP Safety Ratings 5 Stars
Warranty 5 Year Unlimited Kilometre Warranty

5 Year Unlimited Kilometre Roadside Assistance

3 Years Mazda Scheduled Servicing


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Ken Saito
Words cannot begin to describe how much I love cars but it's worth a try. Grew up obsessed with them and want to pursue a career writing about them. Anything from small city cars to the most exotic of supercars will catch my attention.


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