The Mazda CX-5 is Mazda’s overachiever.

Whether you’re benchmarking the CX-5 on its sales numbers  or by the way it drives, the CX-5 has been a boon for Mazda. In only a decade, the CX-5 has carved itself out a considerable slice of the medium size SUV pie, right under the noses of the more tenured Toyota RAV-4 and the Honda CR-V.

In New Zealand, the CX-5 is Mazda’s best-selling model. So far this year, the CX-5 is placed tenth overall in new vehicle registrations from May 2022 (okay – 15th if you include all the utes). Its popularity is hardly surprising. We’ve always liked it, and it’s consistently been a solid choice in the medium-size SUV segment.

The current CX-5 generation has been around for just over 5-years. This year’s facelift comes as a middle-to-end of life cycle refresh, before we inevitably see a successor. The refresh also introduces the CX-5 Activ, a spec to sit squarely in the middle of the line-up. 

Does the CX-5 still possess the power to win over buyers despite its age? We were given the keys for a week to find out. 

What We Like and Dislike About The 2022 Mazda CX-5 Activ

What we likeWhat we don’t like
Ride quality
Interior build and material quality
Exterior design
Good infotainment and use of tech
Middle of the road-engine performance
More equipment for your money in competitors
Fuel efficiency compared with competitors
Not much else…

What’s In The 2022 Mazda CX-5 range?

One way you can determine the CX-5’s popularity is by assessing the line-up. There are six different trim levels of CX-5 offered in New Zealand, across a total of seven different models. The different trims are; GLX, GSX, Activ, Limited, SP25T, Takami.

Two are front-wheel drive (FWD): the entry-level spec GLX, and the next-in-line GSX. Five CX-5 are all-wheel drive (AWD), with the entry model being the GSX, climbing all the way to the pinnacle of the range, the CX-5 Takami.   

Pricing is outlined below:

GLX (FWD)$42,290
GSX (FWD)$44,790

FWD models are powered by a 2.0-litre 4-cylinder SkyActiv-G petrol engine producing 115kW of power and 200Nm of torque. AWD models are powered by either a naturally-aspirated or a turbocharged 2.5-litre 4-cylinder SkyActiv-G petrol engine. Turbocharged engines are reserved for the SP25T and Takami variants.

The naturally-aspirated engine puts out 140kW of power and 252Nm of torque. Adding the turbocharger stokes the numbers up to 170kW of power and 420Nm of torque.  

2022 Mazda CX-5 Standard Equipment Highlights

The Mazda CX-5 range offers plenty of equipment as standard, here are a few highlights.

For the base-spec GLX, you get:

  • 17” Alloys
  • 8” Infotainment
  • Apple Carplay and Android Auto
  • Reversing Camera
  • 6-Speaker Audio
  • Cloth Interior
  • Manual Seats
  • LED Headlights with Auto On/Off

Upgrading to the GSX adds:

  • LED Headlights with Adaptive Front-Lighting System and Auto On/Off
  • LED Daytime Running Lights
  • Front and Rear Parking Sensors
  • Heated, Auto-Folding Mirrors
  • Privacy Glass
  • Auto-Dimming Rear View Mirror
  • Dual Zone Climate Control
  • Heads-up Display
  • Paddle Shift Gear Control
  • Synthetic Suede Interior
  • Sat-Nav
  • 2nd Row USB and Storage

Upgrading to the Activ adds:

  • 19” Alloys
  • Lime Exterior/Interior Accents (exclusive to Activ)
  • 10.25” Infotainment
  • 7” Digital Dashboard Display
  • “Mi-Drive” – Off-Road Driving Mode (exclusive to Activ and Takami variants)

Upgrading to the Limited and SP25T adds:

  • 10-Way Powered Driver’s Seat with Memory
  •  6-Way Powered Passenger’s Seat
  • 10-Speaker Bose Audio
  • Adaptive LED headlights with Auto On/Off
  • Leather Upholstery
  • Heated Seats
  • Remote Powered Tailgate
  • Sunroof

Upgrading to the Takami adds:

  • 360° View Camera
  • Frameless Auto-Dimming Mirror
  • Heated and Ventilated Seats
  • Heated Steering Wheel
  • Nappa Leather Interior
  • Remote-Less Power Tailgate

The CX-5 range also features an extensive list of safety technology as standard, including:

  • Adaptive Cruise Control
  • Blind Spot Monitoring (BSM)
  • Dynamic Stablity Control (DSC)
  • Emergency Stop Signalling system (ESS)
  • Forward Obstruction Warning (FOW)
  • Hill Launch Assist (HLA)
  • ISO-FIX (x2)
  • Lane-keep Assist System (LAS)
  • Manual Speed Limiter (MSL)
  • Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA)
  • Smart Brake Support (SBS)
  • Smart City Brake Support – Forward (SCBS)
  • Traction Control System (TCS)
  • Tyre Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS)

Upgrading to the GSX and Activ adds:

  • Driver Attention Alert (DAA)
  • Smart City Brake Support – Forward and Rear (SCBS)
  • Traffic Sign Recognition (TSR)

Moving to the Limited, SP25T and Takami adds:

  • Cruising and Traffic Support (CTS)

There are nine colour options for the CX-5, including:

  • Deep Crystal Blue Mica
  • Eternal Blue Mica
  • Jet Black Mica
  • Snowflake White Pearl Mica
  • Polymetal Grey Metallic
  • Sonic Silver Metallic
  • Zircon Sand Metallic
  • Soul Red Crystal Metallic (+$300)
  • Machine Grey Metallic (+$300)

There’s also seven different interior trims, which vary depending on the spec level. For more information on the CX-5, check out the Mazda New Zealand website.

How Does The 2022 Mazda CX-5 Compare To Its Competition?

There seems to be a million choices in the mid-size SUV category these days. Our CX-5 is a mid-range spec, and we’re attempting to compare like-with-like below.  Note, we’ve not included hybrid or plug-in hybrid options. Again, comparing petrol with petrol. 

Make/ ModelEnginePower/Torque kW/Nm
SeatsFuel L/100kmTowing CapacityBoot Space, litresPrice (excl CCP)
Volkswagen Tiguan Style AWD2-litre 4-cylinder turbo132/32059.6750/2100615$61,990
Hyundai Tucson Active1.6-litre 4-cylinder turbo132/26557.7750/1600620$57,990
Seat Ateca 4FR2-litre 4-cylinder turbo140/32058.0750/2000485$54,500
Ford Escape ST-Line AWD2-litre 4-cylinder turbo183/38758.6na/1800556$50,990
Mazda CX-5 Activ2.5-litre 4 cylinder140/25258.2750/1800401$50,990
Skoda Karoq Style1.4-litre 4-cylinder turbo110/25057.2na/1500521$49,990
Mitsubishi Outlander XLS 4WD2.5-litre 4 cylinder135/24459.0750/1600651$49,990
Kia Sportage Deluxe AWD1.6-litre 4-cylinder turbo132/26558.0750/1600543$49,990
Toyota RAV-4 GXL AWD2.5-litre 4 cylinder152/24357.0750/1500542$45,990
Honda CRV AWD Touring1.5-litre 4-cylinder turbo140/24058.2na/1500522$45,000
MG HS Excite1.5-litre 4-cylinder turbo119/25057.3750/750463$36,990

First Impressions Of The 2022 Mazda CX-5 Activ

We love the looks of Mazda’s modern model range, and we have the Mazda CX-5 to credit for it.

Back in 2012, the Mazda CX-5 was one of their first vehicles to debut Mazda’s Kodo design language. Kodo has evolved over the past decade and is responsible for the design of Mazda’s current line-up.

Today, Mazda probably has one of the best-looking mainstream line-ups in the industry. All their cars look great, and carry a ‘more than you actually paid for it’ aura. So, it’s unsurprising that Mazda has taken a visual “if it ain’t broke” approach for the face-lifted CX-5. 

Both bumpers have undergone a minor redesign, there’s a new textured honeycomb grille, and there’s a fresh set of day-time running lights. They’re small changes, but they do help modernise the CX-5 a tad. 

Our Activ model receives a touch of lime-green, including green air vent surrounds, green seat piping and also a few speckles on the front grille. I can’t exactly say I am a fan of this call.  All-in-all, my stance remains the same. The Mazda CX-5 continues to be one of the better-looking options in the middle-size SUV category. 

What’s The Interior Like In The 2022 Mazda CX-5 Activ?

Given how ubiquitous the CX-5 is in New Zealand, I can imagine there’s probably a bunch of readers that have either experienced or even owned a CX-5 themselves.

For those with the experience, getting into the latest CX-5 compared to the last generation will be a familiar experience. Sure, opting for the Activ trim level adds some bold fluro-green trim treatments, but short of that, the layout is the same. 

Those without the experience should know this is a good thing. The Mazda CX-5’s interior is beautifully built and appointed for the price point. Again, if it ain’t broke, why fix it?

Mazda is really punching well above their weight in interior quality these days. The CX-5 is no exception. The material quality is much higher compared to much of its direct competition.

Of course, once you’ve started the car, you’ll soon see the most noteworthy change. The facelifted CX-5 major enhancement is that it receives Mazda’s latest technology package. That means, you get Mazda’s latest infotainment with high resolution display and software, plus Mazda’s partial digital dash for Activ trims or higher. 

Mazda’s approach to its infotainment software is different from its contemporaries. It’s not a touchscreen interface, despite the screen being deceptively close to your hand. Instead, everything is controlled via rotary dial, which is mounted on the centre console. Some may criticize Mazda for this approach, but I certainly won’t be one of them. 

Instead, Mazda’s approach to using a turn-wheel is logical, and the more miles you travelled will make you appreciate the fact even more. Why? The answer is muscle memory.

If I asked you to take out your smartphone, unlock it, navigate to your settings app, then open spotify, and after that go into your messages, how far could you get without looking? I’m not talking about your teenager’s ability either.

Herein lies the problem with manufacturers relegating everything onto a touchscreen. There’s no physical feedback with a touchscreen, therefore you need visual cues to know what you’re doing. There’s enough literature out there saying that a touchscreen adversely impacts driver concentration. On the other hand, a rotary dial has physical feedback. Turn it one direction, you know what it does. In short, it means less time spent looking at a screen and more time concentrating on driving. 

I’m not being an old man, I swear. It’s honestly just easy to use. Those who owned an iPod Classic would understand.

As for the rest of it, the system is excellent. The screen resolution is high, the interface is super easy to navigate, and the system barely lags. In Activ trim, you do miss-out on the 10-speaker Bose unit, receiving a 6-speaker system in its place. It’s nothing to write home about.

One small frustration exists for the system. There’s only one skip track button I could find, which is on the steering wheel. Usually, Mazda has a toggle which is integrated into the volume knob for this. I’m unsure why they chose to omit this function on the CX-5.

As we’d mentioned earlier, Activ trims or higher get a partially digital dash cluster. It’s not particularly configurable, and heck, in some lighting, you might even have difficulties distinguishing it from a full physical cluster. Other than that, it’s a fairly crisp unit and provides a cleaner look to the dash cluster.

From the driver’s perspective, the CX-5 gets it totally right. The driving position is good; not too high to feel like you’re sitting on top of the car, but high enough generally to have good visibility and ground clearance. Of course, the seating position has good configurability, even without the powered seats.

The cabin is also spacious, and lets in plenty of light. I’ve criticised Mazda before for having dark interior spaces, but this is no issue for the CX-5. 

The front seats are comfortable and supportive, and they’re wrapped in a high-quality synthetic suede leatherette combination, offset with the zany green stitching. However, the Activ spec does omit heated seats, which I sorely missed during these winter months.

This does touch on a slight short-fall of the Mazda CX-5 Activ. Some equivalently priced competitors do offer more standard equipment on a dollar-for-dollar basis. However, many of these competitors cannot match the cabin quality of the CX-5.

Rear passengers also have plenty of room to stretch out in the back of the CX-5. Drop the centre armrest, and you’ll find two USB ports hiding in the arm-rest cubby. Although this may make the middle seat occupant somewhat unpopular with those wanting to charge their devices in a full car.

The boot is a decently sized 438 litres with the seats up, or 1,340 litres seats down. It might be down on boot space on paper compared to some of the competition, but 438L is generous enough for most. Plus, there’s also a proper spare under the floor too.

What’s The 2022 Mazda CX-5 Activ Like To Drive? 

We needn’t look too far beyond the supermarket carpark to know the mid-size SUV segment has gone gangbusters in the past decade. The manufacturers must be creaming it, eh?

But, when you think about it, designing a popular SUV can be a tricky affair. For buyers, the expectations are tall. An SUV is the family car, it needs to tick-all the boxes. The manufacturers have their necks in it too. Margins are tight, and you ought to be clever about where you spend your development dollars. There’s a lot to lose monetarily, if they mess it up. And let’s not forget that your closest competitors are breathing down your neck, constantly trying to one-up you. 

The mid-range, mid-size SUV segment is therefore a tricky one. Because the competition is so tight, you’ll seldom find the one that consistently beats them all. Instead, each vehicle will have its priorities, which will either appeal to or alienate buyers.

So, how does the Mazda CX-5 differentiate itself in a tough crowd of RAV-4’s, CRV’s and Outlanders? To put it bluntly, the CX-5 is easily one of the best to drive. The big factor in this is ride quality. The CX-5 rides beautifully.

Mazda’s engineers clearly know their discipline, as in our experience, all Mazda’s ride well. It’s fairly conventional spring set-up under there, but between Mazda’s chassis-tuning expertise, long travel suspension, a decent amount of tyre side-wall, the CX-5 feels nice and pillowy.

For 2022, Mazda tweaked things slightly, with relocated suspension components and some extra structural adhesive to suppress noise, vibration and harshness. On the whole, it’s equally comfortable in whatever urban environment, whether that be during the school run or travelling away for a long weekend.

You might be inclined to believe that with such supple ride quality, it’d all start to fall apart mid-corner. You’d be wrong. Rather, another strength of the CX-5 is its handling. Again, the combination of excellent chassis tuning, plus some software assistance, is to credit for this.  

The CX-5 utilises Mazda’s excellent G-Vectoring Control (GVC). It’s basically a torque vectoring system, designed to aid with cornering, by modulating the throttle and adjusting the individual wheel torque upon entry to a corner. 

Whatever witchcraft is occurring, the CX-5 corners neatly and manages body-roll well. Of course, the CX-5 has its natural boundaries (it’s an SUV after all), but even if you overcook a corner, you can feel the CX-5 lightly grabbing the brakes to pull you in for a tighter radius.

It might feel somewhat unnatural at first, but the result is remarkable. The CX-5 feels controlled through the twisty bits. Even if you’re not a wizard behind the wheel, you can trust the CX-5’s poise to keep you feeling safe on tricky roads. 

I’d stop short of calling the CX-5 engaging to drive. It’s a mid-size SUV, after all. Granted, it isn’t a totally bland driving experience. The steering has a reasonable weight, and the fact that you can corner faster than you expect, does offer the driver a modicum of engagement. It’s better than many competitors, for sure.

How about the engine? In the Activ spec, our test CX-5 offers a naturally aspirated 2.5-litre 4-cylinder SkyActiv-G petrol engine, outputting 140kW of power and 252Nm of torque.   

These performance figures are fairly middle road, and when you consider that the engine is also lugging 1,693kg of weight around, I wouldn’t exactly call the CX-5 brisk. Off-line performance is luke-warm. The engine does put down power linearly, but I would still plan your passing manoeuvres. 

The engine is paired with a silky smooth 6-speed automatic transmission, proving you needn’t have to have more gears to blend the power curve together nicely.  

Even if performance is somewhat middle-of-the-road, this engine excels with its refinement. It’s also incredibly quiet, which is a boon for the CX-5’s overall comfort bias.

For 2022, Mazda has also debuted their new “Mi-Drive” system, exclusively for Activ and Takami CX-5 models. The Mi-Drive system has 3 modes; Normal, Sport and Offroad, spending the core of its time on the latter. Off-road mode optimises the CX-5 settings for snowy, muddy or loose surface conditions. It provides better input control (accelerator and brake), more slippage between gears, raises the base idle, and backs off the traction control systems. It also delivers around a 15% constant drive to the rear wheels.

None of it is designed for heavy stuff, but you’ll be glad to have it there when the time comes. Unfortunately, the slippery driveway I’d lined up for didn’t require its services, even though the same driveway has challenged a couple of utes in the past. 

Perhaps the biggest downside of the CX-5’s engine is fuel consumption. During our test, we averaged a fuel consumption rate of 9.1L per 100kms, relative to Mazda’s claimed figures of a combined 7.4L per 100kms. In itself, the fuel economy results from a 2.5L 4-cylinder carrying the weight it does isn’t actually all too bad. 

However, many of the CX-5’s core competitors have, or are beginning to, offer a form of electrification or hybridisation. For around the same money as the CX-5, you can opt for a Toyota RAV-4 Hybrid which consumes at a claimed rate of 5.3L per 100kms. Around the same money can get you into a cheap PHEV, such as a MG HS EV+, which can allegedly drive 63km on electricity alone. 

So why hasn’t Mazda offered a hybrid powertrain this time? Mazda’s views on this are fairly well reasoned. However, headline fuel consumption rates do sell these vehicles. I suspect that it’ll weigh heavily on the minds of an average consumer.

It’s a slight shame for the CX-5, because it’s genuinely one of my favourite SUVs in this class. But at the end of the day, fuel economy is part of the practicality score, right?

Being 2022, the CX-5 is loaded with all the expected safety gear. Mazda truly does great work incorporating their driver’s assistance technology. Most of the time, it’s non-invasive and you’ll hear a pleasant chime for when the systems like the cross-traffic alert activate. It makes all the safety gear much nicer to live with, as these systems often detect false positives.

I can’t fault Mazda’s adaptive cruise control. It’s smooth and works down to a halt. In the past, the speed sign recognition on some Mazda models we’ve tested had been slightly off. In this CX-5, I have no complaints whatsoever.

2022 Mazda CX-5 Activ Specifications

Vehicle TypeMid-size SUV
Starting Price$50,990
Price as Tested$50,990
Engine2.5-litre 4-cylinder petrol
Power, Torque 
Transmission6-speed automatic
Spare WheelSpace saver
Kerb Weight, Kg1,659
Length x Width x Height
4575 x 1845 x 1680
Boot Space / Cargo Capacity,
Litres (seats up/seats down)
401 (second row in-place – to windows)
1303 (second row down – up to roof)   
Fuel tank capacity, Litres58
Fuel Economy, L/100kmAdvertised Spec – Combined – 7.4 
Real-World Test – Combined – 9.1 

Low Usage: 0-6 / Medium Usage 6-12 / High Usage 12+
Towing Capacity 
Kg, unbraked/braked
Turning circle

Small: 6-10m / Medium 10-12m / Large 12m+
Warranty3 year/100,000 km new vehicle warranty
5 year/unlimited km new vehicle warranty
5 year/unlimited km roadside assist
Safety informationANCAP Rating – 5 Star – 5 Stars – CX5 

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Alistair Weekes
A millennial who prefers driving cars to having avocado on toast.
2022-mazda-cx-5-activ-car-review<!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>We’ve always liked the Mazda CX-5. It offers many of the qualities of a luxury car, at a mainstream price. </p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>The build and material quality of the cabin is well above the standard for the price point, while the ride quality, quietness, and its handling proficiency puts the CX-5 amongst the best in the segment. This latest refresh brings Mazda’s latest suite of tech, which makes the package all the more compelling for buyers. </p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>While there aren’t many downsides to the CX-5 experience, middle of the road engine performance, and comparatively high fuel consumption may steer some buyers toward those that offer hybridisation. The CX-5 Activ is also up against stiff competition, with key competitors offering more standard equipment for the price. </p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>If you’ve got the cash, I’d personally consider going one spec-up to the Limited. Otherwise, the GSX offers all you need and more. But regardless of the spec, the Mazda CX-5 remains an excellent choice for medium size SUV buyers. </p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Sure, the current generation CX-5 might be getting on in age, but for those who value build quality, ride comfort and handling in their SUV, you’ll be hard pressed to do better. </p> <!-- /wp:paragraph -->


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