Since the original CX-5 went on sale in 2012 Mazda has been on something of a roll, launching one good car after another. The Japanese brand aims to continue that with the latest CX-5, a five-seat SUV with a price, size and specification that sees it straddle classes between the likes of the Nissan Qashqai and larger SUVs such as the seven-seat Skoda Kodiaq.
Buyers can choose between a front-wheel-drive 2.0-litre petrol or 2.2-litre diesel in either front- or all-wheel drive forms with two different power outputs.Space 9/10
One of the roomier SUVs
There’s ample room in the front of the CX-5 to feel comfortable, as well as lots of storage. This includes large door pockets, a big lidded bin under the armrest and a decent glovebox.
The boot is similarly impressive. There’s a flat loading lip and a sensible load height, plus the same amount of space as you get in a Seat Ateca. That still puts it behind a Honda CR-V, Skoda Kodiaq and petrol VW Tiguan, but if you need to carry a set of golf clubs or a folded baby buggy plus a few large bags it won’t be a problem. Additionally, there are levers in the boot to drop the rear seats flat (on a 40:20:40 split), creating a vast load space.
Those rear seats are just wide enough for three adults to sit side-by-side, and head room is excellent. You can also fit one six-footer behind another without cause for complaint, and the seatbacks can be set at one of two angles.Comfort 7/10
Not the smoothest ride, but the diesels are quiet
The CX-5’s suspension is definitely on the firmer side for an SUV, particularly if paired with the larger 19-inch wheels, but this is partly mitigated by great seats and a fundamentally good driving position. What’s more, once up to speed the excellent body control that results from the firmer ride prevents the car from leaning uncomfortably in corners.
Mazda’s diesel engine is smooth and quiet once warmed through, but the petrol needs to be revved harder in order to make decent progress, which actually makes it the noisier of the two.
Road and wind noise at motorway speeds are both well controlled, making the CX-5 a useful long distance companion.Dashboard layout 9/10
Good to look at and feels built to last
Mazda has gone to a lot of effort to ensure the dashboard in the latest CX-5 is a cut above its predecessor’s. This is evident in the high quality of the materials on show, while the clear dials and separate heater controls are straightforward to use.
It uses the same infotainment system as other Mazdas, which combines a touchscreen with a rotary controller to good effect. There aren’t as many features or menus to navigate as you get in some other cars, but what is there is easy to access. The lack of Apple CarPlay or Android Auto is a bit of a shame though, and having to delve into a sub menu to access live traffic information feels slightly obstructive.Easy to drive 8/10
Beautifully weighted controls help
There’s no getting around the fact that the CX-5 feels larger than rivals such as the Qashqai. However, its controls are so well weighted, from the steering through to the gearshift, that it is completely intuitive to drive.
That all models have front and rear parking sensors helps with guiding the CX-5 into parking spaces, but nervous drivers might note that Mazda doesn’t offer the automatic parking functionality you can have on a VW Tiguan.
Overtaking shouldn’t be a problem, particularly in the diesel, which has a good slug of mid-range acceleration even if you opt for the lower-powered version. Also, if you want an automatic gearbox you are limited to the diesel engine.Fun to drive 9/10
For an SUV it’s very good indeed
You might not necessarily buy an SUV with the expectation of it being fun to drive, but the CX-5 is just that. The lack of body lean in corners certainly helps, but it’s the direct and reassuringly weighted steering and the keenness to change direction that really make it stand out.
The manual gearbox also has a clean shift action and the brakes feel very positive, which all adds up to what is one of the most satisfying SUVs to drive.Reliability 8/10
Mazda consistently performs above average
Mazda consistently performs above average in the JD Power Vehicle Dependability Study. This is reflected in the 2017 results, where it finished 10th out of 25 manufacturers. That’s still behind Kia, Skoda, Peugeot and Seat, but ahead of Ford, Honda, Renault and Citroen.
The company’s three-year, 60,000-mile warranty is though a little lacking in a market where Renault will sell you a Kadjar with a four-year warranty, Hyundai offers five years on its Tucson and Kia sells the Sportage with seven years of cover.Fuel economy 8/10
Impressive considering its size and performance
Official fuel economy figures generally need to be taken with a pinch of salt. For that you can thank the way they are obtained in a laboratory environment and thus should only really be used for comparative purposes.
Do so with the CX-5 and its official averages of up to 56.5mpg for the diesel and 44mpg for the petrol are behind the likes of the Renault Kadjar and Nissan Qashqai. However, not only is the Mazda significantly more powerful than these rivals, but it also gets closer than most to its claimed figures in normal driving. As such, you can expect an easy 50-55mpg from a front-wheel drive diesel CX-5, or close to 40mpg from the petrol.
Good for retail buyers, less so company car drivers
Although the starting price of the CX-5 isn’t as low as some of its competitors, this needs to be weighed against its more powerful engines, higher specifications and larger interior. Put in that light the CX-5 actually looks like good value for money for retail buyers, although company car drivers are likely to find its high CO2 emissions next to something like a Qashqai or Kia Sportage slightly hard to justify.Safety 9/10
All models come with autonomous emergency braking
All CX-5s come with six airbags and an autonomous emergency braking system that works up to 50mph to help reduce or even prevent front-into-rear crashes. Between 6 and 50mph it will also spot pedestrians and apply the brakes it if thinks you’re likely to run into somebody.
An optional Rear Smart City Brake effectively does the same thing in reverse at speed between 1 and 5mph. This is part of a Safety Pack that also includes adaptive LED headlights, lane keeping assist, blind spot monitors and rear cross traffic alert.Standard spec 10/10
Only two models and both are packed with equipment
The CX-5 is only offered in two trim levels, starting with SE-L Nav. This includes 17-inch alloy wheels, satnav, dual-zone climate control, LED headlights and power folding wing mirrors.
On top of this Sport Nav has 19-inch alloys, a reversing camera, heated leather seats (electrically adjustable for the driver), a heated steering wheel, keyless entry, a powered tailgate and an excellent head-up display that projects your speed on to the windscreen.Our favourite version
2.2 150ps 2WD SE-L Nav, list price £25,695
Options you should add: Metallic paint (£560)
The CX-5 is another great car from Mazda. Not only is it spacious, well equipped and good value, but it’s great to drive too.
If you’re in the market for an SUV and don’t require seven seats it should definitely be on your shortlist.
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