In horse racing parlance they say: “You can put down the binoculars, we have a clear winner.” And that’s what we can say about the all-new Mazda CX-5.
Fully embracing its ground-breaking SKYACTIV engine and chassis technology, wrapping things in a superbly designed and cleverly packed SUV and getting the bean-counters to co-operate with sharp prices, Mazda has delivered the CX-5 ready to take-on the established segment star (Volkswagen Tiguan) and a new arrival from Europe (Ford Kuga).
Mazda CX-5 Overview
Two weeks in two Mazda CX-5s – one petrol and one diesel, both the range-topping Grand Touring Models with the optional ‘Tech Pack’. Pricing for the Mazda CX-5 starts at $27,800 for the front-wheel-drive Maxx; Grand Touring petrol all-wheel-drive is stickered at $43,200 and Grand Touring diesel all-wheel-drive goes for $46,200.
Grand Touring specification includes satellite navigation (also standard in mid-grade Maxx Sport), leather seats (with eight-way power adjustment including lumbar support for the driver), front/rear parking sensors, keyless entry, Bose audio and auto-dimming rear-view mirror.
Both of our test cars were fitted with the excellent ‘Tech Pack’ ($1,990) which brings Blind Spot Monitoring, Lane Departure Warning and High Beam Control which means, as tested our petrol Mazda CX-5 was priced at $45,190 and the diesel at $48,190.
Mazda CX-5 Engine
One of many significant points about the Mazda CX-5 is that it is the first all-new Mazda product to embrace the company’s ground-breaking SKYACTIV technology from conception. Under the bonnet that means the SKYACTIV-D 2.2-litre turbo-diesel and SKYACTIV-G 2.0-litre petrol.
As we know, one of the keys to SKYACTIV fuel-saving and emissions-reducing technology is compression ratios – a high 13:1 for the petrol and correspondingly low 14:1 for the diesel. Here’s a bit of an insight into the ‘smarts’ of Mazda’s SKYACTIV engine technology – by using the low compression ratio and two-stage turbocharger, Mazda CX-5 diesel is Euro4-compliant for emissions without the need to fit expensive/complex exhaust after-treatment systems. The diesel all-wheel-drive, six-speed automatic Mazda CX-5 diesel as tested rates at 5.7l/100kms for fuel consumption and 149g/km for exhaust emissions
As tested, our petrol-powered Mazda CX-5 was good for 113kW at 6000rpm and peak torque of 198Nm at 4000rpm. For the diesel you can chalk-up129kW at 4500rpm and 420Nm at 4000rpm.
Both of our test cars drove all four wheels via Mazda’s SKYACTIV-Drive (full-range direct drive) six-speed automatic transmission.
Mazda CX-5 The Interior
Inside is one area where Mazda CX-5 has raised the bar for medium SUVs. Mazda’s combination of nice styling and abundant space leaves the opposition a tad wanting. It’s a very slick design, with nice, modern instrumentation and a good-looking centre console.
Our range-topping Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring models came with nice leather seats (heated fronts and eight-way power adjustment for the driver) plus Bose audio. Rake/reach adjustment for the nicely-sized steering wheel provided a sporty driving position and all Mazda CX-5 models come with a reversing camera.
Rear seat passengers enjoy plenty of legroom, nice support and a fold-down centre arm-rest.
Luggage space is very impressive. Mazda says the 403-litre boot can accommodate four sets of golf clubs (it fitted our clubs and golf buggy with ease) and when you fold the 40:20:40 split fold rear seat, 1,560-litre of space is available.
Mazda CX-5 Exterior & Styling
Mazda’s stylists have done a brilliant job with the CX-5. We especially like the profile view with abundant character lines and prominent wheel arches giving a powerful/athletic look which is missing with some rivals.
Prominent at the front is the upright grille (an aerodynamic development also seen in current Mercedes-Benz vehicles). Further aerodynamic cues are the large door-mounted exterior mirrors (designers these days preferring to channel air between the mirrors and the side windows).
Not apparent in photos but obvious in the metal is the size of the Mazda CX-5 – it’s actually one of the larger medium SUVs at 4540mm in length and 1840mm in width (almost the same as the Mazda CX-7).
Mazda CX-5 On The Road
From the get-go Mazda stressed the CX-5 chassis/suspension calibration favoured sporty driving dynamics – and that’s a direction which gets out vote. We were impressed driving both Mazda CX-5 variants at the media launches in the NSW Alps and northern Victoria and relished the prospect of a week in both petrol and diesel Grand Touring models over our usual test routes in Melbourne.
SKYACTIV chassis technology is all about reducing weight (although surprisingly, at 1687kgs, the MazdaCX-5 Grand Touring diesel is still more than 100kgs heavier than Subaru Forester) and firm calibration for the springs and dampers to both minimize body roll and provide optimum response and precision. Combine that with appropriately sporty mapping for the engine and transmission and the result is medium SUV which will impress even enthusiast drivers.
With 420Nm to 198Nm, the diesel Mazda CX-5 doubles the petrol version for torque, but in the driving environment that is mostly noticed at mid-range (for example over our twisty mountain roads test route). In day-to-day city driving the petrol version still provided ample acceleration for freeway merging, but over the twists and curves in the hills, the strong turbo-diesel provided a more instantaneous push when accelerating out of corners.
Our first acquaintance with Mazda’s Blind Spot Monitor and Lane Departure Warning systems was impressive and the ‘Tech Pack’, while not inconsiderable at $1,990, is money well spent. The Lane Departure Warning System certainly gets your attention with a very loud alarm should your Mazda CX5 cross a white line without the indicators on.
Volkswagen’s smaller Tiguan has held the honour of ‘Best Driving Dynamics’ in the medium SUV segment since it first appeared. Now the Mazda CX-5 has matched the impressive German with a very slick all-round performance.
Mazda CX-5 Challenges
A couple of small gripes…
Steering wheel paddle shifters would improve the sporty drive of the Mazda CX-5 and we reckon the plain rear view is a weak point in an otherwise top-shelf exterior styling job.
Mazda CX-5 Verdict
There are some fine vehicles in the medium SUV field but it’s pretty much a unanimous vote that the Mazda CX-5 is now the pick of the bunch.
Mazda has nailed the styling, the clever interior delivers lots of space for families, the value is sharp and the much-heralded SKYACTIV technology delivers real-world benefits every day in the crucial areas of fuel consumption/emissions and driving dynamics.
We’d go the diesel if parting with our ‘hard-earned’. In saying that, we acknowledge the diesel negatives - dirty/smelly fuel pumps being the main one…when are the fuel companies going to follow the Europeans and prevent diesel owners feel like truckies? – in which case Mazda CX-5 petrol is still a smart choice.
Mazda CX-5 The Competition
If you’ve ruled-out diesel, rule-in the Ford Kuga. European style and dynamics and that turbocharged 2.5-litre, five-cylinder is a pearler (albeit a tad heavy on fuel consumption).
In both diesel and petrol, Volkswagen’s Tiguan rivals the Mazda CX-5 for driving dynamics, offers lots of modern forced induction petrol and diesel engines and is very sharply priced. CX-5 is ahead on interior/luggage space.
Subaru Forester has ruled the sales charts in this segment because it’s a great car. Nicely packaged and exuding Subaru’s hallmark quality, the Forester is out-powered by the CX-5 in diesel but turns things around with the 2.5-litre petrol.