Australia’s favourite SUV just got better.
One hundred and fifteen thousand. That’s the number of Mazda CX-5 SUVs have found homes on our shores since the original model arrived in 2012, making up a significant chunk of the 1.4-million of them that’s been sold globally. To say the CX-5 is a success story would be a massive understatement.
When the original came to be, it offered a greater degree of practicality, agility, economy and reliability, despite debuting a heap of new SkyActiv technology designed to optimise the CX-5 as best it could. It also brought with it a new ‘Kodo’ design language with it, which has since morphed and matured into the car you see today.
Available in no less than five grades and 12 variants, the CX-5 now packs more technology and greater refinement than the outgoing car, addressing the two main grouses with the ever-capable Hiroshima SUV. Add to that the more athletic styling and sharp pricing, and you’re left with little doubt exactly why this is Australia’s favourite SUV.
“From the outside the new Mazda CX-5 can easily be mistaken for a facelift. Sure, it’s much sharper and far more modern in its styling than the previous-generation which came out in 2012, however it’s not exactly revolutionary. It appears Mazda designers have applied the thinking that, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” - CarAdvice
The outgoing CX-5 was hardly a bad looking car, though as time went by, the gaping grille and tall fascia didn’t age as well as it could’ve. This revised model takes its design cues from the bigger CX-9, with slim head- and taillights and smooth, flowing feature lines throughout. The fascia is especially noteworthy, as it retains the same basic assembly as the original, but somehow looks far more organic than the car it replaces.
The CX-5 might not have the brash, upright appearance of something like the Volkswagen Tiguan or the futuristic distinction of the Kia Sportage, but its handsome looks and athletic design will likely win it even more fans than the last one, of that we’re sure. The top-half of the cabin has been moved backward by a degree, and the bonnet made longer, to give it a more sophisticated and premium look too. It might not seem like much, but it certainly works.
Engine & Drivetrain
“Engine size, engine specs including horsepower, oil capacity, oil type and the like remain unchanged for the MkII version of the CX-5.” - CarsGuide
The previous-generation CX-5 packed some pretty impressive engines, with their only real faults coming in the way of outright refinement and quietness in operation. While the powerplants are retained for this new generation, the 2.0- and 2.5-litre petrol engines as well as the 2.2-litre turbodiesel see small, progressive revisions to improve their refinement, and the differences are noticeable.
The 2.0-litre engine is the most suited to urban driving, with pokey response and a rather pleasant engine note when pushed hard. Of the two petrols, the 2.5-litre is easily the more desirable of the two petrol engines on offer, with 140kW/251Nm on offer, significantly higher than the formers’ 114kW/200Nm. In terms of outright versatility, the 2.5-litre is the pick of the bunch, with its reasonable fuel consumption mitigating any fears that a bigger engine might suggest.
If you do lots of motorway miles (which you might be tempted to do, given the Mazda’s unlimited-mileage warranty), the 2.2-litre turbodiesel is the best bet. While its 129kW of power might not make your hair stand, the 420Nm of twist certainly can. While it can be a teeny bit too urgent around town, on the open road, it performs with a degree of finesse and refinement that was certainly not found in the outgoing car. If you weren't told these were the same engines from the last car, you truly wouldn’t believe it.
The 2.0-litre petrol comes with a choice of six-speed manual or automatic transmissions, while the bigger engines are mated exclusively to a torque-converter automatic gearbox. All-wheel drive is also available, but we recommend it only to buyers who really, really need the additional sure-footedness it offers.
“The Akera’s soft perforated white leather trim wouldn’t be out of place in an Audi Q5 and the fit and finish of all cabin surfaces was first-class, even in the Maxx. At base grade, the cloth trim also presents well.” - Motoring
While the last CX-5 cabin was hardly a bad place to be, the latest generation moves the game on significantly, with a far plusher interior than any Mazda in this segment should be. The switchgear feels well-engineered and weighted, while cabin materials are far more pliant and forgiving than anything else at this price point. Mazda has previously said that it feels it inhabits a space between mass-market marques and premium brands, and the cabin of the CX-5 encapsulates that here-and-there character of the brand perfectly.
All cars get a 7.0-inch MZD-Connect infotainment system, controllable via the touchscreen or via a rotary control knob that looks suspiciously like the kind you’ll find in a BMW. Any concerns you might have about copied tech will fall away one you use it, as it’s one of the easiest infotainment systems to use at this end of the market, especially when you’re on the move. The driving position in the CX-5 is spot-on, and controls fall easily to hand.
Behind the Wheel
“Mazda is the zoom-zoom brand and is keen, at every turn, to emphasise its car and driver philosophy, even when it comes to high-sided SUVs like the CX-5. But, and I know this will cause a lot of CX-5 owners to howl me down, the new CX-5, just like the old model, was a competent handler rather than a particularly sporty one.” - Practical Motoring
Mazda championed the tagline ‘Zoom-Zoom’ a million years ago, and that focus on driver involvement continues to shine through in the CX-5. The marque believes in the ‘Jinba Ittai’ philosophy of ‘horse and rider as one,’ and this latest SUV still captures that driving magic that we’ve come to enjoy so much in previous iterations.
The CX-5 may have been designed, packaged, and indeed marketed as a family wagon, but behind the wheel you’d be forgiven for thinking that it was an effort from a premium carmaker. It’s good fun, especially in all-wheel drive guises, providing reassuring levels of grip and confidence-inspiring controls, which work well with the stable suspension tune to make it giggly-fun to chuck through corners. However, that lack of body roll and floatiness has not resulted in an uncomfortable ride. Sure, it’s not the most pliant car to travel in, but you would have to be truly very fussy to describe it as ‘uncomfortable.’
One of the weak points of the outgoing CX-5 was its rolling refinement, with far too much aural intrusion from the tyres, wind, and powertrain. The new CX-5 deals with that deftly, offering far, far greater refinement than the outgoing model. Larger alloys will incur a noise penalty, and ride will suffer a little, but it’s a comfy car to travel in overall.
Safety & Technology
“It is a comprehensive package, focusing jointly on crash protection and crash avoidance.” - WhichCar
Where the previous-generation CX-5, in some guises, was about as well appointed as a Bolivian basement, the latest generation model comes bristling with technology aimed at improving convenience and safety for drivers and passengers alike. LED headlights are now standard (which improves the aesthetics of the car immensely), along with cruise control and tinted windows.
As far as advanced driver aids are concerned, there are systems like autonomous emergency braking and blind spot warning available as standard, along with rear cross-traffic alert to tell you if you haven’t spotted a car heading your way while reversing out of a space. To avoid that altogether, there’s a standard reversing camera, while rear parking sensors help to mitigate the possibility of bumping into anything at slow speeds.
Six-airbags come as standard with the CX-5, though the car remains unrated by safety watchdogs ANCAP at the time of writing.
The Mazda CX-5 is a truly spectacular showing for the Zoom-Zoom brand, showing off its strengths in great fashion. It’s now markedly more refined than it used to be (addressing its predecessors’ greatest failing), while maintaining the same level of practicality and robustness that endeared the original CX-5 to 115,000 Australians since its debut.
While the CX-5’s success could have been considered an easy-win when it first came out, the competition has hotted up significantly since then. There’s strong competition from the Hyundai Tuscon and Kia Sportage, while the Honda CR-V will certainly tempt buyers away from the Hiroshima brand. Further up the food chain and the CX-5 will have to battle Europeans in the form of the Volkswagen Tiguan and Skoda Kodiaq, but we’re confident that it will continue to hold its own.
The Mazda CX-5’s long list of variants means that there is a model for everyone, depending on your budget. We’d recommend avoiding the base 2.0-litre engine and focusing on the larger 2.5-petrol and 2.2-diesel, with the latter getting our recommendation only if you do a lot of motorway miles. Either way though, you’ll be rewarded with a truly pleasurable driving experience and a great motorway cruiser, guaranteed to leave you smiling for a long time to come.
CarAdvice – 8.0/10 – “Overall, the second-generation Mazda CX-5 is very much a case of improving on the old without throwing out the basics. There is a lot to love about the improved levels of refinement, interior packaging, styling and dynamic capability. However only time will tell if the Japanese brand has done enough to stave off the horde of incoming competitors desperate to dethrone the reigning king.”
CarsGuide – 8.0/10 – “Mazda's pool of 115,000 CX-5 owners are a happy bunch, and the Japanese company has worked hard to update the car without spoiling the attributes that made it so popular in the first place.”
WhichCar – 4.5/5.0 – “The second-generation CX-5 adheres closely to the very popular original but refines its formula with a roomier, quieter, and more comfortable cabin, and enhanced handling. The mid-sized SUV from Mazda is available in five increasingly well equipped versions, all with active safety that includes auto braking. You can have petrol or diesel power, and front-wheel or all-wheel drive.”
Motoring – 84/100 – “Mazda's original CX-5 has been a smash-hit since its 2012 release, shooting to the top of Australia's mid-size SUV segment (and the nation's booming SUV market overall )for the past four years. Now comes the second-generation CX-5, brandishing an all-new body and interior, and more cargo space, refinement and technology. Despite higher prices for most models and competition from a number of well credentialed new rivals, Mazda Australia expects the new car to be even more successful.”
Practical Motoring – 4.5/5.0 – “The new Mazda CX-5 has been treated to new clothes, inside and out, improved sound insulation and there’s a new variant to choose too, bridging the once cavernous price gap between Maxx Sport and GT. If you liked the way the old CX-5 drove then you’ll like this one too. That said, in terms of cabin quality, the CX-5, although improved on the old model, is still a little way behind the likes of Volkswagen Tiguan and Kia Sportage, and we suggest the Skoda Kodiaq when it arrives towards the middle of this year, will be another front runner for quality.”
WhatCar? – 5.0/5.0 – “The Mazda CX-5 is one of the best SUVs you can buy, thanks to its smart, practical interior and its excellent handling.”
TopGear – 8.0/10 – “There aren’t many mainstream carmakers that don’t make a bad car. Mazda has been for a few years now, and we’re pleased to say that thanks to the new CX-5, it still is. They would have had to try pretty hard to ruin it – with such a good base to work from, it’s no surprise that with the enhancements Mazda’s made, the new CX-5 gives its competition something to think about. Were we in the market, we’d be seriously tempted.”
AutoExpress – 4.0/5.0 – “The Mazda CX-5 is a car of incremental improvements. It’s nicer inside and is more refined, while also offering more kit, more practicality and more style. If Mazda can get the pricing right it could be on to a winner, though our petrol car’s higher emissions mean it might not be the best choice for business users.”