In-depth reviews

Mazda CX-5 SUV review

"The Mazda CX-5 is stylish, well equipped, great to drive and painless to own"

Carbuyer Rating

4.0 out of 5

Owners Rating

3.3 out of 5

Read owner reviews

Pros

  • Engaging to drive
  • Well equipped
  • Great looks

Cons

  • Top spec expensive
  • Rivals more spacious
  • Some safety features extra

The Mazda CX-5 is an SUV that, unlike many of its rivals, manages to look svelte despite its large proportions. As well as good looks, the CX-5 benefits from some of the same character and driving dynamics Mazda's engineers built into the Mazda MX-5. The CX-5 is fun to drive as a result, especially when compared to the Volkswagen Tiguan, Vauxhall Grandland, Toyota RAV4 and Nissan Qashqai, and it runs the upmarket BMW X3 and Audi Q3 close on an open road too.

The design is unlike that of its blocky and bulky rivals. The grille is much larger than before and is partnered with slim headlights, which together give it a more distinctive and confident appearance that topped voting in our most recent Driver Power survey. And although it’s a little shorter than its predecessor, it looks sleeker. In short, it’s better looking than most of its rivals, including the stylish Skoda Karoq and SEAT Ateca.

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Mazda has given its big-selling CX-5 a makeover for 2022. New cars get redesigned lights and bumpers, there are new trim level selections - some with vivid red or green detailing - and the suspension setup has been overhauled. The focus has been on making the CX-5 more comfortable than before, and after our test drive, we can confirm the changes have been mostly successful.

The interior of the CX-5 looks much as before, but has a different feel thanks to Mazda’s use of higher-grade materials. Surfaces are pleasantly tactile while discreet chrome highlights convey a real sense of quality. There’s up-to-date technology too, including a prominent 10.25-inch infotainment screen. A conveniently located rotary controller avoids you having to reach to operate it and leaving smudges on the screen.

During its most recent facelift, Mazda took the opportunity to simplify the CX-5 line-up to just three core trim levels, SE-L, Sport and GT Sport, while Newground and Sport Black offer a new twist on SE-L and Sport respectively, with a different look and some extra kit. You'll not find a meagrely equipped CX-5 in the range; even the SE-L packs lots of features including that touchscreen infotainment system which has a sat nav, a DAB digital radio, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity.

There’s also dual-zone climate control so front-seat occupants can control their own temperature and air-conditioning levels, smart 17-inch alloy wheels and bright LED headlights. Crucially from a safety perspective, it also comes with autonomous emergency braking, which automatically applies the brakes if it detects an obstacle you’re not slowing down for. Mazda packs in more standard equipment than its rivals, and often for a lower price too.

Upgrading to Sport adds sportier 19-inch wheels, leather seats with electric adjustment and heating for those in the front, as well as a heated steering wheel. There’s also a colour head-up information display and convenience features like a powered tailgate. This specification impresses for the price, particularly compared to premium models like the Mercedes GLC. The GT Sport has a plusher interior with Nappa leather upholstery and a 'real wood' finish to the dashboard and doors, as well as a sunroof, ventilated front seats and heated outer rear seats.

Most CX-5 passengers will find interior space to be more than adequate, although the 522-litre boot is a little smaller than the 615 litres the Volkswagen Tiguan can provide if its adjustable rear seats are slid fully forwards. If the boot frustrates, though, it’ll soon be forgiven when you experience how quiet the Mazda is inside. Engine noise is subdued and carefully considered sound-deadening blocks the worst of the rumble from the car’s wide tyres. The facelifted car is quieter still.

The latest CX-5 has been independently crash-tested and awarded five stars by Euro NCAP. It's even safer than the original model, thanks to more modern design and a long list of hi-tech safety equipment.

Reliability is one of Mazda’s key strengths, and played its part in the CX-5 ranking third out of the top 75 cars in our 2021 Driver Power survey. Priced competitively and representing a terrifically strong overall package, the CX-5 is one of the more compelling SUV choices on the market today.

What about a used or nearly new Mazda CX-5?

Used Mazda CX-5 - front 3/4 dynamic

A well-equipped, solidly made and stylish mid-sized SUV with punchy and efficient diesel engines, low running costs and excellent reliability, the Mazda CX-5 is a great choice for families or older buyers wanting a comfortable car to cruise around in. Some rivals offer more interior and boot space, but most people won’t mourn the absence of a few millimetres here and there. You should find a reasonable number of used Mazda CX-5s on dealer forecourts, in a variety of specifications: typically, they hold their value better than many rivals, but if you’re able to spend between £20,000 and £30,000, you’ll bag yourself a good example. A further highlight of the Mazda CX-5 is that it feels very good to drive, and even if you’re not especially interested in cars, you’re likely to appreciate that fact.

What’s its history?

Launched in 2017, the Mazda CX-5 offered buyers the choice between a 2.0-litre petrol engine and a 2.2-litre turbocharged diesel with two power outputs – 148bhp and 173bhp. It was available with front- or four-wheel drive, and with a six-speed manual gearbox or a six-speed automatic. Trim levels were initially pegged to just the two (SE-L Nav and Sport Nav), both generously equipped.  Late in 2018 the trim range was upgraded to SE-L+ and Sport Nav+, and a new GT Sport Nav+ was introduced. The power output of the 173bhp diesel was increased to 181bhp at the same time. Equipment levels were gradually increased over the years and an update in January 2021 included an improved infotainment system, together with the launch of a 191bhp 2.5-litre petrol engine. In early 2022 the CX-5 received a more substantial refresh, with facelifted exterior styling and more luxurious interior trim.

Used Mazda CX-5 Mk1 (2012-2017)

Mazda CX-5 Mk1

The original CX-5, launched in 2012, saw Mazda break into the mid-sized SUV market with a car that had all the practicality and versatility of the breed but without the full-on off-roader looks. The CX-5 Mk1 was stylish, well-made, reliable and spacious, and was powered by a range of petrol and diesel engines, the latter very fuel efficient and offering good performance. The CX-5 was facelifted in 2015 before being replaced with an all-new model in 2017.

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