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Mazda CX-5 SUV (2012-2017) - Engines, drive & performance

The Mazda CX-5 is a fast and fun-to-drive family car that leaves most of its rivals standing

Carbuyer Rating

4.2 out of 5

Owners Rating
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Engines, drive & performance Rating

4.3 out of 5

The Mazda CX-5 has been made as light as possible in order to maximise fuel consumption, but this also means it's surprisingly good fun to drive for such a large and practical car. Anyone who's driven the superb Mazda MX-5 roadster will notice that a hint of that model's agility and eagerness has been transferred to the CX-5.

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Direct, well weighted steering, a tight, precise gearbox and powerful, responsive engines combine to make this probably the most satisfying SUV driving experience you can get. In comparison, while the Nissan Qashqai handles well, its engines can feel overwhelmed by steep hills or a full load of passengers and luggage. On the downside, both the automatic gearbox and four-wheel drive can dull the CX-5's sharpness a little bit, while the slightly cheaper Skoda Yeti is also unexpectedly entertaining to drive.

The CX-5 has fairly soft suspension, so it can lean a bit if you go around corners quickly, but it's far from the worst in the class in this regard. The benefit of the soft suspension is a supremely comfortable ride, even on very poor surfaces.

Mazda CX-5 diesel engines

Mazda offers two versions of the same 2.2-litre diesel engine in the CX-5. The first produces 148bhp and is available with either a manual or automatic gearbox and two or four-wheel drive in the SE-L Nav specification. It gets the CX-5 from 0-62mph in a respectable 9.4 seconds (or 10.1 seconds for the automatic). In the SE-L Lux Nav trim level, you're restricted to this engine with two-wheel drive and a manual gearbox.

The more powerful 2.2-litre diesel produces 173bhp and is only available in range-topping Sport Nav trim with four-wheel drive (although you do have a choice of manual or automatic transmission). This engine powers the CX-5 from 0-62mph in nine seconds (or 9.5 for the automatic). However, we think the 148bhp version will be more than adequate for most people's needs, as well as representing better value for money in the cheaper trim levels.

Petrol engine

There's only one petrol engine available for the CX-5: a 163bhp 2.0-litre that can be specified in SE-L Nav or range-topping Sport Nav trim. Neither automatic transmission nor four-wheel drive is available with the petrol engine, and it's also less economical than the 148bhp diesel, while taking longer (10.4 seconds) to go from 0-62mph. For this reason, it's hard to recommend unless you do a fairly low annual mileage or just prefer the generally quieter, smoother nature of petrol engines.

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Richard is a former editor of Carbuyer, as well as sister site DrivingElectric.com, and he's now Deputy Editor at Auto Express. Having spent a decade working in the automotive industry, he understands exactly what makes new car buyers tick.

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