Mazda CX-5 review

  • Mazda's new CX-5 SUV driven
  • Priced from £22,000 (est)
  • On sale May
What is it? The CX-5 is Mazda's new compact SUV, and the first car to benefit from the company's Skyactiv fuel-saving technologies. These include new engines, efficient gearboxes, a more free-flowing exhaust system, and a lightweight body and chassis.

Three engines will be available when the CX-5 is launched in May: a 162bhp 2.0-litre petrol and 148bhp and 173bhp versions of a 2.2-litre diesel. You’ll also be able to choose between front- and four-wheel drive.

All of the engines are remarkably efficient. The front-wheel-drive petrol emits just 139g/km of CO2, which is the same as the cleanest diesel version of the Volkswagen Tiguan. The lower-powered diesel CX-5 is even greener, producing just 119g/km.

What’s it like to drive? The most impressive thing about the CX-5 is undoubtedly its new diesel engine. Most diesels have narrow powerbands, which mean acceleration tails off quickly above about 4000rpm. The diesel CX-5, by contrast, pulls strongly from 1300rpm and there is a smooth flow of power right up to the 5500rpm redline.

Refinement is impressive, too, whichever output you choose. However, given that the entry-level 148bhp has more than enough oomph and will be cheaper to buy and run, we think the 173bhp version is largely redundant.

The petrol engine isn’t quite so impressive. Emissions are remarkably low, but without a turbocharger there isn’t that much in the way of low-down torque, so you rev it to accelerate quickly. It isn't the type of driving that befits an SUV.

The CX-5 isn’t quite as agile through corners as a Tiguan, but it still turns into bends sharply and without much body sway. Ideally, we’d prefer a bit more feedback from the steering, but the gearbox is far smoother than most other Mazdas'.

The Mazda's suspension does a good job of mopping up bumps if you stick with 17-inch wheels. Go for the larger 19-inch versions, though, and the ride isn’t so comfortable.

What’s it like inside? The CX-5 is one of the largest cars in its class, so there’s plenty of room inside. Rear passengers enjoy more legroom than in either a Ford Kuga or a VW Tiguan, for example, and the Mazda has a bigger boot than either of these rivals'.

Better still, when you want an even bigger loadbay, you don’t have to walk around to side of the car to fold the rear seats flat, because the release levers are conveniently located in the boot.

The interiors of the prototypes we tested weren’t finished to production standards, so it’s impossible to comment on fit and finish. Still, the basic dashboard layout looks simple and classy, and isn’t cluttered with an unnecessarily large number of buttons.

Standard equipment should be generous, too. Trims are still being finalised, but Mazda expects all models in the line-up to have satellite-navigation as standard – part of a new infotainment system with a BMW iDrive-style controller – plus an extensive range of safety systems, including lane-departure warning and a blind-spot monitoring system.

Should I buy one? Prices haven’t officially been announced, but Mazda told us the new CX-5 will start at around £22,000, with diesel models carrying a £1500 premium. Early indications suggest that’s a premium worth paying.

The CX-5 offers much more than just a gem of a diesel engine, though. It’s practical, good to drive, and comfortable. It even looks like it will be a sound financial proposition if you stick with one of the cheaper two-wheel-drive versions.

So, if you’re thinking about spending less than £25,000 on a small SUV, you’d be wise to hold on until May. If your budget’s any bigger, though, we’d suggest looking at the Audi Q3, BMW X3 or Land Rover Evoque.

Rivals
Ford Kuga
Volkswagen Tiguan

What Car? says...


Will.Nightingale@whatcar.com

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