The Mazda CX-5 has long been one of the best family SUVs.
We’ve praised Mazda’s rival to the Nissan Qashqai and Audi Q3 for its agile handling, efficient drivetrains, practicality and standard kit. It impressed us so much, in fact, that we named it the best SUV for less than £25,000 for two successive years.
Mazda has tweaked the CX-5 for 2014, with retuned dampers to address the slightly firm ride of the original, and a couple of new colours, although there are no other exterior changes. This is also the first time we've driven the 148bhp version of the 2.2-litre diesel engine (a 173bhp vesion is available in top-spec Sport Nav trim only), complete with six-speed automatic gearbox and four-wheel drive.
What’s the 2014 Mazda CX-5 2.2D 150 AWD auto like to drive?
This may be the lower-powered diesel engine but it doesn’t feel at all strained. An abundance of low-down shove gives the car an energetic feel around town, and it picks up well for easy overtaking even at higher speeds.
Once up to speed the slight diesel clatter ebbs away, although this only serves to amplify the road noise and the wind whistling around the sizeable door mirrors. It’s not terrible, but there are rivals – such as the Audi Q3 – that are significantly more refined on the move.
In everyday motoring, you probably won’t notice the four-wheel drive system, which sends power to only the front wheels unless it senses a loss of traction, at which point it diverts power to all four corners. This is no bad thing, because even front-wheel drive CX-5 models offer reassuringly grippy, responsive handling, and well-weighted steering, making it one of the most rewarding SUVs to drive.
The automatic gearbox isn't bad, either. There's no hesitation when pulling away (although if the stop-start system has kicked in, there's a momentary delay), and it's usually in the right gear when you want it, though the lazy shifts aren't as smooth as those in the best twin-clutch units.
Despite alterations to improve comfort, the CX-5's ride still leans towards sporty handling over absolute comfort, so you'll notice it jiggling about a little over rippled Tarmac, and there's the odd thunk over sharp-edged ridges. Even so, it doesn't crash over big bumps and potholes and it feels settled on most roads.
What’s the Mazda CX-5 2.2D 150 AWD auto like inside?
The only major change for this update is the auto gearstick, which now has a straight gate for better ergonomics. Otherwise little else is different, so you still get lots of good-quality soft-touch plastics higher up the dashboard, broken up with piano-black and metallic elements. However, as with some of its rivals, move lower down the dash and things feel cheaper and more flimsy.
The adjustability of the driver’s seat and steering wheel make it easy to find a comfortable driving position, while visibility is good except for a fairly big blind-spot to the rear three quarters. Overall, the CX-5 is a car that’s easy to get comfortable in and see out of, and the standard-fit parking sensors make car park manoeuvring easy.
A high roof means taller passengers won't be wanting for headroom and there's enough legroom that they'll be able to lounge about comfortably, too. The load bay is vast and the boot floor is flush with the load lip, so it’s easy to slide heavier items into the boot, while the spring-loaded seats fold almost flat very easily.
Sensibly, the touch-screen infotainment unit controls navigation and audio functions, although it's not the easiest system to use thanks to some fiddly, small icons and odd menu layouts. Adjusting the climate control is a doddle, thanks to its conventional array of knobs and switches.
Entry-level SE-L cars get climate control, parking sensors, automatic lights and wipers, Bluetooth and cruise control. Upgrade to SE-L Lux and you get heated electric front seats and a sunroof, while Sport brings bi-xenon headlights, keyless entry, a reversing camera and an upgraded stereo. Sat-nav is available as an option on all trims where it isn’t standard.
Should I buy one?
If you need the practicality of an SUV, but aren’t willing to sacrifice competent driving dynamics and hatchback-like efficiency then the CX-5 should be very near the top of your shortlist. Its on-road composure, expansive kit list and strong engine make it an excellent all-round package.
Just be sure you need the four-wheel drive, because for most motorists the £1700 cheaper, front-wheel drive CX-5 will provide all the traction and on-road stability you could want, even in wintery conditions. Only those who occasionally tow, or tackle severe tracks and off-road situations regularly, will benefit from the extra driven wheels in the AWD model.
The auto gearbox suits the torquey 2.2-litre diesel, and is a fine option if you need an automatic. If you don't, the manual costs £1300 less and is just as good to drive, as well as more efficient.
Ultimately, though, the CX-5 is a sensible price, has loads of equipment and good economy, while agile handling, powerful engines and composed ride quality mean it should appeal to the enthusiastic driver as well.
What Car? says...
Mazda CX-5 2.2 150 AWD Automatic
Engine size 2.2 diesel
Price from £26,995
Torque 280lb ft
0-62mph 10.2 seconds
Top speed 121mph
Fuel economy 51.4mpg
CO2 output 144g/km
Mazda CX-5 2.2 150 AWD Manual
Engine size 2.2 diesel
Price from £25,395
Torque 280lb ft
0-62mph 9.4 seconds
Top speed 122mph
Fuel economy 54.3mpg
CO2 output 136g/km