The pick of the engine range is the lower-powered 148bhp 2.2 diesel. It pulls hard from 1500rpm and keeps on going all the way to the redline, so it doesn't require you to change gear too often. The more expensive 173bhp version feels that bit stronger at the top of the rev range, but unless you’ve got it packed to the brim with people and luggage, there’s very little discernible difference.
We’d avoid the 2.0-litre petrol. Enthusiasts might assume this engine, with its 158bhp arriving at a peaky 6000rpm, would be rewarding, but it feels wheezy and gutless through the mid-range and therefore not suited to an SUV. Ultimately, the superior low-rev shove of the diesels makes them more relaxing and easier to drive.
The standard six-speed manual has a precise, satisfying action, while the optional automatic unit is swift and smooth to change so long as you don't make too many demands of it.
Mazda CX-5 ride comfort
To drive, the CX-5 is competent, secure and comfortable for the most part, its suspension settings conferring a gentle, compliant ride when the road surface is good. And unlike the 5008 or Kodiaq, the Mazda demonstrates impressive body control over sudden crests and compressions; a characteristic that anyone prone to car sickness will be particularly grateful for.
Around town the ride is a little more unsettled, with larger 19in wheels not helping matters. That said, the ride is never uncomfortable - it’s something you’ll be aware of, rather than annoyed by.
Mazda CX-5 handling
A soft set-up also does little to dampen the CX-5’s dynamics. Turn in to a quick corner and the car exhibits more body lean than you’d experience in say, a Seat Ateca, but once settled the well-judged steering gives you the confidence to place the car exactly where you want it. Combined with new G-Vectoring Control (GVC) - a system which shuffles power around to help improve cornering – the CX-5 conceals its size and height surprisingly well.
That said, the CX-5 still falls short when it comes to outright fun. It is capable of generating serious amounts of grip, but for those that enjoy driving quickly the Seat Ateca, with its exceptional balance and more accurate steering, is the more rewarding package.
Mazda CX-5 refinement
At higher speeds, the previous CX-5 suffered from an excess of wind and road noise, making it tiring to hold conversation on longer motorway journeys. In the new car there are no such problems.
Thanks to new sound deadening measures such as a thicker windscreen, tighter door gaps and better streamlining, the new CX-5 is noticeably quieter than the model it replaces. Engine rumble is well repressed, wind noise around the windscreen is minimal and even on larger 19in wheels road noise is no worse than you’d find in a similarly specced Skoda Kodiaq or Peugeot 5008.
Enthusiasts might assume this engine, with its 158bhp arriving at a peaky 6000rpm, would be rewarding, but it feels wheezy and gutless through the mid-range and therefore not suited to an SUV. As a result, we'd stick with the gruntier diesels.
Our pick 2.2 Skyactiv-D 150
This diesel is our favourite engine in the range. It pulls hard from low revs and keeps on going all the way to the redline, so you don’t have to change gear too often. It’s also smooth and refined, and offers the best fuel economy and CO2 figures of any CX-5 engine. It’s available in every trim level, and can be combined with a manual or automatic gearbox, and with two or four-wheel drive.