Mazda CX-5 review

Category: Family SUV

The CX-5 is one of the best family SUVs out there and comes with lots of standard equipment

Red Mazda CX-5 front right driving
  • Red Mazda CX-5 front right driving
  • Red Mazda CX-5 rear cornering
  • Chris Haining test driving Mazda CX-5
  • Red Mazda CX-5 boot open
  • Mazda CX-5 interior driver display
  • Red Mazda CX-5 right driving
  • Red Mazda CX-5 front driving
  • Red Mazda CX-5 right driving
  • Red Mazda CX-5 rear right driving
  • Red Mazda CX-5 grille detail
  • Red Mazda CX-5 headlights detail
  • Red Mazda CX-5 alloy wheel detail
  • Red Mazda CX-5 rear lights detail
  • Mazda CX-5 interior front seats
  • Mazda CX-5 interior dashboard
  • Mazda CX-5 interior back seats
  • Mazda CX-5 interior infotainment
  • Mazda CX-5 interior detail
  • Red Mazda CX-5 front right driving
  • Red Mazda CX-5 rear cornering
  • Chris Haining test driving Mazda CX-5
  • Red Mazda CX-5 boot open
  • Mazda CX-5 interior driver display
  • Red Mazda CX-5 right driving
  • Red Mazda CX-5 front driving
  • Red Mazda CX-5 right driving
  • Red Mazda CX-5 rear right driving
  • Red Mazda CX-5 grille detail
  • Red Mazda CX-5 headlights detail
  • Red Mazda CX-5 alloy wheel detail
  • Red Mazda CX-5 rear lights detail
  • Mazda CX-5 interior front seats
  • Mazda CX-5 interior dashboard
  • Mazda CX-5 interior back seats
  • Mazda CX-5 interior infotainment
  • Mazda CX-5 interior detail
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by
Dan Jones
Published29 February 2024

Introduction

What Car? says...

Jinba Ittai is a Japanese phrase that represents the unity of rider and horse. It’s also an ideology that inspires Mazda, and supposedly the secret sauce that’s sold nearly 70,000 examples of the Mazda CX-5 in the UK.

Impressive stuff, but it takes more than Japanese philosophy to stay relevant, so Mazda is hoping it's done enough with multiple updates to keep the CX-5 competitive against rival family SUVs including the Citroën C5 Aircross, Honda CR-V and Peugeot 5008.

So, what does it have up its proverbial sleeve? Well, as a five-seater, it's not a complete behemoth to handle in a multi-storey car park, but will make you smile on a country road. What’s more, while it doesn’t have a premium-brand badge on its nose, it’s much cheaper than the equivalent German-built alternatives.

So, can the Mazda CX-5 really compete with the likes of the BMW X3 or other key rivals, including the Skoda Kodiaq and Toyota RAV4?

That’s what we’re going to find out in this review, as well as telling you which version we think makes the most sense. Read on to find out more...

Overview

The Mazda CX-5 is one of the best family SUVs that you can buy. Why? Well, while it lacks the additional practicality of seven seats (which the Peugeot 5008 comes with as standard), it's well priced, very well equipped, safe and classy inside. The 2.0 petrol engine with entry-level Centre-Line trim offers the best value for money, but the diesel engine is well worth a look if you do above-average mileage.

  • Classy interior
  • Tidy handling
  • Very well equipped
  • Overly firm ride
  • No seven-seat option
  • Rivals have more space for passengers and luggage
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Our Pick

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Mazda Cx-5 2.0 e-Skyactiv G MHEV Centre-Line 5dr review
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Performance & drive

What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is

Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox

Mazda doesn't use turbochargers to boost the performance of its petrol engines, which makes it almost unique among car manufacturers. That means that while the CX-5's 163bhp 2.0 Skyactiv-G 165 petrol has more power than, say, the Citroën C5 Aircross 1.2 Puretech 130, it's no quicker (0-62mph takes 10.7 seconds).

It's a lot less flexible from low revs too, so you have to get to 3000rpm and beyond to release its performance, making it harder work to drive because you're changing gears more often. It's still our favourite engine in the range, though.

The 191bhp 2.5 e-Skyactiv G is a little bit faster and uses a lot more fuel – although it does come with a responsive automatic gearbox as standard, sparing you the constant gear-changing.

Don’t ignore the diesel option – the 182bhp 2.2 Skyactiv-D 184 – either. It pulls harder than the petrols from around 1500rpm and revs out freely all the way to the red line (0-62mph takes 9.3sec in the manual).

Suspension and ride comfort

The CX-5 has relatively stiff suspension, which makes ride comfort one of its weaker points. It's not uncomfortable, but it fidgets more on a motorway and is more jarring over sharp-edged bumps than the wafty C5 Aircross.

That’s especially true if you upgrade to one of the higher trims that come with larger 19in alloy wheels and lower-profile tyres. For the best ride comfort, we’d advise sticking to entry-level Centre-Line trim, which includes 17in alloys.

Mazda CX-5 image
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Alternatively, the Honda CR-V and Peugeot 5008 are better still, settling down more on a motorway and soaking up bumps more effectively.

Red Mazda CX-5 rear cornering

Handling

Thanks to its stiffer suspension setup, the CX-5 is better at controlling body lean and has more grip through corners than the softer C5 Aircross.

The steering is quicker than you might expect in a car of this size and takes some getting used to. Once you're familiar with it, though, you’ll find that it’s accurate, naturally weighted and gives you ample feedback to make placing the car easy.

Versions of the CX-5 with larger wheels handle the best, but even then, it's not as sharp to drive as the Ford Kuga and Seat Tarraco.

Noise and vibration

There's a bit of road noise in a Mazda CX-5 fitted with the bigger 19in wheels – but that criticism also applies to many of its rivals, including the Honda CR-V and the Toyota RAV4. The Peugeot 5008 and Skoda Kodiaq are quieter motorway cruisers.

The Mazda’s diesel engine is smooth when worked hard but sounds a bit gruff at very low revs. Meanwhile, the fact that you need to work the petrol engine harder than you do in petrol-powered rivals makes it an altogether rowdier companion.

The standard six-speed manual gearbox is a pleasure to use, with a relatively precise and sporty action that almost feels like a toned-down version of the fantastic manual gearbox in the Mazda MX-5 sports car.

An automatic is available as an option with all engine choices (it’s your only option with the most powerful petrol engine) and changes through the gears smoothly and quickly. It’s also not as jerky as the Kodiaq at slow speeds.

"On a sludgy slope, my four-wheel-drive CX-5 found lots of traction to get back to safety. When you accelerate hard out of a corner with some steering still wound on, you feel the rear tyres putting power to the road, so there's a bit of sportiness too." – Chris Haining, Sub-Editor

Driving overview 

Strengths Tidy handling; great manual gearbox

Weaknesses Rivals ride more comfortably; fair amount of wind and road noise; petrol engines are a bit weak at low revs

Interior

The interior layout, fit and finish

Driving position and dashboard

If you like to sit high up in your car, you’ll appreciate the Mazda CX-5’s lofty driving position. True, it’s not Range Rover tall, but you feel higher up than you do in smaller family SUVs including the Peugeot 3008 and Seat Ateca.

It’s easy to get comfortable. The driver’s seat comes with plenty of adjustment – manual with Centre-Line trim but electrically controlled in all other versions – and adjustable lumbar support as standard. The steering wheel offers ample movement up, down, in and out.

The dashboard is sensibly arranged and everything is exactly where you’d expect. Refreshingly, you won’t find a single touch-sensitive or touchscreen control anywhere, with the CX-5 instead favouring good old-fashioned physical buttons.

Visibility, parking sensors and cameras

The CX-5's slim windscreen pillars and high driving position mean you have a good view out over the bonnet and as you approach junctions. The view over your shoulder isn’t quite as good because of the thick rear pillars, but the large rear window means your view directly out of the back isn’t bad. 

To make parking easier, every version comes with front and rear parking sensors as standard. If you upgrade to Exclusive-Line trim, you also get a rear-view camera, and top-tier Takumi trim has a 360-degree camera that displays a bird’s eye view of the car. 

Takumi also replaces the standard adaptive headlights with brighter adaptive LED headlights. They give you better visibility in the dark and let you leave the lights on full beam without dazzling other drivers.

Chris Haining test driving Mazda CX-5

Sat nav and infotainment

Every CX-5 comes with a 10.25in infotainment screen and DAB radio, Bluetooth, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone mirroring, and built-in sat-nav. From mid-spec Exclusive-Line the standard six-speaker stereo is swapped for an upgraded 10-speaker Bose sound system. 

The display is crisp and positioned high on the dashboard, so it’s easy to see without taking your eyes off the road for too long. You control it using a physical rotary dial positioned just behind the gearlever, which is much less distracting than operating the touchscreen-only set-ups in many rival cars. 

We found the CX-5's infotainment more responsive and intuitive to use than the systems in the Citroën C5 Aircross and Peugeot 5008. Indeed, while iDrive in the BMW X3 is better still, you pay for the privilege.

Quality

The CX-5 really delivers when it comes to the quality of the interior, which is really solidly put together. It's much classier than the Ford Kuga and its high standards are only beaten by pricier premium rivals such as the Audi Q5 and BMW X3. 

Most surfaces are soft to the touch, and those that aren’t tend to be hidden low down. There’s an eclectic mix of materials that work well together to enhance the ambience, including leather highlights around the base of the dashboard and, on the range-topping Takumi, attractive dashboard inserts.

"The digital instrument cluster wins my highest praise. After a spangly animation at start-up, it settles into a clear analogue display and quietly, without distraction, makes itself useful." – Chris Haining, Sub-Editor

Interior overview 

Strengths Great interior quality; good infotainment system with a physical controller; comfortable driving position

Weaknesses BMW X3’s infotainment system is even better; more expensive rivals have even better interiors

Passenger & boot space

How it copes with people and clutter

Front space

The amount of space in the front of the Mazda CX-5 is comparable with most of its key family SUV rivals. As such, there's enough head and leg room for tall adults to sit comfortably, and they won't struggle for shoulder room either.

There are long, deep storage pockets in the front doors, a large cubbyhole at the base of the dashboard (which is where wireless phone-charger is found – standard on mid-spec Exclusive-Line and up), and a big glovebox with enough room for more than just the owner's manual. The two cupholders between the seats will keep large coffee cups or bottles of water steady.

Rear space

You get generous amounts of space in the back of the CX-5, and two six-footers will have plenty of headroom and a fair gap between their knees and the front seats. If you're expecting to carry particularly long-legged passengers, bear in mind that the Peugeot 5008 and Toyota RAV4 are a bit more generous, while the limo-like Honda CR-V offers loads more leg room.

A passenger in the middle seat will have a little less headroom than in the outer seats because the middle of the rear bench is slightly raised. Most people will be fine there without having to bend their neck, but three adults sitting across the back won't have much space width-ways.

If you need seven seats, rather than the maximum five the CX-5 offers, consider the 5008 or Skoda Kodiaq – or check out our best seven-seaters page.

Red Mazda CX-5 boot open

Seat folding and flexibility

The CX-5's rear seats benefit from a two-stage reclining mechanism, allowing passengers to kick back and relax on longer jaunts. It's a pity the seats don’t slide back and forth though, as they do in the Citroën C5 Aircross, Peugeot 5008 and Skoda Kodiaq.

Folding down the rear seats is easy. You simply pull some handles on the sides of the boot and the seatbacks drop by themselves. This handy feature is also available in the Kodiaq, but you have to pay extra for it. 

The CX-5's seatbacks are split in a 40/20/40 arrangement as standard, which offers more seating options than the less versatile 60/40 layout in some of its rivals.

Boot space

Petrol versions of the CX-5 have 522 litres of boot capacity while diesel versions get 510 litres (due to its larger Adblue fuel tank). There's slightly less room for luggage than in many rivals, including the C5 Aircross. Even so, we managed to fit eight carry-on suitcases back there, the same as the CR-V, so you shouldn’t struggle to fit in two large pushchairs.

The Kodiaq and the 5008 managed to take 10 carry-on cases, making them ideal for pretty much any situation. 

The rear seats in the CX-5 can be folded down to create a huge flat load bay with no annoying steps or crevices. The boot floor isn't height-adjustable, but there is a usefully large storage area below it, plus two handy cubbyholes behind the rear wheel arches. The floor sits almost flush with the boot opening so there's no awkward lip to heave things over.

“I opened the electric tailgate and dropped the rear seats using the handy boot-mounted levers. Surprisingly, a pile of dead tree all went in with no struggle – and some of the bigger chunks were over six feet long.” – Chris Haining, Sub-Editor

Practicality overview

Strengths Generous rear space; versatile rear seats

Weaknesses No seven-seat option; some rivals have more boot space

Buying & owning

Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is

Costs, insurance groups, MPG and CO2

A Mazda CX-5 fitted with the 2.0 Skyactiv-G petrol engine feels a little weaker on the road compared with the diesels, but is our pick for private buyers because it's much cheaper and still offers decent fuel economy. It costs less than the equivalent Peugeot 5008 and Skoda Kodiaq but lots more than a Citroën C5 Aircross.

The CX-5 is predicted to lose its value more slowly than the 5008 but faster than the C5 Aircross, Honda CR-V and Kodiaq, so you’ll want to check our new Mazda deals to get the best price. If you’re a high-mileage driver and want the best fuel economy in the range, the manual 2.2 Skyactiv-D 184 diesel is for you. Our favourite 2.0 Skyactiv-G offers very competitive real-world fuel consumption for a petrol, though.

CO2 emissions are on a par with the CX-5's rivals, but because there’s no full hybrid available, there are better options if you want to cut your benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax bill. The Ford Kuga PHEV plug-in hybrid and others attract much lower company car tax rates.

Equipment, options and extras

No matter which CX-5 you go for, you can expect plenty of standard equipment. As such, entry-level Centre-Line is our pick of the range because it keeps costs to a minimum but still gets plenty of goodies, including adaptive cruise control, dual-zone climate control, automatic headlights and various parking aids, alloy wheels and infotainment bits.

Newground, meanwhile, makes the CX-5 look a bit more rugged but doesn’t really get any additional kit, other than the larger 19in alloy wheels and a reversible rubber mat in the boot.

Exclusive-Line focuses more on luxury, adding leather seats (heated in the front), a heated steering wheel, keyless entry, an electric tailgate and a head-up display.

Homura is another trim concerned with aesthetic changes, while the range-topping Takumi gets Nappa leather trim, a powered tailgate and various other toys, including a 360-degree camera.

Mazda CX-5 interior driver display

Reliability

When it comes to reliability, Mazda as a brand did a respectable job in the 2023 What Car? Reliability Survey, claiming 13th place out of the 32 manufacturers included. That places it above Citroën, Ford and Peugeot, but behind Toyota and Hyundai.

All CX-5s come with a fairly average three-year/60,000-mile warranty, which can be extended for a fee. Kia’s warranty is far better, running to seven years as standard, while Toyota offers a 10-year warranty providing you regularly service your car at an approved centre.

Safety and security

You get a healthy list of safety equipment with the CX-5, including city emergency braking, stability control and six airbags, plus features that many manufacturers charge extra for, such as lane-keeping assistance, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert. The model scored a maximum five-star rating in Euro NCAP safety tests

It’s worth noting that it achieved that rating back in 2017 and has since expired. That’s because the tests become more stringent every year and, while it’s impossible to compare directly with rivals tested more recently, it’s possible they’ll be more effective at keeping you safe in a crash.

A Driver Assistance pack is available as an option on the CX-5 with Exclusive-Line trim and comes as standard with Takumi. The pack isn’t a necessity but it does include useful extras including a driver attention monitor and rear automatic emergency braking (AEB).

"According to my calculations, the CX-5 2.5 AWD GT Sport Auto averaged 34.7mpg in my hands. Four-wheel drive, an automatic gearbox and a big 2.5-litre petrol engine don't add up to spectacular fuel economy." – Chris Haining, Sub-Editor

Costs overview 

Strengths Lots of standard kit; well priced; decent fuel economy

Weaknesses Depreciates faster than most rivals; so-so warranty


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FAQs

  • We’d say that the CX-5 is one of the best family SUVs on the market at the moment. That’s due to its mixture of tidy handling, appealing interior, sensible list price and the amount of standard kit that it gets.

  • The main downsides of the CX-5 are that its focus on handling comes at the cost of ride quality and that it isn’t as practical as some rivals. Also, it's not available as a seven-seater.

  • While one of the CX-5’s diesel engine options was recently removed from the range, there currently aren’t any plans to phase the model out.

At a glance
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Target Price from £29,139
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From £24,995
RRP price range £31,060 - £42,785
Number of trims (see all)5
Number of engines (see all)3
Available fuel types (which is best for you?)petrol, diesel
MPG range across all versions 37.2 - 50.4
Available doors options 5
Warranty 3 years / 60000 miles
Company car tax at 20% (min/max) £2,029 / £3,081
Company car tax at 40% (min/max) £4,057 / £6,162
Available colours