Mazda CX-5 estate performance
The pick of the engine range is the 148bhp 2.2 diesel. It pulls hard from 1100rpm all the way to the redline, so it actually feels more like a turbocharged petrol than a diesel. The more expensive 181bhp diesel is that bit stronger at the top of the rev range, but unless you’ve got the car packed to the brim with people and luggage, there’s very little discernible difference. It's not actually that much quicker than the 148bhp unit, partly because the 181bhp car is only available with four-wheel drive, which adds a fair bit of weight to the car, so the front-wheel-drive 148bhp version feels almost as sprightly.
What about those who prefer petrol? Well, a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine with 163bhp might sound like a plucky devil, but you need to rev it to 6000rpm to develop that amount of power. It does without a turbocharger, you see, so unlike many petrol rivals that are thus equipped, there’s precious little low-end shove to help you make easy, relaxing progress. It’s not bad by any means; it's just the peaky power delivery isn't what you'd expect in a large SUV.
Mazda CX-5 estate ride
The relatively stiff suspension that helps the CX-5 handle well doesn’t do much for ride comfort. It’s certainly more jarring over sharp-edged bumps than, say, the Kodiaq or X-Trail, although the Ford Kuga jostles you around more over minor imperfections.
With this in mind, we'd suggest sticking with smaller 17in alloys (standard on SE-L Nav+ trim) rather than the 19in wheels fitted to range-topping Sport Nav+ models. The slightly larger tyre sidewalls on the smaller wheel help take the sting out of potholes and other nasty obstacles.
Mazda CX-5 estate handling
Compared with the Kodiaq and X-Trail, the CX-5 handles really quite well, especially on the larger 19in wheels of Sport Nav+ trim. The CX-5 gives more feedback through its steering than both of those rivals, so it's more enjoyable to drive along a typical country road, and there's plenty of grip. True, the Seat Ateca is even more fun, but that's a smaller, less practical alternative.
Mazda CX-5 estate refinement
There's a bit of road noise if you go for range-topping 19in wheels, but it's still less than you'll hear in the Kuga. True, the Kodiaq is a quieter motorway cruiser, but only marginally; the CX-5 isn't at all fractious.
The diesel engines are smooth when worked hard, even if they do sound a bit gruff at very low revs. The fact that you need to work the petrol engine harder makes it a rowdier companion.
The standard six-speed manual gearbox has a relatively precise action, while the optional automatic 'box changes gears smoothly on the move and isn't at all jerky when you're parking.