Mazda CX-5 review

Category: Large SUV

Section: Performance & drive

Available fuel types:petrol, diesel
Available colours:
Mazda CX-5 2021 rear cornering
Add to shortlist
  • Mazda CX-5 2021 front cornering
  • Mazda CX-5 2021 rear cornering
  • Mazda CX-5 2021 dashboard
  • Mazda CX-5 2021 back seats
  • Mazda CX-5 2021 infotainment
  • Mazda CX-5 2021 right tracking
  • Mazda CX-5 2021 left tracking
  • Mazda CX-5 2021 right tracking
  • Mazda CX-5 2021 front seats
  • Mazda CX-5 2021 steering wheel
  • Mazda CX-5 2021 infotainment dial control
  • Mazda CX-5 2021 boot
  • Mazda CX-5 2021 front cornering
  • Mazda CX-5 2021 rear cornering
  • Mazda CX-5 2021 dashboard
  • Mazda CX-5 2021 back seats
  • Mazda CX-5 2021 infotainment
  • Mazda CX-5 2021 right tracking
  • Mazda CX-5 2021 left tracking
  • Mazda CX-5 2021 right tracking
  • Mazda CX-5 2021 front seats
  • Mazda CX-5 2021 steering wheel
  • Mazda CX-5 2021 infotainment dial control
  • Mazda CX-5 2021 boot
RRP £27,245What Car? Target Price from£26,045
Share review

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 163bhp 2.0 Skyactiv-G 165 has a larger capacity and more power than, say, the Citroën C5 Aircross 1.2 Puretech 130, it's no quicker.

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 CX-5 range, though. The 191bhp 2.5 Skyactiv-G 194 is only a little bit faster and uses a lot more fuel (we'll look at costs in greater detail later), although it does come with a responsive automatic gearbox as standard, sparing you the constant gear-changing.

Don’t ignore the entry-level 148bhp 2.2 Skyactiv-D 150 diesel either. It pulls harder than the petrols from around 1500rpm and revs out freely all the way to the red line (0-62mph takes 9.9sec). Again, the more expensive 182bhp 2.2 Skyactiv-D 184 is a bit stronger at the top of the rev range but there isn't a stark difference.

Suspension and ride comfort

The relatively stiff suspension that helps the Mazda CX-5 handle fairly well (see below) doesn’t do much for its ride comfort, which is one of its weak points. It’s more jarring over sharp-edged bumps than many rivals, including the Citroën C5 Aircross, Honda CR-V and the Peugeot 5008, and never really settles as well on the motorway.

With that in mind, if you value comfort we'd suggest sticking with the smaller 17in alloy wheels (standard on SE-L trim) because the larger 19in alloys and lower-profile tyres fitted to the higher trims make the ride even worse.

Mazda CX-5 2021 rear cornering

Handling

The Mazda CX-5 handles quite well compared with the Citroën C5 Aircross. It has a stiffer suspension set-up so it leans a lot less and its steering is more accurate, offering a greater degree of feedback. That said, it's no better than the Peugeot 5008, and, if handling is your top priority, the Seat Tarraco and Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace are even sharper to drive.

We mentioned that the larger 19in alloys hurt the CX-5's ride but they also improve its handling. The smaller 17in wheels have bigger tyre sidewalls and the extra rubber dulls your steering inputs.

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 Toyota RAV4. The Peugeot 5008 and Skoda Kodiaq are quieter motorway cruisers.

The Mazda's diesel engines are smooth when worked hard but sound a bit gruff at very low revs. The fact that you need to work the petrol engine harder makes it an altogether rowdier companion.

The standard six-speed manual gearbox has a relatively precise and sporty action, while the optional automatic gearbox changes up and down smoothly on the move, and is not as jerky as a Kodiaq automatic when parking.

Also consider

Seat Tarraco

2019 - present

Plus points include sporty dynamics and generous spe...

Ford Kuga

2019 - present

A fine SUV, particularly in plug-in hybrid (PHEV) form

Mitsubishi Outlander

2019 - present

The Mitsubishi Outlander wins no prizes for refinement or inte...

Honda CR-V

2018 - present

Great on interior space, comfortable and tidy to drive, but th...