Mazda CX-5 review

Category: Large SUV

Section: Performance & drive

Available fuel types:petrol, diesel
Available colours:
Mazda CX-5 2019 left rear cornering
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  • Mazda CX-5 2019 Right hand cornering shot
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  • Mazda CX-5 2019 left panning shot
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  • Mazda CX-5 2019 boot open
RRP £27,030What Car? Target Price from£26,171
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Performance & drive

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

Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox

The 163bhp 2.0 Skyactiv-G 165 is your only petrol engine option. Unlike nearly every other modern petrol engine it doesn't have a turbocharger to boost power, so you won’t find it that flexible from low revs. The upshot is you have to change down gears more often and rev it harder than you would a Peugeot 5008 or Citroën C5 Aircross 1.2 Puretech 130 in everyday driving. 

That said, when you do rev it out it’ll hit 0-62mph in a respectable 10.3sec; that's actually a bit quicker than both of those rivals and roughly on a par with the Skoda Karoq 1.5 TSI 150. When you balance out performance with costs, which we’ll discuss later on, it’s the engine we most recommend.

However, don’t discount the entry-level 148bhp 2.2 Skyactiv-D 150 diesel. It pulls harder than the petrol from around 1000rpm and revs out freely all the way to the red line. The more expensive 181bhp Skyactiv-D 184 is a bit stronger at the top of the rev range, but, unless you’ve got the car packed to the brim with people and luggage, the difference isn't that noticeable – partly because this engine is available only with four-wheel drive, which adds a fair bit of weight.

Suspension and ride comfort

The relatively stiff suspension that helps the CX-5 handle well (see below) doesn’t do much for ride comfort. It’s certainly more jarring over sharp-edged bumps than, say, the Citroën C5 Aircross, Honda CR-V or 5008, and never really settles as well on the motorway, either. It's one of the CX-5's few weak points.

With this 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 2019 left rear cornering

Handling

Compared with the Skoda Kodiaq and CR-V, the CX-5 handles really quite well. And if handling is your top priority, the larger 19in alloys that hurt the ride do improve the CX-5’s grip and agility over the smaller 17in wheels. 

Body lean is relatively well contained and the CX-5’s steering is accurate with plenty of feedback, making this a large SUV that’s surprisingly enjoyable to drive briskly along a typical country road. Smaller SUV rivals, such as the Seat Ateca, are even more agile, though.

Noise and vibration

There's a bit of road noise on cars fitted with the bigger 19in wheels, but this is also a criticism of many rivals, including the CR-V and Toyota RAV4. You’ll find the Kodiaq and 5008 are quieter motorway cruisers.

The CX-5'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 sporty, precise action, while the optional automatic 'box changes gears smoothly on the move and isn't as jerky as a Kodiaq’s auto ‘box when you're parking.

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