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Used Mazda CX-5 2012-2017 review

Category: Large SUV

Section: What is it like?

Mazda CX-5
  • Mazda CX-5
  • Mazda CX-5 12-17 interior
  • Mazda CX-5 12-17 rear corner
  • Mazda CX-5 12-17 front corner
  • Mazda CX-5 12-17 side
  • Mazda CX-5 2019 RHD infotainment
  • Mazda CX-5 long-term test review
  • Mazda CX-5
  • Mazda CX-5 12-17 interior
  • Mazda CX-5 12-17 rear corner
  • Mazda CX-5 12-17 front corner
  • Mazda CX-5 12-17 side
  • Mazda CX-5 2019 RHD infotainment
  • Mazda CX-5 long-term test review
Used Mazda CX-5 2012-2017 review
Star rating

What's the used Mazda CX-5 estate like?

The first-generation Mazda CX-5 was a large SUV and was perfect for those who found the family SUV-sized Nissan Qashqai a fraction too small and the BMW X3, another large SUV, too expensive. However, this car is actually far better than the halfway house such a description implies, and it now makes for a really good-value used buy for those after something both good to drive and reliable. 

The CX-5 was different from its rivals in that it was available only with a 2.0-litre petrol or 2.2-litre diesel engine, rather than a raft of downsized turbocharged petrol units, smaller diesels or hybrid engines. The petrol version had 163bhp and was available with front-wheel drive and a manual gearbox, while the diesel had 148bhp or 173bhp and the option of four-wheel drive and an automatic gearbox.

The petrol engine needs quite a few revs to get going, but the diesels have loads of pulling power that, combined with precise steering, minimal body roll and lots of grip, makes for an SUV that is surprisingly entertaining to drive. That it manages all this without resorting to a very stiff suspension setup that can ruin a car's the ride is impressive. That said, we’d still recommend sticking with the SE L on its 17in wheels, rather than the Sport on 19in rims, for comfort reasons. Whichever CX-5 you choose, though, our biggest complaint is that there’s rather a lot of wind and tyre noise.

Unsurprisingly, because it was cheaper to buy than premium-badged SUVs of the same size, the CX-5 doesn't feel quite as plush inside. The dashboard design, for example, majors on clear, easy-to-operate controls rather than anything that looks too flashy. It's pretty painless to live with, and the fact that the infotainment screen can be operated via a rotary controller down by the gearlever makes it very easy to use on the move.

There's more room in the CX-5 than in the Qashqai. The boot, for example, will easily hold enough luggage for a family camping holiday, while the rear seats are just wide enough for three people to sit abreast. Head and leg room for all occupants are excellent.

As you’d hope in a family-friendly SUV, safety standards are excellent. In fact, the CX-5 was among the earliest mainstream cars to feature automatic emergency braking as standard across the range. It also outperformed the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 for occupant protection in Euro NCAP’s crash tests and achieved a maximum five-star overall safety score.