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Mazda CX-5 long-term test review

The previous version of Mazda's CX-5 became one of our favourite large SUVs, can this new model follow in its footsteps?

Words By Darren Moss

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Mazda CX-5
  • The car: Mazda CX-5 2.2d 150 Sport Nav
  • Run by: Darren Moss, deputy editor whatcar.com
  • Why it’s here: The previous CX-5 was one of our favourite large SUVs. Can this new version shine in the face of even stronger competition?
  • Needs to: Be economical on my daily commute, comfortable on long journeys and have plenty of space inside. In short: be the perfect car for a growing family.

Price Β£28,695 Price as tested Β£29,495 Miles covered 2604 Official fuel economy 56.5mpg Test economy 40.1mpg CO2 132g/km Options Soul Red Crystal paint (Β£800)


23 November 2017 – the Mazda CX-5 joins our fleet

Meet Bob. Bob wants an SUV, but doesn’t want any of the badge snobbery that might come from driving an Audi Q5, Mercedes GLC or BMW X3. Bob doesn’t need seven seats, either, so he’s already ruled out the Nissan X-Trail, the Land Rover Discovery Sport and the Skoda Kodiaq. So now Bob’s looking carefully at the Mazda CX-5, and he’s wondering what kind of a car this is.

Well Bob, the CX-5 follows the now well-trodden path of the large SUV. A big boot, a raised-up driving position, the option of four-wheel drive and a frugal diesel engine. The previous CX-5 endeared itself by being good to drive while also keeping costs down – in fact, we named it as our favourite large SUV for less than Β£25,000 at this year’s What Car? Car of the Year Awards.

This new version is even more stylish to look at and comes with even more kit, and yet is around only Β£500 more expensive to buy, like for like, than the previous car. Our recommended SE-L versions of the CX-5 are practically bristling with toys, including cruise control, front and rear parking sensors and automatic lights and wipers. But we want to see if, in range-topping Sport Nav trim, the CX-5 can match up to its premium German rivals – think of the CX-5 as the plucky upstart, then, proudly shouting β€œanything you can do, I can do cheaper.”

Certainly, this Sport Nav model has been given the right tools for the job. The equipment list includes items which weren’t even offered on the Audi Q5 S-Line I ran previously. Heated seats and steering wheel, a head-up display, fully electric leather seats, a powered tailgate and keyless entry are all standard. So comprehensive is the equipment list, in fact, that I’ve only plundered one extra from the options list: the fetching Soul Red metallic paint you see in the pictures here for Β£800. And the most impressive part? Even at a total price of Β£29,495, our fully loaded CX-5 is cheaper than the equivalent Q5 to the tune of Β£11,590.

It’s good news on the driving front, too, because in the first 2000 miles of motoring the CX-5 has proven itself to be every bit as capable as the Q5 for my weekday commute and longer weekend trips down the M1 to visit family. It’s not quite as comfortable as the Q5, perhaps – there’s no height-adjustable armrest or extendable thigh support, here – but I still reach the end of a 200-mile round trip feeling fresh.

That’s helped by the CX-5’s interior, which is far nicer than in the previous model. Gone is the plethora of scratchy plastics, to be replaced by fetching metal-effect trim, soft leather on the steering wheel and an infotainment screen which now sits proudly on top of the dashboard rather than integrated into it. It’s smart, too, because although it functions perfectly well as a touchscreen there’s also a rotary controller to make things easier on the move. My one bug-bear so far? There’s no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto smartphone mirroring, not even on the options list.

Given the bad press surrounding diesels at the moment, you might call us foolish for choosing Mazda’s 2.2-litre Skyactiv-D diesel engine, but we’re not big fans of the 2.0-litre petrol. In fact, with peak power arriving at around 6000rpm it feels downright wheezy. And there’s no arguing with the numbers – CO2 emissions for our engine stand at 132g/km, with claimed combined fuel economy of 56.5mpg. Although I’m yet to get real-world economy nowhere near that yet, I’m putting this down to the fact that our car arrived with just 165 miles on the clock. Some bedding in required, then.

One sticking point so far is the CX-5’s ride, which is far firmer than that of many of its rivals. It’s not crashy, mind, but you’ll feel more of the ruts and bumps in the road than you would in, say, a Renault Koleos or X-Trail. Time will tell if that grows from a minor issue to a major nuisance.

Another issue is the car's front parking sensors, which are a bit over-zealous at times. As you can see in the picture below, they've even come on when there's nothing in front of me.

Over the next few months, I’ll see whether stepping from the Q5 into the Mazda feels like a truly downwards step, or whether the CX-5’s lower price tag means it’s actually the savvy choice in this market. We’ll also see how it handles longer trips, as well as the sort of light off-roading which might be expected of a modern family SUV. And, ultimately, we’ll see if Bob would be wise to spend his hard-earned cash on one.

Read our full Mazda CX-5 review

Read more of our long-term tests


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