Mazda CX-5 long-term test
Our sub-editor wanted a car that's relaxing on the motorway, capable on tricky terrain and fun to drive elsewhere. Did this family SUV deliver?...
The car Mazda CX-5 2.5 AWD GT Sport Auto Run by Chris Haining, sub-editor
Why it’s here To see how a traditional, petrol-powered, four-wheel drive large SUV fits in with daily life
Needs to Shrug off rough roads and tough weather, soothe in motorway traffic, entertain on a twisty road
Mileage 9288 List price £38,905 Target Price £37,389 Price as tested £39,485 Test economy 33.1mpg Official economy 34.7mpg Running costs (excluding depreciation) Fuel £2015 Dealer price now £34,925 Private price now £31,044
2 December 2022 – Farewell to The Great White
When I was little, puddles were there for my amusement. Under close parental supervision, I’d bounce down the rain-soaked high street, leaping from one pool to the next, confident that my yellow wellies (with ducks on them) would keep me dry while I made the biggest splashes ever. Well, my Mazda CX-5 has me reliving those days now that I’m, er, a fair bit older.
Back in the summer, I was bemoaning that my uncharacteristically dry Cornish holiday gave me no chance to put the CX-5’s four-wheel drive system to the test. Now that the roads are strewn with leaves, many of which have turned into a thick, greasy dressing that adds peril to the apexes of my favourite local corners, it has proven itself more than once.
Now, lets put aside notions of swimming through swamps like a Land Rover Defender urges you to; the CX-5’s four-wheel drive system is more about keeping you going in poor conditions. It works, too; on a sludged-up slope nearby where standing up wasn’t the easiest, my car found plenty of traction to get me safely back to dry Tarmac. What’s more, it lends the CX-5 a surprisingly sporty character when the conditions are right; if you accelerate hard out of a corner with a little bit of steering still wound on, you can feel the rear tyres putting power to the road.
Basically, whatever the weather, it inspires confidence. And that’s a fitting addition to the CX-5’s long list of virtues. In earlier reports, I've mentioned how the dashboard couldn’t be more sensibly laid out or easy to use, and I’ve spoken about how everything you touch feels beautifully put together. I’ve covered its surprisingly capacious boot, too, and having acted as a chauffeur for my Grandmother a few times, I can vouch that those sitting in the back don’t get a raw deal compared with those in the front. The heated rear seats of my top-spec GT Sport version were welcomed, too.
In all, the CX-5 fitted in with my leisure time very well. I came to nickname it The Great White, inspired by its hungry mouth, the sharkfin antenna on its roof, its Arctic white paint and, well, the fact that I thought it was great. It’s a shame that it didn’t fit quite as neatly with my nine-to-five, though; I’m talking about my 240-mile round-trip commute on the M25. Four-wheel drive, an automatic gearbox and a big 2.5-litre petrol engine isn’t exactly a recipe for economy, and based on my brim-to-brim calculations, the CX-5 averaged an unspectacular 34.7mpg in my hands. It has me wondering how the diesel version might have fared, but I would have missed the petrol engine’s encouraging rasp at high revs on a twisty road.
And its thirst is made even more of a shame by how very comfy it makes long motorway trips. The ride is more settled at higher speeds than it is during the urban crawl (and even then, it’s never a chore), and the stereo is very good, sounding natural and underpinned by a subwoofer that does justice to bassy tunes, such as Bjork's Hyperballad, that make weedy systems go to pieces.
Who is this car for, then? Well, if you don’t make a lot of long, routine journeys, but you want security on that annual Winter trip from Oxford to the middle of Scotland, a four-wheel drive CX-5 makes a lot of sense. If I had no need to make frequent long, mundane journeys, I’d love one, and I’d probably keep it for a long time. Cars like this, which offer reassuring quality and sensible design, in place of look-at-me glitz and dazzling complexity, are becoming a rare breed.
It stacks up well as an ownership proposition, too. In our 2022 Reliability Survey, Mazda as a brand finished a commendable 8th place out of 32 manufacturers, and while the CX-5 itself placed an unremarkable halfway up the table in the Large SUV category, it did so with a strong score of 94.8%. Now a year old, and with almost 10,000 miles on the clock, its resale value isn't disastrous either.
So, while I won't miss paying for the petrol, I will miss taking The Great White on adventures. If only I still had a pair of yellow wellies with ducks on them.
For all the latest reviews, advice and new car deals, sign up to the What Car? newsletter here
Best family SUVs 2023
Want practicality, class and an elevated driving position in a relatively compact and affordable package? These are the top 10 cars you should be looking at – and the ones that are best avoided
Citroën C5 Aircross long-term test
Citroën's family SUV has been upgraded inside and under the skin. But what's it like to live with? We're finding out