Mazda CX-5 review

Our Rating 
2017 model
By jumbo-bg Test TeamComments

The Mazda CX-5 doesn't look like a big step on from the old car, but greater tech, comfort and space lifts it near the top of the SUV tree

Sharp looks, great ride and handling balance, solid interior
Limited engine range, no seven-seat option, top models are pricey

Mazda’s CX-5 has now entered its second generation at a time when the large mainstream SUV market is more diverse than ever. With fresh rivals such as the SEAT Ateca and Peugeot 3008 on the scene, plus old favourites like the Kia Sportage and Volkswagen Tiguan, the Mazda has its work cut out.

Thankfully, the car has retained (and improved on) its USP of being the large SUV of choice for keen drivers. It handles better than ever, but most importantly comfort and refinement is at another level to the outgoing car. Combined with a very punchy and efficient diesel engine, an upmarket interior and plenty of kit, and it's easy to see why this is one of Mazda's biggest sellers. 

Granted, the slightly sharper design doesn't really move the game on, and some rivals still beat it for tech and practicality. But as an all-round family SUV that's both comfortable and agile, it's an excellent package. 

Our Choice 
CX-5 2.2d 150 2WD SE-L Nav

The old Mazda CX-5 might be getting on a bit at five years old, but it’s still one of the brand’s most popular models. Crossovers and SUVs take 40 per cent of Mazda’s market share these days, too, so the Japanese carmaker couldn’t afford to give up sales in a booming segment because of dated tech and design. The 2017 model results, though there are quite a few similarities to the old car.

The CX-5 looks very similar to the outgoing car, and uses the same basic platform under the skin. But Mazda claims it’s 15 per cent stiffer than before, meaning even better handling and reduced noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) levels. It also says that 50 per cent of the chassis’ components are new, and the suspension has been completely retuned.

The CX-5’s 2.2-litre diesel is available in two power outputs (with 148bhp and 173bhp) while there’s also a 163bhp 2.0-litre naturally aspirated petrol unit. Both engines are carried over largely unchanged, with small tweaks to improve refinement and efficiency. Four-wheel drive and/or a six-speed automatic gearbox can be had with the diesels.

The CX-5 is pricier than cars such as the Nissan Qashqai, but the kit list reflects that. Base SE-L Nav models get adaptive LED headlights, privacy glass, auto lights and wipers, adaptive high beams, front and rear parking sensors, plus a seven-inch touchscreen with sat-nav, DAB and Bluetooth. Sport Nav is the only other trim choice, upgrading the 17-inch wheels to 19-inch items, plus adding a reversing camera, an electric tailgate, electric heated leather seats and a heated steering wheel, a Bose sound system and keyless entry. 

Engines, performance and drive

CX-5 is still fun to drive for an SUV, but improved refinement and comfort makes one of the best all-rounders in the class

All Mazdas offer a agile and fun driving experience relative to their competitors, and the CX-5 is now different. For a tall and fairly heavy SUV, its direct steering, strong grip levels and impressive agility makes cars like the Ford Edge look like lumbering beasts. You can tell from the way the CX-5 drives that it was developed by the same company who build the MX-5 sports car.

The old model was a composed and entertaining steer, but body control feels tighter in the latest car. Fluid, precise controls and flatter cornering help to build confidence on unfamiliar roads better than almost any rival, meaning this is the SUV of choice for the family man who still enjoys driving.

However, the biggest improvement is felt every day, as the CX-5 is a notably more comfortable car than before. Even on the larger wheel choice the Mazda’s ride is composed and cossetting, with only a touch of firmness evident around town. At motorway speeds, it cruises confidently, helped by the absence of wind and road noise.


The CX-5’s two four-cylinder engines are both carried over from the previous CX-5, with several revisions to improve refinement, response and fuel efficiency. 

The 2.2-litre diesel is expected to be the stronger seller by a big margin, despite changing attitudes to the fuel. It deserves to be, too – it remains a strong and flexible unit, with gutsy torque delivery and a broad spread of power resulting in even the 148bhp version feeling reasonably quick. 

The 173bhp version is punchier still, although the effect of the power boost is mitigated by the increased weight of the four-wheel drive system. Still, whichever output you go for refinement is very good, with only a bit of a clatter on start-up which becomes a muted hum on the move.

The 2.0-litre petrol engine is naturally aspirated, unlike most rivals which are turbocharged.  But it doesn’t feel as strained as you might expect. With a respectable 210Nm of torque and 163bhp,  plus a kerbweight reduction of nearly 100kg, it manages the 0-62mph sprint in a time two-tenths quicker than the base diesel.

However, the petrol needs to be worked much harder than either diesel to get the best out of it, which works well in a sporty hatch or coupe but less so in a family SUV where relaxed torque matters. Refinement suffers as a result, too. 

MPG, CO2 and running costs

Mazda’s SkyActiv engine tech makes the CX-5 decently economical, while insurance should be reasonably cheap

Mazda’s simple engine choice for the CX-5 means that some rivals with a broader spread of powertrains are cheaper to run. SUVs such as the SEAT Ateca and Peugeot 3008 offer downsized petrol engines claiming greater efficiency, but the units in the CX-5 are more frugal than their size would suggest. 

That’s because of Mazda’s low-friction, low compression SkyActiv engine tech, allowing the performance of a larger engine but, when driven sensibly, the economy of something smaller. It means even the petrol CX-5 claims a respectable 47mpg combined and emits 149g/km of CO2. 

The diesel also features SkyActiv tech, but its efficiency depends on spec.  Its 56.5mpg combined in two-wheel drive manual is slightly less on paper than an equivalent Volkswagen Tiguan, but is still competitive, while in the real-world you’ll find 45mpg within easy reach on a cruise. 

Add an automatic gearbox and official economy drops by 6mpg, while CO2 emissions jump from 132g/km to 147g/km. Four-wheel drive doesn’t have too much of an impact nowadays however, as those figures only drop again to 48.7mpg and 152g/km. 

Insurance Groups

The stronger, safer CX-5 looks to be competitive in terms of insurance costs. The petrol is the cheapest, starting at group 15E, which puts it on a par with a 148bhp petrol Kodiaq.  The diesels  slot into group 18E to group 21E, depending on which variant you choose.


We haven’t yet received residual value data for the CX-5, but we’d be surprised if it fared any worse than the outgoing car. That was one of the better models in its class, retaining around 46 per cent of its value – a figure that puts the Mazda up with a number of premium rivals. 

Interior, design and technology

Styling is smarter, if not too different to the old car, while the interior is driver-focused and feels upmarket

If you liked the previous-generation CX-5, chances are you won’t be put off by the redesign. At a glance it looks remarkably similar, but start to look at it in detail and you’ll see it’s distinctly sharper and sportier.

The jutting front-end is more muscular than the rounded face of the old car, and the surfacing is very smart. Styling is ultimately subjective, but in our view it’s one of the most attractive designs in the class, giving the SEAT Ateca a run for its money in the desirability stakes. 

Inside the design changes are even less radical – the layout and switchgear will be instantly recognisable to owners of the previous CX-5. However, detail changes to the controls ensure it’s even easier to operate things on the move, and there’s a real sense that Mazda wants to driver to be focused on the job of actually driving the car. 

The biggest improvement inside is the rise in perceived quality – the CX-5 uses a largely first-rate blend of materials and fit-and-finish is excellent. The old car was already pretty good in this regard, but now the Mazda is on a par with VW for interior polish. Kit levels are fairly strong as well, with SE-L Nav models featuring LED headlights, sat-nav, DAB and dual-zone climate control, while Sport Nav cars include an electric tailgate, electric leather seats, a heated wheel and a head-up display.

Stereo, sat-nav and infotainment 

Infotainment used to be a weak link with Mazdas, but in recent years the brand has upped its game. The seven-inch screen in the latest CX-5 is the same size as the unit in the old car, but it now juts out of the dash into the driver’s eye line rather than sitting flush. It’s easier to glance at on the move as a result, while optical bonding in the display makes the pictures clear and crisp.

Mazda’s trademark rotary controller, with a large central knob for navigating menus and a series of smaller buttons for shortcuts, also makes its way into the CX-5. It’s brilliantly easy to use, rivalling only BMW’s iDrive system for intuitive interaction. It’s just a shame that smartphone connectivity is a bit miserly, with no Android Auto or Apple CarPlay and just the Aha internet radio and app service to play with. Still, Bluetooth and DAB radio are standard.

The CX-5 also has a head-up display (dubbed Active Driving Display) that shows speed, sat-nav data and traffic sign recognition. A clearer 4.6-inch TFT display features in the dials, too. 

Entry-level cars come with a four-speaker sound system that provides perfectly adequate quality. However, Sport Nav models comes with a Bose ten-speaker surround sound system with a subwoofer and separate tweeters, which should keep audiophiles happy with its punchy and crisp sound.

Practicality, comfort and boot space

The CX-5 isn’t any bigger than before, though little detail changes help to make it more practical and comfortable

Mazda hasn’t seen fit to follow most manufacturers by making the CX-5 bigger in every angle. The boot is pretty much the same size as before, as is passenger space.  However, the CX-5 was already competitive in this area, so it’s not too much of an issue.

Subtle changes help improve comfort, with a gearlever raised by 40mm to bring it closer to the steering wheel and repositioned armrests for better body alignment.  Visibility is pretty good, despite a driving position that’s a bit more low-slung than rivals. 

The rear seatbacks have been moved slightly for better posture and recline in two steps, while there’s now air-con vents back there, too. Extra cabin storage features to ensure it’s a truly useable family holdall.  It’s a shame that the rear bench doesn’t slide, but the seatback does usefully split 40/20/40. 


The CX-5 is just over 4.5m long and 1.84m wide, and is identical to the outgoing car in these respects. The wheelbase, too, is the same. It’s slightly lower than before, though, which is unusual for a SUV. It’s about the same size as a Ford Kuga, and slightly smaller than a Honda CR-V.

Legroom, headroom and passenger space

Small changes make the CX-5 more comfortable for passengers, but the actual space on offer is unchanged. Both front and rear seats have similar amounts of legroom, and it’s plenty spacious enough for a growing family. 

There’s a good amount of headroom for all but the tallest adults, while there’s more legroom on offer than there is in a Ford Kuga. Even the largest people will be well accommodated in the front of the Mazda.  It’s just a pity that no seven-seat variant is offered, as a number of rivals offer that choice now.


The CX-5 offers 506-litres of seats-up boot space, which is a mere three litres more than the outgoing car. The Skoda Kodiaq and Nissan X-Trail are larger, though most families will find ample space in the wide, flat load bay. Under-floor storage has increased from 10 litres to 30 litres, while fold all seats down and you’ll find a substantial 1620-litres of space.


The Mazda CX-5 is offered with two maximum braked trailer towing capacities: 1,900kg and 2,000kg. The later is the capacity for all the diesels irrespective of transmission and whether the car is two- or four-wheel drive. Whereas the former is for the petrol engine only, which is does not have a four-wheel drive option.

Reliability and Safety

We see no reason why the CX-5 would be any less reliable than the old one, while strong safety rating is expected

It’s too early to definitively say that the Mazda CX-5 is any more or less reliable than the model it replaces.  The engine range is carried over with small revisions, though, and these units are now tried and tested. 

The outgoing CX-5 finished a decent (if not exceptional) 64th place in our last Driver Power survey, with only the odd electrical gremlin reported. Mazda’s reliability record isn’t as rock-solid as some Japanese rivals  - like Honda and Toyota – however. 

On the safety front Mazda has made a number of key advances. An increased use of ultra high-tensile steel and underbody structures enhance the car’s strength in an impact without adding significant weight, while Mazda has worked hard on improving pedestrian safety with the front-end design. We’ll have to wait until Euro NCAP tests it for the definitive verdict.

Nevertheless, all models come with six airbags as standard. ISOFIX child seat points feature on the rearmost two seats, too, but it’s the active safety tech that’s come on most: Advanced Smart City Brake Support (standard on all models) is improved over the old car with a wider operating window and the ability to detect pedestrians. 

There’s also an optional £800 safety pack, bringing with it adaptive LED headlights, lane-keep assist, driver attention alert, blind-spot monitoring and rear active city braking with rear cross-traffic alert. Adaptive cruise control with a stop and go function, allowing autonomous braking and accelerating even in slow traffic, also features. 


All Mazdas come with a typical three-year, 60,000 mile warranty. It’s par for the course, but an increasing number of manufacturers offer five or (in Kia’s case) seven-year cover. There’s also a three-year warranty on paintwork, and twelve years cover for rust.  There are varying levels of extended cover available to buy, too. 


Service intervals for the CX-5 are carried over from the old car, meaning all models require a trip to a garage every 12,500 miles or twelve months, whichever comes sooner. Owners can keep track of their service record via a smartphone app, too. In addition, the company offers a fixed-price maintenance plan, which covers all scheduled servicing parts and labour for the first three years or 37,500 miles. Prices start from £499, depending on the model.

Last updated: 15 Feb, 2018