Long-term test review: Mazda CX-5

4 May, 2018 11:30am Graham Hope Otis Clay

Update: our long-term Mazda CX-5 SUV fared well on recent trip to the tip, but the sat-nav is far from perfect


The CX-5 is a superb family SUV that is stylish, practical and great to drive. I’ll be in the market for a new car later this year, and the Mazda has definitely earned a place on the shortlist.

Mileage: 9,160
Economy: 48.2mpg

What do we think of our Mazda CX-5 so far? It’s certainly not rubbish, even though the car on our fleet has spent plenty of time at the recycling centre recently.

My daughters Isla (8) and Erin (5) were only too happy to lend a hand when a loft clearance necessitated a number of trips to the tip. And while the girls worked hard, the real star of the show was our Soul Red SUV.

Best SUVs on sale in 2018

A luggage capacity of 506 litres is average for the mid-size SUV class, but proved more than sufficient and kept the trips to the dump to a minimum. The durable carpet survived the onslaught unscathed, too.

Predictably, the CX-5 excelled on a long trip to my parents’ home in Scotland, with the torquey diesel engine dispatching the 500 miles with ease, and it’s averaging 48.2mpg overall. Plus, once it was time to come off the motorway, the Mazda’s agile handling kept me happy on country roads.

However, the trip did throw up one or two minor frustrations. The sat-nav, which we’ve criticised for slow loading previously, was thrown into confusion by the A556 dual carriageway near Bowdon, Altrincham, Greater Manchester, which opened in March 2017. It simply didn’t know the road existed – less than ideal in an unfamiliar part of the country.

This is a real pity, because when the system is on form, the mapping is clear and it’s pretty intuitive to use. But the flaws are a frustration, and it was noticeable respondents in our Driver Power 2018 survey marked it down.

The windscreen washer capacity isn’t the most generous, either. Bad weather meant the wipers were in regular use in Scotland, so we had to refill it twice. It was also unfortunate that while the USB ports can charge an iPhone, they couldn’t cope with iPads, but the CX-5 isn’t alone in this flaw.

Mazda CX-5: second report

Mazda CX-5 SUV is impressing, despite sat-nav eccentricity

Mileage: 6,915
Economy: 40.7mpg

Our Mazda CX-5 is undoubtedly a great car to drive. But does the SUV always know where it’s going? Some sat-nav foibles of late have caused me to invest in a good, old- fashioned atlas as well as pay more rigorous attention to Waze on my phone.

Our Sport Nav model comes with the MZD-Connect set-up as standard, but its behaviour has been rather puzzling so far. Firstly, I noticed the routing suddenly became a bit unusual in London, as I started being directed up random back streets. But I realised something really was up when it tried to take me to Coventry without using a motorway.

A check of the settings saw it had defaulted to using the shortest route rather than the fastest. I switched it back to fastest, only for it to return to shortest again soon after. Strange.

It also loses the signal now and again, while loading can be a bit hit and miss, too; sometimes it fires up immediately, but on other occasions it can take nearly a minute to crank into life.

It’s a shame, really, because most of the time the nav works well; the mapping is clear and simple to follow and it’s easy to operate via the rotary wheel on the centre console.

In fact, gremlins aside, the infotainment in general gets a big thumbs-up. The standard Premium Bose audio system delivers excellent sound quality, while the positioning of the seven-inch colour touchscreen on top of the dash is more logical, and safer, than being integrated lower down.

And of course, it also displays images from the reversing camera in tandem with guidelines for suggested manoeuvres to ensure there are no mishaps in supermarket car parks.

In addition, our car comes with a head-up display, which shows directions, speed and speed limit in your line of sight at all times. It’s the kind of tech you might consider gimmicky if you’ve never used it, but once you have you realise what an asset it is.

The CX-5’s real trump card, though, is just how enjoyable it is to drive. Part of this can be attributed to how light it feels on its feet; with a 1,594kg kerbweight, it is 355kg less than the Ford Edge I ran last year, for example.

Ally this with the know-how that comes with years of developing the MX-5 roadster and you have a car that really does enjoy being driven robustly on the kind of tight B-roads that are the undoing of taller, flabbier SUVs.

The 2.2 four-cylinder diesel engine is muscular enough but refined, too, and the six-speed manual box is a good match, delivering an engaging driving experience. Even if you’ve been directed off the beaten track by that wacky nav.

Mazda CX-5: first report

The arrival of the Mazda CX-5 SUV has injected some Japanese flair into our test fleet

Mileage: 5,277
Economy: 41.1mpg

When I found out that the latest family SUV to join our test fleet would be the Mazda CX-5, I couldn’t help but think of all my favourite things about the country it comes from.

From clothing to cuisine to comics, there’s so much to love about Japanese products. I’m always happy with a bento box for lunch, and my new running shoes make burning off the calories that bit easier afterwards. And it’s the same story with cars, as the Japanese-built models I’ve run over the years have been brilliant.

The previous Mazda I ran for jumbo-bg was the 3 hatch, and I was looking forward to finding out how the latest model compared with the fun-to-drive hatchback.

You can see the connection when you hop in, but the driving experience is what really impresses. Despite being a high-riding SUV, the CX-5 is still great from behind the wheel; the grippy chassis, well weighted controls and slick six-speed manual gearbox all contribute to a superb driving experience.

The engine is another highlight. It’s a 2.2-litre four-cylinder diesel that’s not only punchy and powerful, but quiet and smooth as well. Thanks to refinements made with this new model, it’s a great companion for the many motorway miles I do every week – it’s quiet at a cruise, and the performance allows me to overtake slower traffic at a moment’s notice.

I’m also glad to be back in a car with non- adaptive cruise control. The active systems I’ve tried don’t work on British motorways, as other road users are too unpredictable for a computer to keep up with. With the normal cruise, I can use my own judgement about when I’ll need to change my speed. I’ve been enjoying the agile CX-5’s handling away from the motorway as well, since it rides reasonably well on bumpy roads. It’s not as smooth as the best cars in its class, such as the Skoda Kodiaq, though.

Still, I’m glad that the CX-5 has a similarly pleasing driving position to my previous Mazda 3, which in the SUV is low enough to be immediately comfortable to sit in, but not so low as to hamper visibility. It’s not quite so easy to see out of the back of the car, but the reversing camera on our model takes the stress out of parking.

The Mazda’s interior has been really well thought out. The control weights, button placement and useful boot shape are good examples. The steering wheel and gearlever are placed exactly where you want them, too. New G-Vectoring technology on this model is designed to supplement this, improving long-distance comfort by subtly changing engine torque while cornering – and we’re keen to see how well it works over our time with the car.

As with my trendy tracksuit, the CX-5 also has a very Japanese exterior look. The sharp lines remind me of the art style in one of my favourite animated films, Akira. This is one of the most interesting-looking cars in its class, and while – as with sushi – it won’t be to everyone’s taste, I’m very much a fan.

*Insurance quote from AA (0800 107 0680) for a 42-year-old in Banbury, Oxon, with three points.

Key specs

  • Model: Mazda CX-5 2.2 SkyActiv-D 150ps Sport Nav
  • On fleet since: October 2017
  • Price new: £29,095
  • Engine: 2.2-litre 4cyl turbodiesel, 148bhp
  • CO2/tax: 132g/km/£140
  • Options: Soul Red Crystal metallic paint (£800)
  • Insurance group: 19
  • Quote*: £918
  • Mileage: 9,160
  • Economy: 48.2mpg
  • Any problems?: None so far