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The Auto Trader expert verdict: ★★★★★ ★★★★★ 4.5

Available new from £27,030

There’s a lot to like about the CX-5, from its comfortable and family-friendly cabin to its sharp, enjoyable handling. It’s also safe and exceptionally well equipped, while it’s great to look at, inside and out. As an alternative to cars such as the Nissan Qashqai and Volkswagen Tiguan it’s well worth your consideration, though plug-in hybrid rivals may offer cheaper running costs.

Reasons to buy

  • One of the best SUVs to drive
  • Spacious, comfortable interior
  • Very well equipped

Running costs for a Mazda CX-5 3/5

Prices for the CX-5 start at a higher level than for rivals such as the Kia Sportage, Qashqai and even the Tiguan. Once you’ve factored in how much power, equipment and space you get for the money, however, the CX-5 looks like decent value. Residual values are expected to be strong, too, which helps keep long-term costs and finance deals competitive

Where many rivals use smaller, turbocharged engines to save fuel and CO2 Mazda takes a different path and the range starts with a 2.0-litre petrol, which is still competitive thanks to Mazda’s clever ‘Skyactiv’ tech. New for this 2020 model this engine gains partial shut-off, meaning it effectively runs on two of the four cylinders when you’re off the throttle, saving a chunk of CO2 when combined with the manual gearbox. In our hands we scored close to the official 39.2mpg combined fuel consumption in mixed town and motorway driving – impressive for an engine of this type in a car of this size and proof Mazda’s tech works.

There’s also a diesel option but on all but the manual, front-wheel drive model the CO2 is actually worse than the petrol and the fuel economy is only a fraction better, at least on paper. The four-wheel drive automatic diesel compares unfavourably with rivals like the Tiguan on these scores, while the plug-in hybrid options on rivals like the Volvo XC40, Peugeot 3008 and Vauxhall Grandland X will score company drivers huge savings on Benefit In Kind the Mazda can’t match.

Reliability of a Mazda CX-5 3/5

Mazda has a respectable reliability record, with the brand near the top of the Warranty Direct Reliability Index. It achieved a mid-table position in the latest JD Power UK Vehicle Dependability Study, although its overall score was below the industry average. The three-year/60,000 mile warranty is par for the course, but it’s not a match for the five- or seven-year warranties offered by rival Hyundai, Kia and Toyota models.

Safety for a Mazda CX-5 4/5

Safety technology has been expanded and improved for this minor 2020 model year update, building on an already impressive array of standard kit. Every CX-5 gets automatic emergency braking able to intervene should pedestrians appear in your path – this now has an increased operating range, too. Side sensors monitor your blind spots on the motorway and can alert you to vehicles crossing your path when reversing out of a parking space or driveway, which is handy given the rear visibility isn’t all that great. Radar cruise control capable of bringing you to a halt in stop/start traffic, holding the brakes and then pulling away when the car in front moves is also standard, an optional Safety Pack adding a driver drowsiness alert system and automatic LED headlights, their range and sophistication improved for the 2020 model. The safety pack also includes a system to brake the car automatically if you’re about to reverse into an unseen obstacle.

How comfortable is the Mazda CX-5 4/5

The Mazda CX-5’s cabin is an appealing, comfortable place to spend your time. Everything looks and feels very classy, and the fine driving position and good visibility help you feel at ease behind the wheel.

The central screen is bigger for the 2020 model – now 8.0 inches across – and offers touch control when the vehicle is stationary, locking this function out once on the move to encourage you to use the physical turn-and-push knob between the seats when driving. Both these functions work well, while the menus are logical and the graphics are clear, if lacking pizzazz when compared with the latest from VW group rivals.

Practicality is excellent. Although the CX-5 is priced and specified to go head-to-head with the Volkswagen Tiguan, it’s a bigger vehicle, especially for those in the back. The rear seats can't slide back and forwards in the same way they do in the Tiguan, but the Mazda’s backrest can be reclined by a few degrees to help your passengers have a snooze.

The CX-5 also has a very large boot and handy 40/20/40-split rear seat backs. These can be flipped down in a few seconds using handles just inside the boot, while higher-spec models also have a powered tailgate that can be controlled remotely via the key fob.

Family-friendly it might be but the CX-5 is also surprisingly good fun, with a nimble feel and precise steering that make it very enjoyable to drive. On the bigger wheels the ride comfort is a little crisp around town but it’s never uncomfortable and gives the CX-5 great composure at speed.

Features of the Mazda CX-5 5/5

Standard kit is generous on the CX-5, the increased size and coverage of the centre screen through which phone, navigation and entertainment systems are controlled a welcome update for this 2020 model. CarPlay and Android Auto are standard if you prefer to use your own apps, though built-in navigation is standard also. You can upgrade to a fully connected system if you wish.

The CX-5’s cabin has a distinctive, premium feel on all models but if you want the really tasty kit it’s worth going up a grade from the entry-level model, given this adds leather upholstery, a rear-view camera, ‘head-up display’ projecting speed and nav info into your line of sight on the windscreen, heated and power-adjustable front seats, fancy Bose speakers, 19-inch wheels and a powered tailgate.

One step up the trim ladder is quite a price hike but things get really luxurious, with extras including leather upholstery, a head-up display, powered tailgate and a Bose audio system. Among other things, top-spec cars gain plusher leather, a sunroof and a more sophisticated driver display.

Power for a Mazda CX-5 3/5

The CX-5’s 2.0-litre petrol engine is quite rare in that it doesn’t use a turbocharger to boost its power. Power output is a respectable 165 horsepower but you need to rev the engine hard to get decent performance out of it, whereas the turbocharged engines in many rivals feel just as gutsy at low revs.

The 2.2-litre diesel with 150 horsepower feels stronger. It’s smooth and quiet, too, which helps give the car a relaxed nature on the move. If you can afford the more powerful 184 horsepower version of the diesel engine, it will be money well spent. It’s very eager, and almost as economical as the lower powered diesel engine. This engine is only available with all-wheel drive, whereas the other engines only come with two-wheel drive.

As standard, the CX-5 comes with a six-speed manual gearbox that has a precise, sporty feel to it. There is also an optional six-speed automatic gearbox, which is smooth and doesn’t have any trouble finding the right gear.