Mazda CX-5 SUV (2018 - ) review

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

There really is a lot to like about the CX-5. Its modern styling, its spacious and versatile interior, its slick driving manners and its excellent build quality combine to make it feel like a solid, dependable family-friendly SUV. We’d advise against the petrol engine as it’s quite weedy. We think it’s worth finding the extra cash to buy the most powerful diesel version. As well as giving the CX-5 the performance it deserves, this engine makes for a more relaxing drive in everyday circumstances.

Pros

  • One of the best SUVs to drive
  • Spacious, comfortable interior
  • Quiet diesel engine

Cons

  • Some versions can be expensive
  • Petrol engine needs to be thrashed
  • Not the quietest

Interested in buying a Mazda CX-5?

How good does it look? 4/5

The CX-5 delivers a lot of visual impact, looking really smart and imposing on the road. Diesel models come with a single exhaust pipe, and petrol models get a dual exhaust.

It’s available in three trim levels. All come with body-coloured front and rear bumpers, LED headlights, and privacy glass in the rear and side windows. Entry level SE-L Nav+ trim comes with 17-inch alloy wheels. Mid-range Sport Nav+ upgrades to beefier 19-inch silver alloys, with some models gaining a sunroof. Top-of-the-range GT Sport Nav+ cars all have the sunroof, along with 19-inch bright alloys.

The only colour that’s not a cost extra is Arctic White, with several pearlescent, metallic and mica options also available.

What's the interior like? 4/5

The Mazda CX-5 is a really pleasant and comfortable place to spend your time. The quality is good, most surfaces are soft and squishy, and everything is assembled solidly, although it’s perhaps not quite as premium as the Volkswagen Tiguan.

There is an excellent range of adjustment for both the driver’s seat and steering wheel, and visibility is good in all directions too, thanks to large windows all round.

The infotainment system, which is a 7.0-inch screen on the dashboard, is easy to use. When the car isn’t moving, you can use it as a touchscreen, but this function disables when you’re on the move to prevent distraction, and you have to use a dial controller near the gearlever. Both these functions work well, the menus are logical and the graphics are clear.

Sport Nav+ and GT Sport Nav+ models come with a head-up display, which projects things like navigation instructions, your speed and the prevailing speed limit onto the windscreen in front of you, so you don’t have to avert your eyes from the road.

How practical is it? 4/5

The CX-5 may be priced and specified to go head-to-head with the Volkswagen Tiguan, but the Mazda is a bigger vehicle, especially where it counts. Being slightly wider and a good bit longer means it provides more elbow room and a lot more legroom for rear-seat passengers. 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 properly big boot, with a 506-litre capacity that expands to 1,620 litres when you fold down the 40/20/40-split rear seat backs. These can be flipped down in a few seconds using handles just inside the boot and they lie almost flat once they are down, so it’s easy to load longer items. If you opt for the Sport Nav+ or GT Sport Nav+, you also get a powered tailgate that can be controlled remotely via the key fob.

Other storage bits around the cabin include a decent-sized illuminated glovebox, seatback pockets, door pockets which can fit a big bottle of water, a storage space in the centre console, and two cup holders between the driver and passenger seat, so loads of room for bits and bobs.

What's it like to drive? 4/5

The CX-5 is one of the more agile SUVs. It has bags of grip and the body doesn't lean too much in corners, and that means it always stays stable and composed, even when the road is twisty. You also get a decent amount of feedback through the steering, which gives you the confidence you need to really enjoy the car on a country road.

Some of this handling ability is due to suspension that's on the firm side, meaning things can feel a little bit jittery at times, especially at low urban speeds. However, it still manages to deal reasonably well with bigger lumps and bumps, and things feel really comfortable and composed on the motorway.

How powerful is it? 4/5

The 2.0-litre petrol engine is one of very few modern engines without a turbocharger to boost its power. What this means when you’re driving it is that you’ll have to rev the engine a lot to get decent performance out of it, and you’ll find it harder to get up hills or overtake.

The 2.2-litre diesel with 150 horsepower is a much better option, because it’s much stronger throughout the whole rev range. It’s pretty 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, almost as economical as the lower powered diesel engine, and very quiet. This engine is only available with all-wheel-drive, whereas the other engines only come with two-wheel drive.

The CX-5 comes with a six-speed manual gearbox as standard, which 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.

How much will it cost me? 4/5

Emissions and fuel consumption in the CX-5 are average for the class, with CO2 emissions between 130-150g/km depending on which engine and gearbox you opt for. Fuel consumption on the combined WLTP cycle (the latest testing standard) sits between the late-30s and the early-50s, again depending on which model you go for. The diesel engines cost a bit more than the petrol to buy, but it's money well spent.

Looking at the total running costs of the CX-5 when compared with rivals including the Volkswagen Tiguan, Kia Sportage and Ford Kuga, it stacks up quite well. That's largely thanks to the Mazda's resale values, which are strong for the class, and that really helps keep whole-life costs down.

How reliable is it? 4/5

Mazda has an excellent reliability record, with the company rated very highly on Warranty Direct's Reliability Index. Mazda also sits mid-table in the JD Power UK Vehicle Dependability Study.

The CX-5 comes with a three-year/60,000 mile warranty, including a three-year paintwork warranty, and 12-year perforation warranty. Compared with other models, this is fine, but some rival manufacturers offer five- or seven year warranties.

How safe is it? 5/5

The CX-5 scored the maximum five stars in Euro NCAP crash tests, and it's no surprise given the generous amount of safety kit on offer. Over and above the six airbags and Hill Hold Assist, all models get Smart City Brake Support as standard. If there is the danger of a collision with a vehicle or pedestrian in front of you, the system alerts the driver using a warning sound. If it detects that a collision is unavoidable, it automatically applies the brakes to slow or even stop the car. You also get Lane Keep Assist and Blind Spot Monitoring with Rear Cross Traffic Alert, which are usually cost extras.

In addition, the safety pack – a cost option on Sport Nav+ and standard on top GT Sport Nav+ – gives you Rear City Brake Support, which does a similar job to the automatic braking function, but also works in reverse gear at speeds of 1-5mph. This pack also includes Adaptive LED Headlights, which turn off sections of the LEDs, so that the high beams can be used continuously without dazzling other vehicles.

How much equipment do I get? 5/5

You get a really generous amount of standard kit on the CX-5. All models feature LED headlights and automatic power-folding door mirrors. Inside, the CX-5 comes with dual-zone climate control, DAB radio and a 7.0-inch colour touchscreen with integrated sat-nav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. On top of that you get adaptive cruise control, automatic lights and rain-sensing wipers.

Sport Nav+ cars add a bit of luxury with a reversing camera, leather seats, an eight-way electrically adjustable driver’s seat and smart keyless entry, plus heating for the front seats and steering wheel. On top of that, they also feature a powered tailgate and a head-up display.

The top-of-the-range GT Sport Nav+ gets you some fancier leather upholstery, ventilated (as well as heated) front seats, and heated rear seats.

Why buy? 4/5

The CX-5 is a handsome and practical SUV that offers plenty of space for the whole family and all your stuff, and it's also one of the more enjoyable cars of its type to drive. If you choose the right engine (one of the diesels), it’s also a strong performer that should provide faithful service for many years.

Interested in buying a Mazda CX-5?