Ride, Handling & Performance
Interior Comfort & Practicality
Technology & Safety
Value & Ownership

The Mazda CX-5 was born a winner. Since its release it has enjoyed sales success and remains the model to beat in the mid-size SUV segment. It has been good enough to continually see off newer models to the category and maintain its sales champion status. An impressive effort for a car that has now been on the market since 2012. Slight design and equipment changes over the years have been enough to keep the showrooms busy. With stiffer competition from the Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage and the looming release of a new Tiguan, does the Mazda still have what it takes to maintain its market position?

The exterior of the CX-5 still looks good. The design is ageing well and the moderate changes to the front of the car over the years have kept it fresh. On test here is the GT line with a 2.5L naturally aspirated petrol engine, coupled with a 6-speed automatic transmission. The GT model is also All Wheel Drive. This configuration has a price of $44,090 plus on-road costs. The engine delivers 138kW of power, which is more than enough to move the car around. Once the start button is pushed, the car feels spritely during acceleration and never felt short of breath. Overtaking manoeuvres are easily done.

The transmission, a full range direct drive torque converter offers smooth shifting. Changes are quick and precise. It moves through the gears efficiently and rarely does the engine go north of 2,500 rpm. It’s a great unit for everyday city driving and adds to the vehicle’s overall refinement.

In terms of handling, the CX-5 is one of the standouts in the category. For an SUV of this size and height, the handling calibration inspires confidence in the driver. You can have some fun with this car. In saying that, there is still significant body roll in the corners at speeds above 80km. The steering is direct with a light feel courtesy of the Electric Power Assist Steering system.

The i-ACTIV All Wheel Drive set-up is an on-demand system. It utilises 27 sensors to detect slipping rear wheels and determine how much power should be sent to the back. It can deploy up to a 50:50 front-to-rear torque split. This has advantages if you intend on doing some light off-road work. On road, it’s effectively only driving the front wheels, which does the job and maximises efficiency.

The revised suspension does a great job of absorbing the lumps and bumps on some of Victoria’s worst country roads. The ride is generally smooth and comfortable. The GT comes standard with 19-inch alloy wheels wrapped with 225/55 tyres. They look great in their two-tone colour scheme, but they don’t offer the same level of ride comfort as the 17-inch wheels that feature on the Maxx Sport model.

The CX-5 also has one of the best stop-start systems I have come across. Mazda’s i-stop, intelligent start-stop system, once active, is generally not noticeable. With the radio on, the dropping of the tachometer needle is often the only clue the engine is off. The system can’t be permanently disabled, if the driver doesn’t want to utilise the technology, it needs to be turned off every time the car starts. The driver can easily control the system by how much pressure is applied to the brake pedal. It’s dubious how much petrol and emissions i-stop saves, however at least the system integrates well into the overall range of the car’s efficiency measures.

Road noise that infiltrates the cabin has been a constant area of criticism across Mazda’s entire range. Having owned and driven plenty of Mazda models over the years, this criticism is perfectly legitimate. On this test, it was easy to notice the significant improvement in this area. The cabin of the 2016 CX-5 is a much quieter place than it was on earlier versions.

Mazda’s suite of SKYACTIV technology that encompasses the body, chassis, engine and transmission provides an excellent level of economy. On this test, which combined city and highway driving over 700km, returned a fuel consumption figure of 7.1L/100km. This is below the official combined figure of 7.4L.

The interior of the CX-5 continues to combine space and functionality with quality materials. The soft touch plastics found on the dash, centre armrest and the tops of the doors have a classy feel, as do all the driver controls. The light coloured roof, combined with the power sliding and tilt glass sunroof give a feeling of space.

The seating position is excellent. The seat height allows easy entry and egress. The 2-position memory function for the driver’s seat is also very handy if the driving duties are shared. The pure white leather seats provide a great contrast to the dark coloured dash and carpet, however, they mark easily and will require regular cleaning to keep them looking good. If this doesn’t sound overly appealing, black leather is also available. 

The back seat is where the CX-5 holds its trump card. It offers a level of space that isn’t bettered or matched by any of its competitors. The cabin is spacious and comfortable, especially in the rear seat. There are very few cars that offer the generous amount of rear passenger leg room that is found in the Mazda. At a height of 192cm, after adjusting the seat to my driving position, the seat behind is more often than not rendered useless. In the CX-5 it’s pleasing to report a tall adult can easily fit behind me making it a great choice for families with lanky teenagers.

The ‘Karakuri’ tonneau cover is an excellent piece of ingenuity. It moves in unison with the tailgate and works brilliantly. It provides cover for objects in the cargo area and it easy to disconnect and remove if necessary.

The MZD infotainment system is a significant improvement over its predecessor. It is very intuitive and easy to operate. The menu structure is clear and all functions are effortlessly found. Connecting an iPhone through Bluetooth was a painless procedure that only took a few seconds. Overall, the system does a good job, the one criticism would be its speed. It is not as responsive as it could be, Mazda need to speed up the system’s reaction time after the command is selected. Unfortunately, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are not currently offered on this model.

The 9 speaker Premium Bose 231-watt amplifier with 9 speakers, is a bit underwhelming. The name Bose does lend itself to expectations of high-quality sound, however, in this instance, it fell short of expectations. It seemed to lack the depth of sound that should accompany the name.

The CX-5 GT offers a long list of safety features. Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), Dynamic Stability Control (DSC), Emergency Brake Assist (EBA), Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD), Traction Control System (TCS) and Hill Launch Assist (HLA) are all standard. Six airbags, rear cross traffic alert and a reversing camera are also included across the range. The Akera model takes safety a step further by adding Lane Departure Warning (LDW), Blind Spot Monitoring (BSM) and High Beam Control (HBC).

Mazda’s build quality is generally very impressive, so it’s disappointing it continues to only offer a 3-year warranty. It does slightly redeem itself by offering unlimited kilometres during the warranty period. Ownership costs have come down across Mazda’s fleet since the introduction of the Service Select program. Servicing is now required every 10,000km or 12 months, whatever comes first. Although this is far better than the previous 6-month service intervals, many of Mazda’s rivals now offer 15,000km intervals, which are far more convenient.

The Mazda CX-5 remains a very compelling proposition. It is a very comfortable and roomy family car that offers a level of performance and economy that is difficult to find in other cars in the medium SUV segment. Ownership credentials, although improved, still fall well short of the Korean brands. Mazda will at some point need to look at this carefully. From the perspective of the overall package, the CX-5 remains the most complete model in the category. In GT guise, the extra appointments are welcome, if not always necessary. When weighing up everything from ride and handling to interior space and occupant comfort, the Mazda is still the one to beat.

Let’s start a Car Conversation, do you own a Mazda CX-5? Do you own a medium size SUV, if so which one? What do you consider is the best model in the segment?