Tim O'Brien | Feb 27, 2012 | 28 Comments


Vehicle Style: Medium SUV
$36,040 (plus on-roads)
2.0 litre SkyActiv petrol
AWD with six-speed automatic

Consumption (claimed): 6.9 l/100km (and 160 g/km)
Consumption (tested): 8.6 l/100km



The company that mostly ‘gets it right', has got it right again. We're talking about Mazda's new CX-5.

After a day in the saddle in the AWD Maxx Sport 2.0 litre SkyActiv petrol, it has just one shortcoming as far as we can find - just one. Park that one debit, and Mazda's new CX-5 is the best driving, best finished, and best-buying SUV of the moment.

It has to be good, it's ploughing the toughest of markets: between the Sportage, Tiguan, new Ford Kuga, Rav4 and Forester (among others), it's hard to spot a dud.

But it barely takes 30 seconds at the wheel of the new CX-5 to recognise that this one is a bit special.

With crisp modern lines, 'alive' and responsive handling, a beautifully trimmed and appointed interior, and superior on-road dynamics, Mazda has landed a very good car here.

It's bigger than we anticipated, and more spacious inside. It certainly feels 'airier' and more instantly appealing than the CX-7 it's replacing.

With a range starting at $27,800 for the CX-5 Maxx FWD (with six-speed manual), $33,540 for the Maxx Sport FWD with six-speed auto, and $36,040 for the Maxx Sport AWD auto we drove, it's priced pretty right.

2012 mazda cx 5 australia launch event 08

This puts it on par with the Forester, that it comfortably betters, and not too far from the Sportage, that it also comfortably betters.

And it's shortcoming? We had under test the petrol SkyActiv 2.0 litre. It will happily rev its head off, but it's a tad underpowered.

Not that you'd notice too much in normal driving. But pushing it high into Snowy Mountain country between Khancoban and Canberra, the long steep climbs were a bit of a struggle.

The diesel will address this when it arrives. It's packing class-leading torque of 420Nm under the bonnet.

We drove this diesel engine in the Mazda6 prototype at Sandown last year... it absolutely hauls. CX-5 buyers are going to be faced with a tough choice when the diesel lands.



Open the door and you're presented with one of the best interiors in the business, both for style and for finish.

The sporty leather-wrapped wheel presents nicely 'square-on' and seats are set high but are well-shaped and comfortable.

The understated lines and organisation of the dash and controls, with the instruments set under a hooded cowl, are classy and appealing.

And all tactile surfaces are first class - something we've come to expect from Mazda - with cold-touch satin-chrome metal garnishes, superior soft-feel dash and door trims, and really good switchgear.

2012 mazda cx 5 australia launch event 04

The more upright seating (than the CX-7) and 2700mm wheelbase creates good space inside; there’s ample legroom and headroom in the back (except maybe for beanpoles), and a good-sized boot of 403 litres (up to the cargo blind), expandable to 1560 litres with the rear seats folded.

The tailgate has a low loading lip that many will appreciate when doing the weekly mega-shop.

And it’s not short of standard features, primary among them a crystal-clear nine-speaker Bose sound system.

Plus, each in the CX-5 range comes with a 5.8-inch touchscreen, USB and Bluetooth connections, iPod playback (with on-screen music information) and aux-in, sat-nav with live updates, climate control and fully integrated rear view camera.

The Maxx Sport we drove also features auto on-off headlights, leather-wrapped gearshift knob, handbrake and steering wheel, rain-sensing wipers, fog lamps, 40/20/40 split-fold rear backrest (flat fold) and centre fold-down armrest and 17-inch alloys.

Nothing missing among that spec list.


On The Road

The CX-5 is the first new model from Mazda with the whole box and dice of its SkyActiv technologies, encompassing the engine, transmission, chassis and body structures.

The 2.0 litre DOHC SkyActiv-G petrol engine runs a gut-busting 13:1 compression ratio, multi-port direct fuel injection, continuously variable valve timing (CVVT) on inlet and exhaust ports, lighter engine components and a 30 percent reduction in internal engine friction.

It’s a delightfully balanced unit, producing a free-revving 113kW at 6000rpm and 198Nm at 4000rpm in the AWD we had under test. (The front wheel drive gets one extra kW and two more Nm).

It’s mated to the six-speed auto with friction-reducing and ‘lock-up’ technologies (to reduce slippage from the torque converter) and rapid gear-changes more like a dual-clutch transmission.

Both in Sport and Normal mode, it works very well. Sport livens up the changes and hangs longer onto gears. It can also be paddled manually via the gear-shift – push forward for downshifts, back for upshifts.

Despite – or because of – the six-speed box (with two high loping ratios at the top end), overtaking needs a bit of forward planning. While the engine will spin like a jewel to 6000rpm, there’s quite a noticeable torque hole between 2500 and 3000rpm.

Unless you drag it back a few cogs it’s a bit slow to get moving, reluctant even, as though it’s struggling with the CX-5’s bulk. When overtaking, you have to anticipate with the right gear and a heavy right foot.

It won’t whistle out-and-around like the eager new Ford Kuga for instance.

It’s the same on hills and when pulling out of corners. If you want anything to happen quickly you’ve got to be prepared to wring a few revs out of the engine.

Any shortcomings of the petrol however will be more than adequately compensated for by the 2.2 litre twin-turbo diesel; it’s arriving next month (we’ll be attending the launch) and it’s going to be packing 129kW and 420Nm of torque.

Numbers like that will make the diesel CX-5 a real belter.

It’s the handling of the CX-5 that really sets it apart though. With a somewhat conventional front strut and rear multi-link set-up, it provides both a sporting feel and a well-isolated and elastic ride.

It’s untroubled by rippled tarmac, is quieter than both the Mazda3 and 6 on coarse bitumen (its NVH is surprising good), is really responsive through the steering and points more accurately than any of its direct competitors.

And, despite its high stance, it doesn’t get all wobbly or flustered when pushing on through corners.

There’s some understeer, especially if you get onto the sauce too early into the corner, but this is one very nice handling SUV. And you can, as we did, belt it over gravel and corrugations without unsettling things or crashing through the suspension.

It’s got all the safety bits (naturally) like anti-lock braking, dynamic stability control, traction control, emergency brake assist and emergency brake-force distribution, plus hill-start assist and front, side and curtain SRS airbags.


First Drive Verdict

On the basis of this first drive, it’s hard not to be very impressed with Mazda’s new CX-5.

Dynamically, and for finish and that elusive sense of quality, it is - as Mazda claims - a cut above others in its segment.

It’s also very nicely proportioned and has a classy presence on road. The 2.0 litre petrol engine is a bit underdone for power and responsiveness, but there is a very big upside to its SkyActiv technologies.

We absolutely wrung its neck on launch and still returned a remarkable 8.6 l/100km. The claimed 6.9 l/100km looks very easily achieved.

Mazda’s CX-5 is one very nice car. And certainly one to consider if shopping in this part of the market.



  • 2012 Mazda CX-5 Maxx 2.0 litre petrol FWD 6MT - $27,800
  • 2012 Mazda CX-5 Maxx 2.0 litre petrol FWD 6AT - $29,800
  • 2012 Mazda CX-5 Maxx 2.2 litre petrol AWD 6AT - $32,300
  • 2012 Mazda CX-5 Maxx Sport 2.0 litre petrol FWD 6AT - $33,540
  • 2012 Mazda CX-5 Maxx Sport 2.0 litre petrol AWD 6AT - $36,040
  • 2012 Mazda CX-5 Maxx Sport 2.2 litre diesel AWD 6AT - $39,040
  • 2012 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring 2.0 litre petrol AWD 6AT - $43,200
  • 2012 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring 2.2 litre diesel AWD 6AT - $46,200

Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price (unless otherwise noted) and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.


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