What's Hot

Looks, practicality, refinement, and the ‘specs-vs-value’ equation.

What's Not

Modest power and efficiency bias can make hills slow-going.


Smart, stylish urban-jungle accomplice and growing sales hero for families and singles.

Overall Rating

On The Road
Value For Money


Country of Origin
$36,120 (plus on-road costs)
4 Cylinders
113 kW / 198 Nm
Sports Automatic


ANCAP Rating
Driver & Passenger (Dual), Head for 2nd Row Seats, Side for 1st Row Occupants (Front), Head for 1st Row Seats (Front)


L/100 km
160 g/km

Towing and Luggage

Luggage Capacity
505 L
Towing (braked)
1800 kg
Towing (unbraked)
750 kg

Malcolm Flynn | Oct 27, 2012 | 9 Comments


Vehicle Style: Medium SUV
Price: $36,120 (plus on-roads)
Fuel Economy claimed: 6.9l/100km | tested: 9.3l/100km



Mazda has hit the sweet spot in the Australian market with the CX-5 SUV.

Launched just nine months ago, sales of the all-new model have rocketed, taking it to second place - and closing rapidly on top spot - in the ultra-competitive medium SUV segment.

Year-to-date sales (to September 30) show the CX-5’s 11,528 units as second only to the segment-favourite Nissan X-Trail (12,183), and ahead of the Toyota RAV4 (10,815), Subaru Forester (8650), and Mitsubishi Outlander (5313).

In fact, the CX-5 sits third in overall SUV sales behind Toyota’s Prado (13,239) and X-Trail. And it will probably overtake both by year’s end.

Mazda sales-data confirms that currently 45 percent of Australian CX-5 sales are mid-spec Maxx Sport models, 65 percent are ordered with the petrol engine, 60 percent are all-wheel-drive, and 95 percent use the automatic transmission.

Theoretically then, the auto-only Maxx Sport petrol AWD tested here represents the current most popular CX-5 combination.

The Maxx Sport is also available in petrol front-wheel drive for $2500 less, and the diesel all-wheel drive for $3500 more. We set out to find if buyers are making the right choice.



Quality: Plastics feel typically-Mazda: resilient, nicely put-together and with the requisite soft-touch dash and other touch-points.

The prevalence of black plastic cheapens the appearance a little, but the silver detailing on the centre stack, front door-trims and steering wheel has a quality metallic feel.

Comfort: The CX-5’s five passenger cloth seating draws no criticism, with the driver’s seat offering comfort and support to keep this average-sized driver content for several hours at the wheel.

We seated two 6’2 males in the rear for the same period and they reported no issue with leg, shoulder, or headroom - or of comfort in general.

Rear-seat ventilation is via hidden ducts beneath the front seats (directional vents from the rear of the centre console would be probably be better).

Equipment: All Australian CX-5s come with air conditioning, cruise control, power windows and mirrors, push-button start, rake and reach steering adjustment, trip computer, tyre pressure monitoring, 5.8 inch multimedia interface, reversing camera, bluetooth telephony and audio streaming, USB, iPod, and 3.5mm connectivity,

Maxx Sport Models gain leather wrapped steering wheel, handbrake and gear selector, TomTom sat nav, rain-sensing wipers, auto on/off headlamps, front foglamps, dual-zone climate control, six speaker audio, rear seat armrest, and 17 inch alloy wheels.

Storage: The CX-5 has a family-friendly 403 litre seats-up/1560 litre seats-down storage capacity, with Mazda’s Karakuri one-motion rear seat folding mechanism easily actuated from either seatback or cargo area catches.

Maxx Sport models also gain a 40/20/40 seatback split, compared to the entry Maxx’s 60/40 configuration. The seatback also folds flat, offering a load floor level with the rear lip.

There are two cupholders in the centre console, along with bottle holders in each door and usefully sized glovebox and centre console bins.

All CX-5s come with a steel space-saver spare wheel, and are rated with a braked towing capacity of 1800kg.



Driveability: Petrol CX-5s use Mazda’s 2.0 litre SkyActiv-G four cylinder engine, producing 113kW at 6000rpm and 198Nm at 4000rpm.

A product of Mazda’s SkyActiv range of efficiency technologies, this direct-injected unit delivers all 113kW on regular 91RON unleaded, despite a high 13:1 compression ratio.

On the road however, the engine’s sparkle fades somewhat when asked to deal with the AWD Maxx Sport’s 1543kg kerb weight.

Performance is certainly adequate around town, with the six-speed auto delivering good acceleration from rest, but as speeds or cargo loads increase, or when hills are encountered, the otherwise excellent CX-5 loses some of its shine.

Rolling acceleration lags behind that delivered by the CX-5’s 2.5 litre competition. It’s hampered by its weight, but also the efficiency-biased transmission can be reluctant to downshift.

Left in D, the otherwise excellent auto often needs a good stab of the throttle to drop down through the ratios. It will otherwise hold the highest gear possible in the interest of fuel efficiency.

Loaded up with a week’s camping gear, our Maxx Sport returned an average of 9.3 l/100km on a journey that included two (on-road) Great Dividing Range crossings and a healthy chunk of urban trudgery.

This figure may seem way off the CX-5’s claimed 6.9l/100km average, but we did ask a lot of it, and our real-world figure sits smack bang in the CX-5’s competition’s ‘claimed’ figure territory.

The CX-5’s efficiency is also aided by Mazda’s ‘i-stop’ stop/start system, which is a simple yet effective fuel saver once the driver is accustomed to the engine switching off automatically when stationary.

Refinement: The CX-5 is proof that Mazda does NVH isolation well.

After criticism levelled at the first two generations of 3 and 6 models, the CX-5 is positively ‘German quiet’ in terms of highway noise isolation and offers a muted and unintrusive drive experience.

The petrol engine’s lack of open road ‘oomph’ is matched by a positive lack of noise throughout its rev range, and matching smoothness to boot.

SkyActiv’s attention to rotational mass and friction reduction is paying obvious dividends for refinement as well as efficiency.

Suspension: MacPherson strut front, multilink rear design is standard fare for the CX-5’s segment, but the CX-5 delivers excellent ride comfort at all speeds - no-doubt aided by the 17-inch tyres’ relatively tall 65-series sidewall.

Handling is excellent for the segment, and a positive side effect of the CX-5’s relatively low 155mm ground clearance (against X-Trail’s 220mm).

The CX-5 can be hustled along a winding road with real enthusiasm, with a lack of bodyroll light-years ahead of its Tribute spiritual ancestor.

Braking: All CX-5 models use a combination of 297mm ventilated front, and 303mm solid rear discs.



ANCAP rating: 5 Stars

Safety features: Front, side and full-length curtain airbags, along with ABS, stability and traction control, emergency brake assist, EBD, hill-start assist, anti-whiplash front headrests and a reversing camera.



Warranty: Three years, unlimited kilometres

Service costs: Service intervals are 10,000km or six months. Mazda does not offer fixed-price servicing, check with your dealer before purchase.



Nissan X-Trail ST 4WD Auto ($34,490) - Circa ‘07 design lacks freshness and dynamic finesse of CX-5. Entry 4WD petrol X-Trail best matches Maxx Sport on spec but undercuts Mazda by $1630.

The 4WD X-Trail scores bigger 2.5 litre four as the sole petrol option. 125kW/226Nm copes better with hills than CX-5. 9.1 l/100km fuel consumption lags behind CX-5’s official figure, as does 4 star ANCAP rating. (see X-Trail reviews)

Toyota RAV4 Cruiser AWD Auto ($38,990) - Looks and feels its ‘06-vintage next to CX-5. Priced $2870 north of Mazda but lacks satnav and reversing camera.

The Toyota’s 2.4 litre engine trumps CX-5 with 125kW/224Nm, however, 9.6 l/100km fuel consumption lags behind CX-5’s official figure, as does 4-Star ANCAP rating.(see RAV4 reviews)

Subaru Forester XS Auto ($36,990) - Fails to match the CX-5 for refinement, dynamics or design appeal. Lacks Maxx Sport’s satnav, but does have reversing camera.

Its worthy 126kW/235Nm 2.5 litre boxer consumes 9.3 l/100km and a permanent AWD system is a plus. (see Forester reviews)

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



Mazda has hit the nail on the head with the CX-5.

Its fresh Mazda Kodo design will offend few. The CX-5 is a ‘right-sized’ wagon for all seasons, offering a quality feel, a fuel-efficient drive experience and safe family-friendly accommodation.

Our only criticism is the open road performance of the efficiency-biased engine when loaded up - fine on the flat, but working hard in the hills.

As we’ve noted in previous tests, the diesel option addresses this issue, but commands a $3500 price premium.

If you spend most of your time in urban traffic or prefer highway refinement over ‘urgency’, you’ll be well-satisfied by the petrol all-wheel drive Maxx Sport tested here. Australia agrees.

More news and reviews:



  • 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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