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What's Hot
Best-in-class engine, quality interior, lengthy equipment list.
What's Not
Expensive for a mid-size SUV, short rear seat.
Arguably the best non-luxury SUV around; and it's got that youthful Mazda3 appeal in a family-sized package.
Tony O'Kane | Jul, 10 2012 | 1 Comment


Vehicle Style: Medium SUV
Price: $46,200 (plus on-roads), $48,190 as-tested
Fuel Economy (claimed): 5.7 l/100km
Fuel Economy (tested): 6.4 l/100km

Mazda’s replacement for the CX-7 mid-size SUV impressed us mightily at its launch. Our verdict then was that Mazda had hatched a very good one with its new CX-5.

That view hasn't changed. This, the range-topping CX-5 Grand Touring diesel, has made a similarly positive impression after a week in our hands.

It’s an incredibly well-sorted SUV, one of the best in its class. But with a price tag nudging the $50k barrier, is the Grand Touring worth the additional expense over the very impressive CX-5 Maxx Sport?



Quality: The CX-5’s interior leads the way for fit and finish, with soft surfaces and quality switchgear. The leather upholstery of the high-grade Grand Touring variant also scores high marks.

However, there are a few areas that let the CX-5's interior feel down.

The black plastic fascia surrounding the shift lever is one. You’d expect a more upmarket finish in this area at the CX-5 Grand Touring’s price point. The same goes for the trim plate around the window switches.

Comfort: The front seats are comfortable, well-shaped and supportive, with eight-way power adjustment (including lumbar) on the Grand Touring’s driver’s seat.

The sculpted front bolsters also offer decent lateral support; something that’s hard to find in the SUV class. Tilt and reach-adjustable steering is standard for the CX-5.

Legroom is good in the back seat, and there’s more than enough shoulder room to comfortably accommodate two full-size adults. However the rear seat squab is just a little too short and gives little under-thigh support. Kids will be fine though.

There are no rear air-vents besides foot vents though, which could be a pain for backseaters during a hot summer.

Equipment: The CX-5 GT may be expensive, but you get plenty of equipment for your spend.

Standard features include such niceties as dusk-sensing bi-xenon headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, cruise control, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and ignition, Bluetooth, foglamps, sat-nav, sunroof, front and rear parking sensors, Bose audio system with USB input and heated front seats.

Our tester was also equipped with the optional Tech Pack, which is only available on the Grand Touring. With a focus on safety, the Tech Pack adds a blind spot monitoring system, lane keep assist and auto high-beam to the CX-5’s spec sheet.

Storage: Measuring 403 litres with the back seats up and 1560 with them folded, the CX-5’s load-lugging capability is about average for this segment.

The boot floor is level with the loading lip and the rear seatbacks fold flat. A pair of release catches in the boot allow the seats to be folded without having to crawl into the back seat, which is a handy feature not present in other CX-5 variants.



Driveability: Mazda deserves much credit for making a 2.2 litre turbodiesel not only so frugal, but so willing.

There's none of the typical laggy power delivery that we normally associate with turbo diesel powerplants. It's a beautiful motor, and remains smooth and tractable from idle right up to 4500rpm.

Power tops out at 129kW, and maximum torque measures a healthy 420Nm. While it's strongest at 2000rpm, there's plenty of urge available just off idle.

All diesel CX-5s are auto-only, and the six-speeder mated to the 2.2 SkyActiv-D engine is a thoroughly well-sorted gearbox.

It rarely puts a foot wrong when selecting gears, and is intelligent enough to know when to kick down a gear to tap into some extra power, and when to hold a ratio to use the engine's plentiful torque.

The gearbox also features a manu-matic mode which allows manual control, but to be honest we'd leave it alone. With a transmission calibration this good, it's best to just leave it in 'D' and enjoy the drive.

Mazda claims that the 2.2 SkyActiv-D will consume just 5.7 l/100km on the combined cycle. Our result after a week of motoring didn't quite hit that mark, but at 6.4 l/100km it wasn't too far from the factory figure - pretty good for a 1.7-tonne SUV.

Refinement: The SkyActiv-D has to be one of the most refined diesels we've sampled in recent times. There's a smidge of diesel clatter at idle, but at a cruise it only emits a muted thrum.

It's smooth, with very little vibration throughout the rev range.

One of the SkyActiv-D's party tricks is its standard engine start-stop feature, and we were highly impressed by the speed and smoothness with which it could get the engine spinning again.

Most start-stop equipped diesels lurch back into action with a pronounced jolt, but the CX-5 diesel exhibits no such bad behaviour.

Suspension: The CX-5’s suspension strikes just the right note between performance and comfort, with damping that’s comfortable on rippled, broken tarmac yet firm enough to generate substantial grip during cornering.

It does feel top-heavy, as most SUVs do, but the CX-5 has handling that’s more car-like than the majority of its competitors.

The CX-5’s electrically-assisted power steering has a good weight to it, and is responsive to the driver’s input. A turning circle of 11.2 metres is a little wide, however it’s tight enough to deal with all but the most confined of car parks.

Braking: The pedal is firm, with just a small amount of dead travel at the top of its stroke. The brakes themselves are powerful and pull up the 1.7 tonne CX-5 GT without raising a sweat, so no issues here.



ANCAP rating: 5-Stars

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

Available with the Grand Touring only (and fitted to our tester), a $1990 Tech Pack adds a blind-spot monitoring system, high-beam control and lane departure warning system.



Warranty: Three years, unlimited kilometers.

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 TL diesel auto ($45,240) - One of the enduringly popular SUVs in this segment, the X-Trail’s rugged build and larger cabin also makes it a good choice for those who regularly venture into the great outdoors.

It feels more agricultural to drive than the CX-5, especially given the clattery diesel and floppy on-road handling. Its successor is not far away however. (see X-Trail reviews)

Kia Sportage Platinum diesel auto ($39,720) - Sharp looks, a strong diesel and a generous spec list, the Sportage certainly has showroom appeal.

Out on the road though, it’s not quite as composed or refined as the Mazda. Still, at nearly $10k less, we’re guessing it’s a trade-off many buyers would be willing to make. (see Sportage reviews)

Range Rover Evoque eD4 Pure 2WD ($49,995) - It's a wild card in here. Yes, it’s only got two driven wheels and its got nowhere near the amount of standard equipment as the Mazda, but it’s gorgeous.

Like the Mazda, it’s pretty handy around a corner too, but the Evoque’s claustrophobic rear cabin isn’t quite as kid-friendly.

It’s a different kettle of fish, no doubt, but the similarity in price may be hard to ignore for some. (see Evoque reviews)

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



The Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring’s main enemy is its price. The Maxx Sport with the same superior diesel engine offers better buying in our view.

At $48,190 (as tested), it’s an expensive proposition for a Japanese medium SUV and more prestigious (yet slightly smaller and less comprehensively equipped) machinery like the Audi Q3 and BMW X1 can be had for less outlay.

The CX-5 not quite big enough for you? Well, Jeep’s excellent Grand Cherokee starts at $50k in diesel form. With so many alternatives at a similar price, the CX-5 Grand Touring certainly has a hard time justifying its cost.

But, that noted, the Mazda is a very appealing car. It’s loaded with equipment, and the extra safety offered by the optional Tech Pack is worth forking out for.

It also drives beautifully, it’s got a diesel engine that’s better than most European turbo diesels and there’s more than enough room in the back for a couple of young ones.

It really is one of the finest mid-size SUVs on the market today.

An expensive mid-size SUV, yes, but you get what you pay for. Right?



  • 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 2.0 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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