2013 MAZDA CX-5 REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Medium SUV
Price: $45,770 (plus on-roads)
Engine/transmission: 2.5 litre SkyAcyiv petrol/six-speed automatic
Fuel Economy claimed: 7.4 l/100km | tested: 9.3 l/100km
It didn't take Mazda long to plug the hole. Its rampant CX-5 has been selling up a storm since day one, but there was one recurrent criticism - many felt its 2.0 litre engine was a bit underdone.
Simple fix. Mazda has given it a heart transplant from the new Mazda6, and this 2.5 litre engine is just what the doctor ordered.
And while few can find complaint with the rest of the package, that little bit of extra shove helps bring the CX-5's power and torque up to the level of newer SUV competitors from Ford, Mitsubishi, Honda and Toyota.
The other change comes in the form of the new range-topping Akera model, which adds the safety equipment of the GT model as standard. So, how does this one fare?
Quality: No qualms with quality; well-constructed and finely-finished plastics impart a very 'well-hewn' feel to the interior. The supple leather trim with contrasting red stitching looks and feels great too.
Unfortunately, seat trim aside, there’s not a lot to differentiate the top-shelf Akera model with lesser models in the CX-5 range. The plain door-trim and sombre centre console don’t really feel very special.
Comfort: The front seats are well-bolstered and the driver gets power adjustment.
But even with a reach-and-rake adjustable wheel, the ergonomics are not ideal for shorter drivers (I couldn't get fully comfortable) and taller passengers complained that the front of the seat squab is too high.
In the rear, adults will fit just fine - three across is a little snug, but not unbearable. The seat base though is a tad short for adult legs, perhaps making it better-suited to kids and young teens (and it's high enough to give them a good view through the side glass).
Equipment: Standard features include auto wipers and auto bi-xenon headlamps, cruise control, dual-zone climate control, multi-function steering wheel, heated front seats, leather trim and a powered driver’s seat.
There's also keyless entry and ignition, Bluetooth, foglamps, sat-nav, sunroof, front and rear parking sensors and Bose audio system with USB input.
Storage: Rear seats can be folded in three sections from the boot or back seat, with a flat floor revealed when all seats are stowed. Seats up, there’s 403 litres of space, expanding to 1560 with the rear bench folded.
The centre-console cubby is just the right size for your phone and wallet, the glovebox isn’t oversized, but there’s a healthy amount of space throughout (and two cup holders).
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: With the extra kilos of the high-spec Akera model to push around, plus the all-wheel-drive hardware, the extra ergs provided by the 2.5 litre engine is welcomed.
A six-speed automatic remains the sole transmission offered, but with 138kW at 5700rpm and 250Nm of torque at 4000rpm, the 2.5 litre engine provides an additional 25kW and 52Nm over the previous 2.0 litre engine.
Now, the noticeable torque deficit that blighted earlier cars is gone. Acceleration is still relaxed, but in rolling traffic, or for overtaking, the CX-5 is certainly more lively.
It's blunted a little however by the nature of the SkyActiv engine and transmission. With a focus on economy and efficiency, upshifts come early, which can make acceleration feel a little lethargic unless you kick it down hard.
The engine doesn't mind a rev, and you can certainly perk things up with a heavier right foot - just don’t expect to match the claimed fuel consumption if you do so.
Refinement: Both the engine and transmission are free of harsh vibrations. Around town, noise is minimal, and at freeway speeds road noise (a traditional Mazda bug-bear) is well-attenuated.
As with other Mazda models, the fuel-saving i-Stop (stop/start system) operates without intrusion and is quick to restart.
Suspension: With MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link rear, the CX-5 provides secure, car-like road holding. There’s a little lean into corners but it is well controlled.
The electric power steering system can feel a little numb, but offers good weighting and shines as a strength that not many SUVs can match.
Braking: With 297mm ventilated front disc rotors and 303mm solid rear discs, the 1614kg kerb mass of the CX-5 Akera is easily and confidently reined in. A full load on board doesn’t adversely affect braking response.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars
Safety features: Previously offered as an option pack on the GT model, blind-spot monitoring, high-beam control and lane departure warning now make up the highlights of the Akera model.
Features shared across the range include six airbags as standard, ABS brakes, stability control, traction control, emergency brake assist, emergency brake-force distribution, hill start assist, anti-whiplash front headrests, a reversing camera and height adjustable, pre-tensioning front seatbelts with load limiters.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
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.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Ford Kuga Titanium ($44,740) - Like the CX-5, Kuga comes with a willing engine, but a transmission mapped for economy means you’ll have to work it hard for the best results.
Equipment is generous with a panoramic roof and kick-to-open tailgate, but to match the lane departure warning, auto high beam and other high-end safety equipment of the Mazda requires a $2650 technology pack. (see Kuga reviews)
Subaru Forester 2.5i-S ($43,990) - Subaru’s iconic boxer engine remains, linked to a continuously variable transmission that operates better than expected. Interior isn’t quite up to the standard of the CX-5 but is still handsome and well built.
Eye-sight safety system and electric opening tailgate pad out the equipment list. For those seeing more gravel roads, the Forester makes great sense. (see Forester reviews)
Toyota RAV4 Cruiser ($45,490) - Brilliantly sized for families, and with one of the best ‘real world’ shaped rear seats in its class. Feels light and esay from behind the wheel.
Can look a little light on for equipment, and doesn’t offer the same high levels of finish across an overly busy dashboard. (see RAV4 reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
While some of the competitors in the medium SUV class are newer, Mazda's CX-5 is still a stand-out buy and, really, the one the others have to beat.
It's well-engineered and offers car-like road manners with family-friendly space, versatility and safety features.
It's now a closer call in this segment, and the CX-5 may no longer be the default choice, but with its strong features list and the added urge from the 2.5 litre engine, the Akera should certainly be on your test-drive list.
There are far cheaper CX-5s, and cheaper competitors, but the AWD Akera is well-specced at the money.
Pricing (excludes on-road costs)
- Maxx 2.0 litre petrol FWD 6MT - $27,880
- Maxx 2.0 litre petrol FWD 6AT - $29,880
- Maxx 2.2 litre diesel AWD 6AT - $32,880
- Maxx Sport 2.0 litre petrol FWD 6AT - $33,620
- Maxx Sport 2.5 litre petrol AWD 6AT - $36,620
- Maxx Sport 2.2 litre diesel AWD 6AT - $39,470
- Grand Touring 2.5 litre petrol AWD 6AT - $43,780
- Grand Touring 2.2 litre diesel AWD 6AT - $46,630
- Akera 2.5 Petrol AWD 6AT - $45,770
- Akera 2.2 Diesel AWD 6AT - $48,620