MAZDA CX-5 2.5 LITRE PETROL AWD REVIEW
What's hot: Familiar CX-5 winning formula with a healthy dollop of extra power.
What's not: Fuel-saving priority means slow to kickdown (without a shoefull).
X-Factor: That rare feeling of elan: a small SUV with wagon space and an 'alive' driving feel.
Engine: 2.5 litre SkyActiv petrol | Power/torque: 138kW/250Nm
Transmission/drive: Six-speed automatic / all-wheel-drive
Price (plus on-roads): Maxx Sport - $36,620 Grand Touring - $43,780
Fuel economy listed: 7.4 l/100km
When you're riding a winner, best not to muck around with it. With its CX-5 petrol range, Mazda had only one thing to attend to - putting a few more neddies under the bonnet.
So that's what it's done, and aside from a couple of trim and feature tweaks, the rest of the car is much as it was.
And not that the former 2.0 litre SkyActiv was especially slow, it wasn't (it could manage mid-nines in the 0-100km/h dash). It just huffed and puffed a bit under load and was 'doughy' underfoot in rolling acceleration - like when needing to overtake or accelerate out of a hole.
No such problems with the new 2.5 litre SkyActiv petrol under the bonnet. Its numbers aren't huge - 138kW and 250Nm - but the extra power and torque is immediately evident.
And, with little impact on fuel consumption, it makes a very good car a better one.
Queensland threw up the perfect weather conditions for a test of this type of car... it absolutely bucketed down all day (like, all day).
Sudden streams of water cascaded over the roads through the hilly sections, there were sheets of it on the flat, rivers running bankers everywhere and visibility reduced to metres.
Perfect driving conditions for a test of all-wheel-drive handling and stability, with a new more potent engine powering the show.
The 2.0 litre SkyActiv engine remains available but only in FWD models of the CX-5 Maxx and Maxx Sport. It gets a small power and torque boost (a fiddle with the engine management) which knocks margins off acceleration times.
The bigger 2.5 litre is not available in 2WD, it enters the range with the AWD Maxx Sport and mated to a six-speed automatic only.
We drove both the 2.5 litre Maxx Sport and Grand Touring. You won't pick them from the badge, there is none; externally, it's the wheels that separate them.
Of the Japanese brands, Mazda seems to get its interiors 'rightest'. Where the new CR-V has a light hollow dash, the CX-5 has an appealing soft-touch surface anchored with a neat, shiny-black faux-carbon strip running left to right.
And where the new and vastly improved RAV4 is a mix of elements and shapes inside, the clean understated lines of the CX-5 give it a feeling a class and elegance.
This is why buyers like the CX-5, and why it is so easy to enjoy: spend your money on this car and you'll feel you've spent well - that it's a quality purchase.
We drove both the fabric-trimmed Maxx Sport and the more pricey leather-clad Grand Touring.
There's nothing wrong with the feel to the Maxx Sport. Some buyers prefer fabric over leather.
When my kids were tipping milk-shakes and crushed potato chips into the gaps in the rear seats (between projectile vomiting at the first sign of a corner), I found fabric easier to live with and clean than the suede and leather of a later purchase.
Certainly, no complaints with either the feel or shape of the seats in the Maxx Sport.
The Grand Touring gets well-shaped leather seats and trim – perforated in mid-section of the seats, and with a soft quality feel on the bolsters.
The steering wheel in both is leather trimmed, adjustable for reach and rake, and the Grand Touring gets eight-way electric adjustment for the driver’s seat.
In either Grand Touring or Maxx Sport, it’s easy to get set and comfortable at the wheel.
The driving position is good; there’s a commanding view over the bonnet, and ‘over the shoulder’ checks have only the rearmost pillar as a minor obstruction.
The Grand Touring of course is more heavily-featured than the Maxx Sport, but neither is lacking. There's cruise and dual-zone climate control, and with the model upgrade, Bluetooth functions have been enhanced.
There's also automatic headlamps, keyless entry, Tom Tom sat-nav, USB input, six-disc CD player, reverse camera, tyre-pressure monitoring, hill launch assist among a host of features.
ON THE ROAD
Petrol or diesel, we like the CX-5. It’s one we comfortably commend to friends and family for its finish and quality feel.
It’s also head-and-shoulders above most in the segment for the way it drives. The RAV4 and Nissan’s X-Trail have it over the CX-5 if you’re planning to wander a little way off-road, but as a suburban or highway commute, the CX-5 is the clear choice.
On road it shines. It manages that rare double of a supple, comfortable suspension feel without losing cornering balance or the sense of what’s happening at the wheels.
Perhaps “sporty” is a bit generous, but for its connected feel and the accuracy of the steering, it’s certainly close.
It is also, as we had the chance to discover, very sure-footed in marginal conditions thanks to the all-wheel-drive grip and inherent balance.
Slippery corners, awash with leaves and mud, failed to shake the CX-5 on our test. Neither did flat rising pools, edging across the road in slippery treacherous sheets cause any ‘moments’ at speed.
But all of that is known. Mazda’s CX-5 has won plaudits everywhere for its well-engineered on-road stability and poise.
The big news with the updated model – the only real news in fact – is the bigger, torquier, more powerful 2.5 litre engine. Nearly 20 percent more power and 25 percent more torque transforms the vibrancy of the drive.
There was, and is, nothing wrong with the way the 2.0 litre petrol gets off the line. Where it struggled was with a load or when trying to find something extra at highway speeds.
You had to really wring its neck to get things moving with any urgency when overtaking or looking for some extra ergs uphill.
No such concerns with the 2.5 litre. Uphill and down dale, it’s much more lively.
Where the old model had a doughy feeling under the pedal at mid-speeds, the 2.5 litre is waiting on command. It’s no hot-hatch terrier but this engine is much better matched to the six-speed auto and the load-carrying characteristics of the car.
In that way, it’s quite like the 2.2 litre diesel. For buyers, the addition of the 2.5 litre petrol to the range has diminished the case for the diesel (which comes at a nearly $3000 premium).
The diesel certainly holds the edge in ‘grunt’, but the 2.5 litre petrol might prove the better long-term option.
For brisk driving, you can manually row it up and down through the transmission using the plus-minus gear-shift gate, but there is also a kick-down switch at 95 percent pedal travel – it needs a healthy shove – should a sudden burst be called for.
(With fuel economy a priority, it can otherwise be slow to kickdown.)
Refinement, always a strong point with the CX-5, remains at the head of the small SUV class.
The 2.5 litre SkyActiv petrol engine is as smooth as it is willing; it spins crisply right across the rev-range and will happily sing to the rev-limiter without sounding like it’s tripping over itself.
And all the while returning a listed fuel consumption of 7.4 l/100km (but real world driving in your hands will see it higher than that).
These are very good engines, these SkyActiv donks from Mazda. All that work in searching for efficiencies at the margins would seem to be bearing fruit.
Lastly, with a full suite of safety technologies, the CX-5 carries a 5-Star ANCAP rating.
FIRST DRIVE VERDICT
It belted down all day, non-stop, unrelenting. The heaviest continuous rain I’ve ever encountered in a day of driving.
Along the way, we spotted cars semi-submerged in lakes and creeks, having fallen victim days earlier to the torrents that raged through southern Queensland.
Besides limiting visibility, it’s hard to imagine a better real-world test for an AWD small wagon. That we could press on with confidence is at least some sort of testimony to the capability of the car and the additional sense of security a quality AWD family vehicle affords.
The CX-5 has always been a good buy for young families or those looking for a smart car with above average road manners, flexible interior and a comfortable ride.
Now it’s better. The additional power of the 2.5 litre fills perhaps the one and only obvious shortcoming of the previous model.
If you want to get around town, or “get-outa-town”, Mazda’s appealing CX-5 2.5 litre AWD petrol is certainly among the best in the segment.
Pricing (excludes on-road costs)
- 2013 Mazda CX-5 Maxx 2.0 litre petrol FWD 6MT - $27,880
- 2013 Mazda CX-5 Maxx 2.0 litre petrol FWD 6AT - $29,880
- 2013 Mazda CX-5 Maxx 2.2 litre diesel AWD 6AT - $32,880
- 2013 Mazda CX-5 Maxx Sport 2.0 litre petrol FWD 6AT - $33,620
- 2013 Mazda CX-5 Maxx Sport 2.5 litre petrol AWD 6AT - $36,620
- 2013 Mazda CX-5 Maxx Sport 2.2 litre diesel AWD 6AT - $39,470
- 2013 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring 2.5 litre petrol AWD 6AT - $43,780
- 2013 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring 2.2 litre diesel AWD 6AT - $46,630
- 2013 Mazda CX-5 Akera 2.5 Petrol AWD 6AT - $45,770
- 2013 Mazda CX-5 Akera 2.2 Diesel AWD 6AT - $48,620