When it comes to aspirational models, the range topper of any vehicle line is usually ‘the one’ with a long list of equipment and a more desirable appearance package. In the case of the Mazda CX-5 that may not be the case though.
As a mid-grade model the CX-5 Touring still has the flagship Akera and upper-mid GT positioned above it, yet so full is the feature list that you could be forgiven for picking the handsome, and slightly more earnest Touring instead.
As tested, with a 2.5-litre petrol engine and all-wheel drive, the CX-5 Touring still sneaks in at a reasonable $38,990 (a diesel is also available for an extra $3000) without skimping on creature comforts or essential safety.
Vehicle Style: Medium SUV
Price: $38,990 plus on-road costs
Engine/trans: 140kW/251Nm 2.5-litre 4cyl turbo diesel | 6sp automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 7.5 l/100km | Tested: 9.3 l/100km
Make no mistake, the medium SUV segment in Australia is bustling, and will continue to do so as your average buyer turns away from the small hatch class that most medium SUVs are based on anyway, preferring the space, flexibility and adventure-readiness of an SUV.
Doing so comes at a price of course. In this instance you’ll use more fuel and pay more (both purchase price, and usually for insurance) but with traditional Aussie large cars now done for, no one seems too mind too much.
Introduced earlier in 2017 as a new model, but carrying over much of what made its predecessor a success, the CX-5 has cemented itself as an Aussie favourite due to a combination of svelte styling, and strong safety credentials.
As tested the CX-5 Touring undercuts the range-topping CX-5 Akera petrol by a significant $8000 and to do so misses out on a few luxury items, like Adaptive LED headlights, a power tailgate, and distance-keeping cruise control but still feels near-premium owing to leather-look and Alcantara seats, dual-zone climate control, and a colour head-up display in front of the driver making for a highly attractive package.
- Standard Equipment: Leather-look and Alcantara seat trim, dual-zone climate control,, keyless entry and start, head up display with traffic sign recognition, cruise control, LED headlights, 17-inch alloy wheels
- Infotainment: 7.0-inch touchscreen, AM/FM/DAB+ radio, USB and Aux inputs, Pandora, Stitcher and Aha internet radio interface (via smartphone), satellite navigation,six-speaker audio
- Cargo Volume: 442 litres to rear seats, 1342 litres with seats folded
Jump in and take a seat behind the wheel of the CX-5 and instantly it makes its fellow Japanese competitors, like the Mitsubishi Outlander and Toyota RAV4 feel basic. With a neatly integrated and harmonious interior, not to mention the beautiful tactility of surfaces used, the CX-5 has a bit of a Euro-twist to it.
From a packaging point of view Mazda hasn’t reinvented the wheel. Although the rear seat is good for all but aspiring basketball players, you may notice a lack of leg and knee room for adults in some situations, but at least face-level air con vents are finally standard.
Using MZD Connect, Mazda’s own infotainment system might also reveal that the operating principles haven’t moved forward much since it was first revealed, and that the system is (in a purely contemporary context) slow and laggy at times, with a propensity to lock you out of functions while it loads navigation or searches for Bluetooth signal at a glacial pace.
Ultimately though Mazda’s simple elegance makes the interior a winner with clear and logical controls, a design that’s modern yet inoffensive, and more than a hint of premium thanks to the Touring’s leather and suede-look seats.
Functionally the CX-5 ticks all the usual boxes. Door pockets, centre console and glovebox space get a tick of approval, and the centrally mounted cup holders and lower storage slot in the dash get a ‘good, not great’ rating.
Behind the tailgate (which still requires manual opening and closing at this trim level) there’s 442 litres of storage, and Mazda includes rear seat release handles inside the boot that allow quick and easy access to a much larger 1342 litres of space.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 140kW/251Nm 2.5-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder petrol
- Transmission: Six-speed automatic, all wheel drive
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front, multi-link independent rear
- Brakes: 297mm vented front discs, 303mm solid rear discs
- Steering: Electrically assisted power steering, 11.0m turning circle
- Towing Capacity: 1800kg braked, 750kg unbraked, 150kg towball download
Like the chassis that underpins it, or the infotainment system inside it the CX-5 also carries over its engine range with small revisions. In this instance the 2.5-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder petrol motor is good for 140kW and 251Nm.
Its also good in terms of drivability and refinement. Although Mazda does without the characteristic turbo punch that defines the Volkswagen Tiguan or Peugeot 3008, the petrol CX-5 is still strong enough to feel fine in flowing traffic, and works well in an urban environment.
The trick is to keep revs up, and where a competitor like the turbocharged Volkswagen Tiguan may not stray past 2500rpm on the tacho, the CX-5 thrives up to and beyond 4500rpm. Torque builds steadily to that point but never feels entirely robust
Away from the city crush the CX-5 lacks the same instant push for overtaking of Euro rivals, and the six-speed transmission is alert and active to keep the car from losing pace. At the same time the calibration is smooth and clever enough that you’ll rarely notice how busy it can be.
Previous-generation Mazda owners can also create s big sigh of relieve when it comes to road and wind noise from the new model, which has been vastly improved. Gone is the constant road roar that affected the previous generation. Some road surfaces and conditions can still work up a racket but overall the new model has moved from one of the worst to one of the best in class.
While a medium SUV may not be where you expect to find any kind of dynamic benchmark, Mazda has set one anyway. Under the title of G-Vectoring Control Mazda has created a proprietary system that connects drivers with the road, sharpening steering feel and cutting down on the need to make constant steering corrections.
The term ‘placebo effect’ springs to mind, but there’s little doubt the CX-5 sits confidently on the road, and corners with appealing eagerness and confidence that few other SUVs in its class can match.
Ride also falls into the just-right space, with a decent resistance to wallowing or leaning into corners, but more than enough comfort to ensure comfort and composure, but it with just one on board, or a full load of passengers and luggage.
There’s no doubt the 17-inch wheels and fatter sidewalls of the Touring help here, where the more upmarket CX-5 variants ride on 19-inch wheels and feel a touch more stiff-jointed as a result.
ANCAP Rating: The 2017 Mazda CX-5 scored the maximum five-star rating when tested in 2017 by Euro NCAP.
Safety Features: All variants of the CX-5 come with six airbags (dual front, front seat side, and full-length curtain) electronic stability and traction control, ABS brakes with emergency brake assist, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, reversing camera, rear ISOFIX child seat mounts, forward and reverse autonomous emergency braking.
Only the range-topping CX-5 Akera adds extra features including driver fatigue monitoring, lane departure warning and lane-keep assist, side-monitoring camera, traffic sign recognition, and radar-guided cruise control with Stop & Go.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: three years/unlimited kilometres.
Servicing: Service intervals are 12 months/10,000km (whichever comes first) and Mazda’s capped price servicing alternates between $305 for odd-numbered intervals and $333 for even numbered intervals up to five years/50,000km. Mazda’s service schedule also includes separate replacement intervals and costs for items like cabin filters and brake fluid. Consult your Mazda dealer for full terms and pricing.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
Segment stalwart, the Toyota RAV4, has also made the shift to added standard safety but doesn’t present as appealingly either with its hard-plastic interior or the less-than-average dynamics. It’s still spacious and well-built though, so shouldn’t be ruled out entirely.
All new, with a punchy turbo engine and (in one grade at least) the option of seven seats, the Honda CR-V is living proof that Honda is working its way back to the the superiority the brand once exhibited decades ago. Equally as modern as the CX-5 though not always as dynamically appeal thanks to an unengaging (but unobtrusive) CVT automatic transmission.
Volkswagen understands families, which is why there’s stacks of rear seat and cargo space in a Tiguan, not to mention handy tray tables for the second row (depending on the model grade). The closest match to Mazda when it comes to on-road manners and interior presentation.
A new challenger in the segment, and Peugeot’s first attempt at developing its own medium SUV (previous models were either people movers or Mitsubishi products) the 3008 delivers a svelte stylish look and feel, both inside and out. A little premium when it comes to pricing, but thoroughly good and loaded with tech - even if safety feels like an afterthought for base models.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Truly, the medium SUV segment is as competitive as you’ll find right now. The Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage are both excellent buys with superior warranties, and soon Holden will have what could be its first competitive product with a re-badged version of the Chevrolet Equinox (time will tell).
Already Mazda has to fend off strong competition from Subaru, Honda, and Volkswagen while battling against the respected (but ageing) competitors from Toyota and Mitsubishi. There’s no doubt about it - buying in this segment right now is a boggling experience.
Yet despite the white noise, the Mazda CX-5 still stands out - partially because of how it drives and partially because of how inclusive the Touring model is, with plenty of equipment and a price that’s (just) friendly enough to appeal to hard-working families without feeling like you’ve had to downgrade.
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