In the late 1990s a band called Steps delivered a mish-mash of catchy pop tune and country-and-western line dance in their ‘5, 6, 7, 8’. Now, the 2018 Mazda CX-5 GT doesn’t blend cheesy genres other than being a straightforward medium SUV, and it isn’t nearly at all as cringeworthy, but here the steps ‘2, 3, 4, 5’ do come to mind.
Should buyers save cash and spend $29K on the front-wheel drive 2.0-litre-petrol CX-5 Maxx? Or is it worth splurging $37K on an all-wheel drive 2.5-litre-petrol CX-5 Touring? Perhaps, opting for greater luxury and diesel torque is the go with this $47K CX-5 GT? On the flipside, perhaps the GT is too close to the circa-$50K CX-5 Akera.
Right there, we have the step-up process (in thousands of dollars) that has helped make this second-generation CX-5 the most popular medium SUV on-sale today.
And, here, it’s time to dissect whether it’s worth shopping in the $20K, $30K, $40K or (just on) $50K bracket inside your local Mazda dealership.
Vehicle Style: Medium SUV
Price: $46,590 (plus on-road costs)
Engine/trans: 140kW/450Nm 2.2 four-cylinder turbo-diesel | six-speed automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 5.7 L/100km | Tested: 7.7 L/100km
Most buyers pass over the $28,690 plus on-road costs CX-5 Maxx, partially because it has daggy steel wheels but mostly because it uses a six-speed manual gearbox. There’s six-speed automatic and all-wheel drive optional availability, but then buyers are basically at the $33,990 (plus orc) CX-5 Maxx Sport FWD that adds many extras.
It has all-wheel drive availability too, for $36,990 (plus orc), while the diesel kicks off at $39,990 (plus orc). Remember what we said about steps? Anyway, the petrol and diesel CX-5 Touring sprinkles some further light dust for $38,590 (plus orc) and $41,590 (plus orc) respectively, but it takes another step up for the real kit to pile in.
The CX-5 GT is all-wheel drive-only, with the 140kW/252Nm 2.5-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder asking $43,590 (plus orc) and – as is the case on all CX-5s – the 140kW/450Nm 2.2-litre turbo-diesel four-pot, as tested here, asking $3000 more.
That huge jump in torque also accompanies a drop in claimed fuel consumption, from 7.4 litres per 100 kilometres for the petrol to 5.7L/100km for the diesel. Either way, each GT gets 19-inch alloy wheels (instead of 17s), adaptive-LED headlights, an electric tailgate, leather trim, electrically adjustable and heated front seats, a sunroof, plus 10-speaker Bose audio for the $5000 premium over the Touring.
Standard Equipment: Cruise control, keyless auto-entry with push-button start and electric-fold door mirrors, electric tailgate, electric sunroof, automatic headlights and wipers, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, power windows and mirrors, leather-wrapped steering wheel and gearshifter, leather trim with electrically adjustable and heated front seats, and dual-zone climate control.
Infotainment: 7.0-inch colour touchscreen with digital radio, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, USB inputs, Aha/Stitcher internet radio connectivity, satellite navigation, voice control and 10-speaker Bose audio.
Options Fitted: None.
Cargo Volume: 442 litres.
This second-gen CX-5 interior takes an enormous leap beyond both its predecessor and most medium SUV rivals, but it takes this second-from-top GT to add real class.
In every model grade, beautifully finished soft-touch plastics cover virtually every touchpoint and both front and rear seats are wide and generously padded, not too firm but none too soft. There are details beyond the façade, too, such as the furry flock-lined glovebox and the rear centre armrest that gets its own padded-leather lid with a storage compartment and USB fast-charging points inside.
The newly added colour trip computer screen may not be of the colour-widescreen variety found in a Peugeot 3008, for example, and nor does this Japanese-built model possess that French-made rival’s overt design flair. But beyond the veneer, it’s indeed this SUV that offers markedly tighter fit-and-finish – intrinsic quality, if you like.
Compared with that equivalent $49,990 (plus orc) 3008 GT diesel, too, the Mazda adds a best-in-class head-up display, electric tailgate, full leather and sunroof all as standard. Consider the CX-5 GT less pretentious, yet also properly semi-premium.
Downsides are few. Sure, the 7.0-inch colour screen is at least an inch smaller than expected, but – and there’s a trend appearing here – the MZD-Connect software delivers on more than just numbers. With brilliant voice control, an intuitive integrated satellite navigation and digital radio, it’s simply excellent. And the Bose audio is superb, and yet another feature that won’t be found on the premium-priced Peugeot.
It’s a similar story in the rear, with legroom being a couple of inches short of the best in the class, such as the $44,290 (plus orc) Honda CR-V VTi-LX that is one of the roomiest vehicles in the segment, but is admittedly petrol only. However, the CX-5 GT’s bench is actually quite deep and supportive, reducing the perception of legroom, while toe space under the front seats is brilliant as well.
There’s sadly no sliding-seat theatrics here, though, like the Honda, Peugeot and also the $49,990 (plus orc) Volkswagen Tiguan 140TDI Highline all offer, while boot space is technically the smallest of that trio with a 442-litre volume.
What that figure doesn’t show is how square and usable the space is, while the 40:20:40 split-fold rear backrest is very flexible. Make no mistake, though: if the Mazda had a bigger boot and a sliding back seat, it could get full marks here.
It’s also worth noting – should you want more equipment than this CX-5 GT offers – that the aforementioned Tiguan keeps a 360-degree camera, adaptive cruise control and lane-keep assistance on its options list, where stepping up to the flagship CX-5 Akera adds all of that kit, plus automatic-adaptive high-beam, for $49,190 (plus orc).
ON THE ROAD
Engine: 140kW/450Nm 2.2 four-cylinder turbo-diesel
Transmission: Six-speed automatic, AWD
Suspension: MacPherson strut front and independent rear
Brake: Ventilated front and solid rear disc brakes
Steering: Electrically assisted mechanical steering
Mazda recently upped the outputs of its 2.2-litre turbo-diesel unit from 129kW of power to 140kW at 4500rpm, and also from 420Nm of torque to 450Nm at 2000rpm, while at the same time lowering its fuel claim from 6.0L/100km to just 5.7L/100km.
These numbers humble pricier and smaller 2.0-litre diesel rivals, such as the 133kW/400Nm 3008 GT and the 140kW/400Nm Tiguan 140TDI Highline. To be fair, at 1433kg, the front-wheel drive Peugeot is lighter than this 1751kg all-wheel drive CX-5 GT, though the 1691kg Volkswagen is certainly comparable.
Either way, Mazda’s diesel is wonderfully refined and seemingly endlessly energetic, with little to no vibration entering the cabin despite a surprising lust for revs. It feels instantly responsive, thanks in part to a six-speed auto that feels immediately connected and always intuitive – unlike the dual-clutch auto in the Tiguan.
Teamed with an intelligent and fast-acting stop-start system to aid fuel consumption around town, and this is a best-in-class drivetrain. For the most part it’s worth the $3000 over the likeable 2.5-litre naturally aspirated petrol engine for the added punch and frugality, but there are a couple of caveats applicable to this particular CX-5 GT.
Having last tested the CX-5 Maxx Sport petrol on 17-inch tyres, the 19s of this loftier model grade do have a slight impact on ride quality. There’s a depth of sophistication to the suspension of this Mazda that virtually no other rival can match, with an ability to soak up the worst irregularities both around town or on country roads, but the lower-profile rubber does cause some jiggling over ostensibly smooth surfaces.
The keen and enthusiastic handling of the Maxx Sport mostly translates to this GT, and the light and smooth yet accurate and crisp steering certainly does. But there’s no escaping that the diesel engine does feel heavier at the front end over the cheaper petrol. The diesel is 64kg heavier than the petrol, and that considerable figure is plonked firmly over the front wheels, affecting turn-in to every corner.
The grip of the Toyo tyres helps to an extent, and the flawless electronic stability control (ESC) works effortlessly with an all-wheel drive system that can allow firm power-down from quite an early point of exit to a corner. But the diesel also doesn’t get the petrol’s superb Sport mode for its auto, and the GT’s pushy body movement can feel more like an SUV, whereas the Maxx Sport petrol just feels like a wagon.
ANCAP Rating: 5 stars – the Mazda CX-5 scored 36.5 out of 38 possible points when tested by ANCAP in 2017.
Safety Features: Six airbags, ABS and ESC, autonomous emergency braking (AEB) up to 80km/h with pedestrian detection up to 60km/h and in reverse to 8km/h, blind-spot monitor, rear parking sensors with cross-traffic alert, and reverse-view camera.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/unlimited kilometres.
Servicing: Mazda’s service program includes annual or 10,000km intervals at a cost of $319/$390/$319/$361/$319 for the first five check-ups to five years or 50,000km.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
The trio below are among the best in the class. If maximum legroom, boot space and features is required for sub-$45K, then the CR-V VTi-LX gets the nod. But it’s also petrol only, and automatic is a dud.
At $50K, meanwhile, the 3008 GT is light and flexible, but its options and build quality hurt it even if it drives almost as well as this Mazda. With the Tiguan 140TDI Highline, the laggy and pricey diesel simply isn’t the pick in its otherwise roomy and refined line-up. All of which places the CX-5 GT in a bit of a sweet spot.
Honda CR-V VTi-LX Peugeot 3008 GT Volkswagen Tiguan 140TDI Highline
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Despite costing under $50K, the CX-5 GT feels both luxuriously equipped and immaculately finished. From the clarity of its head-up display to its superb Bose audio and lovely leather, this is a premium SUV masquerading as a mainstream one.
Okay, the CX-5 Maxx Sport delivers the slightly superior ride/handling balance for under $40K, and despite lacking torque the petrol engine teams with a Sport mode auto and lighter kerb weight to truly excel as the driver’s pick of the entire range.
For outright boot volume and rear legroom, meanwhile, the Mazda falls behind. But even then only just, because lush comfort is more than just counting millimetres.
Slide the scale between ‘3’ and ‘4’ then, because in some ways the $37K-plus Maxx Sport petrol and $46K-plus GT diesel complement rather than compete with each other. Both are superb medium SUV options, but definitely step-up with confidence.
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