What is it?
The latest, revised version of Mazda’s biggest SUV. It’s the kind of car in which you might not expect to find a petrol engine offered at all – let alone a normally aspirated one, given a market where the vast majority of all combustion engines are now turbocharged. And yet, because Mazda is Mazda, it likes to do things according to its own particular philosophy. So more or less the same 2.0-litre atmospheric Skyactiv-G engine as once powered the Mazda MX-5 roadster can be had in the Volkswagen Tiguan-rivalling CX-5.
That means you won’t find the firm’s new variable compression-ratio Skyactiv-X petrol motor here, which makes slightly more power and torque for the smaller and lighter Mazda 3 hatchback and the Mazda CX-30 crossover than this CX-5 gets. For reasons best known to Mazda, the CX-5 continues with the older petrol lump, although it has gained an active cylinder shutdown system, which delivers an 8% saving on like-for-like WLTP-certified, lab test CO2 emissions.
If you do still prefer diesel power in your compact SUV, the CX-5 also comes with Mazda’s 2.2-litre diesel in a choice of 148bhp and 181bhp tunes. The higher-powered diesel is now the only CX-5 available with four-wheel drive, but you can choose between a six-speed manual or automatic transmission with every engine in the range.
What's it like?
The CX-5 remains a likeable sugared pill of a compact SUV. It's not the most easy-to-drive car of its breed, sure; rather, the sort of SUV you might pick having only reluctantly admitted that you could do with the space and versatility such a car affords, while also being not ready to give up being an interested and involved driver just yet.
That’s particularly true if you go for the petrol version, which revs pretty sweetly and needs to be worked fairly hard to make the car accelerate with much urgency; and which, thankfully, has the slick, precise control weights and crisp handling responses to reward the investment of effort. If you like your SUVs torquey and effortless, this probably isn’t the car for you.
Likewise, if you bank on beating 50mpg to make your monthly fuel bills add up, it won’t work for you, either. Even with the new cylinder shutdown system, this car returns only 45mpg on a typical motorway cruise. It would probably average something between 35mpg and 40mpg in mixed short- and long-range use. That’s not bad fuel efficiency, mind you, and if you’ve got predominantly short-hop use in mind, it won’t be a lot worse than you’d get from a like-for-like diesel anyway. If you value the relative simplicity associated with owning and running a petrol engine compared with a modern diesel (of not needing to bother with AdBlue top-ups, and not worrying about turbo or particulate trip problems), a real-world 40mpg from a car like this will probably do you nicely.
On the inside, the CX-5 offers a pretty typical amount of both passenger room and boot space for a compact SUV or a bigger crossover hatchback; a little bit more than, say, a Volvo XC40, but not as much as a Skoda Kodiaq or Honda CR-V. Back seats with adjustable backrests and 40:20:40 split-folding functionality are very welcome, as is the fold-down centre armrest, which provides not only cupholders but also USB power sockets.
Our mid-spec Sport-trim car comes with leather upholstery as standard and a generous amount of active safety kit. The cabin’s a little bit monotone, but the chrome-effect garnish on the switchgear and air vents makes for an understated sense of ambient quality that suits the car well and makes it a pleasant place in which to spend time.