Mazda CX-5 review

The Mazda CX-5 doesn’t just look smart – it’s packed with loads of high-tech kit too. It’s a shame it’s not as comfortable or as roomy as some alternatives, however.

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This score is awarded by our team of
expert reviewers
This score is awarded by our team of expert reviewers
after extensive testing of the car

What's good

  • Loads of equipment
  • Fun to drive
  • Hushed petrol engine

What's not so good

  • Quite expensive
  • Boot isn’t particularly roomy
  • Bumpy on rough roads

Find out more about the Mazda CX-5

Is the Mazda CX-5 a good car?

In a world of fairly anonymous-looking family SUVs, the Mazda CX-5 stands out by looking sporty and being more fun than rivals such as the Nissan Qashqai.

If the family SUV market is a big family, the CX-5 is the cool uncle who climbs mountains for fun. You can get it with a range of engines including a 184hp diesel that comes with four-wheel drive as standard.

The Mazda CX 5’s smart exterior is mirrored by its well-equipped cabin. You get supportive seats with lumbar support as standard, plenty of soft materials and a tall centre console that makes you feel cocooned, like you’re sitting in a sports car on stilts. Its heavily recessed dials look more like something you’d find in the MX-5 sports car and its smart air vents have a cold-to-the-touch metal finish, too.

You get an 8.0-inch infotainment display with satellite-navigation as standard. It’s not the slickest out there but it’s reasonably clear and you control it using either the touchscreen or an intuitive scroll wheel behind the gear lever – just like in an Audi or BMW. It also caters for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring.

Passengers in the back aren’t treated to quite as many high-tech features, but they’ll have plenty of room to stretch out. There’s more leg room than you’ll find in a Nissan Qashqai and enough headroom for your six-foot-tall friends to get comfy. A Skoda Kodiaq is much better for carrying three abreast, however.

It’s a similar story with the CX-5’s boot. Its 506-litre capacity trails the capacious Skoda by some 214 litres but it’ll still happily carry some large suitcases, a baby stroller or a set of golf clubs.

Need to carry even more? Fold the rear seats down in a three-way (40:20:40) split and two passengers can jump in along with some long luggage in the boot. With all the back seats folded you’ll have 1,620 litres of space to fill and the Mazda’s flat floor makes it easy to slide in heavy boxes.

You can tell the CX-5 comes from a manufacturer more used to making sports cars than SUVs – it really is one of the best large family cars to drive

Mat Watson
Mat Watson
carwow expert

You can get the Mazda CX-5 with one petrol and two diesel engines. The 2.0-litre petrol isn’t particularly powerful but it’s quieter and smoother than both diesels around town. Mazda claims it’ll return 44.1mpg but expect to see around 40mpg in real-world driving.

Spend more time on the motorway? One of the two 2.2-litre diesels will be a better bet. The 150hp model has more than enough power to overtake slow-moving traffic and it’ll return around 50mpg in normal driving. The perkier 184hp version is a little thirstier but is a better bet if you regularly carry lots of luggage or tow a trailer because it comes with four-wheel drive as standard.

Whichever model you pick, it’s best to avoid the larger 19-inch alloy wheels. They look great but also highlight bumps in the road, especially around town. The CX-5’s suspension is a little stiffer than most large SUVs so it isn’t quite as comfortable – but it feels much sportier to drive as a result.

Euro NCAP hasn’t crash tested the new Mazda CX-5 yet but it comes with plenty of safety kit as standard, including automatic emergency braking that’ll apply the brakes if it detects an obstacle in the road ahead.

The CX-5 is a stylish SUV that’s well worth considering if you’re looking for a large, stylish family car that’s both well equipped and surprisingly sporty to drive.

How practical is it?

There’s no shortage of space for tall adults to stretch out in the CX-5 but other SUVs have wider cabins and more legroom for the passenger in the central rear seat.

Boot (seats up)
494 - 522 litres
Boot (seats down)
1,608 - 1,638 litres

There’s plenty of seat adjustment to help you get comfortable in the Mazda CX-5. All models get lumbar support to help reduce backache on long journeys and there’s no shortage of headroom for tall drivers.

There’s loads of space in the back, too. Even passengers over six-foot tall will have plenty of knee and headroom and the extra small triangular rear windows help make it feel as light and as airy as possible.

There’s a slight lump in the floor to contend with, however, and the central seat is both smaller and harder than the outer two. As a result, the roomier Skoda Kodiaq will be a much better bet if you regularly carry three abreast.

The rear doors open nearly 90 degrees, so it’s a breeze to jump in the back seats or lift in a child seat. The standard Isofix anchor points are slightly hidden away, however, but once you’ve got everything securely fastened down the CX-5’s high roofline makes it dead easy to strap in a child without stooping.

You’ll be able to squeeze a large drinks bottle in each of the CX-5’s door bins and there’s enough room in its generous glovebox for another large bottle. There’s a pair of cupholders in the front that’ll have no trouble securely holding a large coffee cup and you get a handy cubby hole under the dashboard for storing your smartphone.

The rear door bins are long but rather shallow so they’ll struggle to hold a big bottle. You do get two extra cupholders built into the fold-out armrest, however, and top-spec Sport Nav+ models also come with a hidden storage tray and a pair of USB ports – perfect for keeping phones charged and kids quiet.

You can fit 506 litres of luggage in the Mazda CX-5’s boot with all five seats in place. That’s 11 litres more than a Volvo XC60 but a significant 41 litres less than a Nissan X-Trail. A large baby stroller and a couple of big suitcases will still fit easily, however.

There’s only a small boot lip to lift heavy luggage over and the CX-5’s wide boot opening and square shape make it a breeze to load bulky items. There’s a storage tray on each side of the boot to hold smaller items in place but there aren’t any handy hooks to stop your weekly shop rolling around in the back.

The back seats fold in a three-way (40:20:40) split as standard so you can carry two passengers in the back and some long luggage in the boot at once. You even get some handy levers in the boot to automatically fold the seats flat.

With the back seats flipped out of the way the CX-5’s boot grows to 1,620 litres. That’s 165 litres larger than a Volvo XC60 and 35 litres more than a Nissan Qashqai. It’s easily big enough to carry a bike without removing its wheels and the flat floor makes it dead easy to slide heavy boxes right up behind the front seats.

What's it like to drive?

The CX-5’s slightly stiff suspension makes it feel nimble and nippy. Unfortunately, it’s a little bumpy on poorly maintained roads.

You can get the Mazda CX-5 with one petrol and two diesel engines. Pay a little extra and you can have an automatic gearbox and four-wheel drive, too.

Pick the 2.0-litre petrol model if you do most of your driving around town. It doesn’t have quite the same punch as the turbocharged diesels but it’s slightly quieter at slow speeds. It’ll return around 36mpg in normal conditions, compared to Mazda’s claimed 39.8mpg.

One of the two 2.2-litre diesels will be a much better bet if you do lots of motorway miles. The 150hp car is a touch more economical than the 184hp version (it’ll return a claimed 49.6mpg to the more powerful car’s 42.8mpg) but has no trouble keeping up with fast-moving traffic.

It’s not quite as quiet around town as the petrol version but it’s impressively smooth for a diesel and settles into a reasonably quiet cruise once you’ve picked up some speed.

The 184hp car comes as standard with four-wheel drive which, combined with its more powerful engine, will prove handy if you regularly tow trailers or carry plenty of luggage.

The standard six-speed manual gearbox in the Mazda CX-5 is smooth and easy to use but both diesel models are offered with an optional automatic gearbox. It helps take the stress out of long journeys and heavy traffic. It’s much smoother at slow speeds than the VW Tiguan’s slightly jerky DSG automatic, too.

The raised seating position in the Mazda CX-5 gives you a good view out over the road ahead and its fairly slim pillars beside the windscreen don’t produce any particularly large blindspots at junctions.

Its large rear windscreen and square side windows make parking relatively easy too, and all models come with front and rear parking sensors as standard. For a little extra peace of mind, Sport Nav+ models come with a reversing camera, too.

The Mazda CX-5’s slightly stiff suspension helps make it more fun to drive than most large SUVs. Its tall body doesn’t lean much in corners and its sharp, responsive controls make it almost as grin-inducing as the smaller and lighter SEAT Ateca on a twisty back road.

Unfortunately, the 19-inch alloy wheels fitted to Sport Nav models highlight bumps and potholes more than the smaller 17-inch wheels on SE-L Nav versions. The larger wheels also produce quite a lot of tyre roar at motorway speeds but wind noise is mostly muted.

The Mazda CX-5 hasn’t been crash-tested by Euro NCAP but all models come with automatic emergency braking – a system that’ll apply the brakes if it detects an imminent collision – as standard. Adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist and blind-spot monitoring are also standard across all models. You can spec up a safety pack for the Sport Nav+ model which adds adaptive LED headlights and a 360-degree camera.

What's it like inside?

The CX-5’s cabin is a bit of a jack-of-all-trades. It looks pretty slick and comes with lots of desirable kit as standard but doesn’t really stand out from the crowd.

Mazda CX-5 colours

Solid - Arctic white
Metallic - Polymetal grey
From £580
Metallic - Zircon sand
From £580
Mica - Deep crystal blue
From £580
Mica - Eternal blue
From £580
Mica - Jet black
From £580
Pearl - Snowflake white
From £580
Special metallic - Machine grey
From £700
Additional special metallic - Soul red crystal
From £820
Next Read full interior review
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