Economy and value are just the start – the CX-5 is spacious, well equipped and one of the best-handling SUVs there is
The CX-5 is one of those vehicles that you don’t think of as defining its class. It’s ‘RAV4 sized’, or ’like a CR-V’.
But if you want a family SUV, your main requirements are probably that it’s safe, nice to drive, easy on fuel, spacious and funky to look at. And there’s not much else at the price that manages to put such big ticks in all those boxes.
The CX-5 gets some important basics right. For example, we’ve lost count of the number of cars we’ve driven with fancy leather seats and electric everything – but found ourselves shifting around uncomfortably after an hour or so as they don’t have lumbar adjustment. Here, though, we might find fault with some hard plastics on the dash – but with lumber adjust on all models, we could sit on board all day.
There’s enough space in the front seats for tall adults to get comfortable, and two more of the same will be able to ride behind them without a fight breaking out. So too will three children, though the centre seat in the back is definitely the muggins option.
Another example of Mazda getting the basics right is the ease with which the CX-5’s rear seats can be folded. They’re split 40:20:40, too, and they leave a near-flat floor for a boot which becomes pretty huge in this configuration. With almost no lip to load over, and various other stowage options to help you manage your load, the CX-5 boasts practicality as one of its strongest suits.
Its kit list is a bit of a winner, too. From base-spec up, you get cruise, dual-zone climate, all-round park assist, rain and dusk sensors and a user-friendly seven-inch touch-screen media system with DAB, USB, Bluetooth and sat-nav. Also included is a classy looking dash with premium-feel materials where it matters, and on the safety front you get a long list of features including autonomous emergency braking.
The latter helps the CX-5 to a five-star EuroNCASP crash test score, and it did similarly for theft resistance when scrutinised by the security experts at Thatcham.
Move further up the range and you can add leather, a sunroof, a reversing camera and bigger alloys. We’d stick with the entry-level SE-L Nav, though, because you pay a lot more for the higher-spec models – and besides, those bigger alloys do nothing for its ride and refinement.
These are weak points as it is, with a lot of wind and road noise at speed and only the lower-powered diesel engine truly worthy of being called smooth and quiet. Ride quality is only adequate; it doesn’t batter you, and it’s okay on a cruise, but it rarely settles around town.
We mentioned the choice of diesel outputs a moment ago: these are 148 and 173bhp, both from a 2.2-litre engine. The former is full of hearty willingness, rarely asking you to change down – and with the 173bhp unit also being less refined, we’d absolutely not spend the extra money on it.
Similarly, the 2.0-litre petrol engine is worth a swerve. Compared to either of the diesels, it needs revs, revs and more revs, making it a far less relaxing proposition to drive.
Whichever you choose, though, the CX-5 is thoroughly enjoyable to drive. It’s grippy, well settled in corners and a pleasure to steer – to find a better-handling SUV, you have to go looking among premium models from sports-biased manufacturers like BMW and Porsche.
Of course, a CX-5 will cost less than anything with either of those badges on its bonnet. And with engines whose frugality is nothing short of world-class, it’s one of the gentlest SUVs on your pocket in terms of running costs.
It’ll hold its value strongly, too. And with some useful discounts available, as well as an excellent customer satisfaction record for Mazda as a whole, you can easily put together a convincing case for it. The 36-month or 60,000-mile warranty is only average, and a 12,500-mile service interval is a bit short, but you might reasonably suppose that if that’s the worst we’ve got to say about the CX-5, it can’t be bad. And you’d be right.