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Car reviews - Mazda - CX-5

Our Opinion

We like
Improved cabin acoustics, polished drivelines, seating ergonomics, straightforward tech interfaces, materials and build quality, accurate steering, taut and responsive chassis
Room for improvement
Firmer ride of higher-grade variants, A-pillar visibility issues, Sport mode lacks finesse, growing price tag, still no PHEV or EV variant, mediocre luggage space

A decade since it landed in Oz, the CX-5 proves why it’s still at the top of its game

25 Mar 2022



MAZDA is the first to recognise the importance of the CX-5 in its global range. Since the medium SUV’s launch in 2012 – as a replacement to the long-serving Tribute – some 3.5 million examples of the model have been sold worldwide, including more than 235,000 in Australia.


The CX-5 has been the subject of ongoing improvement since its debut and, although it is ostensibly the same car underneath the sheet metal, the Mazda’s ability to maintain the level of appeal it has in the market, and to compete with an ever-growing list of newer competitors, is testament to just how “right” the CX-5 was from the get-go.


But that isn’t to say the CX-5 isn’t showing its age… Despite the inclusion of 48V mild-hybrid technology, the model is still without a true hybrid option, much less a plug-in variant or battery EV. It also still runs a six-speed transmission in a time when most competitors offer eight speeds or more, but that’s not really a pressing issue – the Skyactiv Drive ‘box is sufficiently capable.


The KF II-series CX-5 brings fresh looks, increased safety technology and a refined driving experience to the Mazda range. Now priced from $32,190 through to $53,180 (plus on-road costs), the CX-5 has gone up in price between $800 and $1300, depending on variant.


The 2022 Mazda CX-5 features a wider front grille, revised head- and tail-lights, redesigned front seats, a retuned six-speed auto transmission, a quieter and more rigid body, and the introduction of a multi-mode drive controller with four settings: Normal, Sport, Offroad and Towing.


Grade and driveline offerings are familiar, save for the inclusion of the new Touring Active variant (see separate news story in links below) and the addition of Mazda’s Smart City Brake Support (MSCB) with night-time pedestrian detection as standard across the range.


Engine selections are as before, with Mazda’s 115kW/200Nm 2.0-litre and 140kW/252Nm 2.5-litre normally aspirated petrol four-cylinder, 170kW/420Nm 2.5-litre turbocharged petrol four-cylinder, and 140kW/450Nm 2.2-litre turbocharged diesel four-cylinder units available.


Two- and all-wheel drive configurations are likewise on offer, as is a choice of six-speed manual and automatic transmissions.


Mazda lists average fuel consumption figures for variants equipped with the 2.0-litre petrol engine at 6.9 litres per 100km (manual and auto), the 2.5-litre petrol auto at 7.2 (FWD) and 7.4 (AWD) litres per 100km, the 2.5-litre turbo-petrol (auto with AWD) at 8.2 litres per 100km and the 2.2-litre turbo-diesel (auto with AWD) 5.7 litres per 100km. 


The updated CX-5 measures 4550mm in length, 1840mm in width, 1680mm in height, and rides on a 2700mm wheelbase – all figures are unchanged from the outgoing model. Kerb weight ranges from 1521-1765kg, depending on grade, and Mazda lists the turning circle at 11.0m.


The load bay is a claimed to hold 428 litres (VDA) with the rear seats in place and when loaded up to window height, while the braked towing capacity remains rated to 2000kg.


All model grades feature both top-tether and ISOFIX child seat restraint points and are backed by a five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty with roadside assistance included. Service intervals are set at 12 months or 10,000km, whichever comes first.


Driving Impressions


With almost a quarter of a million CX-5s sold in Australia to date, the model needs little introduction in terms of what it is, where it fits, and what it represents.


For those not in the know, the CX-5 is a smaller (but still Medium category) five-seat SUV that competes with the Toyota RAV4, Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage, albeit it with a slightly smaller back seat and cargo area. But for what the CX-5 lacks in size, it makes up for in substance.


To reiterate, there really is very little that is “new” from behind the wheel. If you look past the cosmetic makeover and additional technology, the CX-5 really is the same car it was last year, and the year before…


The most significant changes come from the attention Mazda has paid to further improving the CX-5’s already class-leading ride and handling qualities, and the attenuation of mechanical and road noise from the cabin. Both are revisions are noticeable when moving up from the outgoing model – and both are certain to maintain the model’s appeal for just that little bit longer.


Importantly, Mazda has refined the CX-5’s damping and stabiliser rates to create more linear responses to inputs, while fettling the weight and feel of its electronically assisted steering setup. The result is a chassis that now feels taut and impressively accurate, but that (in combination with the larger diameter alloy wheels of high-grade variants) may be too firm for some family buyers.


But when you combine those efforts with a strengthened frame and improved sound deadening – including a stronger spare tyre pan and quieter exhaust – the compromise feels worthwhile.


We sampled the CX-5 on some rather challenging South Australian backroads and were impressed both by the level of quietness Mazda has achieved – particularly in hushing low-frequency noise – and in countering the effect of road vibrations through the steering wheel, which further minimises driver distraction when threading along poorly maintained roads.


We sampled the turbocharged petrol-powered GT SP and Akera and were impressed by their fluid power delivery and the response of the six-speed automatic transmission in Normal mode.


Oddly, we were less than impressed with the newly implemented Sport mode, which we found unwilling to adapt quickly to inputs from the rise and fall of terrain, and steering, throttle, and brake commands – the transmission was much too steadfast in holding on to a particular gear. Compared with many rivals, which you can happily drive at pace in Sport mode, the CX-5 is better driven in combination with the paddle shifters – or when simply left in Normal mode.


Beyond the minutiae of the CX-5’s driving experience, it’s the relaxed ambience of the model’s cabin and its impressive materials and build quality that stand out. Apart from the obstruction created by the CX-5’s thick A-pillars, there’s little to criticise. The seating ergonomics and driving position are spot on, forward and lateral visibility is excellent, and the interaction between the driver (or front-seat passenger) and the infotainment and HVAC controls is pleasingly logical.


There’s also an uncomplicated feel to the CX-5’s instrument panel and head-up display that adds to a sense of “oneness” between driver and car. While both displays look classy – and are suitably comprehensive – they are each easy to understand at a glance, providing only the information necessary and none of the superfluous “dazzle” some newer rivals feel is somehow relevant.


And it is “relevance” that is a fitting note on which to end this review. As good as it is, the CX-5 is now of vintage that we really must consider its relevance. Newer technology – and at a keener price – are available elsewhere, as are similar driving experiences, space and safety inclusions.


In short, the CX-5 is getting long in the tooth, and with the all-new CX-60 just months away, we’ll be curious to see how many more Australian buyers will upgrade to a facelifted CX-5… and how many others will choose to wait for the arrival of its larger, more modern (and premium) sibling.

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