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Car reviews - Mazda - CX-5 - Akera AWD

Our Opinion

We like
Turbocharged donk, flawless idle-stop system, ride quality, standard spec list, dynamic ability, classy cabin
Room for improvement
Rear seat legroom, cargo space, average storage options

Mazda’s popular CX-5 gets a serious boost from turbo-petrol power

31 Dec 2018

YOU could argue that Mazda didn’t need to add a turbo-petrol engine to its CX-5 line-up. It is not only the best-selling medium SUV in Australia, it also holds the crown as the most popular SUV in the country.
But Mazda is not one for resting on its laurels, so it has rolled out the new donk to the two top variants in the line-up.
We sampled the flagship Akera AWD to see how the punchy powertrain fares under the bonnet of the high-riding wagon.
Price and equipment
The addition of the 2.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine – also found in the CX-9 seven-seat SUV and Mazda6 medium sedan and wagon – brings the engine offerings in the CX-5 range to four.
There’s the 2.0-litre unit in the base variants, a 2.2-litre turbo-diesel engine available from Maxx Sport up and the 140kW/252Nm 2.5-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder unit also from Maxx Sport up.
But now, the two top-spec offerings – GT and Akera – are available with the turbo 2.5L. Mazda says it likes to give its customers choice, and we can’t argue with them on that.
The new powertrain brings with it a $2500 premium over the non-turbo 2.5, which is not a massive ask, particularly given the extra performance. But more on that later.
The Akera all-wheel drive tested here is priced from $49,170 before on-road costs, making it the second priciest CX-5 behind the Akera diesel ($49,670).
It sounds like a lot of money, but the Akera has plenty of kit to justify the spend.
As part of its second model year update of 2018, Mazda added a bunch of features to the Akera, including Nappa leather trim, a frameless rearview mirror, a front-seat ventilation function, rear heated seats, real wood panelling, LED ambient lighting and unique 19-inch alloy wheels.
It is also comes with a surround-view monitor, a 7.0-inch TFT LCD information display, a black headliner, adaptive LED headlights, keyless entry, front parking sensors, heated and auto-folding exterior mirrors, a head-up display, traffic sign recognition, sunroof, power tailgate and power memory front seats.
The Akera AWD 2.5 is pricier than many equivalent variants of rival SUVs such as the Nissan X-Trail, Mitsubishi Outlander, Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage and Peugeot 3008, but it undercuts the VW Tiguan (just) and outgoing Toyota RAV4 at the higher end.
However, none of its mainstream medium-SUV rivals – except the Peugeot – can match the premium look and feel of the CX-5’s cabin.
Mazda launched the second-generation CX-5 in March 2017 so the company didn’t need to change a lot in the cabin in 2018. 
Up front, the dash layout is very ‘modern Mazda’. It is not quite as sleek and minimal as the gorgeous dash in the Mazda6 or the upcoming new-gen Mazda3, but it is up there with the best in class.
The controls and dials are all logically laid out and user friendly, and we think the MZD Connect central infotainment system is underrated. 
The controller in the console and the order of the functions ensure ease of use and it feels much safer than a traditional touchscreen – you can keep your eyes closer to the road this way.
Mazda finally offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto across the range, including in the CX-5, and while we would love to say we tested it, we may have accidentally clicked ‘no’ to the agreement on the screen when we first connected. Next time…
Mazda’s head-up display is also one of the best in the business. It is clear and concise and never a distraction.
Elsewhere up front there is adequate storage, a number of USB ports and some lovely grey wood panelling that is classy without being conservative or dowdy.
Visibility all round is fine, but the A-pillars are massive and can block objects, depending on where you are looking.
The front seats are supportive, yet comfortable and swathed in nice leather, and while the material may not feel as luxurious as a Mercedes S-Class, it sure beats some of the cheap-feeling leather found in some of its rivals.
The rear seats are also more supportive than some, but rear legroom is well off the pace of some of the larger offerings in the segment such as the Nissan X-Trail and related Renault Koleos, Holden’s Equinox and the Mitsubishi Outlander.
The CX-5 really is at the smaller end of the medium-SUV segment and it shows. People with slightly older kids might find it squishy in the back. Best to look at the CX-8 or CX-9, or a larger rival. But smaller/younger offspring should be fine.
Again, storage in the rear is adequate rather than class leading, but there are air vents back there, which helps.
The CX-5’s boot space is also just adequate at 442 litres with the seats in place and 1342L with the second row folded. The X-Trail, Outlander, Hyundai Tucson and Toyota RAV4 all have larger boots. In fact the Nissan Qashqai small SUV is only 12L off the CX-5.
Engine and transmission
When Mazda launched the second-gen CX-9 seven-seat large SUV in mid-2016, it received widespread praise for a number of things, including the new 2.5-litre turbo-petrol engine under the bonnet.
Mazda soon rolled it out to the refreshed Mazda6 earlier this year and the engine significantly enhanced what was already an excellent car.
It’s a similar story here with the CX-5. There was nothing wrong with Mazda’s 140kW/252Nm 2.5-litre naturally aspirated SkyActiv-G petrol engine, but the 2.5 turbo just adds a bit more zip and zing. Or zoom zoom if you will…
The turbo-petrol engine pumps out 170kW at 5000rpm and 420Nm at 2000rpm – matching the outputs of the CX-9 and Mazda6.
Mazda’s clever engineers have somehow all but eliminated turbo lag. The engine picks up quickly, without hesitation and offers smooth power delivery.
Zero to 100km/h times have not been revealed, but the CX-5 is quick enough from a standing start. Although we noticed light torque steer when we hammered the throttle from zero on a back road.
The SkyActiv six-speed automatic transmission is a good match with the engine, but there is a tendency to hold fourth gear for a bit too long at higher speeds. No such issue pottering around in 40km/h zones, however.
Another feature Mazda has perfected is its fuel-saving idle-stop function. In the CX-5 turbo it is barely noticeable and you don’t have to wait for it to kick in like you do in a number of Volkswagen Group products.
Sport mode adds a little bit of extra kick if it’s required, but it is not a dramatic change from the Normal mode.
The new engine is undoubtedly a sweetie, and it is a great match for the CX-5’s chassis, but in terms of overall performance, it matches slightly more effectively with the Mazda6.
While Mazda quotes 8.2 litres per 100km on the combined fuel cycle, we managed 12.4L/100km. This, of course, included some spirited back-road driving.
Ride and handling
The CX-5, generally, feels like a smaller car on the road, but its ride height and jacked-up body style mean it is susceptible to a bit of bodyroll. Not that that is a deal-breaker.
It ploughed through the twisty sections of our drive route without embarrassing itself but we detected a hint of understeer.
The CX-5 Akera has all-wheel drive as standard, which helps with traction, and that was evident on looser surfaces on our drive route. It also provides buyers with peace of mind.
Steering feels mechanical but sharp and while it is not as direct as some, the CX-5 is about on par with most offerings in the segment.
Overall the ride quality of the CX-5 Akera turbo is excellent. It is such a comfortable car to live with around town and on B-roads. It’s a winning combination of an excellent suspension tune and the right tyres and 19-inch wheels.
The CX-5 also exhibits impressive braking power. After failing to see a pedestrian crossing the road during a left turn, your correspondent was forced to smash the brakes to avoid a collision. The pedestrian, with earphones firmly in place, did not notice a thing.
Safety and servicing
Mazda offers the CX-5 with a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty that was introduced in August. It matches offers by Holden, Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Skoda and more recently, Volkswagen.
Services are scheduled every 10,000km and are either $315 or $343 each time.
ANCAP awarded the CX-5 a five-star crash safety rating in 2017.
From the base CX-5 Maxx, standard safety gear includes lane departure warning, lane-keep assist, a driver attention alert, adaptive cruise control, ‘Smart Brake Support’, high-beam control, auto wipers and headlights, AEB and other features under its i-Activsense suite.
Since the launch of the first-generation CX-5 in 2012, it has had a reputation of being the driver’s offering in the hotly contested medium SUV segment.
However, it now has more rivals breathing down its neck on that front, including the VW Tiguan, the related Skoda Karoq and the Peugeot 3008.
But the addition of the turbocharged petrol engine was a smart move. It hasn’t transformed the CX-5, but again, the CX-5 didn’t need transforming to begin with. It has just added extra spice to what was already one of the best SUVs on the market.
Buyers can still opt for the naturally aspirated 2.5-litre petrol in the GT and Akera, but for just $2500 extra for the turbo, why would you bother?
Volkswagen Tiguan 162TSI Highline AWD from $49,490 plus on-road costs
The Tiguan is an excellent driver’s car and has a high-end look and feel. Definitely one to consider, particularly now the company matches Mazda’s five-year warranty offering. 
Toyota RAV4 AWD Cruiser from $50,500 plus on-road costs
It is set to be replaced in May 2019 by an all-new model but the current version is as popular as ever and for good reason. It might not be the dynamic benchmark of the segment but it’s hard to beat when it comes to value for money and reliability.
Peugeot 3008 GT-Line 2WD from $44,990 plus on-road costs
It might not have the same level of standard kit as the Mazda, but the Peugeot is the most original offering in the segment, thanks largely to its strikingly unique cabin. On-road dynamics are also up there with the best.

The Road to Recovery podcast series

Model release date: 1 November 2018

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