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Car reviews - Mazda - CX-5 - Akera AWD


We like
Strong, economical diesel engine, model has decade of evolution, right size for broad applications, features rich, stylish and comfortable interior, extensive safety kit
Room for improvement
Defunct model so get in quick, intrusive ADAS, exterior styling is previous generation Mazda, on demand AWD limitations, list price is up there

Now defunct diesel-powered CX-5 a pleasure to drive, with a strong, smooth and economical engine

6 Nov 2023



MAZDA has gone all petrol in the sunset period of its venerable CX-5 medium size SUV recently announcing the demise of the two impressive Skyactiv-D 2.2-litre twin-turbo diesel models as they account for a mere four per cent of CX-5 sales.


Mazda Australia’s decision takes the most economical and torquey version out of the CX-5 equation leaving an insipid 2.0-litre petrol four and two 2.5-litre petrol fours, one turbocharged, as CX-5 powertrain choices.


On final test was the top-of-the-range CX-5 Akera diesel that sells for a significant $55,100 excluding on-road costs but if you can find a CX-5 diesel Touring Active it will save $7500 and uses the same punchy 140kW/450Nm powertrain, again, with AWD.


Specifically, diesel AWD competitors are scant apart from the diesel Kia Sportage AWD 2.0 GT-Line at $52,720, Hyundai’s diesel Tucson 2.0 Highlander AWD at $53,150 and the VW Tiguan 2.0 147 TDi AWD Elegance at $56,390, all plus on-road costs.


As you’d expect, the range topping Akera benefits from CX-5s full suite of kit in terms of luxury, safety and technology.


Numbered among the former is: Nappa leather upholstery including the heated wheel, front and rear heated and ventilated seats, ambient LED lighting, premium Bose audio with 10 speakers including a subwoofer, head-up display, latest generation native sat nav, power and remote operated tailgate and Mazda’s handy MZD Connect infotainment/control system through a 10.25-inch touchscreen.


Safety kit is commensurate with the CX-5’s five-star ANCAP rating that also includes traffic sign recognition, forward obstruction warning, lane keeping and departure assist, traffic jam support and driver attention alert.


The model scores adaptive LED headlights and cruise control, paddle shifters, park assist both ends and cylinder de-activation. The iActiv drive AWD system is essentially front wheel drive with the rear axle engaged as needed unless Off Road mode is selected which locks the rear differential.


The CX-5 broke cover a decade ago and has been at or near the top of the sales charts in its segment ever since. It speaks volumes about many aspects of the five-seater SUV notably its appealing looks, good all-round performance and affordability, the latter becoming somewhat diluted of late.


With CX-60 in the Mazda line up, the CX-5 has a strong competitor within its own ranks though the newbie is a substantial step up in price.


Despite being Mazda Australia’s best seller and because of the model’s age and the CX-60’s arrival, we would say the CX-5’s days are numbered which is a pity because it remains an impressive all-round package.


Driving Impressions


Like all Mazdas these days, the CX-5 suffers from over-intrusive Advanced Driver Assist Systems (ADAS) that “jump at shadows” causing consternation and distraction for the driver. And like all Mazdas, some can only be deactivated for each drive, defaulting to “on” at start-up.


Safety zealots would argue otherwise but we reckon some of the safety stuff coming through these days is actually unsafe in particular the Lane Keeping Assist that wrenches steering control from the driver and forward collision alert that jams on the brakes (unexpectedly) if it judges other cars are too close.


There is more but we decline to say anything else on the issue.


The CX-5 diesel goes like a beauty offering up smooth running and decent fuel economy in an attractively styled medium size family SUV package. It ticks plenty of boxes for a wide audience and in the diesel’s case, delivers arguably the best all round performance in the line-up.


That’s because the 2.2-litre twin turbo diesel four cylinder has plenty of pulling power (torque) from the get-go and the power to carry on with it as engine and vehicle speed rises.


Coupled with this is the claimed 5.7 litres per 100km fuel economy that we nearly achieved during the test period. I reckon hybrid petrol competitors would struggle to match this, even plug-ins.


The engine’s twin turbos are both VGT (variable geometry) which are optimal for efficiency but with “only” 450Nm, don’t seem to be doing much work. Off the line acceleration is strong and there’s no real drop off until peak engine revs are reached at about 4500rpm.


The six-speed auto feels correctly calibrated for the engine making smooth almost imperceptible shifts up and down the range with willing kick down though that’s often unnecessary as the engine has plenty of available torque.


Paddle shift is provided but we didn’t bother preferring to let the powertrain run the show after simply selecting D. We also left it in Normal mode not really wanting the rev-holding Sport mode and we didn’t take it off road because these types of vehicles aren’t really designed for that apart from perhaps driving on a gravel road up to the farm or in the snow.


The suspension feels supple and well controlled with minimal bump/thump or jiggling on rough potholed surfaces and not much body roll through turns. It acquits itself reasonably well on fast corners and has well-weighted steering, decent grip from the tyres and strong brakes – sharing the same spec’ larger brakes as the 2.5 petrol turbo CX-5.


It feels nimbler than the 1765kg kerb weight might indicate and we would rate the overall dynamic package as capable, comfortable, family oriented and safe.


The diesel CX-5 delivers a quiet ride with minimal engine noise intrusion that becomes audible only under full throttle. The five seats are a decent size with multiple electric adjustment and heating/ventilation to both front positions.


Though not a large vehicle by any stretch, critical interior measurements are generous allowing adults to find comfort in the front and rear seats with adequate head, shoulder and leg room. A large load space is provided down the back complete with a power tailgate with remote control.


The dash layout is Mazda-simple, there’s a big info’ screen in the middle and a classy overall look to the leather clad interior capped off with one of the best wheels in the business and yes, we love the Bose premium audio with sub.


We used a lot of the ADAS on test but found the active cruise control somewhat pessimistic slowing too far out from a vehicle ahead, even on the closest setting. We switched off the iStop system as it’s possibly going in the redundant bin soon even with Mazda’s clever system that doesn’t use the starter motor to restart the engine.


The CX-5 tows 2000kg braked and with the diesel under the bonnet, does so with relative ease and fairly economically.


But the CX-5 itself gets a big tick though we wonder how long it can continue. That will depend on Mazda Australia’s willingness to persist with such an old (but good) model… Time will tell.

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