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Car reviews - Mazda - CX-5 - GT

Our Opinion

We like
Six-speed auto, cabin improvements, handling, willing drivetrain, standard safety gear
Room for improvement
Scheduled servicing, warranty, over-involved menus, boot space, infotainment system needs Apple CarPlay

Mazda’s CX-5, the on-road yardstick, has new looks and improved refinement


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7 Feb 2018

OverviewONE of the key protagonists in the SUV segment – now the biggest sales chunk within the overall market – is the leading light for Mazda’s sales and the top-selling SUV in the Australian market.

There’s a reason for that. The CX-5 is a very good machine and the new-generation model has done nothing to detract from the appeal.

Now pursued with intent by Hyundai’s Tucson, Honda’s CR-V and Volkswagen’s Tiguan among a horde of revamped models, the CX-5 is claiming better refinement within the revamped interior and more safety gear within an expanded line-up.

We sampled the all-wheel-drive petrol-powered GT to see how it stacks up.

Price and equipmentThe second from top variant in the Mazda CX-5 range is the GT, which is priced from $44,390 plus on-road costs for the petrol, or there’s the diesel from $47,390. We’re in the former.

In terms of opposition, the Volkswagen Tiguan in 132TSI Adventure form (offering 132kW and 320Nm) starts from $43,990, or there’s more grunt on offer in the 162TSI Sportline that’s priced from $45,990 with 162kW and 350Nm.

Subaru’s long-serving Forester offers an alternative either side of the CX-5 GT’s pricetag, with the turbocharged 177kW/350Nm XT starting from $41,240 or the XT Premium is priced from $48,240, although Subaru is running continuously-variable automatic transmissions which are an acquired taste for some drivers.

Kia’s Sportage AWD petrol GT-Line is also in the ballpark for features, performance and price, starting from $43,490 and offering 135kW and 237Nm from its 2.4-litre petrol four-cylinder.

Its Korean cousin from Hyundai, the Tucson, is second to the CX-5 in the sales race and it’s not hard to see why.

Although the engine size has dropped to a 1.6-litres, it is now turbocharged, delivering 130kW and 265Nm, and in top-spec AWD Highlander guise is asking a sharp $45,450.

Mazda has endowed the GT with a decent features list that includes a 10-speaker Bose sound system with digital and internet radio (but no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto) with Bluetooth phone and audio inputs as well two USB and 12-volt outlets, a smallish 7.0-inch touchscreen that reverts to the rotary knob controller when underway, satellite navigation, a sunroof, keyless entry and push-button start.

The leather-wrapped reach-and-rake adjustable steering wheel has phone, audio and cruise controls and the driver also gets a head-up display, which shows the blind spot warning in a clever manner but doesn’t make for easy viewing through polarised lenses.

The driver gets a good all-round view from the auto-dimming centre mirror and exterior mirrors are power-adjustable, folding and heated there’s also a powered rear tailgate and the dual zone climate control system has finally been given rear vents.

InteriorWhile the CX-5 is not the biggest of the segment, it delivers a good size for an average (and average-sized) family of two adults and two kids.

The leather-trimmed cabin has been given the once-over for materials and design, with changes to the armrests and seats front (which have height adjustment and heating, with driver’s lumbar support and a two-seat position memory) and the 40/20/40 split-fold rear. The latter now gets a reclining backrest too, as well as vents for the occupants.

The driver gets a triple-barrel instrument panel, with tacho off to the left, speedometer in the middle and the trip computer display off to the right.

It all works well enough and the latter is controlled from the wheel, but any time behind the wheel of a Tiguan with its clever new electronic instrument panel does make the Mazda’s feel a little last year.

The rear armrest now has two USB charging points but there’s still no 12-volt outlet unless there’s a cord that can reach back into the centre console, where there’s a 12-volt outlet and another two USB outlets, so there should be no battles when it comes to feeding power-hungry devices on a road-trip.

The boot is a useful 442 litres when there are four or five aboard, rising to a maximum of 1342 litres if two-up and packed to the rafters the CR-V claims 522 litres and the VW Tiguan is boasting 615 litres.

The Mazda’s cargo area benefits from the use of a space-saver spare (which is not ideal but fast becoming the norm) and also gets the clever retractable tonneau cover that allows easier loading of the boot, which is quickly expanded by the multi-lever seat-fold function.

Occupants – four rather than five given the rear seat space – front and rear get useful amounts of door pocket storage, with bottle cutouts, as well as cupholders front and rear.

Leg and headroom is good enough to allow your reviewer to sit behind his own 191cm-tall driving position without serious discomfort.

Engine and transmissionMazda has decided there’s plenty of life in the internal combustion engine yet, so the SkyActiv moniker has been emblazoned on anything that moves at Mazda, but it’s more than just a slogan. So happy with the drivetrain are Mazda that the new-look CX-5 runs a largely-unchanged powerplant catalogue.

The GT on test is powered by the direct-injection 2.5-litre 16-valve four-cylinder all-alloy petrol engine, which needs only 91RON fuel to produce 140kW at 6000rpm and 251Nm exactly 2000rpm earlier.

Variable valve timing, cleverly-shaped pistons and rings give the engine plenty of bang at each moment of combustion, without excessive use of the unleaded fuel in the too-small 58 litre fuel tank thanks to the idle-stop fuel saving system.

The claimed combined cycle figure of 7.5 litres per 100km is class-competitive, but our time in the little Mazda had 11.0L/100km on the trip computer, due more to the fact that it was used as a family runabout, with time on country roads was more about exploring its behaviour in a more proactive driving style.

The petrol engine has to work a little harder than the diesel sibling – which has 420Nm and makes good use of it – when climbing hills in a hurry.

As a result of such driving, the double-digit fuel economy was where it finished after our time in the 1670kg car the urban cycle from the ADR test sits at 9.5 and that’s probably a more reasonable expectation in the real world with more sedate driving.

Mazda also offers for $1186 or thereabouts an elegant tow bar kit that fits neatly underneath the bumper, although the video on Mazda’s website does show the cable arrangement less elegantly hanging out beneath the closed bootlid.

The CX-5 GT claims the braked towing capacity of 1800kg, with a rating of 750kg for an unbraked trailer and a 150-kg ball download maximum, but if towing is something the CX-5 is going to be undertaking then the extra cash for the diesel would be wise.

The six-speed automatic (which has no paddles but a manual change mode with the lever) and front-biased all-wheel-drive system work well to get what outputs it has to ground – the on-demand system drives the front wheels most of the time but dribbles some torque to the rear axle to sharpen up the response time.

There’s minimal scrabbling from the front wheels when pushing hard out of corners, but it’s not being asked to do as much by the petrol engine as the diesel.

What also continues to impress is the six-speed auto, which doesn’t feel as though it is syphoning off a lot of the engine urge in order to do its job.

Response to driver demands is willing and it’s gear choices are generally good, with its top two gears being overdrives. It doesn’t rush to select 6th either, something too many do in the pursuit of fuel economy.

Ride and handlingRoad manners is where the first incarnation of the CX-5 made its bones and the new one is not undoing any of that good work.

The model update has brought with it a quieter and more refined cabin while making use of the brand’s G-Vectoring Control – supposedly teaming all the electronic brains of the vehicle to work together – to keep it sitting securely on the road.

Mazda says it makes for smoother and more secure driving, but given there’s no way of switching it off we’ll just have to watch the YouTube videos and take the brand’s word for it.

What we can put some faith in is the lower noise levels and the fact that it still feels a cohesive chassis package, albeit one that is certainly leaning – metaphorically speaking – toward the handling side of the ledger.

That can make suburban running a little rugged when the surface is seriously degraded, but it’s more the 19-inch wheels and 55-profile tyres disagreeing with the smaller imperfections in the road – bigger bumps are heard more than felt.

There were few complaints from the rugrats in the rear seat, perhaps because they could charge things using the USB outlets in the rear while enjoying a nice flow of air, but regardless of the distractions any ride complaints would still be voiced – they weren’t.

The MacPherson strut and multi-link rear suspension has always had a bent for bends and it still does. Get the CX-5 away from the metropolitan area and the chassis feels even more at home, with a nimble demeanour.

Turning into corners with little in the way of serious front-end scrub, it settles into the task and then fires out of the bend with enthusiasm, which in the petrol engine’s case results in a little more ULP being consumed than is necessary.

The diesel makes good use of its mid-range punch in this situation and while the natural aspirated engine prefers – lusts after, even – engine revs on board, it doesn’t sound harsh, just busy.

Safety and servicingFreshly anointed by ANCAP as a five-star crash-test rated vehicle, the CX-5 in GT form gets plenty of passive and some of the active safety gear that Mazda has on its books.

There are six airbags – front, front-side and curtain for both rows – as well as auto-door locking, anti-lock brakes, stability and traction control, traffic sign recognition (which is much better than mapping-based speed limit information), an auto-dimming centre mirror and tail-lights, foglights and daytime running lights all using LEDs.

The headlights too are LED and have dusk-sensing and the adaptive system that directs the low-beam to point in the intended direction of travel.

Only the top-spec Akera gets the high beam system which automatically dims areas where vehicles are oncoming or directly ahead, as well the driver attention alert, forward obstruction warning, Smart Brake Support, lane departure warning and lane keeping support.

The GT also has rain-sensing wipers, rear cross-traffic alert, seatbelt use warnings, blind spot monitoring, hill start and emergency braking assistance, front and rear parking sensors and a reversing camera.

Also fitted as standard to the GT is the low-speed Smart City Brake Support (SCBS) for both forward (up to 30km/h) and reverse motion (8km/h or less). If the system detects a risk of collision, it prepares the brakes but if the driver doesn’t act, the system applies the brakes and reduces engine output.

Mazda’s servicing regime for the CX-5 asks for maintenance every 10,000km or every 12 months and ranges in price (at the time of writing) between $305 and $333.

It is covered by a three-year, unlimited kilometre warranty that strangely does not include roadside assistance an extra $68.10 a year is demanded for standard roadside assistance (covering among other things flat batteries, fuel, flat tyres, lost or locked in keys or towing) or Premium roadside is $83.50 and adds taxi costs, vehicle recovery, accommodation and vehicle rental.

VerdictThe diesel has its charms but petrol power in the CX-5 makes more sense for its main metropolitan duties as a family runabout, and there’s plenty to like about the GT in petrol form.

The changes wrought on the nose might not be to all tastes, but what has been altered and updated within has made a worthwhile difference to the CX-5’s refinement and the usability.

Hyundai’s Tucson and the long-serving Toyota RAV4 are the only other SUVs above 20,000 sales for 2017 but that doesn’t do justice to the SUV sales fight on the 2018 card with the Tiguan, X-Trail, Forester and Kia’s Sportage in the frame.

RivalsVolkswagen Tiguan 162 TSI Sportline, from $45,990 plus on-road costs
The 162TSI has a seven-speed auto and some extra turbocharged urge – 162kW and 350N – but it needs to drink PULP to maintain that advantage over the rest. The VW sits on 20-inch wheels and has the ability to change modes for a bit more off-road prowess, but that’s no deal-sealer in this segment. The VW does get Apple CarPlay, but no digital radio, with tyre pressure warning, a driver’s knee airbag as features not found in all of its opposition. Active lane departure warning, auto emergency braking, blind spot and active lane departure functions are among the VW’s arsenal.

Subaru 2.0 XT Premium, from $48,240 plus on-road costs
Like the RAV4 it seems like the Forester has been around for a long time but there’s nothing wrong with the Subaru wagon. In XT guise it’s also using forced induction to get underway, thanks to 177kW and 350Nm, but it’s paired to a CVT which, while one of the better calibrated, doesn’t deliver the direct feeling.

It makes some above-segment-average claims for getting mud in the wheelarches but the Subaru doesn’t shirk these tasks.

Hyundai Tucson AWD (P) 1.6 Highlander (a) from $45,450 plus on-road costs
The peppy little rep from Hyundai is sharply priced and well equipped, with sharp road manners and plenty of urge from the appealing little turbo four and a seven-speed twin-clutch auto. It might only have 130kW of power but there’s also 265Nm on tap between 1500 and 4500rpm. The Korean also has the full suite of active AEB safety features.

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