How does the Mazda CX-5 shape up in the hotly-contested mid-size SUV sector?
Well, to cut a long story short – very well. And it has to be good because it’s up against everything from the Honda CR-V and Ford Kuga, to the Volvo XC60 and Nissan Qashqai.
Like the Mazda 2, 3 and 6 (and I suspect, the all new CX-3, which is the CX-5’s new baby brother), Mazda has allowed some of the sportiness of the iconic MX-5 to rub off on its more mainstream models.
The CX-5 is no exception – here’s a medium-sized family crossover that’s enjoyable to drive, spacious and surprisingly economical.
As with the rest of Mazda’s impressive range, there’s some clear DNA there on the styling front – important in a sector where it’s tougher than ever to stand out.
Inside too, Mazda’s managed to continue the sporty theme, creating a cabin that’s more of a cockpit with a premium car-like feel.
The CX-5 is available with a choice of petrol and diesel engines, plus 2WD and 4WD.
I drove the top-of-the-range 2.2d AWD Sport Nav which is a basic £29,395, though with options including Mazda’s trademark Soul Red metallic paint, a Safety Pack and light Stone leather seats, the on the road price is £30,955.
That said, the range starts at a very competitive £22,295 for the 2WD 2.0-litre petrol SE-L.
Whichever model you choose, you get a practical car that can easily transport five people in comfort with enough space to carry their luggage with ease too.
From a driver’s point of view, it’s a rewarding car with a comfortable driving position and all the controls falling to hand.
The interior has a quality feel, the 9-speaker BOSE surround sound system is great, while the 7-inch, full-colour infotainment touchscreen in the centre console (incorporating DAB radio and connectivity) is good) though the sat nav is a little fiddly. As with other Mazdas, the command controller and volume control knob in the lower centre console between the seats is a bonus for those of us preferring an option to the touchscreen.
My test car had a lusty 175PS engine with plenty of pulling power and a satisfyingly slick 6-speed gearbox. Like most diesels, the engine’s a little gruff under initial acceleration, but it soon settles down.
On paper it can manage 0-62mph in 8.8 seconds with a top speed of 129mph, and I have no reason to doubt that.
Importantly for a big car, it’s also capable of 54.5mpg, with 40-45mpg more than possible in the real world.
The CX-5 is entertaining to drive, especially on country roads, with precise steering, minimum body lean and plenty of grip, though there is wind noise at higher speeds. It’s safe too, gaining a maximum five-star Euro NCAP crash-test rating.
There’s good space inside for five with decent head and legroom, plus a large 503-litre boot (expanding to an generous 1620 litres with the back seats folded down) and plenty of small storage spaces.
Unless you live out in the sticks or you tow a caravan, there’s probably no need for the AWD version or the larger diesel engine. The less powerful diesel and petrol options are also punchy and economical – and cheaper.
Summary. It’s hard to fault the Mazda CX-5. Distinctive, frugal, well-equipped, fun to drive and spacious, it’s everything an SUV should be.