- Ultra stylish and comfortable interior
- Great to drive with strong diesel engines
- Very safe with five-star Euro NCAP safety rating
- You can't buy a hybrid
- No seven-seater
- Media system in early models isn’t as good as rivals
The Mazda CX-5 didn't really need updating. It looks just as fresh today as it did when it first went on sale in 2017. But a new Nissan Qashqai, Kia Sportage and Hyundai Tucson mean the competition is stronger than ever, so Mazda's justifiably given its best-selling car some minor upgrades to tempt buyers into showrooms.
You can now buy the Mazda CX-5 in five different trim levels: SE-L, Newground, Sport, Sport Black and GT Sport. It's a similar model line-up to before, although the exact specifications have changed a little over the years. The Mazda CX-5 Newground is perhaps the most curious of the bunch – it comes with a more roughty-toughty image including silver exterior highlights, black door mirrors and 19-inch diamond-cut alloy wheels. It's available in just four colours including the, er, interesting Zircon Sand Metallic featured in the photos.
You'll find that all trim levels are well-equipped, while Mazda doesn't really go big on options lists. That makes things easier if you're searching for a used Mazda CX-5, although if you want something a little flashier, it's worth looking for a model with 'Sport' in its name.
The Mazda CX-5 is slightly bigger than its direct competitors, which means you could pitch it against larger SUVs like the Kia Sorento and Skoda Kodiaq. It's not available with seven seats, though, while it's closer to cars like the Ford Kuga, Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V in size. It's a very practical SUV, with a large boot, comfortable seats and a high seating position. The interior is really rather lovely, with high quality materials and an easy-to-use infotainment system. It's not an exaggeration to say that it's just as impressive as premium alternatives like the BMW X3.
If you're searching for an SUV that you'll enjoy driving every day, the Mazda CX-5 is a strong choice. It feels just as agile as the smaller SEAT Ateca, while the sharp steering and deft manual transmission provide a nod to the Mazda MX-5 sports car. It doesn't compromise on comfort, either, although you might want to look at the Citroen C5 Aircross or Volkswagen Tiguan if you want an SUV with a magic carpet ride.
Like a lot of Mazda's latest models, the CX-5 is let down slightly by its fairly mediocre engine line-up. While rivals are offering a range of self-charging hybrid, plug-in hybrid and mild-hybrid powertrains, the Mazda CX-5 sticks with conventional petrol and diesel engines. If you want a Mazda SUV that can run under electric power, you'll need to look at the smaller Mazda MX-30, or wait for the Mazda CX-60 PHEV.
The 2.0-litre petrol will probably come up a lot in your search for a Mazda CX-5, and it’s not a bad engine. Indeed, it should be fairly frugal and no doubt very reliable. It just lacks a bit of urgency compared to turbo’d rivals. There's also a 2.5-litre petrol but, as it's only available in top trim levels with all-wheel drive, it doesn't sell in huge numbers.
The diesels are better, especially if you cover a lot of miles. We’d recommend the 150PS unit, unless you really need four-wheel-drive (in which case, there’s a more powerful model).
So, while rivals might be more technologically advanced, we still rate the Mazda CX-5 very highly indeed. Its interior really is lovely while, in our eyes, it's also one of the most attractive SUVs currently on sale.
Is the Mazda CX-5 right for you?
If you’re after a stylish SUV with a superb cabin and aren’t too fussed about a premium badge, the Mazda CX-5 remains an excellent choice. It's slightly bigger than conventional family SUVs like the Nissan Qashqai, but that means it's more spacious and you get that oh-so-desirable high seating position. It's a shame you can't buy a hybrid Mazda CX-5 but still, it shouldn't cost a fortune to run, and it's likely to be a very reliable choice in the long-term.
What’s the best Mazda CX-5 model/engine to choose?
All Mazda CX-5 models are well equipped so we’d be inclined to look for a lower-spec SE-L model. Not only will this save you money, but you’ll also get the smaller 17-inch wheels for a more compliant ride and less road noise. Go for a higher-spec model (such as the current CX-5 Sport and GT Sport trim levels) if you don’t mind a firmer ride and want an even classier interior.
In terms of engines, the 150PS diesel is our choice. It suits the car better than the lethargic 2.0-litre petrol, although a diesel won’t be the most appropriate choice for every buyer.
What other cars are similar to the Mazda CX-5?
You should also look at the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V - both of which will be very sensible and reliable used choices and are available as hybrids, which might appeal if you cover a lot of town driving. You could also consider the Ford Kuga, which represents good value for money but feels dated and has a drab interior compared to the plush CX-5.
Then there’s the quirky and comfortable Citroen C5 Aircross which has a softer ride and punchier petrol engines while, if you think you might need to occasionally carry extra passengers, we’d recommend seven-seat alternatives like the Skoda Kodiaq and Peugeot 5008.
That said, it also takes quite an upmarket approach. It’s an attractive cabin to look at, with smart chrome air vents and leather in all the right places (including the seats, on all but entry-level models). GT Sport models even come with real wood inlays which, genuinely, don’t look naff at all. You can even get fancy brown Nappa leather upholstery.
The seats are delightfully comfortable. There’s loads of adjustment in the driver and front passenger seats, including adjustable lumbar support - meaning you’re unlikely to complain about aches and pains after a long journey. Most models also come with electric seat adjustment, which is useful if you’re regularly swapping drivers.
Quality and finish
You won’t have any complaints about the quality of the CX-5’s cabin. It feels every bit the premium car - a significant step up compared to cut-price alternatives like the Ford Kuga.
The materials used are first-rate and we have no qualms with the general fit and finish of the cabin. You won’t find any harsh plastics here, while all the switchgear feels more Audi than Skoda. Whichever model you buy, it feels just as well-made, although touches like a frameless rear-view mirror and Nappa leather seats (with seat ventilation!) make the top-of-the-range GT Sport trim feel extra special.
We doubt you’ll hear any creaks or rattles from the Mazda CX-5’s interior on the move, and it’s sure to stand up well to day-to-day family life.
Infotainment: Touchscreen, USB, nav and stereo in the Mazda CX-5
When the Mazda CX-5 first arrived in 2017, it used a seven-inch navigation system which wasn’t quite up to the same standards as the superb interior. It did the job, but the screen was a little weedier than those found in rivals, and its graphics were a bit below-par. It was slow to respond, too.
Things improved early in 2019 when Apple CarPlay and Android Auto was added as standard across the range. We rate these systems highly - just connect your phone via USB and your phone’s screen will be mirrored onto the infotainment screen. This is great as it lets you use your own navigation apps (Waze is highly recommended) and access things like your Spotify playlists or audiobooks.
Further improvements were made in 2020, when the media system was expanded to eight-inches with clearer graphics and sharper responses, while an equally impressive 10.25-inch display followed in 2021. Finally, the CX-5 got the media system it deserved.
While rivals use touchscreen systems which provide an uncluttered cabin but can be a little distracting, the Mazda’s infotainment can be controlled via a ‘multimedia commander’ located between the front seats. This is easily operated by the driver’s left hand, allowing you to control the navigation system on the move without having to lean forward and prod the touchscreen display. It’s a set up that works very well indeed.
As well as the infotainment system, most CX-5 models come with a windscreen projected head-up display which displays things like your current speed and navigation directions without having to take your eyes off the road. There’s a Bose surround sound system across all but the most affordable trim levels, too.
Space and practicality: Mazda CX-5 boot space
While rivals like the Skoda Kodiaq, Peugeot 5008 and Honda CR-V are all available with seven seats, the Mazda CX-5 makes do with five. That'll be disappointing if you have many children, but it’s not really a huge loss. In truth, the rear-most seats in most SUVs of this size are only really for occasional use and eat into valuable boot space.
Talking of boot space, the CX-5 can carry plenty of luggage. Officially, it can fit up to 506 litres of ‘stuff’ in the back - that’s a little less than a Skoda Kodiaq or a Peugeot 5008 (when the third row of seats isn’t in use), but more than smaller SUVs like the Nissan Qashqai and Kia Sportage. Drop the rear seats (using handy handles on the side of the boot) and you get a huge space, capable of carrying up to 1620 litres of luggage.
With the rear seats left up, there’s a decent amount of space in the back. The seats recline, offering a little more comfort for rear-seat passengers but, unlike some rivals, you can’t slide the seats back and forth to let you prioritise boot or rear-passenger space.
Adults in the back will find a generous amount of headroom but legroom is a little restricted, especially if there are tall people in the front and rear. The middle seat is quite tight in terms of width (the Citroen C5 Aircross is much more generous), and there’s an annoying lump in the floor which eats into foot room.
There’s a good view out of the side windows, even for young children, while Isofix points on the outer seats help when fitting child seats. Access is easy, too, with wide-opening rear doors and the high seating position helping when strapping kids in.
Up front, there’s loads of room. Adults won’t complain about a lack of head or legroom, and the high centre console means you won’t be awkwardly touching your passenger’s knee whenever you change gear. There’s plenty of storage for your bits and bobs with deep door pockets, generous cup holders and a big glovebox.
If you're hoping to fit the Mazda CX-5 in your garage, it's quite a big car. It measures 1680mm in height (with the 19-inch alloy wheels), 1845mm wide (including door mirrors) and 4575mm in overall length.
Visibility is pretty good, though, thanks to thin pillars and a high driving position. All CX-5s come with front and rear parking sensors, which are a massive help when reversing into tight parking spaces. Mid-range models also have a reversing camera while top-of-the-range Sport Nav+ (and later, GT Sport) models feature a very useful 360-degree camera.
Once you’re out of town, the Mazda CX-5 is incredibly agile for a car of its size. It’s much happier to be chucked around than a Toyota RAV4 or Honda CR-V. Not that you need to be driving quickly to appreciate its precise steering and stiffer body compared to the old CX-5.
Even the two-wheel-drive models have plenty of grip. In fact, you won’t notice much of a difference in day-to-day driving between these and those fitted with four-wheel drive. We probably wouldn’t bother with the latter unless you’re planning to lug a caravan onto a wet field.
While the CX-5 is generally quite a comfortable car, you’ll notice imperfections in the road more than you would in a Skoda Kodiaq or Citroen C5 Aircross. Those fitted with 17-inch alloys will be compliant enough for most drivers, but you’ll notice bumps more in a high-spec model with the 19-inch wheels.
What engines and gearboxes are available in the Mazda CX-5?
The best engine in the Mazda CX-5 is the 150PS Skyactiv-D diesel. The 2.2-litre turbodiesel is a gutsy unit, feeling surprisingly quick off the line thanks to all that torque available from low down in the rev range. It’s a little clattery when you give it some beans - like a lot of diesels - but it’s generally a very refined engine that copes well with a big SUV like the CX-5.
You can also get a more powerful version of this engine, with 184PS (or 175PS on early models). This is available with four-wheel drive, which will be tempting if you're looking to tow a caravan or live in a rural area. It's not that much quicker than the 150PS diesel, though, accelerating to 62mph in 9.6 seconds if you spec the automatic gearbox and all-wheel drive (compare to 10.7 seconds for the 150PS diesel auto).
While we rate the diesels in the Mazda CX-5, a petrol will make more sense for a lot of drivers. If you regularly cover short journeys, drive in town or rarely venture onto the motorway, it won’t cost you much more to run and will be more reliable than a diesel in the long-term.
The entry-level petrol offering is the 2.0-litre Skyactiv-G petrol. With 165PS, it’ll accelerate from 0-62mph in 10.5 seconds (9.9 seconds with the automatic gearbox). That’s comparable to rivals but, as it lacks a turbocharger, you don’t get the same mid-range surge in power as you would in a 1.5 Skoda Karoq or Kodiaq.
For more punch, look for a Mazda CX-5 2.5-litre petrol which produces 194PS. It's offered only in GT Sport trim with all-wheel drive and an automatic gearbox. New for 2022 is a Mi-Drive drive mode selector, which lets you flick between drive modes, including an off-road mode for the four-wheel-drive system.
Refinement and noise levels
As is usually the case, the petrol engine is the most refined. When you’re bimbling around town, the 2.0-litre petrol is very relaxed and less noticeable than the smaller turbocharged engines used in rivals. That changes as soon as you want a bit of performance, though, as you need to really build the revs to make any sort of progress. That’s fun in a sports car like the Mazda MX-5, but knocks refinement in a family SUV like the CX-5.
The diesel engine is a little grumbly, particularly when it’s getting up to temperature. By the time it’s warmed up and you’re settled into a cruise, it’s less noticeable.
No matter which engine you choose, there’s a fair bit of road noise from the 19-inch alloy wheels. As well as providing a more comfortable ride, the 17-inch rims transfer less noise into the cabin.
All engines come with a choice of six-speed manual or automatic gearboxes. We’d argue that the automatic probably suits the car better, providing a relaxed driving experience with smooth changes. As a traditional torque-converter automatic gearbox, it should be a reliable option, too - although you’ll pay more for it compared to manual examples. If you’re happy to change gear, the manual gearbox is ace - with a short, direct throw that’s straight out of the MX-5 sports car.
Safety equipment: How safe is the Mazda CX-5?
The Mazda CX-5 is an extremely safe family car, scoring a maximum of five stars when it was crash test by Euro NCAP in 2017. It was awarded an impressive 95% rating for adult occupants and 80% for children. Its pedestrian impact protection score was 78%, while it received