Review: Mazda CX-5

Quite simply an excellent crossover

04 Jul 16 Tim Barnes-Clay


  • Comfortable

  • Enjoyable to drive

  • Safe


  • Cabin storage

  • Temperamental ‘Start/Stop’

  • Interior materials

Our expert rating

Crossovers are some of the most popular cars on the road today, and for many manufacturers they now form a key part of their line-ups. In 2012 Mazda introduced the first generation CX-5, and it quickly gained a good reputation.

 At the time the new CX-5 debuted it introduced a number of firsts for Mazda, the most obvious being the attractive new styling approach and the ‘Skyactiv’ design philosophy which placed a heavy emphasis on efficiency and lightweight construction.

As a result, the Japanese-made CX-5 was the first Mazda to really benefit from the manufacturer’s brand new efficient engines and transmissions.


The Mazda CX-5 comes with a choice of three engine options; a 2.0-litre petrol and a 2.2-litre diesel in two different power outputs. While the petrol engine is by no means a disappointment, the CX-5 really shines when powered by the 2.2-litre diesel.

It provides smooth, refined pull and is capable of producing an impressive 62mpg while only emitting 119g/km of CO2.

This puts it into VED bracket C, and that means you’ll only be paying £30 a year in road tax. On top of being available in either two or four-wheel drive versions, there are also two transmissions on offer - a six speed manual and a six speed automatic.

Buyers looking for the most laid-back of rides are unlikely to be disappointed with the auto, but those who really enjoy driving will perhaps get the most enjoyment from the excellent manual as it matches better with the CX-5’s excellent dynamics.

Mazda CX-5 rear

Ride and handling

You’d be forgiven for looking at a crossover and thinking that it wouldn’t be all that fun to drive, but the Mazda CX-5 has more to it than meets the eye. The CX-5 is a car in which you can really enjoy a brisk drive, and you will really feel the benefit of that lightweight construction in the corners.

It’s a nimble car, and provides the driver with plenty of confidence in the grip and high levels of feedback coming through its controls. The manual gearbox in particular is a delight to operate, channelling the feeling found in the gearbox of Mazda’s most famous creation – the MX-5 roadster.

The CX-5 also scored well in safety tests, with impressive scores in all tests. As a result it was awarded a full 5 stars for safety, even scoring maximum points in side impact testing.

Interior space

Being a crossover, the Mazda CX-5 provides a spacious and comfortable environment for drivers and passengers alike. The CX-5 can fit four adults into its comfy seats easily. The driver will find plenty of adjustments available in the seating and steering wheel to get into their perfect driving position.

Interior dashboard Mazda CX-5

Entry level ‘SE-L’ is the best trim level to go for as it comes with an impressive array of equipment, including cruise control, climate control, and Bluetooth/USB connections.

In higher level ‘SE-L Lux’ trim you’ll find full heated and electrically operated seating, and in the highest ‘Sport’ trim a reversing camera and a premium ‘Bose’ sound system.

Boot space in the CX-5 is an impressive 503 litres, and the low lip makes getting large or heavy object into the boot easier.

Children’s buggies and large shopping trips are easily accommodated, but if that isn’t enough, the rear seats can also be folded down to create even more space by pulling levers inside the boot.

What to know before you buy

Mazda has a reputation for producing hugely reliable cars, and so you shouldn’t expect to have too many problems. Owners haven’t reported many issues with the CX-5, but the ‘start/stop’ system is known to be temperamental, causing the car to stall when re-engaging the engine.

Efficiency is reportedly not as good as the quoted, with many owners not able to get near the claimed efficiency figures. Keep in mind that opting for a four-wheel drive model will result in a decrease in fuel economy.

Ride quality in the CX-5 is excellent, being both comfortable and composed in the corners, so anything that doesn’t feel right in this particular area could indicate a problem with the suspension.

Outside of Mazda CX-5

Alternative cars

The Honda CR-V is the biggest rival to the CX-5, and is fitted with interior materials of a notably higher quality – and it has a larger boot. However, the CR-V’s infotainment system is far more difficult to use.

Volkswagen’s Tiguan is perhaps considered more stylish, but it doesn’t ride as well as the CX-5 and doesn’t represent the same value for money either.

More premium brands such as Audi and BMW provide more luxurious interiors in their Q3 and X1 respectively, but for this of course there is a notable step-up in price. In this corner of the market, the CX-5’s driving performance is enormously difficult to top.

Mazda CR-X alternative car to Honda CR-V

Overall verdict

The Mazda CX-5 is quite simply an excellent crossover. Not only is it comfortable, practical, and great fun to drive, it’s also cheap to run and comes well equipped with a strong line up of standard equipment.

Its interior materials and lack of cabin storage may let it down slightly. Overall the Mazda CX-5 is a solid choice in a highly competitive sector.

Expert rating



Space & comfort

Running costs

Value for money


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