A medium-sized, five-seat crossover from one of the most habitually underappreciated mainstream brands in all of car-dom Mazda. The CX-5 is their pop at rivals such as the Volkswagen Tiguan and Peugeot 3008 among (MANY) others. And it s a hugely important car for the brand the CX-5 accounts for more than a quarter of all new Mazdas sold in the UK. To date more than three million have been sold in Europe alone.
It sits on the same basic platform as the first-gen CX-5, which came out in 2012. The wheelbase is the same, but it s 10mm longer, 35mm lower and much sharper-looking thanks to squintier head- and taillights, a longer bonnet and wider grille. No doubt it s a good-looking car. All Mazdas are nowadays the 3, for example, is a properly desirable thing.
This is the second-generation CX-5, which was launched in 2017 and is updated pretty frequently with new tech and revised engines. The 2021 update brings new infotainment in the form of a 10.25 widescreen that get this isn t operated with the pokes, prods and swipes of a finger, but with an iDrive-style rotary controller down by the gear lever.
For this year Mazda has also added another engine to the line-up, making it four total. The two 2.2-litre turbodiesel engines and 2.0-litre nat-asp petrol have been joined by a flagship 2.5-litre petrol with almost 200bhp. The new engine is only available in top-spec GT Sport trim, so it s expensive and likely to remain a niche option. It s also all-wheel drive and auto only, but front-wheel drive and a manual gearbox are available elsewhere in the range. There is no all-electric, plug-in or even mild-hybrid version.
Prices start at just over 27,000, so the CX-5 isn t exactly cheap. But all models at the time of writing there are no fewer than 18 to choose from get a good amount of kit as standard.
Mazda CX-5 Engine, Driving & Performance
Let s talk petrol first. Mazda believes in something called rightsizing. Versus the more fashionable downsizing which theorises that smaller petrol engines use less fuel, and that you can make up for the inevitable power deficit by adding a turbocharger Mazda simply fits its cars with larger-capacity naturally-aspirated petrols big enough to power the cars to which they re fitted without the need for forced induction.
So while Seat, for example, will sell you an Ateca with a tiny turbocharged 1.0-litre three-cylinder motor, the smallest petrol engine you can get in a CX-5 is a comparatively hefty 2.0-litres with four-cylinders. And Mazda s just gone one better, by adding a punchier 2.5-litre four-cylinder to the line-up for 2021.
Both engines do without turbochargers or any form of electrical assistance (whereas Mazda s smaller cars get a 48-volt mild-hybrid boost), but can shut down two of their four cylinders when you re cruising to save fuel. In the 2.5-litre car you don t feel this happening at all.
On our mixed 50-mile test route, the 2.5-litre CX-5, which is only available with all-wheel drive and an automatic gearbox, met Mazda s claim of 35.3mpg without any trouble. We ve not tested the front-wheel drive 2.0-litre car since the CX-5 was launched in 2017, but Mazda claims CO2 emissions are down by 7-9g/km for 2021, and fuel economy is up the official claim is up to 42.2mpg for the standard (and excellent) manual or 37.7mpg for the auto.
As you d expect the 2.5-litre CX-5 feels brawnier than the 2.0-litre, but there s actually not that much between them on paper. The 2.0-litre has 163bhp and, with the auto, gets to 62mph in 9.8 seconds. Meanwhile the 2.5-litre car has 191bhp but takes 9.2 seconds to reach 62mph. You re feeling the added torque of the bigger motor just 157lb ft versus a healthier 190lb ft.
The 2.5-litre motor isn t the quietest or most refined engine in the world, and the noise it does make isn t particularly pleasant, but it gets the job done. It s responsive and, though it doesn t feel its near-200bhp, is plenty powerful enough to push the CX-5 along at a decent pace. The six-speed auto isn t as crisp as the best dual-clutch transmissions and tends to hang on to ratios for too long, but its changes are smooth and there are paddles on the wheel so you can make the decisions yourself.
If you want a petrol, the sensible thing to do is stick with the more economical 2.0-litre. Even if it feels a bit weedy. The 2.5-litre forces you into top-spec GT Sport trim, an auto gearbox and all-wheel drive, so in all it costs almost 10k more than the most basic 2.0-litre car.
That said, the best engine for a car of this size and type tends to be a turbodiesel, just because of how they make their power/torque. Mazda offers two both 2.2-litres, one with 148bhp and the other with 181bhp so together with the two petrols you have four engine options. The diesels aren t standout, but they re as quiet and refined as you d hope and compliant with all the latest emissions standards. Do feel a bit lardier than the petrols in the bends, mind.
The CX-5 isn t as agile as an Ateca nor as soft or comfortable as a C5 Aircross, but it still handles rather well. All CX-5s get something called G-Vectoring Control, which rather than vectoring torque across the axle, takes a little bit of torque away from the front wheels when you turn in. This shifts weight forward over the front axle. As you accelerate through and out of the bend said torque is restored, shifting weight backwards to aid stability.
Mazda CX-5 Interior Layout & Infotainment
The first-gen CX-5 didn t have a very impressive interior. Sure it was spacious, comfortable and easy enough to wrap your head around, but material quality was lacking and the design was a bit too conservative.
Things have improved for the second-gen. It s about as spacious as it was before (not a problem, there s plenty), but the infotainment screen that protrudes from the top of the dash, aluminium-look air vents and trim strip across basically its entire width make the whole thing feel much more modern.
As we ve said many times, Mazda likes to do things differently from other carmakers. Which is why for the 2021 model s new infotainment system, it s forgone a touchscreen in favour of a BMW iDrive-style rotary controller on the centre console.
The 10.25-inch screen, which is standard across the range, is super wide and has crisp good-looking graphics and a properly intuitive UI that doesn t overwhelm you with options or info. Hooking your phone up through Apple CarPlay is a cinch.
We reckon it s easier and safer to operate on the move than most, if not all touchscreens. The climate controls have their own physical controls too huzzah.
The CX-5 is a five seater in the mould of the VW Tiguan. There is no seven-seat option. Knee-room in the back is good but not remarkable, the boot is a very healthy size and there are little handles back there so you can flip the seats down direct from the tailgate.
You feel like you re driving an SUV the driving position is high-up (could do with adjusting a bit lower, actually) and the door mirrors are massive. It s easy to see out of with no major blind spots.
Mazda CX-5 Price, MPG & Running Costs
The lesser petrol and diesel engines are front-wheel drive only, but get the option of an automatic gearbox to replace the standard six-speed manual. Buyers of the more powerful diesel get to choose any combination of drive/gearbox, but the new 2.5-litre petrol is all-wheel drive and auto only.
As of early 2021, there are 18 CX-5 models to choose from, including a special edition model called the Kuro. Entry-level spec, called SE-L, is well-equipped. As standard you get LED headlights, heated/electric folding mirrors, parking sensors, dual-zone climate control, the big infotainment system with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto and lots of USB ports.
Sport spec adds larger alloy wheels, a reversing camera, leather upholstery, electric heated seats, a heated steering wheel, HUD, keyless entry and Bose stereo. While top-of-the-line GT Sport cars get ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, a sunroof and plusher trim. GT Sport also gets the Safety Pack as standard. An 800 option on Sport CX-5s, it upgrades the headlights to adaptive LEDs and adds a 360-degree camera, driver attention alert and rear smart city braking.
All CX-5s get forward-facing autonomous emergency braking, radar cruise control, blind-spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert, lane-keeping assist with lane-departure warning and hill start assist. It was awarded a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating when it was first tested in 2017.
Top Gear’s verdict on the Mazda CX-5
Verdict Final thoughts and pick of the range
A good-looking small SUV that drives rather well. Worth considering if you’re in the marketThere aren t many mainstream carmakers that don t make a bad car. Mazda has been one of the few for a few years now its current range drives well and looks good, and though it s not without its problems, the CX-5 is no exception. The new 2.5-litre engine is fine but not worth bothering with, as it ties you in to pricey GT Sport spec, all-wheel drive and an auto box. Base SE-L or mid-range Sport spec will do you just fine, and the cheaper, more economical, less powerful petrol and diesel engines will be more than adequate for most.