From £23,6958

New version of Mazda's established family SUV looks to hone its driver appeal further and move upmarket in a rapidly expanding segment

Find Mazda CX-5 deals
Offers from our trusted partners on this car and its predecessors...
New car deals
From £23,695
Nearly-new car deals
From £24,995
Sell your car
In partnership with
Powered by

Six years after the launch of the original Mazda CX-5 SUV, Mazda’s SkyActiv model revolution has come full circle.

Having touched the Mazda 3 hatchback and saloon, the bigger Mazda 6 saloon, the Mazda 2 supermini, the Mazda CX-3 crossover and even the fourth-generation Mazda MX-5 sports car, this curiously named programme of technological overhaul – which has brought new platforms, new engines and new thinking to the Japanese firm – has returned its focus to this: the second-generation CX-5.

Based on an overhauled version of the previous model’s platform, the CX-5 is 15% more torsionally rigid than its forebear

Predictably, there’s less of a gleam of radical newness to this car than there was to its predecessor, as Mazda inevitably enters a period of consolidation and refinement.

But there’s now a weight of expectation on the CX-5’s shoulders created by the success of the car that it’s replacing.

The first CX-5 got in fairly early on the current craze for SUVs and of which a remarkable 1.5 million units were built and sold around the world over a six-year lifespan. The CX-5 now accounts for 25 percent of Mazda’s global sales volume.

Such popularity could be significant for this replacement, since a stronger established business case will likely have markedly increased the money and resource Mazda was willing to sink into this car than might have been invested otherwise.

Back to top

There’s no expensive new platform to eat up the lion’s share of that development budget, either: the car sits on an updated version of its predecessor’s mechanical underpinnings, although an extensive model replacement programme has – according to Mazda – altered the car’s dimensions and exterior styling, made it more rigid, improved its steering, suspension and braking systems and given it a completely new interior.

This time around, Mazda is promising the same taut and agile handling that made the previous CX-5 so appealing to keener drivers shopping for a typically soft compact SUV, but partnered with a much more expensive-feeling and better-equipped interior and much improved cabin refinement.

The company plainly has the SUV segment’s premium and ‘semi-premium’ brand players in its sights but is setting out to undercut them by several thousand pounds in some cases once equipment level is taken into account. So where’s the catch?

Mazda CX-5 design & styling

The dimensions of the second-generation CX-5 silently confirm its relationship with its predecessor.

The new car is within 5mm of the old one on overall length – you’ll often see a bigger difference than that on a facelifted car as a result of a mere bumper styling alteration – and is identical on overall width and wheelbase.

Where it does differ is on overall height, the new car standing 30mm shorter than its antecedent – and quite possibly benefiting visually from the aesthetic advantages that a lower roofline confers.

Mazda’s new look for the car adds slimmer headlights and a larger helping of chrome trim and certainly creates a smarter, more serious and more upmarket-looking car.

Revisions to the CX-5’s body-in-white may have added 15 percent to the car’s torsional rigidity by the inclusion of 3 percent more ultra-high-tensile steel, but they haven’t made it significantly lighter.

Mazda’s claim, however, is that 50 percent of the components that make up the car’s monocoque (by number) are new. The joins between the front suspension and the body have been reinforced, as have the body sills and the A-pillars.

Back to top

Elsewhere, the steering bushes have been stiffened, the lower suspension arm bushings uprated, and the dampers respecified and retuned for smoother roll characteristics and better mid-corner stability.

On the electronic side, the car features new dynamic stability software called G-Vectoring Control, which uses integrated control of the engine, transmission and chassis to monitor the car’s pitch as it progresses from turn-in to apex and then exit and makes subtle modulations to the engine’s delivery of torque to juggle the car’s weight around between its axles.

This, Mazda claims, is automatic load transfer and the consequent maximising of grip, steering response and stability done imperceptibly: an interesting idea.

The CX-5’s engines have been carried over for the most part, with detail changes made to Mazda’s 2.2-litre diesel lump in particular aimed at improving refinement.

We tested the volume-selling 148bhp 2.2-litre diesel in front-wheel-drive manual form. A 163bhp 2.0-litre petrol is also available, as is a 173bhp 2.2-litre diesel.

Four-wheel drive is offered on the 148bhp diesel as an option and on the 173bhp one as standard, and a six-speed automatic gearbox can be had with either diesel.


Mazda CX-5 interior

Much like the engineering revisions, the interior refresh tends towards carefully considered adjustments rather than wholesale change.

Which isn’t to say that the aesthetic remains unaltered, just that the hard points – and therefore the car’s layout – are essentially the same.

The cabin has a more upmarket feel than before. The centre console and air vents look particularly classy, and stone leather did a lot to lift the ambience

Nevertheless, there are three telling modifications: firstly, the infotainment has been liberated from the dashboard and plonked on top (a far more modern setting); secondly, the centre console has been raised to better meet your left elbow; and thirdly, the trim materials have been revised. Modest changes, then, but they adroitly transform the CX-5’s cabin, especially from the driver’s seat.

Exhuming the touchscreen allows for a smaller, less invasive dashboard; one far nicer to touch than it was previously.

Arguably, the display itself is still slightly too small, but by better segregating it, Mazda has at least made interacting with it seem more instinctive. Although it is new to the CX-5, Mazda’s touch panel and the software that drives it is a familiar package. The 7.0in screen isn’t the most expansive offering around and occasionally makes the interface seem a little cluttered.

However, the menu system is logically presented, its home-screen crescent mirroring the motion of the dial controller, which is still positioned a little too far back on the centre console for most testers’ liking. There’s no reason to use this if you prefer the touchscreen, although it’s not difficult to miss the display’s tabs in some sub menus.

The satellite navigation is usable enough and its functionality is dramatically enhanced by a new version of Mazda’s head-up display. Now projected directly onto the windscreen, the full colour system includes turn-by-turn instructions, as well as speed and other vehicle status information, and is standard on the Sport Nav trim level. Also on the equipment list is a serviceable 10-speaker Bose stereo system and a reversing camera.

The raising of the gearlever by 40mm, a byproduct of the console’s elevation, which also affords a better proportioned storage bin.

The real advantage, though, is the feeling – borrowed from myriad premium rivals – of being better sunk into tall surroundings.

The CX-5 can afford to make this impression without seeming restrictive because it remains at the larger end of the family crossover scale, a virtue likely to be appreciated by those sitting in the back.

With a wheelbase marginally longer than either a Ford Kuga’s or a Volkswagen Tiguan’s, the CX-5 offers rear-seat accommodation that’s certainly adult-friendly in both leg and head room.

Its usability has been augmented by the introduction of a two-step reclining mechanism – a first for Mazda – which allows the seatback to be canted aft to an angle of 28deg.

Most buyers will be more interested in the boot space than ways of impinging on it. Happily, the CX-5 remains a sturdy prospect here, too, with 506 litres available to the model’s beltline.

The Sport Nav model on test has a powered bootlid, although the 40/20/40 bench still flops forward manually, revealing a pleasingly flat boot floor and a longer load space than was delivered by the Tiguan that we drove.


2.2-litre Mazda CX-5 diesel engine

When we tested the CX-5 in 2012, much of the praise was heaped on the then new 148bhp 2.2-litre diesel engine – and rightly so.

The unit, lusty and likeable, was at the forefront of the industry’s wider overhaul of the modestly sized oil-burner and its fitment ensured that the model’s performance and efficiency were among its most lauded features.

Traditional front-drive SUV limitations are confirmed in the first hairpin by an elevated left thigh and a right elbow lodged in the door card

Its carry-over into the new model, virtually unchanged, is consequently a cause for celebration – and mild censure.

The gentle admonishment is necessary not because the four-cylinder unit has suddenly turned bad, but rather because it has not got markedly better.

We posted 9.4sec to 60mph and 53.9mpg on a touring run against a 43.3mpg average – virtually the same scores as five years ago and undeniably commendable even now. But standing still in a congested and closely contested segment is virtually the same as taking a step back, not least because it gives current CX-5 owners less of a reason to upgrade.

Where Mazda has endeavoured to invest in the engine is rather a case in point. Efforts to make the car more refined are naturally welcome, yet the manufacturer has only really succeeded in hauling its previously gruff oil-burner up to a level we’d call satisfactory. It’s quieter, then, but manifestly still present at all times.

Even the quixotic six-speed manual ’box, a manly nub of short-throw notchiness, and robust clutch pedal risk seeming anachronistic. The oily sensation of heavy moving parts is naturally a tick in our book.

Whether it would be in the hands of someone merely trying to change gear with a minimum amount of fuss is another question.

None of this dismantles the motor’s broad-batted appeal or its effectiveness, yet it’s instructive that the more powerful, more expensive version we previously considered superfluous now feels like it may be the range’s sweet spot.

Blame that on the continuing advancements made beyond Mazda’s door. 


Mazda CX-5 cornering

Say what you will about Mazda’s earnest repetition of its mildly silly ‘Jinba Ittai’ car-and-driver-as-one mantra, but the manufacturer has a proven track record for delivering mainstream models with an appreciable focus on proficient handling.

Plainly, this extends to the familiar challenge of making a crossover drive credibly, as the latest CX-5 seeks to improve not only on the basic aptitude of its predecessor but also the wider standard of the segment.

The front end goes light into immoderate dips. Lift off at this point and it’ll be the stability control tempering the unsettled rear

As a result, the 15 percent improvement in rigidity delivered by the engineers is not wasted by the chassis tuning department.

Reducing the delay between steering input and body response has clearly been a preoccupation, and the result – for an SUV of notable size and weight – is an impressively honed change of direction.

Simultaneous efforts have been made to revitalise the steering, too, with rigid couplings adopted in an attempt to provide a more direct connection to the running gear.

This is moderately less successful – there isn’t quite the initial bite that the car’s pointier attitude probably deserves – but nevertheless, in the rate of response and broader accuracy, it’s worthier than most.

The lingering doubt, at any rate, is not in the wrists but in the hips and back. Generally speaking, the mechanical compromise between having a heavy, high-sided car corner adeptly on passive suspension and still ride satisfactorily is well struck.

The CX-5 is patently at the firmer end of the market, yet its damping is considerate enough at speed to make the secondary ride seem consistently fluid.

About town, though, or when dealing with larger intrusions, less keen drivers might conceivably wonder if the concession to handling is one worth making. Undeniably, a Volkswagen Tiguan on adaptive suspension would make a fairer fist of isolating its occupants from the average high street than the Mazda does.

That’s an objective observation, of course. Subjectively, our opinion of the CX-5 has gone up by a qualified notch.

On the hill route’s few genuinely fast, sighted bends, the Mazda demonstrates the same well-controlled roll as on the road.

However, it’s in the sharper bends, taken at unreasonable speed, that the CX-5’s initial and robust resistance to lean is overcome by its high roll centre and not inconsiderable mass.

The tyres come under notable stress, too, and are not ably assisted by a stability control system apparently surprised by all the unbalancing going on above.

There’s no switching out the traction control completely, and the ‘TCS off’ button doesn’t change the car’s demeanour. That’s probably for the best because the CX-5 is prone to pivot quite strikingly when its weight is provokingly shifted mid-corner.

None of this seems particularly ominous, of course, but it does suggest that something like the smaller, lighter Seat Ateca is ultimately better resolved under the same conditions.


Mazda CX-5

It has been historically very rare to see a direct replacement for a modern car emerge onto the market with poorer claimed CO2 emissions than its predecessor.

Or rather, it was very rare until the past six months or so, since manufacturers have been tuning engine control systems to delivery optimal fuel economy on the road, rather than in the lab; and over which period we’ve seen similar deteriorations in lab test NEDC emissions, old model to new, from several manufacturers.

Beating VW and BMW from a lower starting price is a result; should make the CX-5 appealing on monthly finance

So what’s the story behind this 2.2D’s increase in CO2 emissions? We suspect there is no sinister reason, merely that the new car’s engine is tuned differently to its predecessor’s.

And our test results seem to back up that conclusion: in our real-world testing, the CX-5 exceeded 50mpg on our touring economy test route and also bettered the equivalent result of a like-for-like Volkswagen Volkswagen Tiguan (53.9mpg was achieved by the Mazda versus 51.6mpg by the Volkswagen).

The Mazda is also well equipped, competitively priced and looks set to command excellent residual values, which should also make monthly finance deals look more appealing.


4 star Mazda CX-5

Last year, we extolled the virtues of the new Volkswagen Volkswagen Tiguan based on VW’s unerring ability to deliver to its customers what they most want.

In several departments, most notably in the positivity of the handling, the CX-5 has exceeded its most prominent rival – but it possibly has not in the ways in which most buyers would choose to ultimately grade a family crossover.

Still moderately left of field, but now likeable in greater proportions

The Volkswagen is quieter, more comfortable, easier-going and nicer inside. Telling blows, all.

But that does not leave the CX-5 down and out. Quite the opposite: on its own terms – the way Mazda seems to go about doing everything – the second-generation car is a resounding and obvious improvement on its predecessor.

This CX-5 is great to look at, better to sit in, good to drive, cost-effective to run and brilliantly sized. It comfortably eclipses the bulk of a running order that previously outranked it and, in doing so, it provides buyers with arguably the most compelling mainstream alternative to the segment’s current benchmark.

The Mazda CX-5 couldn’t quite topple the Tiguan, but is ahead of the Ford Kuga, BMW X1 and Honda CR-V in our eyes.


Mazda CX-5 First drives