Mazda CX-5 SUV (2017 -) Driving & Performance

Review by Adam Binnie on
Last Updated: 09 Aug 2017
4.4
The CX-5 was the first car to feature Mazda’s angular 'Kodo' styling and Skyactiv fuel-saving technology - two pillars that have come to define the manufacturer’s line-up of cars. It debuted in 2012 and since then the Japanese manufacturer has sold 1.

3.4 out of 5

Performance

  • Same engine line up as before – one petrol and one diesel
  • Latter has two power outputs, 150hp and 175hp
  • Manual and auto, two- and four-wheel drive

The engine line-up includes a 2.0-litre petrol and a 2.2-litre diesel in two states of tune. These are unchanged from the previous car - except for a clever refinement to help reduce noise at idle.

Petrol engine

There’s only one choice here and it’s a 2.0-litre, 165hp motor, with two-wheel drive and a manual gearbox. As heartening as it is to see a non-turbocharged petrol engine still on sale, in truth it feels a little out of its depth in a large SUV.

As such 0-62mph takes 10.4 seconds and progress uphill is leisurely. If you’re coming from a diesel or turbocharged petrol SUV, the lack of midrange torque in this version is going to feel quite alien - it needs to be revved hard to unlock its performance. That’s fine in a two-seater sportscar like the MX-5, but noisy and a bit too much of an effort in the CX-5.

Diesel engines

There are two 2.2-litre options here and both of them feel more suited to the CX-5 than the petrol. Things kick off with a 150hp unit – the projected best seller – and it’s available with both two- or four-wheel drive, and a manual or automatic gearbox.

Oddly, the front-driven manual is the fastest, taking 9.4 seconds to get from 0-62mph, as well as being the most economical to run. While not a million miles quicker in the benchmark sprint than the more powerful petrol, it requires much less effort use thanks to loads of midrange punch from its turbocharger.

Most powerful of all is the 175hp version of the 2.2-litre diesel – it is all-wheel drive only, but you can pick a manual or automatic gearbox. Again, the manual is the fastest, racing from 0-62mph in 9.0 seconds.

Gearboxes

Two choices here – manual and automatic – and both come with six speeds. The base engine is manual only but the diesels can be had with either ‘box.

The manual is typical Mazda; tight and accurate throws with a mechanical feel that makes it way more satisfying to use than an SUV deserves to be.

We’ll withhold judgement on the auto until we’ve driven it in the UK but early indications are good. Shift across into manual mode and the lever becomes a sequential shifter; downshift by pushing away and upshift by pulling towards you. It might not sound like much but Mazda is one of the few manufacturers thatdoes this correctly – most others have up and downshifts in the opposite direction.

4.3 out of 5

Handling

  • More fun than you’d expect a big SUV to deliver
  • Great steering and high grip levels, even with two-wheel drive
  • G-Vectoring Control improves agility and enjoyment

Driving enjoyment is Mazda’s calling card and for the most part the CX-5 falls into line with the manufacturer’s current run of satisfying steers.

It doesn’t deliver quite the same thrills as the company’s smaller hatchback and saloon models but you wouldn’t expect it to – this is a tall and comfortable family crossover, which cannot escape the laws of physics.

Innovations this time around include improved steering and braking systems plus a 15% stiffer body, allowing for more comfortable suspension while maintaining handling ability.

Where the CX-5 shines is when turning into corners – the Mazda responds neatly to turns of the nicely weighted and linear, predictable steering, aided by the new-to-this-model G-Vectoring Control. Don’t worry about how this works – just know it improves the dexterity of this large SUV.

There’s a bit of bodyroll but it’s well-controlled, with no wallowing, and mid-corner the CX-5 demonstrates huge and balanced grip levels – especially in AWD models.

The front-driven CX-5 feels more agile when powering out of corners, oddly, where it just grips and goes. In AWD cars there’s a slight delay, which you can minimise by pressing the accelerator earlier than normal and leaning on those huge traction levels.