Mazda has given its family SUV, the CX-5, something of a facelift. And the changes are important, specifically when you realise the mid-sized SUV accounts for a quarter of all Mazdas sold in the UK, outsold only by the more hatch-like CX-30.
To put the significance of the CX-5 in perspective; since the launch of the original in 2012, more than three million have been sold globally, with in excess of 70,000 leaving UK showrooms.
So, what’s different? In a nutshell, there’s the usual headlamp and grille styling tweak common on most midlife facelifts, no matter what the manufacturer. There are also some major changes to the SUV’s range, which means buyers can now choose from 20 different styling pack, engine and transmission combos. Prices start at £28,145 for the 2.0-litre 163bhp SE-L.
There’s a choice of two petrol engines, a 163bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder and a 2.5-litre four-pot delivering 190bhp. Plus there are two diesels, both utilising Mazda’s 2.2-litre four-cylinder, but in two states of tune, either 148bhp or 181bhp. All are available with the choice of six-speed manual or automatic gearboxes, apart that is from the top-spec petrol. It’s only available with an auto ‘box and AWD. Apparently, only 9% of buyers opt for the all-wheel drive version.
Why? Perhaps because one of the CX-5’s core strengths is its sheer drivability. We all know the delights of the iconic Mazda MX-5 roadster. Well get behind the wheel of the CX-5 and you can enjoy the same, sharp, positive, perfectly-balanced steering with the short-shift, flick-of-the-wrist six-speed manual gearbox. The combination is a sheer delight.
Engines and performance
I drove all three engine derivatives available on what was an incessantly rain-lashed 200-mile trip round the west coast of Scotland. Suffice to say, both front-wheel drive and AWD versions were perfectly sure-footed in the sodden conditions.
Starting with the entry-level 163bhp, in Sport Black trim (£33,825 as tested), it was perfectly adequate. Quiet and refined, it lacked the mid-range punch most drivers will seek. Sure it’s perfect for pottering round, but I suspect you’d find yourself craving that extra bit of oomph when you need to overtake or accelerate on to a motorway. That said, it’s no slouch: 0-62mph comes round in 10.5 seconds, and it’ll return around 41.5mpg.
For the long leg through Glencoe, I had the 190bhp 2.5-litre auto AWD (£38,365 as tested). And to be honest, given this leg encountered the most atrocious weather conditions, I was grateful for the security of the all-wheel drive. However, I found the automatic transmission lagged behind my input, and overall it lacked the sparkle and verve of the front-wheel drive manual versions. Sure you could boost the performance if you slipped it into Sport mode, but that hammered the fun economy, slipping to around 28mpg on my run.
In a world in which the ‘D’ word has all but been exorcised, as we focus of all-electric and hybrids, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the 148bhp diesel (£32,790 as tested in Sport trim), but boy, what a delight.
Here was the perfect combination. With its bucketloads of torque it pulls happily from the lowest of revs. And somehow it makes the CX-5 feel a complete unit; a marriage made in heaven. A hidden gem.
Flicking deliciously through the six-speed manual gearbox, the 2.2-litre diesel actually felt quicker and more planted than both the petrols. To be honest, overall it just felt more usable. In terms of figures: 0-62mph takes 9.9 seconds, it has a top speed of 127mph and a combined fuel figure of 50.4mpg. What’s not to like?
As for recharging? How about just five minutes at the fuel pump refilling the 56-litre tank? And that’ll give you a comfortable range of around 600-miles. Electric? Pah!
The CX-5 cabin has always been a lovely place to be, and the facelift simply makes the interior even more impressive. It continues to to be well screwed together, and if anything the quality of materials used — which were previously already very high — have risen to a new level. Touch anything and there’s a premium feel about it.
There’s plenty of room in the front and rear for occupants, with excellent visibility all-round. Dominating the fascia is the big 10-inch central infotainment screen which was made standard across the range for 2021. Sitting proudly atop the centre console, rather than in it, its position maximises the ease of viewing it without your eyes straying from the road too long.
I also love the separate bank of heating controls, plus the rotary dial to drive the infotainment screen. Millenials might scream “how old fashioned”, but it works, safely and smoothly. And compared to the the faffing about required to operate a touchscreen, making adjustments on the move in the CX-5 are easy and safe.
As for bootspace, in standard layout it’ll swallow 522 litres; this expands to 1,638 litres with the rear seats folded. Diesel models lose a few litres of stowage due to the need to fit in a tank for the AdBlue engine additive. Oh. And go for the Sport spec or above, and the tailgate is electronically-operated.
While the SE-L and Sport — the latter predicted to be the biggest seller in the UK — trims carry over from the previous CX-5, the new range now adds Sport Black, GT Sport and Newground. No, I don’t quite get the new name either, but hey-ho.
The Newground, available only with the 163bhp petrol, features a slightly more rugged look with front and rear silver underguard trims matched to silver lower body side skirts, black door mirrors and 19-inch black diamond-cut alloys. Look closely and you’ll spot subtle lime green accents in the grille which are replicated inside with lime green air vent louver trim. And the black half leatherette seats have matching green piping. There’s also a reversible waterproof cargo board in the boot.
The new Sport Black, again only available with the 163bhp petrol and front-wheel drive, delivers what Mazda calls “a sportier interpretation of the CX-5’s new look”. That means a signature wing grille surround, subtle red accents within the grille, 19-inch black alloys, plus side mouldings, door mirrors, and gloss black detailing on the wheel arches. Inside, the black leather seats feature red stitching, which is also found around the cabin in areas like the door trim, centre console and steering wheel.
The new range-topping GT Sport gains brown Nappa leather upholstery, plus genuine woodgrain and high levels of technology you’d expect of a premium SUV. Externally there’s a single colour body.
Though it lacks any form of hybridisation — something more and more buyers are now focusing on ahead of all-electric purchases — the combustion-engined CX-5 continues to impress.
Dynamically the CX-5 is spot-on for today’s family seeking a “normal-sized” SUV, with all the inherent versatility it brings. Inside the cabin, quality and materials remain well above many of the competitors. And in terms of value, especially considering the kit you now get as standard, it’s a very attractive proposition.
If there’s one big surprise, it’s the all-round attraction of the 148bhp diesel. Dare you?
Mazda CX-5 2.2 150PS 2WD Sport Diesel
Price: £32,210 (£32,790 as tested); Engine: 2.2-litre, four-cylinder, diesel; Power: 148bhp @ 4500rpm; Torque: 280lb ft; Transmission: Six-speed manual; Top speed: 127mph; 0-62mph: 9.9 seconds; Economy: 50.4mpg; CO2 emissions: 132g/km