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Mazda CX-5 GT AWD diesel 2018 off-road review

Mazda makes nice looking, user-friendly vehicles and its CX models are great examples of what has been a rather successful formula so far. But the pressure, perceived or otherwise, of a rapidly-growing and -changing population which seeks new shiny and bright stuff minute to minute, weighs heavily on car manufacturers and, as is their won’t, they are swift to tweak/change/facelift/upgrade their vehicles in attempt to keep pace with the times. But, does any good ever come from messing with a winning formula? Has it backfired this time? Read on to find out.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?

Our review vehicle – an upper-spec Mazda CX-5 GT AWD diesel – had a manufacturer listed price of $47,390 at standard spec, but ours also had Soul Red paint ($300) and optional front and rear floor mats at a cost of $187.02. There is a stack of gear for the price as standard including keyless entry and start, a 7.0-inch touchscreen (with Mazda’s MZD Connect multimedia system but no Apple CarPlay and Android Auto), satnav, reversing camera,  front and rear parking sensors, head-up display, cruise control, a 10-speaker Bose stereo, dual-zone climate control, electric front seats, white leather trim, auto wipers, powered and heated folding mirrors, power windows, a sunroof, electric tailgate, 19-inch alloy wheels and a space-saver spare tyre (tucked under the cargo floor). There’s also active automatic LED headlights, LED foglight and plenty of active and passive driver aids.

There's a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Mazda’s MZD Connect multimedia system. There's a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Mazda’s MZD Connect multimedia system.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

The GT has a 2.2-litre SkyActiv diesel engine – producing 129kW@4500rpm and a chunky 420Nm@2000rpm – matched to a six-speed automatic transmission. No complaints about this pairing.

The 2.2-litre SkyActiv diesel engine produces 129kW/420Nm. The 2.2-litre SkyActiv diesel engine produces 129kW/420Nm.

Is there anything interesting about its design?

People who know me, know that I put more stock in what’s under the bonnet than appearance but, having said that, I am still capable of appreciating attractive things. The previous version of the CX-5 looked good; this new one looks damn good. Everything is simply neater, sleeker and more streamlined than before, inside and outside.

The previous version of the CX-5 looked good; this new one looks damn good. The previous version of the CX-5 looked good; this new one looks damn good.

Fit and finish is tighter and all materials and designs complement, rather than clash with, each other. That bright white leather – adding a real overall touch of class – doesn’t hurt either.

The bright white leather adds a real overall touch of class. The bright white leather adds a real overall touch of class.

This CX-5 looks and feels like it sits more comfortably in the realm of sports cars than that of family-friendly SUVs – but I spend zero time in sport cars, so what do I know?

How practical is the space inside?

From the front to the back everything is pretty well suited for day-to-day life.

There is ample room for driver and passenger up front with electric adjustment for those forward pews.

Second-row travellers also get stacks of leg and headroom and the driver seat goes nowhere near encroaching on space behind. When it comes time to collapse those second-row seats, it is a 40/20/40 split.

Second-row travellers get stacks of leg and headroom. Second-row travellers get stacks of leg and headroom.

Storage solutions include a space for phones and loose change in front of the shifter, four cupholders (two up front and a pair in the second-row centre arm-rest), and a bottle-recess in each door. Annoyingly, there are two USB ports in the glovebox, which is deep enough for a dog to sit in (only joking!), so it is difficult for the driver to readily access those as a charging point.

There are air vents for both rows.

Down the back, cargo space is 442 litres with the second row up; and 1342 litres with that row flat.

With the rear seats down, there is 1342 litres of space. With the rear seats down, there is 1342 litres of space.

What's it like as a daily driver?

This CX-5 is 4550mm long, 1840mm wide, 1675mm high has a claimed kerb weight of 1744kg and an 11.2m turning circle. It feels low and long – even though it’s not really – and is rock-steady to drive, at any speed.

This CX-5 never feels like anything but a supremely well put-together unit and that makes for a smooth driving experience. Steering is light at the right time and takes on a real weight when you need it to; the 2.2-litre engine is eager and works well off changes in the six-speed auto.

It’s better suited to open-road cruising, than stop-start city driving as it tends to lag off the mark when you actually need it to swiftly budge.

Mazda reckons its staff have worked hard to make the current CX-5’s NVH (noise, vibration, harshness) levels much better than those in the previous model, but we’d never noticed anything in that earlier thing, and nothing in this latest model, so we have to take their word for it.

The GT is on 19-inch alloys, shod with Toyo Proxes R46 rubber.

The GT rides on 19-inch alloys wheels. The GT rides on 19-inch alloys wheels.

What's it like for touring?

The extent of our Adventure touring didn’t go anywhere beyond bumpy bitumen country roads and (mostly) well-maintained gravel tracks – but those are realistically the limits for which this AWD is engineered and it handled whatever we threw at it, in the parameters of those driver-use expectations, with ease.

We thumped through some surprise potholes, but generally the CX-5’s suspension – coils all-round and gas dampers – soaked up any lumps and bumps out bush with little to no fuss.

The boot space (442 litres) is handy enough for urban life (groceries, gym gear etc) but when it comes to copping all of your stuff for an outdoors weekend away it will likely struggle and then it’ll be time to add a roof-pod and/or box-trailer.

Towing capacity is rated at 1800kg for braked trailers and 750kg unbraked.

How much fuel does it consume?

We recorded 8.3L/100km for about 160km of daily driving (country, suburban, city and freeway) and 8.7L/100km for 150km of AWD-appropriate touring (including a substantial amount of dirt-road driving). The CX-5 has a 58-litre fuel tank

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?

The CX-5 GT is a triumph of style and substance. The range is generally a tremendous value-for-money line-up and this upper-echelon offering is no different because a GT buyer will want for nothing – except perhaps Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and if we can live without those, you can too. More of a city-friendly SUV than a rough-and-ready off-roader, the GT is still capable of getting you to where you want to go, as long as you have a realistic notion of AWD-suitable terrain: think formed trails, well-maintained National Parks tracks and perhaps even, at a stretch, very firm sand.

Is the CX-5 a legitimate Adventure vehicle, or should it stay in the suburbs? Tell us what you think the comments below.

$23,814 - $45,990

Based on 378 car listings in the last 6 months


Daily driver score


Adventure score


adventureguide rank

  • Light

    Dry weather gravel roads and formed trails with no obstacles, very shallow water crossings.

  • Medium

    Hard-packed sand, slight to medium hills with minor obstacles in all weather.

  • Heavy

    Larger obstacles, steeper climbs and deeper water crossings; plus tracks marked as '4WD only'

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