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Mazda CX-5 2020 review: GT turbo petrol

EXPERT RATING
7.9
Mazda's CX-5 sales juggernaut gained even more momentum this year with the second-generation mid-size SUV scoring the CX-9's turbo engine. Is the nearly $50,000 GT enough to stop you going Deutsch?

I first drove a Mazda CX-5 over five years ago. Its popularity had puzzled me but within about 10 minutes behind the wheel, I worked it out - it was an SUV that didn't feel awful. Times change and even when you change the game, you can't just sit around expecting the customers to keep coming.

The CX-5's appeal is much the same now - feels good, looks terrific, has plenty of equipment and does it all within a fairly compact footprint. It's not a 'big car' like some of its competitors. There was just one thing that had always nagged at me - what would it be like with a better engine?

I'd never really got on with the naturally-aspirated 2.0 and 2.5 petrols, and the turbo-diesel, while good, was a bit loud and, well, a diesel. Then the CX-9 got a 2.5 turbo, then the 6 and now the CX-5. Let's have a go at this, then.

Mazda CX-5 2020: GT
Safety rating
Engine Type2.5L
Fuel Type
Fuel Efficiency8.2L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$48,390

Is there anything interesting about its design?   9/10

This new design is still strikingly pretty to me. The exterior of the CX-5 is really something else. So much about it is right that it's difficult to know where to start.

This new design is of the CX-5 is really something else. This new design is of the CX-5 is really something else.

The front end is sleek and genuinely beautiful, with those lovely slim LED headlights and the grille all working together to look close to perfect. Mazda goes easy on the chrome and keeps it for bits that draw your attention rather than just bling.

The front end is sleek and genuinely beautiful, with slim LED headlights. The front end is sleek and genuinely beautiful, with slim LED headlights.

Inside is a bit more conventional, but modern and clean. It is still a bit dark-looking, but it fits together nicely, is calm and uncluttered and the materials feel really good, even the fake leather. Mazda has its act together and it would want to when you're paying nearly fifty grand for a CX-5.

How practical is the space inside?   7/10

Always the closest thing to its Achilles heel, the CX-5's interior space can struggle against its main rivals, and when you're at the upper end, gives ground to cars like the Volkswagen Tiguan.

The boot with the back seats up is 442 litres. The boot with the back seats up is 442 litres.

The boot did get bigger with the new generation, now up to 442 litres but well short of the Tiguan's 615 litres. Drop the 40/20/40 split fold rear seat and you have a handy 1342 litres and a reasonably flat floor with which to take full advantage.

With the back row down the boot extends to 1342 litres. With the back row down the boot extends to 1342 litres.

Rear seat space is good if not luxurious - I'm okay behind my own driving position but taller people will find head and knee room a challenge. Three abreast is for kids or short trips only. 

 Rear seat space is good if not luxurious. Rear seat space is good if not luxurious.

There are four cupholders, evenly distributed front and rear, as are the bottle holders. You can also hide valuables in a very decent centre console bin.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   7/10

Not only did I get the turbo, I got what I reckon is the best of the range, the GT. Well, it sort of ties with the Touring, because they're both good.

The turbo GT is $2500 more than the 2.5 naturally aspirated and $500 fewer less than the diesel, coming in at an almost Germanic $48,390. It's, uh, a lot of money and Mazda is not afraid of charging this kind of cash at the upper end of its CX ranges.

The CX-5 comes has 19-inch alloys. The CX-5 comes has 19-inch alloys.

 

Anyway, you get a lot of stuff for the money - 19-inch alloys, a 10-speaker stereo, dual-zone climate control, reversing camera, keyless entry and start, hefty safety package, front and rear parking sensors, active cruise control, electrically-adjustable and heated front seats, sat nav, LED headlights and fog lights, auto wipers, head up display, leather (ish) trim, powered tailgate, power windows and mirrors, electric sunroof and a space-saver spare.

The 7.0-inch touchscreen also features digital radio and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. The 7.0-inch touchscreen also features digital radio and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

Mazda's older version of MZD Connect (the new one in the 3 is superb) fills the 7.0-inch touchscreen which also features digital radio and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. You can also control the screen with the rotary dial once you're moving as the touch function is disabled when you're driving.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   9/10

First seen in the Mazda6 at its 2018 refresh, the 2.5-litre turbo-petrol made its first appearance in the CX-5 this year. Long-rumoured, it was a welcome addition to the mid-size favourite.

Based on the 2.5-litre naturally aspirated engine, the turbo delivers 170kW at 5000rpm and 420Nm at just 2000rpm. These figures compare well to the diesel's 140kW/450Nm although oddly, the petrol weighs slightly more.

The turbo delivers 170kW at 5000rpm and 420Nm at just 2000rpm. The turbo delivers 170kW at 5000rpm and 420Nm at just 2000rpm.

The all-wheel drive system is part-time in the real world, with the fronts doing most of the work until the grip runs out and the system sends up to 50 per cent of the torque to the rears. Very road-biased but leaving the rears to their own devices in normal driving saves fuel.

The turbo set-up in this engine is devilishly clever. A valve in the exhaust manifold acts like a finger over a hose, narrowing the path to the turbo but increasing the speed of the gases to ensure the turbo spins up to reduce lag.

That's very clever. Once the revs rise, the finger comes off the hose and full force of the exhaust comes into effect without the tricks.

How much fuel does it consume?   7/10

The turbo engine drinks at a rate of 8.2L/100km on the combined cycle, which is 0.8L/100km more than the non-turbo.

My week with the turbo delivered a surprise - 9.1L/100km. I say it's a surprise, because in a 2.5 I've rarely squeezed beneath 10L/100km. So that's nice. An extra bonus is that unlike, say, the VW Tiguan's turbo, you can run the Mazda on standard unleaded.

What's it like to drive?   8/10

The Mazda CX-5 is a good car in 2.0-litre form, if a little breathless. The engine is slightly overwhelmed by a mid-size SUV full of people and the fuel figures reflect its ongoing struggle.

Fine if you're pottering about. The 2.5 breathes a bit better, often uses less fuel than the 2.0 (in my hands, anyway), is easier to drive and lugs loads more effectively.

The Mazda CX-5 is a good car in 2.0-litre form, if a little breathless. The Mazda CX-5 is a good car in 2.0-litre form, if a little breathless.  

The turbo engine is just lovely. As I discovered last year in the refreshed Mazda6 with turbo, this version is all about ready torque rather than outright performance. It deals with the car's weight so much better.

You use a lot less throttle in any given situation and when you want to grab an opportunity to snare a gap in traffic or overtake a road train, it's got what you need.

And it works beautifully with the six-speed automatic, which is as smooth as ever. It does't transform the car but adds much needed torque to the petrol line-up while being smooth and quiet.

Otherwise, little has changed in the driving, and that's a good thing. The ride in this second generation CX-5 is very pleasant indeed, especially for front seat dwellers. And the overall refinement is better than I remember when I last drove one.

And it still handles. I really like the steering of the CX - accurate, well-weighted and always ready for some fun.

The body is well controlled, but don't get too ambitious because the tyres or weight will call time on fun before you do. Not that kind of car, really, but for an SUV, the CX-5 has always stood out as being nice to drive. It even has good brakes.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

5 years / unlimited km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   9/10

The CX-5 arrives from Japan with six airbags, ABS, brake assist, stability and traction controls, forward AEB (Mazda calls it 'Smart Brake Support'), front and rear collision warning, auto high beam, blind-spot monitoring, road sign recognition (including stop signs), speed limiter, lane departure warning, lane-keeping assist, rear cross-traffic alert and reverse AEB. It's a lot and not many other cars have this level of safety.

You also get two ISOFIX points and three top-tether restraints for the kiddies.

The CX-5 scored a maximum five ANCAP safety stars in April 2017.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   7/10

The five year/unlimited kilometre warranty is a good one, but you have to pay at least $99 a year for roadside assist, which almost nobody else does.

The five year/unlimited kilometre warranty is a good, but you have to pay at least $99 a year for roadside assist. The five year/unlimited kilometre warranty is a good, but you have to pay at least $99 a year for roadside assist.

Service intervals are still a bit short at 12 months/10,000km. Mazda does offer capped-price servicing, with services costing between $315 and $343. If you do around 15,000km a year like the average Australian motorist, that does mean the prices sneak up on you a little bit. 

Verdict

The GT is expensive but it's mighty compelling with the turbo engine aboard. It looks brilliant, is great to drive and is one of the most easygoing cars I've driven. That engine really makes this car what it is, delivering a smooth, comfortable and fuss-free drive.

Australia loves the CX-5 for many, many good reasons. In the past I struggled to see myself owning a CX-5 despite liking it very much, but bolting in a turbo has made up my mind - I'd cheerfully own one.

Comment call to action: Can you stomach almost $50,000 for a CX-5 just because it has a good engine? Or is it a bridge too far?

Pricing Guides

$48,390
Based on Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP)
Lowest Price
$48,390
Highest Price
$48,390
EXPERT RATING
7.9
Design9
Practicality7
Price and features7
Engine & trans9
Fuel consumption7
Driving8
Safety9
Ownership7
Peter Anderson
Contributing journalist

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