Peter Anderson wraps up the country's most popular mid-size SUV, Mazda's CX-5, with analysis across all variants including specs, fuel consumption and verdict.
While its stylish looks belie a comparatively straightforward technical package - naturally-aspirated engines, no-nonsense interiors, no gimmicks - the CX-5 has a bewitching hold on Australian buyers having seen off Toyota's RAV4, Nissan's X-Trail and Honda's CR-V in short order.
As competitors have fallen away, new challengers have arrived in the form of Hyundai's new and impressive Tucson and Volkswagen's Tiguan and still the CX-5 has maintained its iron grip on the number one spot.
Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?
The CX-5's pricing is a key part of its appeal.
Prices start at $27,890 RRP for the Maxx manual and you'll get a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine, reversing camera, cargo cover, cruise control, air-conditioning, hill holder, keyless entry and start, power windows and mirrors, voice recognition and cloth trim.
As a base model, it's good value and also includes six airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, brake force distribution, electric park brake and hill holder.
The CX-5 never feels unwieldy or awkward, with a lovely, fluid way of taking corners.
All CX-5's feature a sound system with at least an AM/FM radio, CD player, MP3 compatibility, bluetooth and basic smartphone connectivity for iPhone and Android users via the USB port.
MZD Connect-equipped cars feature app integration with some iPhone and Android apps as well as adding sat nav/GPS, touchscreen functionality (when stationary) and reversing camera.
Importantly, what used to be an optional safety pack is now standard across the range and adds autonomous emergency braking, rear cross traffic alert, blind spot sensors and electric anti-glare rear vision mirror. If you're looking at a second hand CX-5, check whether these features have been added or not before agreeing to a price.
The CX-5 has a colour palette of eight - Jet Black, Blue Reflex, Deep Crystal Blue, Titanium Flash (gunmetal grey), Meteor Grey, Sonic Silver and Cryst al White Pearl. Soul Red is available as a $250 option.
The range stretches through Maxx, Maxx Sport, GT and Akera. The top-of-the-range CX-5 Akera ranges from $47,410 for the 2.5 litre petrol and $50,610 for the diesel, both of them all-wheel drive. All CX-5s have five seats, there isn't room for two more.
The Maxx has a fairly basic interior and exterior package, with 17-inch steel wheels, cloth interior, four speaker stereo and air-conditioning.
A $3600 increase in cost takes you to the Maxx Sport. Added to the list are alloy wheels (still 17-inch), auto headlights and wipers, dual-zone climate control and a six-speaker stereo.
There's a big jump between Maxx Sport and GT models ($7600) but there's also a big jump in specification - additions include bigger wheels, leather trim, BOSE stereo, LED headlights and a sunroof.
The top-of-the-range Akera is a further $3320 and brings more safety gear, advanced LED headlights and radar cruise control.
Mazda dealers often give driveaway pricing that is comparable to the pricing we've given here.
How practical is the space inside?
Boot space starts at a modest 403 litres, rising to 1560 litres when you drop both sides of the 60/40 split fold rear seats. Each door has a bottle holder, taking the total to four.
Front seat passengers have access to a USB charge and connect port and there is a 12V power supply in the front and the boot.
The cabin features four cup holders, with a pair between the front seats and a pair in the fold-down centre armrest.
Rear leg room is fine for people up to about 170cm and then it starts to get a little tight. Front seat passengers have plenty of head and shoulder room.
The CX-5 is 4.54 metres long, 1.84 metres wide and 1.71 metres tall and has a turning circle of 11.2 metres. Kerb weights range from 1456kg to 1705kg. Sadly, the spare tyre is an impractical space-saver, however this does liberate much-needed boot space.
Is there anything interesting about its design?
The CX-5 is an early example of Mazda's highly-acclaimed Kodo design language. It's instantly recognisable as a Mazda with slim headlights, big five-point grille and shapely waistline. The entire Mazda range has been Kodo-fied and few have genuine complaints about the styling.
The base model 17-inch steel wheels even look okay, but once you get the 19s fitted to the GT and Akera models, the proportions look nigh-on perfect. Mazda's paint has always been good and the CX-5's is beautifully smooth. Just one paint option is available, Soul Red, and even if you don't like red, you might like this colour and it's absurdly reasonable $250 price.
All CX-5s are built in Japan at Mazda's Ujina plant near Hiroshima.
What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?
The CX-5 is available with three SkyActiv-branded engines, two petrols and a diesel. There is no LPG option. Eighty-five percent of CX-5s are either the 2.0 or 2.5 petrol and all-wheel drive makes up sixty percent of sales across the range, so the petrol vs diesel battle has fallen to the former. We've included the performance figures here.
The 2.0 litre four cylinder petrol is available in the Maxx and Maxx Sport and develops 114kW of power and a nice round 200Nm of torque. This engine is available with either the six-speed manual gearbox or the six speed auto in the Maxx (Maxx Sport is auto-only), driving the front wheels, and the 2.0-litre CX-5s will complete the 0-100 dash in around 10 seconds.
The more powerful 2.5-litre four cylinder petrol is available across the range with the six-speed automatic and all-wheel drive. This engine has a bit more sparkle, developing 138kW/250Nm. You can expect a 0-100 time of just over nine seconds.
Both petrols run on standard unleaded, something its Korean and Japanese competition can claim but its European rivals cannot.
The 2.2 litre four-cylinder turbo diesel produces 129kW/420Nm and its claimed 0-100 time is 9.3 seconds.
All three engines feature i-Stop, which is Mazda's name for stop-start.
All CX-5s are rated for the same towing capacity - 1800kg for trailers with brakes, 750kg unbraked.
CX-5 engines are filled with a standard oil type. Oil capacity is 4.2 litres for the 2.0, 4.3 litres for the 2.5 and just over five litres for the 2.2 turbo-diesel.
How much fuel does it consume?
For the 2.0 front-wheel drive models, Mazda claims 6.6L/100km on the combined cycle.
The 2.5-litre all-wheel drive's claimed combined figure is listed at 7.4L/100km. The most recent CarsGuide tests of the 2.5, a GT and a Maxx Sport, saw us achieve 9.2L/100km and 9.0L/100km respectively.
The torquey 2.2 turbo-diesel has a claimed combined fuel figure of 5.7L/100km. Our most recent test of the diesel yielded a real world average of 8.6L/100km, so when it comes to diesel vs petrol, it's going to come down to whether you want the pulling power rather than efficiency.
The fuel tank capacity is 58 litres. In the real world, a tankful on the 2.0 litre will get you around 675km, a 2.5-litre 610km and the diesel around 625km, but of course some will do better than we can, others worse.
What's it like to drive?
Out of its formidable competition, the CX-5 is still the best of the mid-size SUV crowd from behind the wheel. Mazda has somehow found an excellent balance between ride and handling, an endeavour complicated by the fact it rides so much higher than a normal car with its minimum ground clearance of 150mm.
The CX-5 never feels unwieldy or awkward, with a lovely, fluid way of taking corners, even if you're pressing on a bit more than your passengers would like. The view out is excellent and the angle of the horizon stays remarkably flat owing to very little body roll.
This goes for every model, from the 2.0 litre front-wheel drive all the way up to the Akera turbo-diesel. While the diesel is heavier, the extra torque is not only good for towing, it more than wipes out the effect of the extra weight. The diesel is quickest in the real world and, of course, with a load on it will feel less affected.
The CX-5's best all-around engine would have to be the 2.5 and buyers agree, spending the extra money and getting all-wheel drive into the bargain. While there's nothing wrong with the front-wheel drive car's grip, with all four wheels putting the power down the CX-5 is super-planted and behaves impeccably on all but the roughest of surfaces and adds that extra security in the wet or on loose surfaces.
The CX isn't a mud-plugger, though, its off-road capability is necessarily limited. Don't expect to head out into the wilderness. The clearance (150mm) and sophisticated off-road systems aren't there, apart from hill descent control, and Mazda doesn't even disclose a wading depth on its Australian website.
The only real downsides are the road and suspension noise invading the cabin, higher than the new Volkswagen Tiguan, Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage, with each of whom this car is locked in mortal combat.
What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?
CX-5's safety features are standard across the range and score the CX-5 a maximum five-star ANCAP rating.
Standard inclusions include six airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, brake force distribution, electric park brake, auto emergency braking, rear cross traffic alert, and hill holder.
There are two ISOFIX child seat restraint mounting points in the rear seat and three top tether points in the rear seat back.
What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?
All Mazdas arrive on your drive with a three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty and a capped price servicing regime, with all service pricing available on Mazda's website. Irritatingly - and unlike many of its rivals - roadside assist is extra but is a reasonable $68.10 per year.
Importantly, the CX-5's engines each use a timing chain rather than a belt, so there are no servicing surprises as the car ages.
Owners report few genuine reliability issues or durability problems with the CX-5. Diesels tend to be a bit thirstier than is ideal in the urban environment (but terrific when pounding up and down freeways) while faster than expected tyre wear appears to be a common complaint among less angry owners who frequent internet forums.
Resale value appears strong, with between 50 and 60 per cent retained value after three years (based on RRP) for trade-ins and 60 to 70 per cent on private sales for a 2013 Maxx auto. Those looking for a new car should find stock of almost any model, no waiting time for your new CX-5.
A 2013 Maxx Sport diesel will fetch between 50 and 60 per cent of its new price at trade-in and between 60 and 70 per cent privately.
The CX-5 appears an easy car to live with - none of the CarsGuide team has had to resort to the owners manual for any of its functions.