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Mazda CX-5 2018 review

EXPERT RATING
7.9
The new-generation Mazda CX-5 arrived just last year, but now there's a new one. We went to the Australian launch to see if we could spot the difference.

You know when toothpaste makers slightly tweak ingredients and then plaster 'New and Improved!' on the box, but you can’t really tell because it still just tastes like toothpaste? 

That’s sort of the same with the new Mazda CX-5, which is almost identical to the old one. But there are some important changes you may not notice, and one you really will.

To be clear, this isn’t a new-generation of the CX-5 – that only came out last year. This is a minor facelift – which isn’t a good term, because the face has been left untouched.

You’ll find out what I’m talking about later, but here’s a hint: when we tried to pick the difference between the new and old model at the Australian launch of the new CX-5, turns out we felt and heard, rather than saw, what had changed.

Mazda CX-5 2018: Maxx (4x2)
Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency6.9L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$26,444

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   8/10

As with the previous CX-5 there are five grades: Maxx, Maxx Sport, Touring, GT and Akera. The most obvious change, and the one most will really notice, is the price drop. The Maxx Sport and Touring have had $400 lopped off, and the GT and Akera now cost $800 less.

Missing out on the price cut is the entry-grade Maxx. This is also the only grade you can have with a manual gearbox and is matched to a 2.0-litre petrol engine making it the most affordable in the range with a list price of $28,690 (add $2000 for the auto). The Maxx with the more powerful 2.5-litre engine lists for $33,690 and is offered only with an auto.

The Maxx Sport gives you a choice of three engines: the 2.0-litre petrol lists for $33,990, the 2.5-litre petrol is $36,990 and the 2.2-litre diesel is $39,990.

The Touring is halfway up the range and lists for $38,590 if you have it with the 2.5-litre petrol engine or $41,590 for the 2.2-litre diesel.

As with the previous CX-5 there are five grades: Maxx, Maxx Sport, Touring, GT and Akera. As with the previous CX-5 there are five grades: Maxx, Maxx Sport, Touring, GT and Akera.

Getting close to the top now, the GT lists for $43,590 with the 2.5-litre petrol and $46,590 for the diesel.

The Akera lists at $46,190, and like grades below it, the diesel is $3000 more.

The standard features list has changed so little since the car launched in 2017 I can sum it up in a sentence: The Touring now gets a cool head-up display like the top two grades and the Akera now has a 360-view camera. There, that’s it.

But the standard features were already extensive on all grades, with the Maxx coming with a 7.0-inch screen with a reversing camera, digital radio and Bluetooth connectivity, a six-speaker stereo, push-button ignition, cloth seats, air-conditioning, rear parking sensors, LED headlights and 17-inch steel wheels.

The Maxx comes standard with a 7.0-inch screen with a reversing camera, digital radio and Bluetooth connectivity. (Maxx model shown) The Maxx comes standard with a 7.0-inch screen with a reversing camera, digital radio and Bluetooth connectivity. (Maxx model shown)

The Maxx Sport adds sat nav, dual-zone climate control, auto headlights, LED fog lights and 17-inch alloy rims.

The Touring gets all the Maxx Sport's features plus the head-up display we talked about, and front parking sensors, proximity key, and black synthetic leather (which feels quite nice).

The Maxx Sport and Touring model get 17-inch alloy rims. (Touring model shown) The Maxx Sport and Touring model get 17-inch alloy rims. (Touring model shown)

The GT adds real leather in black or white, a 10-speaker Bose stereo, power front seats and 19-inch alloys.

At the top, the Akera has all the GT bits plus the 360-degree view camera and a stack of advanced safety equipment.

Talking of safety, read on further to find out what’s protecting you on each grade.

Sounds like nothing is missing? Well, it would have been good for this update to add the excellent Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, especially considering the Maxx doesn’t come with sat nav.

Is there anything interesting about its design?   8/10

The CX-5 is one of the best-looking mid-sized SUVs on the market. Take a look at the photos: there’s that sharp-edged and gaping grille, and that sleek profile. Sure, the back looks a bit ‘empty’ because of the tiny tail-lights, but while small they accentuate the athletic haunches of the CX-5.

The CX-5’s interior is also just as stylish and refined as its outsides with an excellent fit and finish, quality-feel materials and a design which isn’t just pleasing to the eye but pleasing to the arms, legs, bottom, and any other part of your body which will come in contact with the comfortable cabin.

The CX-5’s interior is also just as stylish and refined as its outsides with an excellent fit and finish. (Touring model shown) The CX-5’s interior is also just as stylish and refined as its outsides with an excellent fit and finish. (Touring model shown)

There have been no changes to the exterior in this update, and the interior, too, mirrors the previous CX-5, but in a way it’s fine that nothing has been tweaked here as it was darned good already.

The CX-5’s dimensions haven’t changed (well it’d be weird if they had) and at 4550mm end-to-end, it’s shorter than a Toyota RAV4 but longer than a Volkswagen Tiguan. Other figures to jot down to make sure it fits in your garage are these: 1840mm across and 1675mm tall.

From the outside it’s tricky to tell the higher grades of CX-5 apart, that’s how similar looking the exteriors are – the steel wheels of the Maxx are a dead giveaway, they look a bit ridiculous, and it’s a shame this new update hasn’t brought alloys.

The CX-5 is one of the best-looking mid-sized SUVs on the market. (Akera model shown) The CX-5 is one of the best-looking mid-sized SUVs on the market. (Akera model shown)

How practical is the space inside?   7/10

If you have kids, maybe steer clear of the white leather. That sounds like a comment that should be in the design section above but to parents its just as much a practicality point. I’ve lived with a white-leathered CX-5 and a toddler and I can tell you the marks don’t come off easily. Then again, neither does toothpaste spat on black cloth seats by adults – don’t ask.

The CX-5’s boot has stayed the same size at 442 litres. That’s not enormous like the 615-litre cargo space in the Tiguan, or even as big as the RAV 4’s 577 litres of boot space, but it was just enough for two adults and a toddler who always over pack for a week away.

The CX-5’s boot has stayed the same size at 442 litres. (Maxx model shown) The CX-5’s boot has stayed the same size at 442 litres. (Maxx model shown)

Legroom in the back seat is good – I’m at the freakish end of the height spectrum at 191cm, and I can sit behind my driving position with about a finger’s width of space between my knees and the seatback.

Like the previous CX-5 that sloping roofline can be a small practicality fail for entry and exits, especially if you’re putting kids into car seats, but that’s the price you pay for looking good.

Cabin storage is great with two cupholders in the back and two up front, there’s a large centre console storage bin with a USB port and pockets in all doors. Grades from the Maxx Sport up come with centre armrest storage in the rear with a USB port.

The CX-5 has five seats, if you're looking for a sevn seater SUV then the larger CX-9 could be for you.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   8/10

This is where this latest CX-5 differs most from the previous one – the engines. The offerings stay the same: two petrols – a 2.0-litre four cylinder and a 2.5-litre four cylinder – and a single 2.2-litre four-cylinder diesel. The 2.0-litre cars are front-wheel drive (FWD) and everything else is all-wheel drive (AWD).

The 2.5-litre petrol engine now comes with cylinder deactivation, allowing it to run on just two cylinders when cruising and at low speeds while the other two will join them under more load. Less fuel is being burnt, so there’s a fuel saving there.

For those mechanics out there shaking their heads and muttering into their instant coffees about potential vibrations in two-cylinder mode, well, Mazda has compensated for this issue with a counterforce to iron out the bumps.

Demonstrating Mazda’s determination to hone the combustion process further are the newly shaped intake ports which tumble the air harder and faster during the intake stroke. The height of the piston crowns has also been shortened and this strengthens that tumble flow, too. All this extra ‘tumbly’ air causes the flame to spread faster when the spark ignites.

The nozzles on the fuel injectors have been redesigned and fuel pressure increased to spray faster, too, and even the piston oil rings have been re-shaped to optimise the thickness of the oil film on the cylinder wall.

All of these advances apart from the cylinder deactivation have been adopted by the 2.0-litre petrol engine, too. 

While the refinements have increased efficiency, the petrol engines also have a little more grunt. I really mean little too: the 2.5-litre’s torque has increased 1Nm for a total of 252Nm and power stays the same at 140kW, while the 2.0-litre has been given 1kW more for a total of 114kW and torque remains at 200Nm.

The 2.2-litre diesel has been overhauled. The engine now has a higher compresion ratio; there's the redesigned combustion chamber to minimise energy loss and ultra-high response injectors are designed to improve fuel economy.

A new turbocharger fitted to the diesel has led to a decent increase in output with power jumping from 129kW to 140kW and torque from 420Nm to 450Nm. 

The extra grunt isn't the only benefit – Mazda says the new turbo has been designed to reduce lag in acceleration response at low revs. This turbo lag was an issue I had with the previous diesel found in the CX-5. Now that's been addressed using a two-stage turbocharger with the larger of the turbines now adopting variable geometry which will supply boost more rapidly at lower engines speeds. We’ll tell you if we reckon it’s worked in the driving section below. We’ll also let you know if the new refined method of combustion has made the diesel engine quieter, too. Those were two of the issues I had with the diesel engine in the previous CX-5.

How much fuel does it consume?   8/10

Mazda has delayed going headfirst into electric vehicle and hybrid production, preferring to refine combustion engines further, and the changes to the engines have been primarily about improving efficiency.

The figures don’t really reflect massive gains in economy, with the 2.5-litre petrol improving from a claimed 7.5L/100km to 7.4L/100km over a combination of urban and open roads. After 100km of mainly country roads our trip computer was telling us the engine was using 8.1L/100km. Don’t forget this engine is only available with AWD CX-5s.

The 2.0-litre petrol engine’s fuel economy stays the same at 6.9L/100km – again, remember this engine is only found on FWD CX-5s.

The 2.2-litre diesel benefits the most in terms of efficiency with old car’s 6.0L/100km dropping to 5.7L/100km in this new CX-5. After 150km of dirt and tarmac the tripmeter in our diesel Akera was reporting an average of 6.4L/100km.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   8/10

The CX-5 scored the maximum five-star ANCAP rating when it was tested in 2017, and if you look into the safety credentials you’ll see it comes with an impressive armory of technology you won’t find on some more expensive prestige cars.

The Akera grade is really a GT with a stack of advanced safety equipment. There’s AEB, which works from 15-145km/h, lane keeping assistance and lane departure warning, plus adaptive cruise control.

Lower grades aren’t covered by as much safety tech, but all come with AEB (which works at up to 30km/h), and stepping up to the Touring adds traffic sign recognition.

For baby seats you'll find two ISOFIX mounts and three top tether anchor points across the rear row. A space saver spare wheel is under the boot floor on all grades.

There's front airbags for the passenger and driver, along with side ones, while curtain airbags extend to cover the second row.

The CX-5 that's in Australian showrooms is made in Japan at Mazda's Ujima and Hofo plants.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

3 years / unlimited km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   8/10

The CX-5 is covered by Mazda's three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, which isn’t outstanding, but the service costs are low. 

Servicing the diesel is recommended every 12 months/10,000km and is capped at $316 for the first, $386 for the second, $316 for the third, then $358 and $316 for the fifth service. The 2.5-litre petrol costs about $115 less over five years

What's it like to drive?   8/10

In my review of the diesel Akera last year I whinged about how noisy the engine was and then complained a bit more about the turbo lag. Well, it looks as though my views found their way back to the Mazda Motor Corporation HQ in Hiroshima because the new turbo has fixed the lag and the refinement to the combustion process seems to have reduced engine noise.

Sure, the diesel engine is still not as quiet as the 2.5-litre petrol we also tested at the launch (in Akera grade), but the increase in torque made the diesel more fun to drive with decent shove off the line.

Jumping back into the petrol made the grunt difference very apparent with the petrol having to work and rev hard to get up to speed.

The diesel engine is still not as quiet as the 2.5-litre petrol we also tested at the launch, but the increase in torque made the diesel more fun to drive. (Akera model shown) The diesel engine is still not as quiet as the 2.5-litre petrol we also tested at the launch, but the increase in torque made the diesel more fun to drive. (Akera model shown)

Suspension, steering and brakes remain unchanged from those in the CX-5 which launched last year – but that’s no bad thing as the ride, handling and braking response is excellent for this segment.

A low seating position makes you feel part of the car rather than sitting on top of it, while good pedal feel and great communication through the steering wheel deliver confidence.

Braked towing capacity across the entire range remains at 1800kg. While ground clearance stays at 185mm when laden. 

As for the CX-5's off-road capability, I suggest you don't go much further than placid dirt and gravel roads because while your CX-5 may be all-wheel drive its low ground clearnance, lack of ladder frame chassis and no high or low range four wheel drive restrict it to less adventurous activities.

Verdict

The CX-5 has been a best-seller for years and when the new car launched in 2017 it cemented that position even more. This 2018 update sees Mazda addressing or fine-tuning parts which could be improved, such as the diesel engine's turbo lag and noise, as well as the economy of the larger petrol engine, while making the car even better value for money with the price drop.

Did Mazda need to make any more changes than they did to this latest CX-5 or is this a case of: if it ain't broke don't fix it? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

Pricing Guides

$38,950
Based on 437 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$26,444
Highest Price
$48,990

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Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
Akera (4x4) 2.2L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO $37,777 – 48,700 2018 MAZDA CX-5 2018 Akera (4x4) Pricing and Specs
AKERA (4x4) (5YR) 2.5L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $41,888 – 46,888 2018 MAZDA CX-5 2018 AKERA (4x4) (5YR) Pricing and Specs
GT (4x4) 2.2L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO $35,990 – 48,990 2018 MAZDA CX-5 2018 GT (4x4) Pricing and Specs
GT (4x4) (5YR) 2.2L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO $38,990 – 45,990 2018 MAZDA CX-5 2018 GT (4x4) (5YR) Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7.9
Price and features8
Design8
Practicality7
Engine & trans8
Fuel consumption8
Safety8
Ownership8
Driving8
Richard Berry
Senior Journalist

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Pricing Guide

$25,990

Lowest price, based on 123 car listings in the last 6 months

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