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Mazda CX-5 Akera 2017 review

2017 Mazda CX-5 (Akera variant shown)
EXPERT RATING
8.1
What do you mean you’re thinking about a Mazda CX-5? Don’t think about it, get it. There you go, world’s shortest car review. But, there are stacks of variants, and you don’t want the wrong one.

What do you mean you want a mid-sized SUV and you’re thinking about a Mazda CX-5? Seriously, don’t think about it, get it, they are that good. There you go, world’s shortest car review. Hang on, which one are you thinking about? There are stacks of variants in the range and you don’t want to get stuck with the wrong one.

We're reviewing the Akera grade here. Is this the one you’re considering? That’s the top of the line and the most expensive CX-5 that even Mazda admits only 15 per cent of you will buy. No? Wait, come back! 

Just lost nearly everybody. No worries, the rest of you gather round, then. Great. So, this review is on the diesel version. Yes, the diesel. Where’s the petrol review? Um, try here. No don’t apologise, good luck, see you later. 

Right, so it’s just you and me then. That’s fine – we’ll be like Mulder and Scully, no? Or Bo and Luke Duke, Rick and Morty? Cagney and Lacey? Okay, I’ll get on with it.

Actually you're not alone, because even though only a quarter of buyers opt for the diesel this still amounts to a stack of people when you consider the CX-5 is far and away the most popular mid-sized SUV in the country. Yup, the CX-5 outsells the Hyundai Tucson, Subaru Forester, Toyota RAV4, and Volkswagen Tiguan, by a lot. Last year it was the most popular SUV in Australia, full-stop.

Our car wore 'Eternal Blue' paint. Our car wore 'Eternal Blue' paint.

Let's take a look at what all the fuss is about and make double sure it's the SUV for you - from the size and the fuel that goes into it, to what it's like to drive and how practical it is. We'll even answer the question: what's the point of buying the Akera grade anyway?

Mazda CX-5 2017: Akera (4x4)
Safety rating
Engine Type2.2L turbo
Fuel TypeDiesel
Fuel Efficiency6L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$32,970

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

The top spec of any car rarely represents the best value for money in a model’s line-up, and that rule goes for the Akera, but what you get, for what you pay, is still good. 

Look at a CX-5 brochure and you’ll see the $40,390 Maxx Sport grade (the AWD diesel) is loaded with just about everything that's on the top-spec $49,990 Akera. That includes a 7.0-inch touchscreen with sat nav and reversing camera, rear parking sensors, digital radio, auto LED headlights and LED tail-lights and auto windscreen wipers.

The new model has an even more premium feel to its cabin. The new model has an even more premium feel to its cabin.

On top of this, the Akera comes with a head-up display, front parking sensors, a 10-speaker Bose sound system, a power sunroof and leather upholstery. Hang on, so does the grade below it – the GT.

Our car wore 'Eternal Blue' paint, but there are seven others to choose from including 'Snowflake White Pearl', 'Sonic Silver Metallic', 'Deep Crystal Blue', 'Jet Black' and 'Soul Red Crystal metallic'.

So what’s the point of buying the Akera, then? The answer is it comes with a treasure chest of advanced safety equipment such as AEB which works at higher speeds, adaptive cruise control and other cool tech which is outlined in the Safety section below.

A disadvantage in buying the diesel Akera is the $3000 premium you'll  pay over the petrol Akera. Compared to equivalent competitor models, the Akera's price is right there. The RAV4 Cruiser diesel is $50,500 and the Tiguan 140TDI is $49,990.

Is there anything interesting about its design?   8/10

The CX-5 is quite a bit bigger than a CX-3 and much smaller than the CX-9. For those of you who want to know exactly I'll save you looking up the dimensions. At 4550mm end-to-end it’s 275mm longer than a CX-3 and 525mm shorter than the CX-9.

The new CX-5 is 10mm longer, the same width (1840mm), and 30mm shorter in stature (1675mm) than the old model, and that makes it look sleeker and less bubble-like. The CX-5’s dimensions places it in the Goldilocks zone of SUVs – not too big or too small. Compared to the RAV4 it’s 55mm shorter in length and it has a smaller boot (read about that in Practicality).

The dimensions haven't changed too much, but the image has been overhauled dramatically with sharper lines, new (and now even uglier) wheels, a redesigned grille and sleeker head and tail-lights.

Spotting an Akera is tricky, because from the outside all CX-5s look more identical than bathroom tiles. The only way to tell an Akera is by the sunroof, the DRLs and the wheels. Even those attributes narrow it down to an Akera or the GT grade below it. Great for those who bought a base spec that has top spec looks. Not great for people on the other end of the stick.

Ours had white leather, which looks good, but is as risky as wearing white jeans to a coal mine. Ours had white leather, which looks good, but is as risky as wearing white jeans to a coal mine.

The CX-5 has always had a refined interior, but the new model has an even more premium feel to its cabin, with the Akera getting some finer touches such as leather seats. Ours had white leather, which looks good, but is as risky as wearing white jeans to a coal mine (not the dirt, being beaten up).

The new-gen CX-5 is beautiful, more so from the front than the back. The rivals are not a bad looking bunch either, but the Mazda outshines all but the Volkswagen Tiguan, which, though far less emotive in its design, offers a downright handsome alternative.

How practical is the space inside?   8/10

The new CX-5 is bigger end-to-end, but the wheelbase has stayed the same at 2700mm, and that means space in the back is much the same as the previous model. Don’t worry, that’s fine, because legroom is still excellent and I can sit behind my driving position with about a finger’s width of space between my knees and the seat back. That's pretty good given I’m 191cm tall and mostly legs. I just measured my legs and they’re 103cm so that statement is entirely true.

Legroom is still excellent. Legroom is still excellent.

Boot size is 39 litres larger than the previous CX-5’s with a cargo capacity of 442 litres VDA. The RAV4 out boots it with 577 litres, but still we were able to fit our CarsGuide pram in, just.

Boot size is 39 litres larger than the previous CX-5. Boot size is 39 litres larger than the previous CX-5.

Cabin storage is excellent - the fold-down centre armrest in the back has a small stowaway compartment and two USB ports, plus two cup holders. There are another two cup holders up front, and large bottle holders in all the doors. There’s also a deep centre console bin, another storage area under the dash and a decent sized glovebox. 

The CX-5 is a five-seater SUV, if it's seven seats that you want, stop what you’re doing and go and read my CX-9 review here.

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

You can get an Akera with a petrol or a diesel engine, the one we tested the latter - a 129kW/420Nm 2.2-litre four-cylinder which comes hooked up to a six-speed automatic transmission (there’s no manual gearbox available).

We tested the diesel - a 129kW/420Nm 2.2-litre four-cylinder. We tested the diesel - a 129kW/420Nm 2.2-litre four-cylinder.

If you’re doing the CX-5 diesel vs petrol comparison, the 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol makes only 11kW more power than the diesel, but 169Nm less torque.

That said, both have the same 1800kg braked towing capacity, but I can assure you that because the diesel’s maximum torque comes in at just 2000rpm it’ll handle towing much better than the petrol, with less torque coming in much higher (4000rpm). 

How much fuel does it consume?   8/10

Don’t buy the more expensive diesel thinking you’ll recoup the extra dollars at the pump – that’s crazy talk. Buy the diesel because it’s a diesel. Buy it for its low down and stronger torque.

The price of petrol and diesel fuel is close to parity now and both engines are so efficient you’d have to lay down some serious kays to see any decent recouping, plus servicing the diesel is a bit more expensive (see Ownership below).

Mazda says the average combined fuel consumption of the diesel is 6.0L/100km. After 486km of highways and urban adventures the trip computer in our CX-5 was saying it was using an average of 8.1L/100km, which is still excellent given my foot of lead.

What's it like to drive?   8/10

First the diesel engine – it’s super quiet when idling, but under acceleration not even the excellent cabin insulation can silence the clatter. The noise is not as truck-like as a Mazda BT-50 ute, but you’ll hear it nonetheless. 

There’s some turbo lag, but not as much as I felt in the Volkswagen Tiguan 140TDI. The Tiguan has a dual-clutch auto transmission which isn’t as smooth as the CX-5’s traditional torque convertor auto, although it’s much faster with its shifts. 

Next the seating position. Absolutely spot on. The seats are supportive and comfortable, I liked the fact that I could sit low, and the pedals felt good under my feet. 

The CX-5 suspension feels like it’s been set up for comfort and the ride is beautifully composed and smooth, but there’s a degree of floatiness. Still handling is impressive for an SUV in this segment and the grip from the 225/55/R19 Toyo Proxes tyres was excellent. Corners which made the rubber on the RAV4 I drove last year squeal didn’t do the same to the CX-5, which is a good indicator of a great chassis, wheel and tyre combination.

Steering felt well weighted and accurate, and overall the CX-5 is comfortable, easy and fun to drive.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

3 years / unlimited km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

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

The whole point of buying the Akera is the extra safety equipment – and it’s a good reason to spend the additional dollars. So, the headline item is 'Smart Brake Support', an AEB system which operates at speeds between 15-145km/h. The AEB on other grades is called 'Smart City Brake Support', and only works at speed less than 30km/h.

Lane departure warning and steering assistance, adaptive LED headlights, adaptive cruise control, side camera and driver attention alert (which beeps at you when you’ve been in the saddle for a long time), complete the package.

All this makes a maximum five-star ANCAP-rated car even safer. 

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.

Servicing is recommended every 12 months/10,000km and is capped at $316 for the first service, $386 for the second, $316 for the next, then $358, and $316 for the fifth. The petrol version works out to be about $115 less over the five years.

Verdict

The CX-5 Akera diesel is an outstanding mid-sized SUV, and it has to be – the competition is also excellent.

The Akera is expensive in comparison to the rest of the range, but you’re not paying for cosmetic touches, you’re given life-saving tech in return. The diesel is the pick for those that plan to tow, but if you don’t intend to, the petrol will give you a more serene drive. 

Is the Mazda CX-5 Akera Diesel the best mid-sized SUV for this price on the planet? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.

Pricing Guides

$33,840
Based on 302 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$22,250
Highest Price
$43,950

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
Akera (4x4) 2.2L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO $32,970 – 43,950 2017 MAZDA CX-5 2017 Akera (4x4) Pricing and Specs
GT (4x4) 2.5L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $31,700 – 41,990 2017 MAZDA CX-5 2017 GT (4x4) Pricing and Specs
Maxx (4x2) 2.0L, ULP, 6 SP MAN $24,990 – 25,341 2017 MAZDA CX-5 2017 Maxx (4x2) Pricing and Specs
Maxx (4x4) 2.5L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $22,250 – 28,990 2017 MAZDA CX-5 2017 Maxx (4x4) Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
8.1
Price and features8
Design8
Practicality8
Engine & trans8
Fuel consumption8
Driving8
Safety9
Ownership8
Richard Berry
Senior Journalist

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