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Mazda CX-5 2017 review: GT diesel

Second-gen Mazda CX-5 makes the best better.
EXPERT RATING
7.9
The Mazda CX-5 was a genuine phenomenon. It pretty much came out of nowhere and knocked off a few cars we previously thought had an unassailable grasp on the Australian SUV budget.

The Mazda CX-5 was a genuine phenomenon. It pretty much came out of nowhere and knocked off a few cars we previously thought had an unassailable grasp on the Australian SUV budget.

Even more extraordinary was the fact the stylish CX-5 came from a company that had given us a fairly bland decade of cars, after a flourish in the late '90s descended into a series of dull boxes (although the 3 did signal a revival).

I drove a first-gen CX-5 late in its life and found it hard to believe it needed replacing. But in 2017 that's exactly what Mazda did. Fresh sheetmetal, lots of detail work, and a new interior were all dropped on to a lightly updated chassis to give us the second-generation CX-5.

And a lot faces ended up buried in hands at other car companies because it turns out Mazda did a smashing job second time around.

Mazda CX-5 2017: GT (4X4)
Safety rating
Engine Type2.2L turbo
Fuel TypeDiesel
Fuel Efficiency6L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$30,910

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   9/10

The GT sits towards the top of a typically complex Mazda range that includes front or all-wheel drive, petrol and diesel engines, and a choice of manual gearbox or auto transmission.

Only the fully-loaded Akera is pricier. Kicking off at $44,390 for the petrol auto, the price rises $3000 to $47,390 for the diesel we had over Christmas.

The GT scores a 7.0-inch touchscreen with a 10-speaker Bose stereo. The GT scores a 7.0-inch touchscreen with a 10-speaker Bose stereo.

Standard for your money is a 10-speaker Bose-branded stereo with digital radio, 19-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control, reversing camera, keyless entry and start, a whopper of a safety package, front and rear parking sensors, cruise control, electric front seats, LED foglights, active automatic LED headlights, sat nav, auto wipers, head-up display, leather trim, electric tailgate, powered and heated folding mirrors, power windows, a sunroof and space saver spare tyre.

Few things are missing in this spec, but the lack of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is frustrating (although not uncommon in the segment). Mazda's 'MZD Connect' multimedia is reasonably good, however, and with 10 speakers and basic-but-useful smartphone integration, you should get by. 

Presumably, the lowish-res 7.0-inch touchscreen is part of the reason Apple and Android aren't along for the ride.

The 17-inch alloys are standard too, and the only option is the 'Soul Red' paint finish. The 17-inch alloys are standard too, and the only option is the 'Soul Red' paint finish.

The only option is the gorgeous 'Soul Red' paint finish of our test car, an entirely reasonable $300.

Is there anything interesting about its design?   9/10

If the first CX-5 impressed with its understated good looks, the new one goes further by being a very pretty car. Mazda's 'Kodo' design language looks good at just about any size, but this latest evolution puts the CX-5 in genuinely beautiful territory.

This latest evolution puts the CX-5 in genuinely beautiful territory. This latest evolution puts the CX-5 in genuinely beautiful territory.

The slimmer headlights work well with a longer-looking nose and a body that looks more pulled down over the wheels. Despite bearing more than a passing resemblance to the old car, all the panels are new and that's partly because a shift of the A-pillars of just 35mm was enough to make everything move.

The cabin has come in for a much bigger change. There wasn't a great deal wrong with the old one, but it was feeling a bit old, and some of the materials weren't quite there. As ever, the CX-5's first generation launched into a completely different, rather more sparse segment. With competition from all sides, the new interior had to deliver a more premium feel.

With improved plastics and fittings, a more cohesive design (something simple like consistent fonts go a long, long way to giving that impression) and the sort of detail improvements I've come to expect from Mazda, the new interior is lighter, feels better, and looks better. Job done.

The new interior is lighter, feels better, and looks better. The new interior is lighter, feels better, and looks better.

Having said all of that, I can't really recommend the white leather. It looked pretty good with the red exterior and well-judged interior materials, but it's unlikely kids will be kind to it.

How practical is the space inside?   7/10

Never a class-leader in the spaciousness department, this CX-5 is still at the rear of the pack, but it hardly seems to matter. Boot space is up by 39 litres to 442 (VDA) with the seats up, tripling to 1342 litres with the seats down. The seatback is split 40/20/40 and you can drop each section individually, which is unusually generous.

Once you're in, there is plenty of leg and headroom for rear passengers. Once you're in, there is plenty of leg and headroom for rear passengers.

The CX-5 has four cupholders (a pair up front and a pair in the rear centre armrest), a tray for your phone, bottle holders in each door and vents for the rear seat. Courtesy of a new higher centre console, the storage bin is deeper and also hides two USB ports.

The new car isn't any bigger, so the rear door aperture is still on the tight side compared to, say, Volkswagen's Tiguan or Hyundai's Tucson. It doesn't seem to bother owners I've spoken to, but it's worth noting. 

Boot space is up by 39 litres to 442 (VDA) with the seats up. Boot space is up by 39 litres to 442 (VDA) with the seats up.

Once you're in, there is plenty of leg and headroom for rear passengers, providing the driver or front passenger isn't a Canadian Redwood.

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

The 2.2-litre 'SkyActiv' diesel is the only turbo in the range, for now at least. Developing 129kW and a very decent 420Nm, it has a portly 1744kg to move. Power reaches the road through all four wheels via a traditional six-speed automatic.

 Mazda's 2.2-litre 'SkyActiv' diesel produces 129kW/420Nm. Mazda's 2.2-litre 'SkyActiv' diesel produces 129kW/420Nm.

The diesel is also fitted with technology to reduce the clatter reaching the cabin, start-stop tech and Mazda's 'G-Vectoring Control'.

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

How much fuel does it consume?   8/10

The sticker on the windscreen reckons you'll get 6.0L/100km on the combined cycle while exhaling 158g/km of CO2. With a 58-litre tank, that suggests a range just short of 1000km. And you know what? You might be able to do that if you don't spend too much time in traffic.

Mazda's 'i-stop' technology meant that over three weeks, we averaged 7.8L/100km in mostly urban and suburban driving. While that's a bit above the combined figure, it's not far off the urban number, 7.0L/100km.

What's it like to drive?   7/10

The CX-5 has always been at or near the top of the medium SUV heap when it comes to the drive. The same couldn't be said for overall refinement. The old car suffered quite a bit from a classic (and fading) Mazda fault - cabin noise. The front suspension was the worst offender, with every bump, thunk and pop reaching your ears, along with tyre roar. 

It wasn't insurmountable - you could just turn up the stereo - but around town you got used to a cacophony of noise.

The new CX-5 - as with most major updates - has changed all that. While the underbits have barely changed (testament to the popularity of the car and the quality of its fundamentals), every spare gap has been filled with noise deadening materials, there's more carpet and just more stuff to reduce the racket. While it's not exactly silent, it's not far off the Tiguan, which is arguably the class benchmark.

As before, it's a lovely thing to drive. Easy-going but accurate steering, a firm but compliant ride (this car is not intended for off-roading) and a responsive transmission all combine to make life very relaxed behind the wheel.

The star of this car is the 2.2 diesel. Quiet, smooth and distinctly un-diesel in its aural character (inside at least), it makes the CX-5 a proper all-rounder. It cruises at speed in sixth, overtakes with just a little bit of toe pressure and is quite frugal, coming reasonably close to matching its claimed figures. Around town there is little lag to deal with and the power comes on nice and smooth.

The only complaint we had was that the blind spot monitor is perhaps a little over-enthusiastic, seemingly beeping every time we used the indicator to change lanes.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

3 years / unlimited km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

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

To achieve a five star ANCAP safety rating, Mazda fits six airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, reversing camera, blind spot monitoring, reverse cross traffic alert, front and rear auto emergency braking (AEB) and speed sign recognition (which is easily fooled by, a) school zone signs, and, b) the appalling sign placements on Sydney's South Dowling Street).

Further to that package is a pair of ISOFIX points and three top-tether anchors.

The CX-5 earned its five star rating in September 2017. If you want lane keep assist and active cruise, you'll have to step up to the Akera.

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

Mazda's three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty is part of the CX-5 package, along with capped price servicing. Roadside assist is offered at $68.10 per year.

Your dealer will expect to see you every six months or 10,000km and will charge you between $317 on three of the five scheduled services, $387 for the second and $359 for the fourth. Extra items include $69 for the cabin air filter (every 40,000km) and $64 for brake fluid every 40,000km or two years.

Verdict

The new CX-5 has certainly picked up where the old one left off, and is better in every way. The new diesel is a cracker and the safety package belongs on a much more expensive car. 

Mazda has lead the way for so long and the CX-5 was such an accomplished car, a face-lift barely seemed necessary. While it's not all-new from the ground up, this is the kind of thing Mazda has taken to doing really well - every time we drive a freshened-up machine, it's those little details that add up to the feeling a lot of work has gone on to build on a solid base.

And with this diesel engine, the big wheels and those sharp looks, the CX-5 has something for pretty much everyone.

Is the new CX-5 enough to take on the competition. Or did Mazda even need it at all? Let us know in the comments.

Pricing guides

$27,984
Based on 384 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$16,990
Highest Price
$36,995

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
Maxx (4x4) 2.5L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $21,560 – 27,280 2017 Mazda CX-5 2017 Maxx (4x4) Pricing and Specs
Maxx (4x2) 2.0L, ULP, 6 SP MAN $18,370 – 23,210 2017 Mazda CX-5 2017 Maxx (4x2) Pricing and Specs
Maxx Sport (4x2) 2.0L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $23,430 – 28,930 2017 Mazda CX-5 2017 Maxx Sport (4x2) Pricing and Specs
Maxx Sport (4x4) 2.2L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO $25,080 – 31,020 2017 Mazda CX-5 2017 Maxx Sport (4x4) Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7.9
Price and features9
Design9
Practicality7
Under the bonnet8
Efficiency8
Driving7
Safety8
Ownership7
Peter Anderson
Contributing journalist

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