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Mazda CX-5 2020 review: Akera turbo-petrol

The Mazda CX-5 Akera is the fanciest in the line-up, but is it also family friendly?

The Mazda CX-5 is a mid-sized SUV with five seats and along with being a family favourite it’s also been considered the segment ‘benchmark’ for the way it drives, its safety tech and styling.

Recently, new-generation rivals such as Toyota’s super-practical RAV4 have arrived to challenge the CX-5, but the Mazda continues to impress.

The SUV I’ve tested here is the Akera with the turbo-petrol engine and being the top-of-the-range CX-5 it adds luxuries and refinement to an extensive features list.

The Akera spent the week with my small family and we discovered quite quickly what we liked and what could be better.

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What does it look like?

Just look at it - the CX-5 Akera is stunning. This is an SUV with such elegant and refined styling there’d be designers at Alfa Romeo still suffering from low self-esteem even three years after it arrived on the market.

They’d probably try to make themselves feel better by pointing out that the CX-5’s taillights appear proportionately too small.

The CX-5 Akera is stunning. The CX-5 Akera is stunning.

From the outside the Akera grade looks a lot like the others in the range, but none of them come with those 19-inch alloy wheels. That's pretty much all that’s different on the outside compared to the rest of the range.

The Akera grade gets 19-inch alloy wheels. The Akera grade gets 19-inch alloy wheels.

There are more differences inside. The Akera gets some nice luxury touches such as real wood door and dashboard trims, and Nappa leather upholstery.

The brown leather you see in the images is the standard 'Dark Russet' hide, which is a colour I’d never heard of, so I Googled it only to discover an entire world of dark russet love out there. There you go.

The fit and finish of the CX-5’s cabin appears as good as the inside of many prestige SUVs. The fit and finish of the CX-5’s cabin appears as good as the inside of many prestige SUVs.

Mazda is the master of making beautiful cabins in affordable cars and the CX-5 is up there as one of the company’s best designed. Despite the updates though there’s some aging going on here such as the screen, which sits high on the dash, is looking small, and isn't as cool as the integrated version in the new-gen Mazda3.

Still, the fit and finish of the CX-5’s cabin appears as good (if not better in some places) as the inside of many prestige SUVs.

How does it drive?

The CX-5 feels sporty to drive. So, if you’re not a fan of soft and rolly SUVs with a lounge chair feeling, the firmer and sharper CX-5 will suit you.

The flip side is the ride isn’t super comfortable or cushioned and this isn’t helped by the Akera’s bigger wheels and lower profile tyres which seem to find and tell you about all the cracks in city streets.

The 2.5-litre turbo four-cylinder engine makes 170kW/420Nm. The 2.5-litre turbo four-cylinder engine makes 170kW/420Nm.

The Akera I tested had the 2.5-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine which is the most powerful unit in the range with 170kW and 420Nm of torque. Shifting gears is a six-speed automatic. That engine and auto transmission combination is excellent, the best in the CX-5 range.

How spacious is it?

The CX-5 is a five-seater mid-sized SUV that’s nearly 4.6m long, but it may not be as spacious as you’d think. That’s probably down to the sleek exterior styling and the packaging inside the cabin.

The CX-5's interior isn't as spacious as you’d think. The CX-5's interior isn't as spacious as you’d think.

Space up front isn’t impacted much and there's more than enough elbow- and shoulder room for me at 191cm (6'3") tall, while the driver’s and copilot’s seats are wide.

Rear legroom is tight for me and I had only a finger’s width of space between my knees and the seat back when it was in my driving position. Headroom is fine back there, though.

Rear legroom is tight, but headroom is fine. Rear legroom is tight, but headroom is fine.

Cabin storage isn’t bad – there’s a deep centre console bin, decent-sized door pockets and four cupholders (two up front and two in the rear).

The cargo capacity of the boot is 442 litres. That’s not enormous for the class, but I found it plenty big enough for my small family of three over the week, swallowing shopping, scooters, and everything else we threw at it.

The cargo capacity is rated at 442 litres. The cargo capacity is rated at 442 litres.

How easy is it to use every day?

There are some excellent family-friendly features to the CX-5. One of the best (and it might only be parents who completely get this) but the back doors open up really far. The wide opening meant my son could climb in without slipping and gave me more room to lean in and buckle him up.

The proximity key is another small convenience feature which makes a big difference – locking and unlocking the CX-5 without having to take the fob out of your pocket or bag. Mazda calls it 'advanced keyless entry' and you don’t need to buy the Akera to get one – it comes standard on the mid-range Touring.

So is the head-up display ('Active Driving Display' in Mazda-speak), which projects your speed and other info like navigation onto the windscreen. Mazda’s clear, non-intrusive display is the best I’ve used (on any car) by far.

The Akera grade gets a head-up display. The Akera grade gets a head-up display.

What’s not the best is the reversing camera, it’s one of the worst I’ve used. The display is too small and in low light and rain the image seems worse than many others under the same conditions.

Not making life easier is the fairly ordinary visibility out of the small rear window. But there are rear parking sensors and rear cross traffic alert with braking that’ll slam on the brakes if you’re about to reverse into a pole or car. Saved me from a tree which ‘jumped out’, actually.

The power tailgate on the Akera also comes on the GT grade, but it’s not a gesture/kick operated one which means you still need a free hand to press a button.

Inside there are heated seats up front and in the rear, second row passengers also have directional air vents, two USB ports and a 12V power outlet. There are another two USB ports in the front and a 12V, too.

Keeping the leather clean was pretty easy and that standard dark brown colour is perfect for hiding spills. Not that we… okay, it was just chocolate.

Rear passengers get heated seats and two USB ports. Rear passengers get heated seats and two USB ports.

How safe is it?

The Mazda CX-5 was given the maximum five-star ANCAP rating when it was tested in 2017 and while every car in the range comes with an extensive array of advanced safety tech the Akera is the burger with the lot.

There’s AEB, which works at high speeds to brake for vehicles, and also at slower city speeds to detect pedestrian and cars between 4.0-80km/h and in reverse at 2.0-8.0km/h.

There’s also blind spot warning, lane keeping assistance with lane departure warning, traffic sign recognition, reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, adaptive cruise control and rear cross traffic alert.

The Akera has adaptive LED headlights, too.

For child seats there are three top tether points and two ISOFIX points across the second row.

A space saver spare wheel is under the boot floor.

What’s the tech like?

Yes, the CX-5 has Apple CarPlay and Android auto, which is great, but you’ll have to use the rotary dial on the centre console to navigate through to your music and maps, which is not great.

The Bose sound system is better than the standard stereo in the lower grades – it has 10 speakers.

Inside, 10 Bose audio speakers are spread throughout the cabin. Inside, 10 Bose audio speakers are spread throughout the cabin.

Bluetooth phone connection is super quick, and I found it to be faultless in operation.

There’s a digital radio, sat nav which is easy to use and the directions are shown on the 8.0-inch screen and also the head-up display, which is superbly clear.

The 8.0-inch multimedia screen features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The 8.0-inch multimedia screen features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

How much does it cost to own?

The Akera is the top-of-the-range CX-5 and therefore the most expensive with a list price of $50,830, which is pretty pricey compared to the entry grade Maxx for $30,980.

The CX-5 is covered by Mazda’s five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty.

Routine servicing prices are low. A service is recommended annually or every 10,000km with the first service capped at $347, then $378, then back to $347, alternating like that through to the fifth.

As for fuel, the 2.5-litre turbo petrol in the Akera I tested is the thirstiest engine in the range, but even then I found that after 95.7km of open and urban roads I only needed 6.88 litres to fill the 58-litre tank back up to full. That’s 7.2L/100km which is a litre less than Mazda's official claim. That’s amazing, I never beat the manufacturer. 

The Wrap

The CX-5 Akera is a sporty feeling, but fuel-efficient SUV loaded with tech, safety equipment, and luxury touches, and should faithfully serve a small family with good (but not outstanding) practicality. There’s the affordable routine servicing and the five-year warranty. My advice is that you don’t need to go all the way to the Akera grade to experience a beautiful mid-sized SUV with plenty of features. The GT is excellent and has most of the Akera’s equipment.


Safety tech
Head-up display
Wide opening doors


Reversing camera picture
Cabin storage could be better
Rear legroom is tight




The Kids:


$30,990 - $55,990

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