Mazda CX-5 VS BMW X1
- Gorgeous styling
- Interior fit and finish
- Added off-road capability
- Road noise still too high
- Firm ride
- No hybrid options
- Potent engine
- Nice handling
- Massive interior
- Ride way too firm
- Missing essential active safety
- Some awkward trim bits
Mazda’s CX-5 has long reigned as Australia’s favourite mid-size SUV, but 2020 is likely the year it loses that title to the much-improved, new-generation Toyota RAV4.
To try and keep up with fresher competition though, Mazda has introduced rolling updates to the popular CX-5, including a new off-road mode for all-wheel drive (AWD) variants that better equips the stylish SUV for rough terrain.
Pairing its new capabilities with the same high-calibre interior fit and finish as before, as well as a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, means the new CX-5 is the arguably the most complete package it has ever been, but is it still good enough for your consideration in 2020?
|Engine Type||2.5L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
I like it when a car subverts expectations.
It sounds like BMW is just playing a dangerous game of badge-swappery. Yet, after a week behind the wheel, I had to admit there’s more to the X1 than the numbers and specs might suggest. It admittedly won me over.
How, exactly, did this little SUV manage to charm this doubting critic? Read on to find out.
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
The latest round of spec enhancements don’t add too much to the already-winning formula, but the Off-Road Traction Assist function is a nice box-ticker for buyers worried about the CX-5’s sure footedness.
Class leading safety and catwalk-worthy styling remain strong attributes, but buyers will have to forgo a little comfort and no electrified engine options.
We love that crucial safety systems are fitted to all grades of the CX-5, meaning even the base Maxx variant is a compelling buy.
If we had to pick though, we'd go for the AWD 2.5-litre Touring for $40,980, which is loaded with nice creature comforts such as a head-up display and keyless entry for a price that doesn't break the bank.
The mid-size SUV field is as strong as it has ever been however, with the battleground set to heat up even more thanks to new and refreshed entrants arriving in the near future, meaning the CX-5 might soon need a big leap forward instead of just iterating to remain ahead of the pack.
For now though, the Mazda CX-5 still has the substance to back up its style, even three years on from the market launch of its latest form, though only just.
BMW’s X1 won me over mainly because of its raucous engine, signature handling, and suspension characteristics.
It is perhaps a little harsh for some family drivers though, and still has some notable spec omissions this far into its lifecycle. So, keep these factors in mind when considering it against its premium competition, particularly given there are some serious rivals arriving in the coming months.
The first of Mazda’s models to adopt its latest design language, the second-generation Mazda CX-5 hit Australian showrooms in 2017 and has remained largely the same since.
That’s no bad thing mind you, as the CX-5’s smooth panels, sharp edges and subtle creases embrace a more timeless and classic design philosophy relative to the dated design elements of its rivals.
Every touch point inside the CX-5 feels top-notch, including the steering wheel, door trims and seats, while buyers can also personalise the interior with colours such as black, white and brown.
Our top-spec Akera test vehicle came fitted as standard with nappa leather, which feels ultra-luxe and premium.
The interior is laid out with a clean and crisp design, with all controls well placed, and large swathes of black surfaces broken up with textured materials.
We don’t have much to complain about in with the CX-5’s design, inside or out, but at the risk of nit-picking, we’d say the multimedia screen is starting to look dated, especially when stacked up against the well-designed unit of the Mazda3 and CX-30.
From the outside, the X1 totally owns the BMW design language. It somehow comes together so well over the frame of a small SUV, from the traditional BMW double kidney grille, to the chiseled LED headlights, squared-off profile, and cleanly resolved rear.
It’s miles better than its first-generation X1 predecessor, at least from the outside.
I found the inside to be a mixed bag. I liked the seats, steering wheel and multimedia system, but it just doesn’t feel cohesive.
It’s like a bunch of parts have been plucked off the shelf and shoved together. It has a strangely compact dash cluster from the outgoing 2 Series, but at the same time, the brand’s latest touchscreen, as well as a collection of old-looking controls on a cascading dash which for some reason eats an uncomfortable amount of the front occupant’s space.
It’s been made to work together, but still feels a little chaotic. Like parts and buttons have just been plastered all over. This extends down to the centre console, where BMW gives you the option of controlling the media suite through a dial and buttons.
All the fittings are undeniably quality though, with everything from leather-clad surfaces to switchgear all having a solid, satisfying feeling. The feeling of this car being more expensive for a reason. There’s also an abundance of padded surfaces, and comfortable seats in every position.
Measuring 4550mm long, 1840mm wide and 1680mm tall, the CX-5 is slightly shorter than the likes of the Toyota RAV4, Nissan X-Trail and Hyundai Tucson, but its generous 2700mm wheelbase is larger than most of its peers.
Which means interior room in the CX-5 is excellent, especially in the front seats, where there is plenty of head, shoulder and legroom.
The fantastic driving position in particular has to be called out, as our CX-5 test car serves up an electronically adjustable seat and steering column that let us get in just the right place for our hands and legs.
Mazda’s driver-focused philosophy applies to all its models, and the CX-5 family hauler is no exception.
Rear seat room, while adequate, will just about fit three adults sitting abreast, but a full row of children or even teenagers shouldn’t be a problem.
Keep in mind though that second-row legroom can be compromised for taller passengers, but there is plenty of headroom.
Amenities in the second-row also include air vents and, in our top-spec grade, heated pews and two USB sockets, the latter found in the fold-down armrest that also houses two cupholders.
As for the boot, the CX-5 will also swallow 442 litres of volume with all seats in place, extending to 1342L with the pews stowed.
In real world terms, that means the CX-5 will easily cart around a family of five with the weekly groceries and folded stroller in tow, but it is noticeably smaller than the 580L/1690L capacity.
We will also point out that we couldn’t find any bag hooks in the back of our test car, though there were handy seat-folding tabs that could stow just the centre seat or each of the outbound pews with just a simple pull.
Storage throughout the cabin is also just OK, with a shallow glovebox and small storage tray below the climate controls.
The centre storage cubby however, is sizeable, and comes with a tray to keep items like a phone or wallet close to the surface to prevent you having to reach in a fish them out.
Door pockets also offer decent storage up front, but rear passengers will only be able to fit a water bottle in their doors.
The X1’s hidden trick is in how big its interior space is.
It’s voluminous – or as Richard Berry pointed out in his 2018 review of the pre-facelifted X1 – it has more head and legroom than an X3 and almost as much luggage space.
Impressive, right? Especially for something which is quite a bit smaller when it comes to its exterior dimensions.
A lot of that is down to the X1 sharing its platform with space-efficient and predominantly front-wheel drive Minis. But there’s more, too!
The back seats are foldable and on rails, letting you choose luggage over passengers if need be. While this is pretty impressive, the X1’s 505-litre boot space is under threat.
Audi’s new generation Q3 offers 530 litres, while the incoming Mercedes-Benz GLB will offer 570-litres in five-seat form. If it’s boot space (or seven seats…) you’re chasing, it is worth factoring in to your premium small SUV decision making process.
The back seat, as already mentioned, has plenty of leg and headroom, plus dual USB ports and directional air vents on the back of the centre console.
Front seat occupants are pretty well treated, with some cool turbine-design cupholders in the centre, smallish trenches in the doors, as well as a large bin under the armrest. There are a selection of USB ports to choose from as well as a wireless phone charging bay.
Seat comfort is good all-round, although it took me a long time to adjust to the odd upright seating position which seems to be the only ‘right’ way to have everything adjusted, at least for my preferences.
Price and features
Though Mazda has slightly increased the pricing of its CX-5 for the 2020 model year, there's still a wide selection of grades available from $30,980, before on-road costs, to $51,330.
Our test car, the AWD Akera grade paired with a 2.5-litre turbo-petrol engine, is priced at $50,830, making it the second-most expensive variant available.
Standard features across the range include an 8.0-inch multimedia display, 17-inch wheels and push-button start, but our test car was also kitted out with dual-zone climate control, satellite navigation, a powered tailgate, head-up display, leather interior and power-adjustable mirrors.
However, it’s the huge array of standard safety equipment that stands the CX-5 apart.
All CX-5s, including the entry-level Maxx, are fitted with features such as adaptive cruise control and autonomous emergency braking, which are sometimes relegated to higher grades or options in competitor SUVs.
The Akera grade also gains 19-inch alloy wheels, ambient interior lighting, heated and cooled front seats and heated rear seats, as well as a frameless rearview mirror, heated steering wheel and woodgrain interior panels, It’s these small details that elevate the CX-5 from its peers.
There’s equipment here that is rarely seen in anything outside models from the big three German brands, and though a Mazda badge doesn’t quite hold that level of cache, the CX-5 is also not priced quite as highly as a BMW, Mercedes or Audi, either.
Whether you agree with Mazda Australia’s decision to push some models upmarket with higher price points and more equipment, there's no denying the blend of luxe and value presented in the CX-5.
Our X1 is the top-spec xDrive25i trim. That means it’s all-wheel drive, and gets the most potent four-cylinder engine available in the X1 range. Ours was also the M Sport version (with all the extra M bits) boosting the price to a total of $66,150, before on-roads.
Expensive? Maybe. The tricky thing here is we don’t know how much this car’s primary German rivals will cost when they arrive this year. I’m talking about the higher-spec Audi Q3 (currently you can only buy the entry-level version of the new one), and the Mercedes-Benz GLB isn’t set to arrive for a few months yet.
Of course, there are a plethora of non-premium options for much less, but I’m guessing if you’ve made it this far in the review, they will be of little interest.
Standard spec has some impressive items, including 19-inch alloy wheels, an impressive-looking 10.25-inch multimedia touchscreen with sat-nav as well as Apple CarPlay as standard (but still no Android Auto…), a head-up display, LED head and tail-lights, push-start and keyless entry, an ambient interior lighting package, and leather upholstery.
The M Sport pack added (to our car) an adaptive suspension package, the M Sport steering wheel and power steering characteristics, M-branded seat belt trim and M Sport brakes.
There’s a semi-digital dashboard, too, but not the super swish digital dash suite from the more recently released cars in BMW’s range. Keep in mind, this second-generation X1 is now almost five years old, despite a minor refresh in 2019.
It’s not a bad feature set, aside from the rather upsetting omission of Android phone mirroring, which is a real necessity in today’s SUVs. While the sat nav suite is a handy thing to have, you only get three years of updates included, and it lacks the really intuitive features now built in for free with Google maps for Android users.
The M Sport pack’s three-spoke steering wheel is the best one in BMW’s parts catalogue. It’s the perfect size, weight, and material. Bonus points for that.
Engine & trans
We’ve tested this engine before, and while nothing has changed on the powertrain front, we’re still big fans of this mill’s effortless oomph.
As one of the most potent petrol engines you can get in the mainstream mid-size SUV class, coming away from the line is expectedly brisk and the engine will enable a zero to 100km/h in an almost-hot-hatch-bothering 7.7 seconds.
Overtaking at freeway speeds is also easy, with the smart-shifting automatic transmission smoothly kicking down a cog for some extra shove.
Speaking of, peak torque is available from 2000rpm, making the CX-5 a delight to drive at slower speeds instead of a slow-moving bothersome chore.
However, we reckon the six-speed auto need another gear for freeway driving, just to keep revs and engine down a little more.
If the flagship 2.5-litre turbo-petrol engine isn’t your speed, there are other powertrains available in the CX-5 range, including a base 115kW/200Nm 2.0-litre petrol unit that is paired to a six-speed manual gearbox and an automatic-transmission-only 140kW/252Nm 2.5-litre petrol.
Diesel is also offered in the CX-5 range, an increasingly rare occurrence as the Toyota RAV4, Ford Escape and Subaru Forester are no long offered with oil-burning options, and in Mazda’s case is a 140kW/450Nm 2.2-litre twin-turbo unit.
However, unlike the three aforementioned mid-size SUV competitors, Mazda does not offer its CX-5 with any sort of electrified powertrain.
One could argue that in 2020, Australia is yet to fully embrace the electric vehicle future, but for those wanting the latest in hybrid or plug-in powertrain technology, the CX-5 does not yet have an answer (like most competitors).
No complaints here. With 170kW/350Nm on tap from a four-cylinder turbo-petrol, you can’t make the argument the 25i needs more power.
BMW has stopped short of saying there will be a faster M version of the X1, and there probably shouldn’t be, what’s offered here is more than enough. BMW claims the 25i will sprint from 0-100km/h in just 6.5 seconds.
The 25i is ‘xDrive’ all-wheel drive only and drives power to the wheels via an eight-speed torque converter automatic transmission.
Official fuel consumption figures of the 2.5-litre turbo-petrol CX-5 peg it at 8.2 litres per 100km, but with our short stint in the car we managed 9.8L/100km.
To be fair, our driving consisted mainly of inner-city suburban streets and a brief stretch of highway driving, as well as some hard acceleration.
For those looking for a more frugal CX-5 though, the diesel engine is also available that will sip just 5.7L/100km, while the 2.0-litre and 2.5-litre petrol units are also less thirsty at 6.9 and 7.4L/100km respectively.
Again, a petrol-hybrid option here would help lower fuel-consumption even more, so if stretching your dollar further at the bowser is a concern, you may want to look elsewhere.
How much fuel you will consume will largely depend on how much the punchy engine will tempt your right foot, but the claimed/combined figure on the X1’s spec sheet is 7.1L/100km.
Despite enjoying the 25i more than I care to admit, my average fuel usage over a fairly representative ‘combined’ week came out as 7.9L/100km. Not bad at all.
The X1 requires mid-grade 95RON unleaded petrol and has a 61 litre fuel tank.
The big headlining change to the new CX-5 is the added off-road driving mode added to AWD variants.
Dubbed ‘Off-Road Traction Assist’, the system locks the rear differential at the push of a button, enabling torque to be sent to the wheels that have grip.
In theory, the system is designed to better allow the CX-5 to get out of a sticky situation, such as deep mud or some particularly tricky terrain, and in practice it does what’s advertised.
Don’t get us wrong, the CX-5 isn’t transformed into a Jeep Wrangler or Toyota LandCruiser because of the new feature, but it certainly helps that Mazda has added extra go-anywhere assurance to its popular model.
Also keep in mind that the CX-5 will still be limited by ground clearance and its approach angle.
On the occasion that the CX-5 ventures down an unsealed road or rough terrain in inclement weather when venturing to a remote Airbnb or holiday home, the Off-Road Traction Assist button will surely be a welcome addition.
Aside from the new off-road mode, the CX-5 drives largely the same as before – for good and bad.
Steering is sharp, direct and communicative, while also being light and pleasant enough to manoeuvre around town.
However, the trade-off for a nice steering SUV is that suspension is still a bit too firm, for our tastes at least, which is of particular note in a five-seat family hauler like the CX-5.
Don’t get us wrong, its not back-breaking by any stretch, and on smooth surfaces, the ride is perfectly liveable.
Unfortunately, Australia – and in this particular case, Melbourne – is full of more than just smooth roads, with the occasional large dip and bump (not to mention the juttering of travelling over tram tracks) transmitted right to occupants.
Mazda said it has also improved the NVH levels of the new CX-5 thanks to extra sound deadening, but without driving the old car and new one back-to-back, it is a little hard to tell the level of enhancement.
However, we are happy to report road and wind noise was kept to a minimum in our time with the car, even at freeway speeds.
The X1 drives like a BMW – for better or worse.
There are some great attributes. The steering is a fantastic balance of weight and speed, the internal switchgear is all exactly the same as it is in the 2 Series sedan, and the suspension is firm, letting you feel every bit of the road.
That last one is possibly this car's worst attribute, though. While you’ll have an above average driving experience in the curvy stuff, the X1 is overly harsh for daily family duties.
I mean, seriously. I’m sure the average SUV buyer in this class is hardly going to be taking their kids to school via the Nurburgring every day.
If nothing else it’s a point of difference for the Bavarian SUV, and after a week you’ll be used to it. Those who do will be rewarded with one of the more engaging small SUVs on the market.
The engine proved to be distinctly punchy, impressing with its responsiveness and linear power delivery. It has a lovely (partially artificial) raspy exhaust note, to boot, which makes hopping behind the wheel all the more enjoyable.
It has some other quirks worth noting, too. I couldn’t get used to its oddly high and upright seating position, the front two seats seemed a bit narrow despite familiar BMW leather trim, and there was an undeniable heft to the whole product which made it lose its confidence when really pushed in the corners.
The X1 won me over, though. By the time I was handing the keys back, I did just want one more go…
Safety is where the Mazda CX-5 stands heads and shoulders above the competition.
Lane departure warning, lane-keep assist, reversing camera, rear parking sensors, driver attention alert, autonomous emergency braking (AEB) and adaptive cruise control, as well as auto high beams, wipers and headlights, are all included as standard across the entire Mazda CX-5 line-up.
But wait, there’s more as our Akera test car also has front parking sensors, traffic sign recognition and a surround-view monitor to make parking a breeze.
New in the 2020 model-year upgrade however, is night-time pedestrian detection for the AEB system.
The list of safety equipment included in the CX-5, even at its cheapest, is the yardstick from which all other cars – including models from premium brands – should be measured.
No surprises then that the Mazda CX-5 carries a full five-star ANCAP safety rating when it was first tested in 2017.
The Mazda mid-size SUV scored 95 per cent in the adult occupant test, while the child occupant protection examination yielded an 80 per cent score.
As for the vulnerable road user and safety assist categories, the CX-5 notched 78 and 59 per cent respectively.
In terms of active safety features, the X1 is a little light on.
Rather than full auto emergency braking (AEB), the X1 gets a system called ‘braking assist’ which will slow the vehicle (or as BMW says “reduce impact speed”) if an object is detected from three to 65km/h. Beyond 65km/h it will “precondition” the brakes but requires human intervention to apply them.
So... it will help, but won’t quite stop for you.
Active safety features it does really get include lane departure warning, forward collision warning, traffic sign recognition and high-beam assist.
The X1 does get the expected baseline safety items, like electronic stability and brake controls, as well as six airbags. Parking sensors for the front and rear across the range are a nice touch.
There are also two ISOFIX child-seat mounting points on the outer rear seats.
Despite its slightly underwhelming active safety suite, the X1 still caries a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating, as rated in 2015 before the stricter minimum active safety requirements came into force in 2018.
Service intervals are every 10,000km or 12 months, whichever comes first.
Basic service costs will alternate between $347 and $378 up to 160,000km or 16 years, but additional scheduled maintenance items will cost extra.
For example, the cabin filter will need to be replaced ever 40,000km, costing an additional $80, while spark plugs will need to be refreshed every 60,000km interval at a cost of $327.
As such, the first five years of servicing, by our calculations for the 2.5-litre turbo-petrol CX-5 Akera, will cost buyers $2092.
BMW insists on a three-year warranty package, going so far as going on the record saying owners don’t want more (really… what kind of owner doesn’t want a competitive five-year warranty?). Regardless, it is the standard for cars in the premium segment, with the exception of Lexus which offers four years.
It would be nice to see premium automakers raise the game a little here, but the X1 is thankfully offered with a capped price servicing program.
Like other premium brands it is offered as a package at the time of purchase and covers five years of services. The 'Basic' program costs $1550, while the 'Plus' program comes in at $4420. The main difference between each program is whether wear items like brake pads, wiper blades, etc, are included.