Mazda CX-5 VS Skoda KAROQ
- Sleek styling
- Great value
- Enjoyable to drive
- No Apple CarPlay or Android Auto
- Boot is on the smaller side
- Space saver spare
- Charming to drive
- Great space utilisation
- Super flexible
- Optional safety gear
- Thirstier than expected
- Gets pricey with all the options
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.
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
The Skoda Karoq is a small SUV, but it has big advantages over some of its rivals.
It's compact, tech-heavy, and has seats that you can remove. How good is that? I mean, if you've ever thought to yourself: "Geez, those back seats are really in the way!", then you'll get my drift.
The Karoq has been on sale in Australia for about 12 months now, and is still available in just one spec. In that time, the smallest Skoda SUV has only amassed the same number of sales as Mitsubishi racks up for the ASX in a single week. Yes, you read that right.
But despite the fact its popularity has been quite limited to this point, there's one thing you need to know - it should be on your shopping list.
|Engine Type||1.5L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
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.
The Skoda Karoq is a very worthy alternative to the mainstream players in the market, if your budget can stretch to include some of those options - and you might want to include some, if you plan to have an SUV that keeps up with the Joneses.... but add the lot and it starts to look pretty expensive. We wouldn't be surprised if some of the option-only safety items are made standard at some point in order to keep up with other players in the space.
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.
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.
It launched about a year ago here, and it still looks more modern than some its competitors. It isn't rugged like a Subaru XV, nor is it as aggressive as a Hyundai Kona. No, it's a bit more like a Nissan Qashqai - inoffensively attractive. That's if you consider it in the same part of the market as those cars.
Skoda pitches the Karoq as its mid-sized SUV - so it should actually be up against the likes of the Hyundai Tucson, Subaru Forester and Nissan X-Trail. Based on its dimensions, that's not really the case - it's 4382mm long, 1841mm wide and 1603mm tall - and that makes it smaller than any of the models in this paragraph, and indeed closer to the ones in the paragraph above. But on price, it's definitely in the upper bracket; we'll get to that soon.
It's a smart and very European design outside, arguably understated - even with optional 18-inch wheels as featured on our car. The LED headlights on our car are optional, but LED daytime running lights are standard. And how about that colour? How good is it to see green again? It's Emerald Green, officially, and it'll cost you $700.
Inside there are new options for the version we're driving, as opposed to the previous version, including the availability to option of the Virtual Cockpit 12.3-inch information display for the driver (which costs $700). Check out the interior images in the next section.
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.
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.
The only other car that offers up this sort of practicality in such a compact footprint is the Honda HR-V. And we get why that mightn't appeal to you - the shape of that car is more hatchback (or hunchback, according to some!) than SUV.
So if you want that (slightly more) rugged look, the Karoq might be your next best option. It has a really clever interior, with three rear seats that can be slid, folded or even removed individually. That's right - you can essentially turn this in to a van, if you need to.
With the seats in their most passenger-friendly setting, you'll still have 479 litres of cargo capacity to play with. While if you slide them all the way forward, you'll see the boot expand to 588L. Fold them down, and that jumps to 1605L. Remove them and you've got a staggering 1810L available. All that, and you still get a space-saver spare wheel, too.
This is clearly a family-friendly boot, with enough room to store our umbrella pram quite easily. It also coped with three suitcases. It even managed to fit the largest case and the pram in together. Unprecedented!
In the cabin there is enough room for someone my size (six feet tall, or 182cm) to sit behind a driver of the same size. Knee room is a little tight, but headroom, toe room and shoulder room is surprisingly good.
The back seat includes dual map pockets, good door pockets and rear seat air-vents, too. And if you need cup holders in between the seats, you can fold down the centre seat backrest. A nice note for parents - there are three top-tether points, and ISOFIX attachments for the two outside rear seats. Plus there are standard tablet holders for rear seat occupants that buckle on to the front headrests.
Up front there are big door pockets and a few decent loose item storage pockets, but the cupholders are smaller than average. The controls all fall to hand logically, and the materials are mostly pretty good, though there is quite a bit of hard plastic throughout (easy to wipe down if you have youngsters, I guess).
The media screen in our test car is the optional one, a 9.2-inch display with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, sat nav, Bluetooth - all the stuff you'd want, excluding a volume knob. Instead you've got to use the 'button' elements on the screen, which is annoying (yes, there is a steering-wheel mounted scroller, but what if the passenger wants to turn something up or down?!).
It's a crisp and lovely display, it's easy to learn, and it links well with the (also optional) Virtual Cockpit screen in front of the driver. Both add to the 'almost an Audi' feeling you get in the Karoq, but at a price.
Price and features
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.
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 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 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.
You know what would be really great? If Skoda Australia put a Karoq on fleet that wasn't laden with optional equipment. We get it - the company is trying to showcase everything you can get in a Karoq.
But with a list price of $32,290 plus on-road costs, and an as-tested price of $41,590 (plus on-roads) for the model we're testing, it's a little difficult to judge it on its actual merits. I mean, there's almost 30 per cent additional cost on our test car.
First, we'll have a look at what you would get if you bought a standard car, then we'll go through what's optionally fitted to our test vehicle.
The Karoq's standard gear list includes: an 8.0-inch touchscreen media system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a reversing camera, USB input (only one, though...), Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, an eight-speaker sound system, dual-zone climate control air conditioning, keyless entry and push-button start, and adaptive cruise control.
The standard wheel setup is a 17-inch pack with a space-saver spare, and there are roof rails, LED daytime running lights and LED tail-lights (but not LED main beams), auto headlights and wipers, a reversing camera, rear parking sensors with auto-stop (to avoid back-up bumps). More on that in the safety section below.
The cabin is usually trimmed with fabric seats, but you still get a leather-lined steering wheel and gear selector, plus a reversible floor mat for the boot.
Now, the option packs. Our car has the Premium Tech & Travel Pack, which is a combined dealio with a $7900 price tag.
It includes adaptive LED headlights, front parking sensors, 18-inch alloy wheels, an electric tailgate, leather seat trim, electric driver's seat adjustment with memory settings, heated front seats, auto-dimming side mirrors with auto folding, stainless steel pedals, drive mode select, a 9.2-inch media screen with DAB digital radio and gesture control, wireless phone charging, a 10-speaker Canton sound system, semi-automated parking, and extra safety gear in the form of blind spot monitoring, 'Emergency Assist' which can pull the car over if it thinks you're unresponsive, and Traffic Jam assist that can take over most of the driving at speeds below 60km/h.
Sure, it's expensive, but you get a lot for the money. The other options on our car include the Virtual Cockpit digital instrument cluster, which is new, and costs $700. Plus metallic paint, at $700.
Engine & trans
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.
This grade of Karoq is called the 110TSI, and it has a 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol engine, and it produces 110kW of power (from 5000-6000rpm) and 250Nm of torque (from 1500-3500rpm). That's plenty for this size of car, and indeed more torque than plenty of the Karoq's rivals.
We've heard from Skoda that a Karoq 140TDI 4x4 diesel variant is coming in 2020, if that interests you.
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.
Official combined cycle fuel consumption for the Karoq 110TSI is listed at 5.8 litres per 100 kilometres, and you might see that if you do a lot of country driving... but we didn't, so we didn't.
Instead, our test - which incorporated plenty of city running and a couple of highway stints - returned 9.6L/100km.
It's interesting to note that relatively high number (well, it is 65 per cent over the claim!) was despite the fact the Karoq's cylinder deactivation technology - which allows it to run on two cylinders under light loads - was in use quite a bit. There's an 'eco' display on the dash and an almost imperceptible rumble from the engine when its running in this mode.
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.
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.
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.
That's because it's built on the same platform as the likes of the Audi A3, Q2 and Q3, and the VW Golf and Tiguan, among others. And the overarching goodness of those models spreads across to the Karoq, because it's a really nice car to drive.
The ride is quite well sorted, with only a bit of sharp-edge thump because of those larger-than-standard alloy wheels. Around town over speed humps and roads riddled with pockmarks and lumps it was very nicely controlled and comfortable, while on the open road it felt like a bigger vehicle, with a really secure feel to it.
The steering is accurate and easy to judge, not too heavy when you're trying to park it, and not to light when you're on the open road.
And the drivetrain is mostly pretty good, too. There is some hesitation when you initially apply throttle, which is a common complaint for cars with dual-clutch automatic transmissions like this one. It does take some getting used to - and if you think you'll be able to just jump in and gun it away from the traffic lights without any lag, then you'll be disappointed because there is lag to contend with.
But I honestly found it fine, and accustomed my driving to suit. The benefits of that transmission are evident in other situations, because it offers really crisp and clever shifts at speeds from 10km/h to 110km/h.
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.
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.
The standard safety spec of the Karoq is good, but not class-leading.
You get a reversing camera, rear parking sensors, auto emergency braking (AEB), driver fatigue monitoring, tyre pressure monitoring, multi-collision braking (to stop you careening into other road users in the event of an accident).
You'll need to option advanced safety gear like blind spot monitoring and lane keeping assistance. But while it lacks traditional rear cross-traffic alert, it does have Manoeuvre Assist, which can auto-brake the car when reversing if an obstacle is detected at speeds below 10km/h.
The Karoq has seven airbags (dual front, front side, full-length curtain and driver's knee), and there are three top-tether and two ISOFIX child-seat anchor points.
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
Skoda offers a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty for all of its models, which is bang-on par with the rest of the mainstream makers, but not as good as you'll get at Kia or Toyota, which offer seven years warranty (Kia as standard, Toyota if you service your car on time).
The brand offers the choice of pre-purchasing your maintenance, or paying as you go, with intervals set every 12 months or 15,000km, whichever occurs first. The PAYG option will set you back an average of $447 per visit, before additional items.
If you pre-pay, you can choose either a three-year pack ($790, or about $263 per year) or a five-year plan ($1650, or $330 per year). So pre-purchase. Do it. It's totally worth it. And you can roll it in to your finance plan, so you'll barely even notice it.