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Mazda CX-5


Subaru Outback

Summary

Mazda CX-5

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?

Safety rating
Engine Type2.5L turbo
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency8.2L/100km
Seating5 seats

Subaru Outback

It’s hard to think how Subaru could improve the popularity of the Outback. The current-generation model is easily the most successful version ever - but, as sure as dessert follows dinner, it’s time for a mid-life update for the high-riding wagon.

And this is it: the Subaru Outback 2018 model, a facelifted and tweaked version of the Japanese SUV that has just launched in Australia.

While at first glance the changes appear to be fairly minor, let's go through it in detail and take a good look at what’s changed. 

Safety rating
Engine Type2.5L
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency7.3L/100km
Seating5 seats

Verdict

Mazda CX-58.1/10

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.


Subaru Outback7.9/10

Subaru may not have really needed to make all these changes to its popular Outback model, but they sure have been worthwhile. 

In particular, in 2.5i Premium guise, this is a much improved model. It’ll be sure to attract plenty of SUV shoppers.

Do you like what the Subaru Outback offers in a segment full of mid-size SUV competitors? Let us know in the comments below.

Design

Mazda CX-59/10

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.

Even after three years, the CX-5 looks gorgeous and isn’t out of place alongside some of Mazda’s newer offerings such as the Mazda3 small car and new CX-30 small SUV.

Inside, Mazda’s CX-5 is a clear step above in quality compared to its mainstream rivals, and even nudges close to the fit and finish of luxury brands including BMW and Audi.

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.


Subaru Outback9/10

It was already pretty attractive, and the minor changes made to the 2018 Subaru Outback - in my view - make it even more so.

There have been plenty of subtle adjustments to the exterior styling, including a new grille, new bumpers, new headlights - including adaptive LEDs and auto high-beam on high-spec models like this one - and there are redesigned wing mirrors that help cut wind noise.

There are new alloy wheel designs for all models - the base model 2.0D retains its bump-friendly 17-inch wheels, while the rest of the trim levels have 18-inch rims. All models have those signature roof rails which will allow for a roof rack set-up, and of course the accessories catalogue includes things like bike racks, too. 

The high-spec models in Australia keep the wheel-arch cladding, while the lower-spec models miss out. An interesting tidbit - all US models miss out on the cladding.

Because the Outback isn’t a sporty model, there is no conventional body kit or chrome exhaust tips, but I guess you could consider the underbody protection, lower sill side skirts and hatch-mounted rear spoiler to be a bit sporty…?

Plus there are new colours (or colors, depending on where you’re reading this) available - 'Crimson Red Pearl' and 'Wilderness Green Metallic' - which join the existing 'Crystal Black', 'Tungsten' (which almost looks gold in some lights), 'Ice Silver', 'Dark Blue', 'Dark Grey', 'Crystal White', 'Lapis Blue', 'Platinum Grey', and 'Oak Brown'. There’s no bright orange like the XV, though. A nice bonus for buyers is that none of the paint finishes cost extra. 

Helping differentiate the higher-spec models are redesigned LED headlights in the Outback 2.5i Premium, 3.6R and 2.0D Premium, and they are integrated with 'Steering Responsive Headlights' (SRH) and the 'Adaptive Driving Beam' (ADB) functions. So, the beam will move with the steering wheel, and they’ll dip for oncoming traffic, too.

Nothing has changed in terms of interior dimensions or size, and you can see from our interior photos there have been some changes - the top-spec models still get leather, but the range now sees a few material changes here and there. Read on for more detail.

Practicality

Mazda CX-58/10

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.


Subaru Outback9/10

Across the Outback line-up there are some changes to materials used, including some piano black finishes here and there, and extra stitching as well. I’m a big fan of the new climate control knobs, which have little digital displays in them, a bit like an Audi. 

There’s a new, brighter, and more impressive looking media system, which measures 8.0 inches in the top variants, while the entry-grade models have a 6.5-inch screen. 

The high-spec versions with the 8.0-inch screen get built-in sat nav, but all models now come with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto - and the media unit is a really impressive system to use, even though the old one wasn’t all that bad.

There is Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, plus two USB ports for connecting/charging devices. 

The back seat has been improved, too, with a pair of USB ports added there as well. And the essentials are all covered - you will find a cup holder or two in the front (between the front seats) and the back (in a fold-down armrest), and bottle holders in all four doors.

  

As for space, there’s enough toe, leg and headroom for 183cm (six-foot) adults like me, and if you have small children the dual ISOFIX points and three top tether points will be handy. If you’re a shorter driver, if your seat is a long way forward, you may wish for a seat belt extender - but there isn’t one.

A lot of buyers choose the Outback because its wagon body offers a more family-friendly storage size than some of its rival SUVs, which cost as much (or more) but have smaller boots. The Outback’s boot dimensions allow for 512 litres of boot space (VDA) with the seats up and 1801L of luggage capacity with the seats down - is a super practical option for mums and dads. 

 

Plus, if you actually plan to venture to the outback you will appreciate the full-size alloy spare wheel under the boot floor. Sales reps might like to invest in a cargo barrier (there are two types available from Subaru) or boot liner, and there’s a cargo / tonneau cover included.  

So the cabin is very family-friendly - but on the whole, the Outback is pretty friendly on the wallet, too.

Price and features

Mazda CX-59/10

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.


Subaru Outback7/10

How much does a Subaru Outback cost? Well, that depends on the variant and the drivetrain. But here’s a guide, a sort of price list because the range spans quite a large bracket. The prices below are all before on-road costs (rrp), not drive away - you might find deals on the company’s site, or at your friendly Subaru dealer. 

There are five variants in the range, so let’s compare models from the bottom to the top.

Opening the line-up is the 2.5i, which is priced from $36,240, and the list of included equipment is extensive. There’s Subaru’s 'EyeSight' driver assist system with adaptive cruise control and auto emergency braking (AEB) (plus a lot more - see the safety section below), a reversing camera, the brand’s 'X-Mode' traction control system, and dual-zone climate control air conditioning with rear vents.

There are rain-sensing wipers, auto headlights (halogen - not even projector beam, HID or xenon - not great if you do a lot of night driving) with daytime running lights, front fog-lights, rear window tint and an electric park brake.

The exterior has a small spoiler on the tailgate, roof rails in black, silver underbody protection and 18-inch wheels. 

If you want a bit more kit for your money, then you might want to opt for the 2.5i Premium, which starts at $42,640, and aside from wheelarch cladding, most of the changes are inside.

You get inclusions such as electric front seat adjustment, heated front seats (but no heated steering wheel, unlike our friends in the US), a sunroof (not a panoramic sunroof, just a regular front-seat-benefit-only one), powered and heated side mirrors, keyless entry with push button start, and leather seats.

You also step up to LED headlights (including auto high-beam and steering responsive light) in this spec, and you get a powered tailgate.

As with the four-cylinder boxer petrol models, there are two derivatives of the four-cylinder diesel to pick from.

The more affordable version is the 2.0D available with a CVT auto at $38,740. You used to be able to buy an Outback diesel with a manual transmission, but that version has been dropped due to low demand. 

The Outback 2.0D is the only variant that rides on 17-inch wheels (an inch smaller than the rest), but otherwise it almost mirrors the spec of the 2.5i.

Then there’s the 2.0D Premium, which is automatic only, and has a list price of $45,640. It largely mirrors the 2.5i Premium spec.

The flagship model is 3.6R, which has a list price of $49,140.

It is definitely the most premium package of this bunch. Its sound system is upgraded with 12 harman/kardon speakers plus a subwoofer and amp, as well as model-distinct styling elements such as a chrome side-sill garnish and silver roof rails. The 3.6R also gets a three-mode 'SI-Drive' drive mode selector, where other petrol variants get a two-mode set-up.

In terms of infotainment, there is a 6.5-inch multimedia screen in the lower grades (2.0D and 2.5i), while the 8.0-inch touch screen in the Premium versions and the 3.6R includes a built in GPS / navigation system.

But buyers of the base models shouldn’t fear - every Outback comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, meaning you can use your iPhone or other smartphone as a sat nav system. 

There’s Bluetooth phone and audio streaming for MP3 playback, a CD player (not a CD changer, though), and the new media system has NFC connection, so you don't even need to go through the pairing process with a suitable phone. 

Of course there is AM/FM radio, but DAB radio (digital) isn’t fitted and there is no DVD player. And as advanced as the media unit is, there’s no Homelink app to open your garage smart door. 

There’s a detailed trip computer with digital speed read-out in all models, and every version comes with a sunglass holder in the headlining. And because there are dual USB ports in the back of every model, there’s no need for a rear seat entertainment system - the kids can BYO.

In addition to the standard features, there are plenty of options on Subaru’s Outback accessories list, including a range of luggage pods, protective film for the paint, and bike and kayak holders.

If you were hoping for a nudge bar, bull bar or snorkel, you’ll have to shop around elsewhere: just make sure those items don’t void your warranty, and are airbag compliant. 

Surprisingly, you only get floor mats from the accessories catalogue - they’re not standard in any model - and we recommend the boot-lip and bumper protector if you use the boot a lot.

How many seats in the Outback? Simple - five! There is no third row, which could rule out this model for some buyers - maybe take a look at the similarly-sized Nissan X-Trail or Mitsubishi Outlander.

Engine & trans

Mazda CX-58/10

Our CX-5 test car is fitted with a 2.5-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine, producing 170kW and 420Nm, with drive sent to all four wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission.

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).


Subaru Outback7/10

As mentioned above, there are three options to choose from in the Outback range - two petrols, and a diesel. Horsepower outputs of all three engines remain the same as they were before - but there’s still no turbo petrol motor. 

The entry-level 2.5-litre four-cylinder ‘boxer’ horizontally-opposed engine produces 129kW of power and 235Nm of torque. It can only be had with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) automatic transmission, which has a seven-speed manual mode.

The 2.5-litre drivetrain have been tweaked for better response and economy, and the CVT auto has seen some changes, too. 

At the top of the range (and with the biggest engine size) is the single 3.6R model, with - you guessed it - a 3.6-litre horizontally-opposed six-cylinder as in the Liberty, which still has 191kW of power and 350Nm of torque. It only comes with a CVT.

Models bearing the 2.0D suffix are powered by a 2.0-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder boxer engine with 110kW of power and 350Nm of torque. There used to be a six-speed manual transmission, but not anymore - so if you’re still going through the manual vs automatic argument in your head, you might have to seek out a pre-facelift manual version. 

The 2.0D models have a diesel particulate filter, and anecdotally I’ve read a few things about diesel engine problems as a result - but nothing to lose sleep over. 

You may have heard about older Subarus and some expensive major services and thought to yourself, “I wonder if the 2018 Outback has a timing belt or chain?” Then you’ll be happy to learn it has a chain, which never needs to be replaced … but items like the battery will still need the occasional replacement. If you’re quite a hands-on owner, you’ll be able to find out the oil type and capacity in the owner’s manual.  

Every Outback is all-wheel drive, where some other SUVs against which it will compete have cheaper front-wheel drive options. But, obviously, the AWD system of the Outback is an advantage - it mightn’t be as hardcore as a proper 4x4 or 4WD, but it can handle more than you’d think. 

At this point in time, there is no LPG, plug-in hybrid or EV version of the Outback, so it’ll boil down to diesel vs petrol. 

When it comes to towing capacity, the load hauling ability of each of the Outback models is relatively low.

Fit a tow bar to your Outback 2.5i model and you will be limited to pulling a 1500kg trailer with brakes, while the carrying limit for the 2.0D model is 1700kg, leaving the 3.6R as the best bet, with 1800kg of capacity.  All models have a 750kg limit for un-braked trailers. 

The gross vehicle weight / tare mass depends on the variant: the 2.5i is 1557kg, the 2.5i Premium is 1588kg, where the 3.6R tips the scales at 1662kg. The 2.0D weighs 1645kg, where the better-equipped 2.0D Premium is 1684kg.

Fuel consumption

Mazda CX-57/10

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.


Subaru Outback8/10

Fuel economy, fuel consumption figures - no matter which way you want to address it, there’s one Outback that’s better than the others for mileage - it’s the diesel. 

The Outback 2.0D is claimed to use 6.3L/100km. If you do a lot of highway distance, this is the one for you - it isn’t unusual to sit below the 6.0L/100km mark in such situations.

The 2.5i petrol model uses 7.3 litres per 100 kilometres. The changes made to the engine and transmission haven’t affected its claimed consumption, and during our time in this spec model we saw 8.0L/100km. 

The 3.6R six-cylinder version has a claimed consumption figure of 9.9L/100km, and you can expect to see around that 10.0L/100km mark in most situations.

And if you’re concerned about long-distance driving, every Outback has a fuel tank capacity of 60 litres. A decent size, but you’ll need to go for the diesel if you want the most out of it. 

Driving

Mazda CX-57/10

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.


Subaru Outback8/10

As is the case with the 2018 Liberty, the 2018 Outback has seen quite a few changes made to the way the car drives, too, and the most noticeable is the transmission in the petrol four-cylinder model. 

The 2.5i variants are the biggest-selling versions, accounting for three-quarters of sales, and as such it’s no surprise that this drivetrain has seen the most attention from the company - in fact, the diesel and six-cylinder versions are unchanged in terms of their powertrains.

The 2.5i’s engine has been tweaked for better response and economy, and the CVT auto has been adjusted for quicker response. And in regular driving, the powertrain is much improved.

There is better response when you put your foot down suddenly, and it also feels more like a ‘regular’ transmission than a CVT, with the ‘steps’ as you gather speed a little more noticeable.

That said, it isn’t a powerhouse engine - you won’t struggle up hills or anything, but there is no denying the gruntier six-cylinder is more rewarding to drive, and more effortless. 

Still, if 0-100km/h times, speed and acceleration really matter to you, the 2.5i is claimed at 9.9 seconds, and so is the 2.0D. The 3.6R can do the jump to highway speed in 7.6sec, according to Subaru. Told you it was rapid!

It is slightly quieter than we remember the existing version of the Outback 2.5i to be, so when you do call on the drivetrain (namely the CVT) to rev out a bit, you’re not deafened by it. There is little to complain about in terms of road noise or cabin noise, too. 

Subaru says the brakes have also been improved with better pedal feel, and they do offer better confidence to the driver than before.

The car has a lot of great safety equipment which can assist with the drive experience, including the adaptive cruise control system that uses cameras rather than a radar. 

But it includes a few things that might frustrate you, such as the fact the system beeps whenever a car is detected in front of you - that’s unnecessary - and also the cruise control can exhibit quite a bit of variance: so, say you set the cruise at 100km/h, you might find the car doing as little as 91km/h, or as much as 110km/h. I’m not making that up - I experienced those exact speeds when set on 100km/h - it could be a real concern if you live in a state like Victoria where speeding tolerance is quite low.  

All that said, the  pedestrian and collision warnings work well (I had a dumb pedestrian run in front of me on a busy road, and the car warned me and cautiously braked, too), as does lane watching system, which will tell you if you’re zig-zagging.

In fact, the electric power steering has been tweaked for more linear response and it is generally a little better at higher speeds, though the difference around town is hardly noticeable. The turning radius is 5.5m, meaning the minimum turning circle is 11.0m.

Furthermore, the suspension in all Outbacks has been tweaked a little as well, with the aim of reducing the ‘push-up’ from the road - that should help it ride better and handle better, according to Subaru. And it does, but the Outback was already impressive in its road manners, and the changes don’t seem to have meddled with that too much because it still copes with pockmarks and potholes very well at high speeds and in urban areas.

Now, to the Outback’s off road capabilities. And while this review isn’t specifically focused on the rough stuff, I can assure you the Outback offers better ability than many competitor SUVs.

For you hardcore off-road readers, here are some numbers to digest: 213 (ground clearance mm); 18.4 (approach angle degrees); 22.7 (departure angle degrees). And it manages that without air suspension - it has MacPherson-type front suspension and double-wishbone rear suspension. 

Subaru doesn’t boast a particular wading depth ability, but I wouldn’t go fording the Murrumbidgee after a storm in it.

Being all-wheel drive - not 4x4 or 4WD, but a symmetrical AWD system with X-Mode, which encompasses hill descent control and hill holder assist, and an electronically-controlled limited slip differential lock (no manual diff lock) - the Outback ensures good traction when you’re hitting the ol’ dusty trail. 

It’ll climb further than you expect, and with a better set of tyres I get the feeling it could be surprisingly capable.

The suspension performance is good, too, dealing with dirt-road bumps commendably, and the torque-vectoring system ensures there’s power where it needs to be.

Safety

Mazda CX-510/10

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.


Subaru Outback9/10

The Outback is a great choice for mums and dads - it’s packed with safety features. The facelifted model carries over the 2015 ANCAP crash test safety rating - maximum five stars for all models. 

Of course there is electronic stability program (ESP) on everything, and the entire range has Subaru’s 'EyeSight' safety kit, which uses a pair of cameras mounted on the windscreen to monitor the road ahead, and can warn the driver of pedestrians or cars, braking the car if it needs to - now up to a 50km/h speed differential, where it used to be 30km/h.

On top of that, there is, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control with brake light recognition and a system that’ll tell you when the car in front has moved away from you (great for parents who have their eyes on the kids).

Blind spot monitor / lane change assist and rear cross traffic alert is fitted to the top models (2.5i Premium, 2.0D Premium and 3.6R), while there’s also a forward-view camera and side-view camera, as well as auto high-beam lights. 

While there is a reverse camera, there are a couple of notable omissions - no model comes with parking sensors or automated park assist, and while the smaller Impreza and XV models have been updated with a reverse auto-braking system with obstacle detection, the Outback didn’t get that as part of the update.

The Outback has dual ISOFIX child seat anchor points if you need to fit a baby car seat, and three top-tether hooks as well. Plus there are seven airbags (dual front, front side, curtain and driver’s knee). 

Where are Subaru Outbacks built? For the Australian market, they’re made in Ōta, Japan. For North America, they come out of Lafayette, Indiana.

Ownership

Mazda CX-57/10

The Mazda CX-5, like all new Mazda Australia vehicles, comes with a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, along with a six-year anti-corrosion assurance and five years of roadside assist.

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.


Subaru Outback6/10

The Subaru warranty program doesn’t set any benchmarks, spanning three years/unlimited kilometres. There is the option of an extended warranty for five years/unlimited kilometres, and the terms of that plan are set out in the owner’s manual. 

Service costs and maintenance for the Outback depend on the drivetrain you choose. 

The 3.6R model requires a check-up at 5000km that will cost you just over $250, where the 2.5i and 2.0D variants don’t need that. After that, servicing is due every six months or 12,500km, which is quite frequent by modern-day standards - especially for cars that don’t have turbochargers. 

The capped price servicing costs aren’t overly tempting, either, with the brand’s capped-price coverage - three years/75,000km - costing you $2281.66 if you buy the 2.5i, $2519.84 for the 2.0D, and $2711.42 for the 3.6R. Some luxury European cars cost less. Like, a lot less.

Resale value for Outback models is typically quite good, with key advantages over competitor mid-size SUVs like more rear legroom and a full size spare tyre adding to the used-car value equation. 

We don’t issue a reliability rating, but if you’re curious about complaints, common problems, issues and faults with Subaru Outback models or specific components (automatic transmission problems, gearbox and clutch problems for the existing model, or CVT transmission issues), check out our problems page.