Mazda CX-5 VS Toyota Kluger
- Gorgeous styling
- Interior fit and finish
- Added off-road capability
- Road noise still too high
- Firm ride
- No hybrid options
- Comfortable and easy to drive
- Hybrid is seriously fuel efficient
- $250 capped price servicing
- Not as modern looking as some rivals
- Interior feels a bit budget price
- Lacks cool in-car tech of some rivals
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|
The Toyota Kluger is an Aussie family favourite. It’s the Streets Viennetta ice cream of SUVs, the Hungry Hungry Hippos of transport, the Dunlop KT 26 equivalent of cars, and the new-generation model is here… and there’s a hybrid version now.
Not only did I attend the Australian launch of the new Kluger, I took one away with me and my family and I have been living with it – just like you will.
A test drive at a dealership might not tell you everything you need to know about the Kluger, but fear not, I’ve done the testing with my family for you. Here’s all you need to know, from what’s new and the practicality upsides and downsides, to what the hybrid is like to drive.
Explore the All-New Toyota Kluger in 3D.
|Fuel Type||Regular 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.
This new generation Toyota Kluger hasn’t gone as far as we’d expect in terms of modern styling, refinement and in-car tech. But there’s been a big improvement in how comfortable and easy it is to drive. And the arrival of the hybrid version is fantastic to see. This seven-seater SUV is as practical as ever and will continue to be an Aussie family favourite.
For us the sweet spot in the range is the GXL hybrid. The price is good, the powertrain adds to the smoothness of driving, and the fuel savings are outstanding.
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.
The Kluger is about as beautiful as its name, which isn’t very. Still, while it doesn’t have the elegant lines of a Mazda CX-9 or the futuristic face of the Kia Sorento it does look tough and serious.
This Kluger is totally new, but it’s instantly recognisable as a Kluger. But if you were expecting it to look cutting edge, I’m sorry, it doesn’t. If anything, the new Kluger looks like a larger version of the RAV4 with its moustache-like grille and blade headlights.
The Kluger isn’t as angular as its mid-sized sibling, and you can see the curves in the rear haunches which wrap around to the tailgate.
The GX and GXL have 18-inch alloy wheels, but only the Grande has 20-inch rims and they come with a chrome-effect paint which might be a bit OTT for some.
The new cabin is more functional than fashionable with a dashboard dominated by what appears to be one of those big pizza paddles which holds the media screen and climate control dials.
The entry-grade GX has black cloth-trimmed seats, leather wrapped steering wheel and shift lever; the GXL has synthetic leather seats and the Grande has actual leather upholstery.
There are soft touch surfaces with stitching, but all grades still have hard plastics galore and styling which lacks the premium look of some rivals.
The new Kluger is slightly bigger than its predecessor at 4966mm end-to-end (+76mm), 1930mm across (+0.5mm), and 1755mm tall (+25mm).
Please don’t take the Kluger too far off-road, that’s best left to Toyota's 'proper' four-wheel drives like the Fortuner, Prado and LandCruiser. But, for the record, the approach angle is between 17.9 and 18.2 degrees, while the departure angle ranges from 22.7-23.1 degrees, depending on whether your Kluger is front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive.
There are five new paint colours: 'Graphite Metallic', 'Atomic Rush Red Mica', 'Liquorice Brown Mica', 'Saturn Blue Metallic', and 'Galena Blue Metallic'. Carrying over from the previous model are, 'Crystal Pearl', 'Silver Storm Metallic' and 'Eclipse Black.'
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 Kluger is spacious for people, has great cabin storage, and a decent-sized boot. What’s missing is wireless charging for phones on all grades and there are no sunblinds for the rear windows on the GX and GXL.
I’m 191cm (6'3") tall with a 2.0m wingspan, so I never feel like I have too much room in most cars. But that’s not the case with the Kluger, where there’s so much space up front that my elbows don’t even reach the door armrests. The touchscreen also feels almost out of reach, even for me.
All Klugers come standard with seven seats – that’s two up front, a bench of three in the second row, and two in the third.
Legroom is excellent and I can arrange the seats behind my driving position so I can sit in the second and third rows without my knees touching any of the seatbacks.
Headroom in the second row is excellent and outstanding in the third (as far as third rows tend to go). Better than the CX-9's back seats.
Door pockets are on the small side, but there’s a giant centre console bin, shelves built into the dash for wallets and phones, plus two cupholders up front, two in the second row, and four in the third row.
As for the boot space, with the third row seats in place there’s 241 litres (VDA) of cargo capacity and with them folded flat into the floor the luggage room opens up to 552 litres.
These figures may seem small compared to capacities of other SUVs, but Toyota says these measurements are calculated up to the beltline of the Kluger which is the top of the rear seats, while other carmakers sometimes measure to the roof.
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.
There are three grades in the Kluger range: the GX, the GXL and the Grande. You can have them all with either a V6 petrol engine or petrol hybrid combination. You have a choice of all-wheel drive and front-wheel drive with the V6 engine, whereas the hybrid is exclusively all-wheel drive.
How much then? Well, for the front-wheel drives the GX lists for $47,650, the GXL is $56,850, and the Grande is $68,900. For the all-wheel drive versions just add $4000 to each of those prices.
The hybrids cost more. So, the GX is $54,150, the GXL is $63,350, and the Grande hybrid is $75,400.
Coming standard on the GX is, LED headlights, 18-inch alloys, fabric seats, an 8.0-inch media display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a proximity key with push button start, leather steering wheel, a six-speaker stereo, and air con for the front and second row – or if you have the hybrid you’ll get three-zone climate control.
The GXL also scores roof rails, a power tailgate, sat nav, three-zone climate, plus heated driver and front passenger seats.
Leather seats don’t appear until you step up to the Grande, which also has ventilated front seats, an 11-speaker JBL stereo, head-up display, moonroof, gesture tailgate and 20-inch wheels, which are way too shiny.
Is the Kluger good value? Mainly yes, with a little bit of no here. The Kluger costs less than its Mazda CX-9 rival, but doesn’t get as many great features.
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).
The big news is there’s a hybrid Kluger now and it makes so much sense when you consider these seven seaters will spend most of their time in traffic and carparks where they can move silently along in electric vehicle mode.
The hybrid Kluger isn’t a plug-in type of hybrid, instead its batteries recharge when you apply the brakes when you’re driving. The battery then powers the electric motors. There are two motors on the front axle and one on the rear, which work together with a 2.5-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine.
The power output of the petrol engine is 142kW and the electric motors make 184kW. The engine torque is 242Nm. The front electric motors are able to produce 134Nm and 270Nm, while the rear can make 121Nm.
The hybrid Kluger is all-wheel drive.
As with the previous Kluger there’s also a V6 version which is more affordable than the hybrid variant, and comes with all-wheel drive or front-wheel drive.
The 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine makes 218kW/350Nm and shifting gears is an eight-speed automatic transmission.
The braked towing capacity for all Klugers is 2000kg (750kg unbraked).
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.
Toyota says that after a combination of open and urban roads the petrol V6 should use 8.7L/100km for the two-wheel drive and 8.8-8.9L/100km for the all-wheel drive. That’s not bad, although I didn’t have the opportunity to test this claim at the pump myself.
As for the hybrid, Toyota says you should get 5.6L/100km. I lived with the hybrid variant doing the school drop offs and shopping trips, with motorways thrown in, and after starting with a full tank and covering 179.2km, it took 14.18 litres to fill it back up.
That’s 7.9L/100km, which is excellent given I’d covered a lot of hilly urban terrain and at times the boot was fully loaded up.
The capacity of the V6 petrol’s fuel tank is 68 litres while the hybrid’s is 65 litres. The hybrid needs to run on 95 RON premium petrol while the V6 is happy with 91.
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 Kluger is one of the best driving large SUVs in this price range, up there with the CX-9, but less sporty feeling and more comfortable. So much better than the previous Kluger, this new-gen SUV has an outstanding, composed and comfortable, ride.
My pick is the hybrid variant. The electric motors make the driving experience even smoother and more enjoyable, allowing the Kluger to move around silently at lower speeds while providing little electric shoves when you dab the accelerator.
The V6 provides a more ‘old-school’ driving experience, which suited the twisty country roads I piloted it along. Two-wheel drive didn’t feel hugely different from all-wheel drive, but on a wet road those front wheels will struggle to maintain traction under harder acceleration. Steering is super light, accurate and direct.
All-wheel drive isn’t vital, but I’d get it for extra traction and stability if you can afford it. If you’re concerned about the fuel usage of the all-wheel drive compared to the two-wheel drive then you might surprised by the mileages in the section below.
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.
At the time I wrote this review the new Kluger hadn’t received it’s ANCAP score, but we’ll update this once the rating has been announced.
All Klugers come standard with AEB, including pedestrian and cyclist detection. There’s also blind spot warning, lane keeping assistance, rear cross traffic alert, and adaptive cruise control, as well as front and rear parking sensors.
For child seats there are three top tether anchor points and two ISOFIX locations in the second row.
It’s disappointing to see, however, that the Kluger’s curtain airbags don’t cover the third-row occupants.
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.