Toyota Kluger VS Mazda CX-5
- Quiet and refined
- GX is well-specified
- GXL and Grande are pricey for not much benefit
- Deeply ordinary entertainment system
- Sleek styling
- Great value
- Enjoyable to drive
- No Apple CarPlay or Android Auto
- Boot is on the smaller side
- Space saver spare
Like the statues of Easter Island, the Toyota Kluger casts a huge shadow over the Australian motoring landscape. It's a strong seller for Toyota, having been around for ages and is one of three large SUVs in Toyota's armory next to the evergreen Prado and disappointing Fortuner.
Competition, of course, is growing ever more fierce. Hyundai is about to drop a new Santa Fe, the Kia Sorento gets better every year and more manufacturers are joining the party. Most notably, Mazda's CX-9 is also loaded with safety gear and a potent 2.5-litre turbo engine.
The intensity of the battle became apparent in my esteemed colleague Matt Campbell's recent comparison test where the Kluger came last behind the Kia Sorento and Mazda CX-9, thanks largely to Toyota's reluctance to fit the same advanced safety features.
They heard Matt (that's what he reckons, anyway) and recently added some important safety tech to the 2018 Kluger. Let's have a look to see if it's enough.
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
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 2018 Kluger is still a very solid car, with tons of room for you and your things. And your family and their things. It remains way out in front (although the new Santa Fe is lurking menacingly) and the boost in safety gear will help ensure it stays there.
The pick of the range is still the GX which is now a much stronger proposition with the extra safety features. There's little of real interest in the higher models, you can't get better headlights (a curious state of affairs) or a better stereo, so it's difficult to understand the appeal.
The Kluger will serve you and your family well in a solid and unspectacular way. Given most of us like that in our cars, it's easy to see why it's a hit.
Does the Kluger's new safety focus do enough to lure you away from the competition? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
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 Kluger is handsome in a squared-off, what-are-you-looking-at kind of way. That big bluff front-end makes the car look rather bigger than it is, which is quite an achievement because it's pushing two metres wide and 1.73m tall. It's not the longest in its class, though, coming in at 4.89m.
Despite it hailing from the US, it's not too blinged-up, but neither is it CX-9 pretty. Some might find the grille reminiscent of a krill-hoovering whale or Bane from Batman, but it's certainly distinctive.
The cabin is like the exterior - nothing flash, but what you see is what you get. Materials are mostly pretty good and it leans towards thoughtful and practical rather than sexy. Normally I'd say, "just like me", but I'm none of these things.
The interior dimensions of the big bruiser match its eclipse-causing exterior. No matter your size - well, within reason - you'll find plenty of space in the first or second rows. The third row features decent space for kids and very patient adults for short trips.
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.
The big question people ask me about the Kluger is "How many seats are in there?" - every Kluger packs seven seats, with two flip-up seats in the boot. Boot space dimensions are obviously dictated by whether they're up or down. With the seats down, you've got a decent 529 litres, leaving you with good luggage capacity and a cargo cover to keep it all hidden away. Lift the seats with the straps and you've got just 195 litres, about the same as a small hatchback.
Put the second and third rows down and Toyota says you'll have 1117 litres, but I reckon that's conservative.
The cabin is well-planned for families. Every row features cupholders - front and middle rows have a pair each, while those banished to the third row score two each, a total of eight across the car.
Back in the front row, the tectonic split in the dashboard is lined with a soft rubbery material, making it a great place to sling phones, keys and odds and ends. Between the seats is a massive 24-litre storage bin that a small grandparent could ride in. On second thoughts, that's probably not a great idea.
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.
Price and features
There are three models in the Kluger range and how much you pay will vary depending on your thirst for standard features. Our price list features RRP prices and are a guide only - your dealer might be convinced to reduce the cost.
The GX opens with the lowest price - $44,500 for the 2WD and $48,500 for the 4WD. Specs include six-speaker stereo, 18-inch alloys wheels (no 17-inch alloy wheels anymore), front and rear air conditioning, Bluetooth, forward and reverse camera, active cruise control, rear parking sensors, remote central locking, auto headlights, power windows and mirrors and a full-size spare wheel.
The GXL adds an lazy 10 grand in comparison to the GX - $54,950 (2WD) and $58,950 (AWD). The GXL adds a GPS navigation system, DAB digital radio, rear-cross traffic alert, keyless entry and start, partial leather seats, and electric tailgate with separate glass hatch.
The Grande - again, for a further 10 grand plus, is available for $65,646 (2WD) or $69,617 (AWD). You'll get the same satellite navigation as the GXL, 19-inch rims, electric sunroof, rear-seat entertainment system with 9.0-inch screen and Blu-Ray and heated and ventilated front seats.
The entertainment system is powered by a 6.1-inch touch screen in the GX and 8.0-inch in the other models, which also include satellite navigation. The software package is distinctly 2006, painfully so in the GX. The system includes AM/FM radio, CD player and USB. There's no DVD option, however.
Colours include 'Crystal Pearl' (white), silver, 'Rustic Brown' (looks better than it sounds), 'Predawn Grey', 'Rainforest Green', 'Merlot Red' (dahling), 'Deep Red', 'Cosmos Blue' and 'Eclipse Black'. All but the black are $550 extras, which is not modest but not extortionate either.
Toyota's accessories list is well-stocked, with items like nudge bar (which is remarkably well integrated), side steps, cargo barrier, roof racks (no roof rails, though) and various plastic shields, driving lights, floor mats, towbar, parking aids and blind spot monitor.
You're out of luck if you want a Toyota-branded seat belt extender or bull bar.
For comparison, the cheapest CX-9 is $700 less (than the GX), but with a higher spec level, while the fully-loaded Azami is also around $800 cheaper (than the Grande) but - again - better-equipped.
The Korean rivals, while older and slightly smaller, are significant cheaper - the Kia Sorento is priced from $42,990 to $46,990 while the Santa Fe starts at $40,990 and finishes at $57,090 (albeit not a petrol V6). All these cars are well-equipped, with more modern features and tech.
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.
Engine & trans
Across the range, Kluger buyers are treated to the same engine specifications - a 3.5-litre V6 petrol. The big unit devlops 218kW/350Nm to help move the two-tonner.
As to whether the V6 features a timing belt or chain, it's the latter. The engine uses standard (OW-30) oil and 0-100km/h acceleration times are around nine seconds.
Towing capacity is the same for each model, coming in at 700kg for unbraked trailers and 2000kg braked. We haven't yet carried out a towing review.
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.
For its engine size and overall weight, fuel economy is always going to be marginal and continues to be the Kluger's weak spot. For the front-wheel drive, Toyota claims 9.lL/100km on the combined cycle. The heavier 4x4 version recorded an official combined fuel consumption figure of 9.5L/100km.
These mileage figures would be a stretch - in a week of gentle suburban running around in a GX AWD, we copped a figure of 13.7L/100km.
The fuel tank capacity is a handy 72 litres, meaning a decent run between fills, especially when you're out on the open road.
Obviously, without a diesel engine, there are no diesel fuel consumption figures.
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.
You never really forget that the Kluger is a big unit. Ground clearance is a not-inconsiderable 200mm and the turning circle a fairly lazy 11.8 metres. People don't seem to mind that it feels big, and is one of the few in the segment that I feel like I'm climbing up into with my 183cm (six-foot) frame rather than stepping in.
From behind the wheel you can practically see the curvature of the Earth you sit so high. Fire up the near-silent V6 and you're struck by how incredibly smooth it is. Also smooth is the ride - the long travel suspension is probably exactly the same as it is for our American cousins vs, say, Hyundai's habit of setting up its cars for Australia.
Everything is soft and squidgy but in a reassuring way, even the warning beeps aren't too shrill or irritating. The steering is light and with the occasional moment of vagueness but again, it's all very predictable. The brakes, though a bit spongy at the top of the pedal, are more than up to the task of washing off speed in the unlikely event you've overcooked things.
The engine continues unchanged. There's enough horsepower to get you going and hold a decent clip, it will keep you out of trouble and do what Toyotas generally do - look after you. Performance is hardly the key point of the Kluger - it weighs in at a fairly unapologetic 2005kg in AWD form - but, as I say, there's ample power to keep you moving.
We're yet to perform an exhaustive off-road review, but our experience is that the Kluger has reasonable off road ability.
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.
The Kluger arrives from the US with seven airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls and rear parking sensors.
The 2018 Kluger is really about the battery of new safety features in the lower models. Added to the GX and GXL are pre-collision warning, forward AEB, lane departure warning, active cruise and auto high beam. GXLs also pick up a blind spot monitor and rear cross traffic alert. As you can imagine, the Grande has the lot.
There are three top-tether anchors for the middle row as well as two ISOFIX points.
As before, the ANCAP safety rating stands at a maximum five stars, awarded in November 2016.
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.
Toyota's three year/100,000km warranty also comes with a fixed price servicing plan. It seems the Japanese company can get away with the short warranty because of the long-held reputation for reliability and few problems or faults.
I've certainly never heard complaints from Kluger owners, or Toyota owners generally for that matter. Having said that, Hyundai and Kia both smack Toyota out of the park for warranty length and in Hyundai's case, lifetime fixed price servicing.
Service costs are fixed via Toyota's 'Service Advantage' pricing. For the Kluger you'll pay $180 per service for the first 36 months or 60,000km. You'll have to visit the dealer every six months or 10,000km for the stamp in your owners manual, which is always good for resale value.
Few owners report any genuine issues, such as engine problems or tranmission problems.
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