It was more spacious than its rivals, it handled well for an SUV, and it had a smart design that helped it stand out from the crowd.
Nine years later, the second generation Mazda CX-5 has just been given a mid-life refresh. The already good looks have been tweaked very slightly, while inside there’s a larger, sharper screen. Another change is the option of a 2.5 litre petrol engine as an alternative to the 2.0 litre petrol and 2.2 litre diesel CX-5 buyers are familiar with.
This comes with 194bhp and turns the Mazda CX-5 into a fairly speedy beast, with 0-62mph coming up in 9.2 seconds. Clever cylinder activation technology means it shuts off two of the four cylinders when cruising speed is achieved in order to improve fuel economy. The result is an average of 35.5mpg – not bad for a big four-wheel drive car.
I spent a week with this flagship 2.5 litre engine with all-wheel-drive in top spec GT Sport trim.
Spacious and smart interior
The interior layout is centred on a 10.25 in screen. Unlike the majority of rivals this is not a touchscreen. You’ll poke and prod at it in vain. Instead you operate the controls using a rotary dial down in the centre console.
Some people may like touchscreens but I much prefer this style of control. It’s more tactile, you can operate it without taking your eyes off the road, and you won’t accidentally turn the sat nav off instead of changing the radio station because you hit a bump in the road.
Not that bumps in the road are a big deal to the CX-5. One of its biggest strengths is its suspension. It rides beautifully, making imperfect roads feel smooth as billiard tables. The smooth ride is coupled with excellent noise suppression. At 70mph the cabin of the CX-5 is exceptionally quiet, making it a fantastic car for long distance drives.
Another of the Mazda’s great strengths is its space. Rear passengers have loads of head and leg room, and the 506 litre boot feels very capacious indeed.
A great long distance cruiser
During my week with the CX-5 I was all over the place with work jobs and other errands. From a long tour up to Highland Perthshire to a whizz round some Fife backroads and a run up the A92 to Arbroath, it took all roads and weather conditions in its stride.
The Mazda CX-5 can be had in front or all-wheel drive. At this time of year it doesn’t matter much which one you have but in a Scottish winter I would definitely be reassured by the extra traction four-wheel drive brings. Winter is also when the heated seats and heated steering wheel in my top spec version would come into their own.
Unlike most rivals, Mazda isn’t yet going down the electrification route with most of their cars. There’s no electric or hybrid CX-5 (though Mazda do an excellent fully electric car called the MX-30). Instead Mazda are relying on an army of buyers who prefer petrol or diesel engines to electrified powertrains. Whether they’re right or wrong only time will tell.
I came away very impressed with the CX-5. It’s great looking, extremely spacious, as refined as a luxury saloon, and in four-wheel drive has enough off road capability to get you to a muddy campsite or up a forestry track.
If it were my money I would go for a diesel over the petrol. The low down power of diesel suit SUVs better. And Mazda seems to be the only car maker left who use tiny old fashioned sunroofs instead of big panoramic glass roofs.
Those minor gripes aside there’s very little to criticise here. The Mazda CX-5 is reasonably priced, looks terrific, has tonnes of space inside, and is beautifully comfortable and refined.
It’s a car that’s very difficult not to love.
0-62mph: 9.2 seconds
Top speed: 121mph
CO2 emissions: 182g/km