We’ve been driving the new, improved Mazda CX-5 – still one of the best mid-sized SUVs on the market
Originally launched in 2017 and treated to a refresh for 2022, Mazda has done just enough to keep the CX-5 competitive against fierce new opposition from the likes of the latest Kia Sportage, Hyundai Tucson and Toyota RAV4.
At first glance the “new” CX-5 is almost identical to the 2021 model, for this is the most subtle of facelifts.
There are new headlight and taillight clusters, while the front and rear bumpers have been tweaked, along with the front grille.
Elsewhere, there’s a new drive mode selector on selected models and an expanded range of safety features, while Mazda claims there’s reduced road noise and enhanced driving dynamics.
There are five trim levels: SE-L, Newground, Sport, Sport Black and GT Sport. Newground is new for 2022, featuring a slightly more rugged look with front and rear silver underguard trims matched to silver lower body side skirts, black door mirrors and 19-inch black diamond cut alloy wheels, plus subtle lime green accents in the grille, which are replicated inside.
Priced from £28,145, the CX-5 range is certainly not at the bargain end of the sector. In fact, the top-of-the-range GT Sport, complete with a 2.5-litre petrol engine and all-wheel drive, is the wrong side of £38,000 all in with optional extras.
That said, it’s hard to fault the build quality, while the overall feel is nudging premium rivals such as the Audi Q3 and Volvo XC40.
Inside, the spacious interior is attractive and intuitively laid out. However, it is traditional and light years away from the dual-screen infotainment set-up on the new Sportage, for instance.
The seats are comfortable and supportive, there’s a commanding driving position and there’s space for five adults with plenty of rear leg and headroom. The boot is a useful 510 litres, expanding to 1,626 litres with the rear seats folded.
As I say, the technology isn’t class-leading, but easy to use and it’s good to see that Mazda has stuck with a rotary controller (next to the gear-shifter) for accessing frequently used infotainment functions – no need for all that distracting swiping, pinching and finger-dabbing on the 10.25-inch screen.
Mind you, it’s a while since I’ve used a daisy wheel for letter/number selection on a sat nav.
I tested three versions of the new CX-5 – the flagship 2.5-litre (191bhp) petrol model with 6-speed automatic gearbox and all-wheel drive, plus the entry-level 2.0-litre (163bhp) petrol and 2.2-litre (148bhp) diesel – both front-wheel drive and blessed with Mazda’s slick six-speed manual box.
The CX-5 is at its dynamic best on challenging country roads, where it’s also surprisingly agile for a substantial crossover. And of course, it will also cruise comfortably on the motorway.
But here’s the thing, there’s no need to pay extra for the big 2.5-litre engine. When pushed, it’s a tad vocal, and there isn’t as much pulling power as you’d expect. Economy is also disappointing, while the auto box is a little hesitant at times and tends to hold onto lower gears under acceleration.
If you’re not put off by diesels, then opt for that engine option because it delivers the best combination of performance and economy. That said, the basic petrol works well too, and the sporty six-speed manual is a gem.
It’s worth mentioning that I tested out the big petrol variant’s all-wheel drive. Simply select the Off-Road setting on the new Mazda Intelligent Drive Select (Mi Drive) beside the gear lever and off it goes.
With standard road tyres, it can cope with a muddy field and the raised ride keeps the car clear of trouble, but we’re not talking serious all-terrain capability.
Verdict: The new Mazda CX-5 is starting to show its age when it comes to technology and the lack of hybrid powertrain options, but it’s still one of the best handing SUVs on the market. Distinctive, stylish, comfortable, practical and well built, it’s a class act.