Mazda CX-5 2018 review

RoyalAuto magazine

Driving refinement has been improved and prices have dropped in a mid-life upgrade for Australia’s best-selling SUV, Mazda CX-5.

Report: Greg Hill.
August 2018.


TALKING POINTS

  1. Strong pulling power of the diesel.
  2. Excellent safety levels across the range.
  3. Uncompetitive warranty.

For the past few years Australians have bought more SUVs than passenger cars, and the mid-2018 sales figures suggest this trend is continuing. The mid-size Mazda CX-5 has been playing its part by being the country’s most popular SUV for five years in a row.  

Staying ahead of the pack is a tough job when competing against so many high-quality vehicles. And it’s made even harder with new or upgraded models arriving regularly. So Mazda has updated CX-5 and reduced prices across the range, a move which has added a touch more polish and hip-pocket appeal to what was already a refined and very capable package.  

The 12-model line-up remains the same, with five equipment grades, three engine options and choices between front-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive and manual or automatic transmissions, although the only manual is the entry-level Maxx with a 2.0-litre petrol engine and front-wheel-drive, for $28,690 plus on-road costs.  


Maxx Sport is expected to be the highest-selling version as it is available in a 2.0-litre petrol FWD ($33,990), a 2.5-litre petrol AWD ($36,990) and a 2.2-litre diesel AWD ($39,990).   The Touring, GT and Akera models can only be optioned with either the 2.5-litre petrol engine or the diesel, and are AWD only. We drove the range-topping Akera diesel which at $49,190 is $800 less than its predecessor. 

The 2018 model-year changes are subtle and focused mainly on engine refinement, improved efficiency and better performance. A noticeable difference is the stronger performance of the diesel. It features a redesigned combustion chamber to minimise energy loss, new fuel injectors for more precise control of the multi-stage combustion, and a better water flow control system for more efficient warm-up. A new two-stage twin-turbo with variable turbine geometry helps lift the maximum power output from 129kW to 140kW, while peak torque jumps from 420Nm to a healthy 450Nm. The engine is quieter, the response feels stronger down low and its delivery remains solid and linear for excellent drivability. At the same time, improvements in fuel consumption have seen the official figure drop five per cent to 5.7L/100km. 

Smaller and less obvious modifications have been made to the petrol engines. Minor tweaking squeezes an extra 1kW from the 2.0-litre engine. Changes to the 2.5-litre petrol engine add another 1Nm to its maximum torque, while the introduction of an almost seamless cylinder deactivation system, which shuts down two cylinders under light load such as cruising, is designed to reduce fuel consumption. The official figure is now 7.4L/100 km, a reduction of a mere 0.1L/100km.  The benefits of cylinder deactivation systems, however, tend to vary depending on operating conditions and driving styles. Producing similar power but less torque than the diesel, the 2.5-litre petrol engine performs well but does need to be worked over a broader rev range. Using the Sport mode holds the automatic transmission in the lower gears longer for a more responsive feel, however the noise level becomes more noticeable.

Equipment-wise, the upgrade is minor and concentrates on the higher-spec models. The main additions are a 360-degree all-round view display for Akera, to help when reversing or parking, while the Touring model gets the excellent windscreen Active Driving Display, which previously was only seen on the GT and Akera.

While both cabin and boot space aren’t as roomy as some of its peers, CX-5 is still a practical size with a comfortable, inviting presentation. In the Akera the premium quality and attention to detail of the fit and finish continues. With the use of soft-touch trim materials, it has the look and feel you only expect from a luxury brand. Mazda’s centrally mounted seven-inch touch-screen produces a clear image, and we’ve found the Mazda MZD infotainment system to be one of the easiest to use, but it does not support Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.


Despite Mazda’s good reputation for reliability, its three-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty falls well short of the five-year and even seven-year cover of many of its competitors. 

CX-5 continues to evolve, albeit in small steps. It remains an appealing package and an involving, enjoyable drive.  For buyers who only do short trips around town and a low number of kilometres each year, the petrol version is still the sensible choice. Improvements to the diesel, however, make it a better drive, especially if you can give it regular highway runs and do enough kilometres each year to justify the higher price. 

RACV, the provider of Victoria's most trusted car insurance

MAZDA CX-5 AKERA AWD DIESEL 

Price
$49,190, plus on-road costs. Price range: $28,690-$49,190. Premium paint $300.
Drivetrain

2191cc four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine, 140kW@4500rpm, 450Nm@2000rpm. Six-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel-drive. 19-inch alloy wheels, 225/55 R19 tyres. Steel space-saver spare.

Fuel consumption

 5.7L/100km. 58-litre tank.

Standard safety

Six airbags. Autonomous emergency braking. Radar cruise control. Blind spot information. Driver attention alert. Lane keep assist. Lane departure warning. Rear-cross traffic alert. 360˚ view monitor. Reversing camera. Front/rear parking sensors. Traffic sign recognition. LED daytime running lights. Auto headlights. Rain-sensing wipers. ISOFIX childseat fittings.

Connectivity

Seven-inch touch-screen. Satellite navigation. Digital/AM/FM radio. Bose premium sound system. USB input. Bluetooth.

Standard features

Two-zone climate control. Leather trim. Powered, heated front seats with driver position memory. Windscreen driving display. Fully adjustable steering column. Adaptive LED headlights. Keyless entry with push-button start. Heated, folding exterior mirrors. Remote powered tailgate. Slide/tilt sunroof.

Towing

1800kg limit (braked trailer), 150kg towball limit.