Mazda CX-5 used car review

Side view of a red Mazda CX-5 car parked at the beach

Greg Hill

Posted September 15, 2017

RACV rates the strong-selling 2012-16 Mazda CX-5 SUV.

Mazda CX-5’s distinctive styling has won plenty of hearts but it is a lot more than just a pretty face. This Japanese-built, med­ium-size SUV is a premium-grade vehicle that comfortably meets the needs of buyers in space and cabin layout as well as boasting excellent road manners and some off-road ability.

While there were early mechanical issues, Mazda Australia sorted them out quickly and CX-5 now has an excellent reputation for reliability.


In this article

A best-seller

Subtle but effective makeover

Happy owners

Front side view of a white Mazda CX-5 2012 car parked in a street outside of a building

A best-seller

Since its release in 2012, CX-5 has been one of this country’s best-selling SUVs, so there’s plenty of choice on the used market. The fundamentals have stayed the same, with minor tweaking and improvements along the way. Depending on which of four variants you choose, there are three engine choices, a manual transmission option and front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. The most popular version has been the mid-level Maxx Sport all-wheel-drive automatic, which is followed closely by the slightly better equipped Grand Tourer (GT), with an even split between petrol and diesel models.

The first petrol versions had an economical but slightly lacklustre 2.0-litre petrol engine and an overzealous six-speed automatic transmission. The 2.2-litre diesel, with its 420Nm of torque at 2000rpm, was a much stronger performer and extremely fuel-efficient but also had its share of initial problems.

In early 2013 Mazda upgraded the all-wheel-drive petrol models to a 2.5-litre engine and the automatic was recalibrated, making it a much more desirable package. It’s still not the fastest or most powerful SUV on the market but delivers what most buyers want for everyday use. The lighter-weight two-wheel-drive versions retained the 2.0-litre engine with improvements to the performance and throttle response.


Front side view of a red Mazda CX-5 2015 car parked next to the Yarra River

Subtle but effective makeover

CX-5 had a makeover in early 2015 with a host of subtle changes that made a noticeable difference. Chassis and suspension upgrades firmed up the ride, reduced body roll and sharpened the handling. It received extra equipment and safety features, and the introduction of Drive Selection improved performance response. Better use of the inter­ior space provided a little more rear leg and head room.

Work to reduce cabin noise and vibration also gave CX-5 a more refined feel, but some mechanical and road noise can still be heard.

Most owners will appreciate CX-5’s high-riding SUV configuration for its ease of entry and the commanding forward view from the comfortable driving position, rather than any off-road ability that comes with the extra ground clearance and the on-demand all-wheel-drive system. Rearward vision is not quite as good, so it is worth looking for models with a reversing camera. The space-saver spare wheel doesn’t help its off-road credentials either.

Depending on operating conditions, the engine oil level in some early diesels tended to ‘grow’ due to soot blocking the particulate filter, which in turn caused the computer to richen the fuel mixture to compensate. This overfuelling made its way into the sump and diluted the engine oil. Reprogramming the computer fixed the problem, but even so diesel models built before February 2013 might be best approached with a little caution as, depending on the extent of oil contamination, there is a slight chance the engine’s longevity could have been compromised. Like all diesel engines employing a particulate filter, a good freeway run every couple of weeks to generate extra heat to clean out the system is advisable, as constant short trips can clog the filter.


Happy owners

Otherwise, most owners seem very happy with CX-5. The main problems RACV vehicle inspectors find are normal wear items, as well as issues arising from a lack of servicing.

While checking the body for signs of accident damage and poor-quality repairs, also look underneath for indications of regular off-road use.


2012-16 Mazda CX-5


All CX-5s have a 5-star ANCAP rating but look for models with the optional active safety features pack.

Fuel consumption

2.5L petrol: 8.0-10.5L/100km.
2.0L petrol: 6.5-9.5L/100km.
2.2L diesel: 6.5-8.0L/100km.


Maximum is 1800kg with a 120kg towball load.

The competition

Honda CR-V, Subaru Forester, Toyota RAV4, Nissan X-Trail.

Price range

Maxx 4x2-p (2012-16): $19,000-$28,100
Maxx Sp 4x4-p (2012-16): $21,900-$34,300
Maxx Sp 4x4-d (2012-16): $23,900-$37,100
Gr Tourer 4x4-p (2012-16): $25,000-$40,100
Gr Tourer 4x4-d (2012-16): $26,900-$42,900
Akera 4x4-p (2013-16): $31,500-$43,100
Akera 4x4-d (2013-16): $32,500-$45,900

Approximate Glass’s Guide prices for automatic models