Australia has been one of the strongest countries for Mazda in terms of market share for the CX-5, and Australia’s affection for the Japanese crossover continues despite the rest of the medium SUV segment growing in size while diversifying engine and drivetrain offerings.
Aussies continue to buy CX-5 in droves even as the current generation nears its sixth birthday. While it’s getting on in age, the CX-5 still represents good value for money and continues to deliver new tech with rolling updates – wireless Apple CarPlay, for example, is coming in 2023 just a year after the facelift dropped.
While most brands have seen strong demand for their products while supply is limited, does the CX-5 still hold up against newer competition in the segment?
We jumped behind the wheel of the adventurous 2023 Mazda CX-5 Touring Active to find out.
The Mazda CX-5 range kicks off from $32,390 plus on-road costs for the entry-level Mazda CX-5 Maxx and runs all the way through to the $53,880 plus on-roads for the top-specification Mazda CX-5 Akera.
The model tested here – the CX-5 Touring Active 2.5 petrol – is priced from $42,880 plus on-roads, while a twin-turbo diesel can be had for an additional $3000, for a recommended retail price (RRP) of $45,880 before on-roads.
Under the skin, Mazda says it has given the CX-5 a stiffer structure and revised the suspension. It also says “road noise has also been greatly reduced, particularly when driving on rough surfaces such as gravel”.
The engine range has carried over unchanged for 2022, meaning buyers are offered a choice between 2.0-litre and 2.5-litre naturally-aspirated petrol, 2.5-litre turbocharged petrol, and 2.2-litre twin-turbo diesel engines.
The model line-up has been trimmed from 16 models to 12. The base Maxx is now only offered with a 2.0-litre engine and front-wheel drive, the diesel Maxx Sport and Touring are gone, and the GT model has been axed.
Buyers are still offered the sportier-looking GT SP for 2022.
The new CX-5 goes head-to-head with the Toyota RAV4, Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage, and Nissan X-Trail. It will also sit below the upcoming rear drive-biased Mazda CX-60, which promises to be a more premium car, from later in 2022.
One of the best things about the Mazda CX-5 is how premium and upmarket the interior feels in comparison to its segment peers.
The fit and finish is excellent and it feels like Mazda has gone to just a little more effort than everybody else to deliver something that isn’t just another SUV.
That’s all true with the exception of the low-rent MZD Connect infotainment system. Originally released with the CX-5 a number of years ago, the Touring Active is the last model in the range walk that gets the smaller, older 8.0-inch infotainment system before it steps up to the significantly better 10.25-inch widescreen Mazda Connect unit.
MZD Connect is driven by a rotary controller on the centre console that drives the screen. It can also be used as a touchscreen when the vehicle is stationary.
While it does come with AM/FM and DAB+ digital radio, all plumbed through a six-speaker sound system, it is clumsy to use and feels lightyears behind the better offering further up the CX-5 range.
To get the better infotainment system you’ll need to spend an additional $6000 to step up to the GT SP. While it comes with more features in general, it’s a big ask if tech is an important thing for your next car purchase.
We do know, however, that Mazda is planning to roll out the higher end infotainment unit with wireless Apple CarPlay across the range in the coming months, which will address this key area for improvement in lower grades.
Infotainment system aside, the colourways used on the seats and throughout the cabin make this latest refresh look and feel more significant than it is.
Outside of that, leg and headroom in the first row is good, while the second row certainly feels a bit more cramped than some of the bigger medium SUVs in the segment.
One of the practicality benefits of the layout, though, is the 40/20/40 split-folding second row. The second row can also be folded from the boot, which often isn’t the case and requires you to lean all the way in to flick the row down.
The cargo blind also intuitively lifts out of the way with the boot, which makes it an effortless item to adjust when you need to load items into the car.
Beneath the cargo floor you’ll find a little bit of extra storage space, along with a space saver spare tyre.
Cargo capacity comes in at 442 litres with the second row in place and expands to 1342 litres with the second row folded.
While there are turbocharged petrol variants available in higher grade CX-5 models, the Touring Active is powered by a choice of either a 2.5-litre naturally-aspirated four-cylinder petrol engine (as tested) or a turbocharged 2.2-litre four-cylinder twin-turbo diesel.
The 2.5-litre petrol produces 140kW of power and 252Nm of torque, while the diesel produces 140kW of power and 450Nm of torque. Fuel consumption is rated at 7.4 litres of fuel per 100km and 5.7L/100km respectively.
Both engines are mated to a constant all-wheel drive system and six-speed torque converter automatic transmission.
Japanese brands can be a bit hit and miss when it comes to ride and handling tuning for the Australian market.
Mazda on the other hand typically does a pretty good job at it – the company aims for the sporty side of comfortable with a nice ride and feel around the city, but also provides sporty feedback when you find a nice stretch of country road.
The CX-5 Touring Active is no exception. The 17-inch alloy wheels offer enough rubber profile to dampen the ride without making it too soft and floaty.
As the speed picks up, the CX-5 is also engaging and dynamic through corners, which fits with Mazda’s sporty brand image.
You’d think the naturally-aspirated engine would be a little disappointing, and while it doesn’t have the surging punch of its turbocharged sibling, it’s still smile inducing and fun when you get stuck into it.
It produces peak power and torque quite high in the rev band (6000rpm and 4000rpm respectively), but it’s sonorous and, being a 2.5-litre as opposed to a 2.0-litre, it has enough torque to shift its 1659kg kerb weight.
Steering feel is good and brake pedal feel is also great. Being mated to a torque converter automatic also means it’s smooth enough when accelerating from a standing start.
The all-wheel drive system is interesting. Unlike some vehicles in this segment that operate as an on-demand all-wheel drive system – predominantly front-wheel drive until the system detects slip on the front axle and engages the rear – the CX-5 constantly sends torque to the rear axle, even when predominantly driving the front wheels.
Under light throttle loads, it’s only a minute amount of torque being sent down the driveline.
This almost acts as a preload for the rear axle, so what when slip is detected at the front it can almost instantaneously redirect up to 50 per cent of available torque to the rear axle.
There’s also an off-road mode that’s designed to simulate a rear differential lock in situations where a rear wheel is lifted off the ground.
The CX-5 performed well during our medium SUV off-road comparison. While not being the best performer, it did a good enough job for light off-roading (think driving to a muddy camp site).
Fuel economy on test wasn’t quite at the stated level of 7.4 litres of fuel per 100km, but it was close enough, hovering around the 8-9L/100km mark.
Mazda has dialled in a sporty level of chassis and body control, so if you do find yourself at a set of corners it’s actually pretty fun to drive.
Body roll is reasonable and there’s an engaging, hunkered down feel behind the wheel. It doesn’t feel anywhere near as big or floaty as something like a Toyota RAV4.
The only downside worth noting is that the engine can sound a little thrashy when you get on the throttle. This is thanks to the peak power and torque bands being 6000rpm and 4000rpm respectively, meaning you’ll be high in the throttle band to reach those peaks when driving enthusiastically.
CX-5 Maxx highlights:
- 17-inch alloy wheels with 225/65 tyres
- Automatic LED headlights
- Rain-sensing wipers
- Power-folding mirrors
- Rear seats
- Reclining function
- 40/20/40 split-fold
- Black cloth seat trim
- 8.0-inch touchscreen (MZD Connect)
- 7.0-inch digital instrument binnacle
- Apple CarPlay, Android Auto
- AM, FM, DAB+ radio
- Electric parking brake with Auto Hold
- Leather-wrapped gear shift knob and steering wheel
- Push-button start
CX-5 Maxx Sport adds:
- Dual-zone climate control
- Paddle shifters
- Rear-view mirror with auto-dimming
- Rear seats with centre armrest storage
- Rear USB charging ports
- Satellite navigation
- Traffic sign recognition
CX-5 Touring adds:
- Body-coloured, heated mirrors with auto-fold
- Black Maztex/Black Grand Luxe synthetic suede trim
- Keyless entry
- Front parking sensors
- Wireless smartphone charging
- Reversible cargo floorboard
CX-5 Touring Active gains:
- 17-inch alloy wheels (grey metallic)
- Green-accented exterior, interior trims
- Side mirror caps in piano black
CX-5 GT SP adds:
- 19-inch alloy wheels (black metallic) with
- 10.25-inch infotainment display (Mazda Connect)
- LED headlights incl. active bending
- Black headliner
- Power tilting, sliding glass sunroof
- Hands-free kick-operated power tailgate
- Heated, powered front seats incl. driver memory
- Black leather seat trim with contrast red stitching
- Bose. premium audio
- 249-watt amplifier
- 10 speakers (including subwoofer)
CX-5 Akera adds:
- 19-inch alloy wheels (brilliant dark)
- Adaptive LED headlights
- Ventilated front seats
- Heated outer rear seats
- Dark Russet Nappa leather seat trim
- Heated steering wheel
- Ambient lighting
- Frameless rear-view mirror
- Real wood trim inserts
- Surround-view cameras
- Unique overhead console
All versions of the Mazda CX-5 wear a five-star ANCAP safety rating based on testing carried out in 2017.
The CX-5 scored 95 per cent for adult occupant protection, 80 per cent for child occupant protection, 78 per cent for pedestrian protection, and 59 per cent for safety assist.
Standard safety features include:
- 6 airbags
- Autonomous emergency braking
- Forward, Reverse
- Pedestrian detection (Forward)
- Blind-spot monitoring
- Rear cross-traffic alert
- Lane departure warning
- Lane keep assist
- Driver attention alert
- Adaptive cruise control (MT) with stop/go (AT)
- Auto high-beam
- Rear parking sensors
- Tyre pressure monitoring
Mazda backs its range with a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty and five years of roadside assist.
Maintenance is required every 12 months or 10,000km – whichever comes first.
The first five services cost a combined $1777 using Mazda’s capped-price service program.
Despite its age, the Mazda CX-5 is still an engaging drive and offers segment-leading fit and finish. It looks and feels nice inside the cabin and gives off those premium vibes.
In Touring Active spec, it’s let down by the dated MZD Connect infotainment system. It’s painful to use at times and feels ancient in comparison to its peers.
The fact Mazda has a larger and significantly better infotainment system available is enough for me to suggest splashing out for the GT SP model instead. It’s a real shame the better infotainment system isn’t available as an option.
If tech isn’t really your jam, the inclusion of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is enough to make the infotainment system bearable in its current form, and outside of the infotainment system, the rest of the car offers all the bells, whistles and safety tech you need.
The fact it isn’t a hybrid isn’t that big of a deal either, because it’s efficient enough before adding in all the extra weight of hybrid components.
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MORE: Everything Mazda CX-5