Long-term test review: Mazda CX-5

Update: Mazda CX-5 SUV’s stunning paintjob still wows us, and it could be the best red paint on any carVerdict4The CX-5 is an excellent car to drive, and one of the better-looking SUVs on the road. But it really stands out with Mazda’s beautiful Soul Red Crystal metallic paint. We think this £800 optional extra is well worth the money because it’s probably the best red paint on any car.

Mileage: 14,236
Economy: 40.9mpg

One element of the CX-5 that has impressed many members of the Auto Express team during its time with us is the Soul Red Crystal metallic paint.

Mazda has a long history with the colour red, but is especially proud of this particular finish. The firm calls it its “most captivating colour ever”, and says it was created to deliver exceptional depth and reflective quality.

• Best SUVs on sale in 2018

And I think it’s hit the jackpot. When the sun is shining, as it has done for much of this summer, our compact SUV looks resplendent and stands out from the sea of monochrome cars flooding our roads. It’s partly helped by the styling; the CX-5’s bluff front and boldly crafted flanks lend themselves to extrovert colours.

So it’s sobering to see the rest of the palette. Deep Crystal Blue Mica and Eternal Blue Mica add a dash of colour, but the other five options are a conservative mix of black, silver and grey. Of course, this is very much in line with the fashion at present, and Mazda isn’t alone here.

While I appreciate that it makes sense for the firm to focus on its signature colour, I think its whole outlook of making cars that are really enjoyable to drive is well suited to a brighter, more vivid choice of paintjobs.

And our Sport Nav car’s aesthetic appeal is boosted by the 19-inch gunmetal alloys. Those wheels are looking even better after a valet as part of the SUV’s first service at Underwoods Mazda, in Colchester, Essex. The CX-5 had recently hit the 12,500-mile mark, and it’s now back to its best following the check-up.

Our only niggle has been a loose plastic panel in the driver’s footwell. It’s currently in the boot, waiting to be reattached.

Update: Mazda CX-5

Diesel still takes centre stage in Mazda CX-5 SUV despite the market shift towards petrol power

Mileage: 12,512
Economy: 44.0mpg

You may have read recently about how Mazda is intent on bucking the industry trend, and is pinning its hopes on diesel. “Diesel engine technology is this company’s strength,” research and development exec Kiyoshi Fujiwara was quoted as saying. “There’s no need to stop.”

And if our experience with the CX-5’s 2.2-litre engine is anything to go by, that’s understandable. This 148bhp unit is the lower-powered of the two diesel options available in the SUV, but it’s a really solid performer and is our pick of the range.

It delivers sufficient punch, taking the car from 0-62mph in 9.4 seconds. But it’s through the gears where the engine really excels, ensuring the CX-5 always feels comfortable accelerating and overtaking.

Ally that to communicative steering and plenty of grip, and you have an SUV that relishes being driven briskly. And although our fuel economy of 44.0mpg is short of the official claimed 56.5mpg figure, it’s still reasonable enough.

As well as the engine, we’re impressed with our Sport Nav car’s specification. It’s the higher of two trim levels available – the other is SE-L Nav – and includes upgrades such as black leather upholstery, 19-inch gun-metal alloys and a Bose premium sound system. The latter’s woofer sits under the boot floor and did cause concern when I saw it was fitted where a spare wheel would be.

But if, like me, you’re one of those people who prefers the reassurance of travelling with a spare, fear not: a spacesaver is available for £300 extra to fit round it.

Update: Mazda CX-5

Our long-term Mazda CX-5 SUV fared well on recent trip to the tip, but the sat-nav is far from perfect

Mileage: 9,160
Economy: 48.2mpg

What do we think of our Mazda CX-5 so far? It’s certainly not rubbish, even though the car on our fleet has spent plenty of time at the recycling centre recently.

My daughters Isla (8) and Erin (5) were only too happy to lend a hand when a loft clearance necessitated a number of trips to the tip. And while the girls worked hard, the real star of the show was our Soul Red SUV.

A luggage capacity of 506 litres is average for the mid-size SUV class, but proved more than sufficient and kept the trips to the dump to a minimum. The durable carpet survived the onslaught unscathed, too.

Predictably, the CX-5 excelled on a long trip to my parents’ home in Scotland, with the torquey diesel engine dispatching the 500 miles with ease, and it’s averaging 48.2mpg overall. Plus, once it was time to come off the motorway, the Mazda’s agile handling kept me happy on country roads.

However, the trip did throw up one or two minor frustrations. The sat-nav, which we’ve criticised for slow loading previously, was thrown into confusion by the A556 dual carriageway near Bowdon, Altrincham, Greater Manchester, which opened in March 2017. It simply didn’t know the road existed – less than ideal in an unfamiliar part of the country.

This is a real pity, because when the system is on form, the mapping is clear and it’s pretty intuitive to use. But the flaws are a frustration, and it was noticeable respondents in our Driver Power 2018 survey marked it down.

The windscreen washer capacity isn’t the most generous, either. Bad weather meant the wipers were in regular use in Scotland, so we had to refill it twice. It was also unfortunate that while the USB ports can charge an iPhone, they couldn’t cope with iPads, but the CX-5 isn’t alone in this flaw.

Mazda CX-5: second report

Mazda CX-5 SUV is impressing, despite sat-nav eccentricity

Mileage: 6,915
Economy: 40.7mpg

Our Mazda CX-5 is undoubtedly a great car to drive. But does the SUV always know where it’s going? Some sat-nav foibles of late have caused me to invest in a good, old- fashioned atlas as well as pay more rigorous attention to Waze on my phone.

Our Sport Nav model comes with the MZD-Connect set-up as standard, but its behaviour has been rather puzzling so far. Firstly, I noticed the routing suddenly became a bit unusual in London, as I started being directed up random back streets. But I realised something really was up when it tried to take me to Coventry without using a motorway.

A check of the settings saw it had defaulted to using the shortest route rather than the fastest. I switched it back to fastest, only for it to return to shortest again soon after. Strange.

It also loses the signal now and again, while loading can be a bit hit and miss, too; sometimes it fires up immediately, but on other occasions it can take nearly a minute to crank into life.

It’s a shame, really, because most of the time the nav works well; the mapping is clear and simple to follow and it’s easy to operate via the rotary wheel on the centre console.

In fact, gremlins aside, the infotainment in general gets a big thumbs-up. The standard Premium Bose audio system delivers excellent sound quality, while the positioning of the seven-inch colour touchscreen on top of the dash is more logical, and safer, than being integrated lower down.

And of course, it also displays images from the reversing camera in tandem with guidelines for suggested manoeuvres to ensure there are no mishaps in supermarket car parks.

In addition, our car comes with a head-up display, which shows directions, speed and speed limit in your line of sight at all times. It’s the kind of tech you might consider gimmicky if you’ve never used it, but once you have you realise what an asset it is.

The CX-5’s real trump card, though, is just how enjoyable it is to drive. Part of this can be attributed to how light it feels on its feet; with a 1,594kg kerbweight, it is 355kg less than the Ford Edge I ran last year, for example.

Ally this with the know-how that comes with years of developing the MX-5 roadster and you have a car that really does enjoy being driven robustly on the kind of tight B-roads that are the undoing of taller, flabbier SUVs.

The 2.2 four-cylinder diesel engine is muscular enough but refined, too, and the six-speed manual box is a good match, delivering an engaging driving experience. Even if you’ve been directed off the beaten track by that wacky nav.

Mazda CX-5: first report

The arrival of the Mazda CX-5 SUV has injected some Japanese flair into our test fleet

Mileage: 5,277
Economy: 41.1mpg

When I found out that the latest family SUV to join our test fleet would be the Mazda CX-5, I couldn’t help but think of all my favourite things about the country it comes from.

From clothing to cuisine to comics, there’s so much to love about Japanese products. I’m always happy with a bento box for lunch, and my new running shoes make burning off the calories that bit easier afterwards. And it’s the same story with cars, as the Japanese-built models I’ve run over the years have been brilliant.

The previous Mazda I ran for Auto Express was the 3 hatch, and I was looking forward to finding out how the latest model compared with the fun-to-drive hatchback.

You can see the connection when you hop in, but the driving experience is what really impresses. Despite being a high-riding SUV, the CX-5 is still great from behind the wheel; the grippy chassis, well weighted controls and slick six-speed manual gearbox all contribute to a superb driving experience.

The engine is another highlight. It’s a 2.2-litre four-cylinder diesel that’s not only punchy and powerful, but quiet and smooth as well. Thanks to refinements made with this new model, it’s a great companion for the many motorway miles I do every week – it’s quiet at a cruise, and the performance allows me to overtake slower traffic at a moment’s notice.

I’m also glad to be back in a car with non- adaptive cruise control. The active systems I’ve tried don’t work on British motorways, as other road users are too unpredictable for a computer to keep up with. With the normal cruise, I can use my own judgement about when I’ll need to change my speed. I’ve been enjoying the agile CX-5’s handling away from the motorway as well, since it rides reasonably well on bumpy roads. It’s not as smooth as the best cars in its class, such as the Skoda Kodiaq, though.

Still, I’m glad that the CX-5 has a similarly pleasing driving position to my previous Mazda 3, which in the SUV is low enough to be immediately comfortable to sit in, but not so low as to hamper visibility. It’s not quite so easy to see out of the back of the car, but the reversing camera on our model takes the stress out of parking.

The Mazda’s interior has been really well thought out. The control weights, button placement and useful boot shape are good examples. The steering wheel and gearlever are placed exactly where you want them, too. New G-Vectoring technology on this model is designed to supplement this, improving long-distance comfort by subtly changing engine torque while cornering – and we’re keen to see how well it works over our time with the car.

As with my trendy tracksuit, the CX-5 also has a very Japanese exterior look. The sharp lines remind me of the art style in one of my favourite animated films, Akira. This is one of the most interesting-looking cars in its class, and while – as with sushi – it won’t be to everyone’s taste, I’m very much a fan.

*Insurance quote from AA (0800 107 0680) for a 42-year-old in Banbury, Oxon, with three points.

Key specs

  • Model: Mazda CX-5 2.2 SkyActiv-D 150ps Sport Nav
  • On fleet since: October 2017
  • Price new: £29,695
  • Engine: 2.2-litre 4cyl turbodiesel, 148bhp
  • CO2/tax: 132g/km/£140
  • Options: Soul Red Crystal metallic paint (£800)
  • Insurance group: 19
  • Quote*: £918
  • Mileage: 14,326
  • Economy: 40.9mpg
  • Any problems?: None so far

For an alternative review of the latest Mazda CX-5 SUV visit our sister site carbuyer.co.uk

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