2020 Mazda CX-5 review

Everything you need to know about the MY19 Mazda CX-5 range including pricing, features and safety.

CX 5 05 JPG
Score breakdown
Safety, value and features
Comfort and space
Engine and gearbox
Ride and handling
Things we like
  •   Interior presentation
  •   Active safety
  •   Handling
Not so much
  •   Ride a bit taut

What stands out?

The second-generation CX-5 adheres closely to the very popular original but refines its formula with a roomier, quieter, and more comfortable cabin, and enhanced handling. The mid-sized SUV from Mazda is available in five increasingly well equipped versions, all with active safety that includes auto braking. You can have petrol or diesel power, and front-wheel or all-wheel drive.

What might bug me?

How often you have to drop the car off for service. It’s every 10,000km (or 12 months), which could mean twice a year if you drive a lot.

Dealing with a flat tyre when you’re out of town. All CX-5s have a space-saver spare tyre, which limits the recommended top speed to 80km/h. It is skinnier than the regular tyres on the car, and so has less grip.

What body styles are there?

Five-door SUV-style wagon only.

Some CX-5s drive only their front wheels, but most drive all four wheels.

All-wheel-drive CX-5s use an on-demand AWD system. Most of the time it sends most of the engine’s power to the front wheels, to optimise fuel economy. When the sensor-based, predictive, system thinks the front wheels are about to slip, it sends a greater proportion of power to the rear wheels.

The Mazda CX-5 is classed as a medium SUV, lower priced.

What features does every Mazda CX-5 have?

A sound system with analogue and digital radio receivers, Aux and USB inputs, Bluetooth connectivity for phone calls and audio streaming, and at least six speakers, controllable from a 8.0-inch touchscreen that supports smartphone pairing via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Leather on the gear handle and steering wheel, and controls on the wheel for operating the cruise control, the sound system and your phone.

Headlights and taillights illuminated by LEDs, which are brighter than conventional halogen bulbs and last much longer. Windows tinted against sun penetration.

A reversing camera, and rear parking sensors. Rear cross-traffic alert, which looks to either side behind you when you are reversing, and warns if a vehicle is approaching.

Electronic stability control, which can help you control a skidding car. All new cars must have this feature.

Autonomous emergency braking that works at low and medium speeds and can detect pedestrians day and night, adaptive cruise control and other active safety features including blind-spot monitoring, driver attention alert, lane departure warning and lane keep assist.

Aluminium alloy wheels.

Six airbags. (For airbag placement, and for more on CX-5 safety systems, please open the Safety section below.)

The CX-5 is covered by a five-year warranty, with no limit on distance.

Which engine uses least fuel, and why wouldn't I choose it?

Mazda offers a choice from four engines in a CX-5: two four-cylinder petrols, a four-cylinder turbo-petrol, and a four-cylinder turbo-diesel. It is the 2.2-litre diesel that uses least fuel, consuming 6.0 litres/100km on the official test (city and country combined).

The diesel pulls well and is the engine most suited to country driving. Even around town it accelerates smartly.

One reason not to choose it is because you want more power from your CX-5 through the 2.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine available in the more expensive AWD GT and Akera CX-5s. Shared with the CX-9 and Mazda 6, the powerful turbo engine has claimed fuel economy of 8.2L/100km. This makes it the thirstiest engine in the range, though its performance boost provides excellent acceleration for overtaking and an 0 to 100km/h time of 7.7 seconds, more than a second quicker than diesel (8.8 seconds).

Another reason not to opt for a diesel CX-5 is that it costs more than non-turbo petrol versions, and come only with all-wheel drive and an auto transmission. Another might be that you expect your CX-5 will spend long periods when it does only short trips around town, in which case its particulate filter, which traps diesel soot, could clog. (You need 20 minutes of steady cruising every now and again to clean the filter.)

Of the non-turbo petrol engines, the 2.0-litre supplied with front-wheel-drive CX-5s is the more economical, using about 15 per cent more fuel than the diesel on the official test. It has a lot less punch than the diesel – which you would notice when climbing hills with big loads – but it is still a peach of an engine, spinning keenly and smoothly.

A CX-5 Maxx Sport auto with this engine averaged 10.4 litres/100km over a June 2017 Wheels magazine comparison, ranking among the less thirsty of nine mid-size SUVs reviewed.

The 2.5-litre petrol alternative offered with AWD CX-5s brings you about 20 per cent more thrust than the 2.0-litre, and uses only about 10 per cent more fuel. The extra acceleration available makes overtaking easier.

Apart from the turbocharged petrol, the engines available with this second-generation CX-5 are very like those offered with the first CX-5, but with revisions aimed at making them smoother and (in real-world use) a little more frugal.

The petrol engines and the diesel also save fuel in the city through stop-start technology, which stops the engine when you stop the car, and starts it automatically when you take your foot off the brake to drive away.

The 2.0-litre petrol engine is available with a six-speed manual gearbox or a six-speed automatic. The two bigger engines are available only with a six-speed automatic. Mazda says it expects 95 per cent of buyers will choose an automatic CX-5.

(Power outputs and all other Mazda CX-5 specifications are available from the Cars Covered menu, under the main image on this page.)

What key features do I get if I spend more?

The least costly CX-5 is the Maxx FWD. It comes with the less powerful, 2.0-litre petrol engine, a manual gearbox, front-wheel drive, cloth seats, 17-inch aluminium alloy wheels, and the features common to all CX-5s. An auto gearbox is an extra-cost option. Spend more money and you can have a Maxx AWD, which has the more powerful, 2.5-litre, petrol engine and drives all four wheels.

For a little more than a Maxx AWD you could have instead a Maxx Sport FWD. It reverts to front-drive and the smaller engine, but it comes standard with auto transmission, looks and feels better, and has more equipment.

On the outside the Maxx Sport wears nicer looking alloy wheels. Inside, there is a different, dark cloth on the seats and a more appealing dashboard finish – complete with fake stitching. The touchscreen displays satellite navigation. Rear passengers gain a folding centre armrest that holds a USB outlet, from which they can charge mobile devices. Dual-zone air-conditioning lets the driver and front passenger set preferred ventilation temperatures, and dedicated vents carry cooling or heating to those in the back. Headlights switch on automatically when it’s dark, windscreen wipers operate automatically when it rains, and there are paddle shifters on the steering wheel.

For more money you can have a Maxx Sport AWD, with the 2.5-litre petrol engine. And for a bit more again, you can have AWD and the diesel engine.

The remaining three grades in a CX-5 are Touring, GT, and Sport. None of these is available in FWD: it is auto and AWD only, with either the bigger petrol engine or the diesel.

Choose a CX-5 Touring and you gain parking sensors at the front, and smart-key entry (which lets you unlock the car and drive away without taking the key from your bag or pocket). A flip-up glass panel on top of the dashboard shows a digital speedo near your line of sight, and Mazda’s Traffic Sign Recognition displays (in the instrument cluster) the last speed-limit you passed. Seats are finished in a mix of fake leather (it’s marketed as Maztex) and fake suede. Heated exterior mirrors power-fold automatically against the body when you park, to keep them out of harm’s way.

Spend some more for a CX-5 GT and the interior will be trimmed in real leather (you can choose black or white), with wood on the dashboard and doors. Both front seats are heated and power-adjustable, and the driver’s seat remembers your settings. A more comprehensive head-up display projects speed, blind-spot and navigation details onto a virtual pane on the bonnet. There’s a sunroof, and both it and the tailgate power-open. Headlights adjust to shine into corners, and the wheels are bigger 19-inch items shod with lower-profile tyres that look a bit racier.

The GT also provides an option to upgrade to the more powerful 2.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine.

The most expensive CX-5, the Akera, also gains Nappa leather trim for the seats, genuine timber dash and door inserts, front seat ventilation function, heated steering wheel, a frameless rear-view mirror and rear outer heated seats.

Its headlights use multi-element LEDs, and at night dip for oncoming drivers only those parts of the high beam that might dazzle them – leaving you a bright view of the road to either side.

Does any upgrade have a down side?

CX-5 GTs and Akeras ride a bit more firmly on their lower profile tyres than other CX-5s: there is less cushioning air between you and the road. Replacement tyres are also likely to cost more.

The 2.5-litre turbo-petrol engine that's an option with the GT and Akera versions brings a jump in fuel consumption over the diesel and standard petrol engines.

Nine colours are available on a CX-5, six of them at no extra cost. Soul Red Crystal, Polymetal Grey metallic, and Machine Grey attract a $495 premium.

How comfortable is the Mazda CX-5?

This new CX-5 uses classier looking materials and finishes than the car it replaces, with Mazda placing more emphasis on presentation and refinement.

Even the less costly CX-5s use metal-look finishes prominently, and supply a chunky leather grip for the height and reach adjustable steering wheel. Both front seats are height adjustable too, and the steering is pleasantly light.

Seats are very comfortable, with good upper body support. While the leather trim feels plush, the less slippery cloth seats on the Maxx and Maxx Sport hold you in place more effectively around corners.

Noise levels in the cabin have been reduced significantly over those in the outgoing car, and now are comparable with best alternatives. Tyre noise, in particular, has been hushed, and wind noise is beautifully subdued. Mazda says the new car is as quiet inside at 100km/h as its predecessor was at 80.

Ride comfort is good without being outstanding: on long trips you might wish it were more soothing. The car “always feels primed, when sometimes you just want it to chill,” senior Wheels reviewer Nathan Ponchard wrote of the CX-5 Maxx Sport 2WD.

The 2.5-litre petrol/turbo-petrol engines and the diesel in AWD CX-5s are quiet engines also. Front-wheel drive CX-5s are noisier when you’re accelerating, as you tend to work the 2.0-litre engine harder.

The more expensive CX-5 Touring, GT and Akera come with speed-sign recognition. From time to time it misses or misinterprets a sign, and so it can’t always be relied on.

What about safety in a Mazda CX-5?

Every CX-5 has the mandatory stability control, a reversing camera, rear parking sensors,
autonomous emergency braking
at speeds up to 160km/h, blind-spot monitoring, a rear cross-traffic alert, and six airbags. It is a comprehensive package, focusing jointly on crash protection and crash avoidance.

Two airbags protect the driver and front passenger from a frontal impact; two more are placed outside these front occupants at chest level to protect from a side impact; and curtain airbags, extending down each side at head level, protect occupants front and rear from side impacts.

All CX-5s also have additional active safety features that add protection from distraction or fatigue at highway speeds, including lane-keep assist that warns that you have started to drift out of your lane (perhaps from distraction), also providing gentle steering assistance to bring you back. And a Driver attention alert checks your control inputs over time, warning you to take a break if they become erratic.

Mazda calls the CX-5’s auto braking Smart City Brake Support [Forward/Reverse]. It operates over a broader speed range than the similarly named system in the outgoing CX-5, using camera-based sensors to scan the road ahead for obstacles – typically a car that has slowed unexpectedly, but also a pedestrian. The system works in the same way, albeit only up to 8km/h, when you’re reversing.

Blind-spot monitoring uses rear-facing radar sensors to check for vehicles at your rear corners that might not appear in your mirrors, warning you of them if you attempt to change lanes.

Rear cross-traffic alert uses the same sensors when you’re reversing, checking for vehicles crossing behind you and telling you if you’re about to back into danger.

The CX-5 Maxx Sport, Touring, GT and Akera add auto-on headlights and wipers, which improve visibility and cut fatigue.

The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) rated the second-generation CX-5 at five stars for safety, its maximum, in September 2017.

I like driving - will I enjoy this car?

The CX-5 is one of the more enjoyable mid-sized SUVs to drive, with accurate but not overly sensitive steering and good grip in corners. The GTs and Akeras feel marginally more precise on their lower profile tyres.

All CX-5s drive better than the cars they replace, and not just because they are quieter. Their rooflines are slightly lower, and on all but the Maxx the left and right wheels are marginally further apart, both measures that improve security in cornering. The CX-5 is not as agile as the lighter and lower Mazda3, but it is very surefooted.

The CX-5 joins the Mazda3 and new CX-9 in adopting a Mazda steering technology called G-Vectoring Control Plus. Essentially it reduces power slightly as you turn into a corner, improving grip and feel at the front, and restores it as you steer out. You don’t notice this, and it is hard to assess Mazda’s claim that it helps. But the car does feel good on a pleasant bit of road.

Tweaks to the diesel make it quieter than its predecessor, and it remains strong and responsive. It’s the best of the engines for country driving, pulling effortlessly up hills and building speed swiftly when overtaking.

The 2.5-litre petrol does not haul as hard as the diesel, but its free-revving nature ensures it is fun.

The 2.5-litre turbo-petrol CX-5 promises a more dynamic ride, which we’ll explain more once we’ve had we’ve had a chance to test drive it.

All-wheel drive CX-5s are light-duty off-roaders are effective on gravel or snow-covered roads and gentle tracks. This 2020 model features 'Off-Road Traction Assist' mode enhances off-road functionality when venturing onto rougher terrain. At the push of a button, the AWD system combines with traction control to electronically lock the rear differential, where the CX-5 can then intelligently monitor wheel slip in order to distribute optimal traction to the tyres that have found purchase on solid ground.

While this significantly improves traction, the CX-5 is still limited by its road-going tyres and relatively low ride and clearance heights compared to specialised 4x4 SUVs.

How is life in the rear seats?

Even adults will appreciate the generous rear-seat leg-room, and there is plenty of space for big shoes under the front seats.

The backrest can be unclipped from its regular 24-degree angle and leaned back to 28 degrees, providing an alternative position for child-seats or over long distances.

Big back doors make getting in easy, and once in you get a good view out the side windows.

All but the CX-5 Maxx have dedicated rear air-conditioning vents, and a folding armrest that holds dual USB charge outlets.

How is it for carrying stuff?

Up front there’s a large covered centre console with a small removable shelf, as well as deep, long door pockets.

Pockets in the rear doors are much smaller but could still hold a big water bottle.

The fixed rear seats split-fold 40-20-40, so that you can carry long items while still seating two rear passengers comfortably.

The boot has a small lip that opens to a broad, flat load space. At 442 litres, the luggage area is 10 per cent larger than the previous CX-5s.

The boot also has a clever luggage cover that is strapped to the tailgate, so that it rises when you open the boot.

Short people or those with a low garage roof can set a maximum opening height for the powered tailgate on GTs and Akeras.

Any CX-5 can tow up to 1800kg.

Where does Mazda make the CX-5?

All CX-5s are produced in Japan.

What might I miss that similar cars have?

Not much now the CX-5 has Apple CarPlay/Android Auto and a turbo-petrol option.

Perhaps a full-sized spare tyre. The Subaru Forester, Honda CR-V and Jeep Cherokee get one, and it is available on some Toyota RAV4s.

The ability to seat seven people in a car of similar size, which you can have in a Nissan X-Trail or Mitsubishi Outlander.

Or European flair, as with the Peugeot 3008, Renault Koleos and Volkswagen Tiguan.

Even so, the CX-5 ticks most boxes, which has helped it maintain its place as Australia’s best-selling medium SUV ahead of those above other keen rivals including the Ford Escape, Holden Equinox, Hyundai Tuscson, and Kia Sportage.

I like this car, but I can't choose which version. Can you help?

The CX-5 Touring with the 2.5-litre petrol engine offers a lot of value and versatility. You’ll enjoy the performance lift from the bigger petrol engine, and the AWD will help in sketchy conditions or on trips to the snow. The diesel version is tempting, but costs a lot more and is not as carefree around town.

Are there plans to update the Mazda CX-5 soon?

This second-generation CX-5 went on sale at the end of March 2017.

It received two upgrades in 2018, including one in November that added the 2.5-litre turbocharged engine and Android Auto/Apple CarPlay smartphone pairing to the range.

In March 2020, Mazda added some new features for the 2020 model year including Off-Road Traction Assist for AWD versions, and a bigger 8.0-inch infotainment screen.

Expect a significant update or all-new model by 2022.
Score breakdown
Safety, value and features
Comfort and space
Engine and gearbox
Ride and handling
Things we like
  •   Interior presentation
  •   Active safety
  •   Handling
Not so much
  •   Ride a bit taut


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