Keeping up with the Joneses used to be an expensive game, especially when it came to SUV’s. With the Japanese now stepping up their game, good SUVs have never been so easy and affordable to come by.
The medium size SUV segment has expanded almost exponentially over the past 10 years and nearly every manufacturer now offers an SUV for the masses. Mazda was a little late to the game with the CX-5, only launching the pint-sized SUV in early 2012. That’s despite the larger CX-7 and CX-9 and co-branded Tribute existing for some six years before it.
In spite of making a fashionably late entry into the segment, Mazda has gone to great lengths to ensure the CX-5 is a sales hit. I jumped behind the wheel of the entry level front-wheel-drive petrol model to see just how impressive the Japanese SUV was.
The base model Maxx can be spotted in traffic thanks to steel wheels (instead of alloy wheels) and no fog lights. Despite missing out on alloy wheels and fog lights, the CX-5 Maxx still certainly looks the part. The infamous KODO design philosophy oozes from every panel and makes some of the competition look like second-class citizens.
Advanced safety features have filtered down the ranks to medium size SUVs with blind spot monitoring, high beam assist and active headlights available at the upper end of the CX-5 range. The entry level CX-5 Maxx on the other hand still gets stability control, hill hold assistance, tyre pressure monitoring and six airbags as standard.
Inside the cabin it’s all about space and versatility. There are cup holders in the front, rear and all doors, in addition to storage space behind the front seats. The boot has a heightened lip that helps stop luggage moving around. An option that surrounds the entire boot with plastic lining is also available for dog owners (or messy children), as fitted to our test vehicle.
Head and legroom in the front and rear is great. My only grumble with rear seating is the enclosed cavity you need to step over when getting in and out. It can be a little cumbersome at times. The other grumble I had was the cheap plastic steering wheel. Leather wrapping is a premium feature reserved for higher models, which makes sense, but having so much plastic in the hand at any time cheapens the experience.
Passenger entertainment comes in the form of a four-speaker sound system. Capable of streaming music over Bluetooth, or while directly connected using USB or auxiliary, the sound system is good, but could be better. Extra speakers would help increase sound quality and cabin coverage.
Mazda’s stop/start system works very effectively and plays an active part in minimising fuel use. The system offers power almost immediately upon start up and uses intelligent controls to make sure you are never without air conditioning for extended periods or suffer take off lag, which can occur when you need to leave from a stationary position in a hurry.
Surprisingly the CX-5 can also be rewarding to drive. Around town and on the back roads of country Australia, the CX-5 always manages to excel. The light but communicative steering, along with adequate throttle response means the driver is always in charge of the vehicle. The ride errs on the side of firm, but helps instil the sporty nature in the vehicle.
Normally a small 2.0-litre engine in a car this size can leave it feeling asthmatic and rev happy. The CX-5 does away with this issue by coming in at a very slim kerb weight of 1,443kg. That’s over 100kg lighter than the Toyota Rav4 and Ford Kuga.
This of course translates to less money spent at the petrol bowser with the CX-5 averaging a meagre fuel use of 6.4L/100km. Under the bonnet is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder naturally aspirated engine that produces a modest 114kW and 200Nm of torque.
The CX-5 Maxx comes with either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic gearbox. Given the price difference of $2,000 between the two gearboxes (with the latter being more expensive), the automatic is worth the investment. Sharp gearshifts and clever shift logic are among the benefits.
Parking is made easy by electric steering that limits the need for excessive driver input and a reversing camera. In fact, front and rear vision out of the entire car is excellent.
Starting from $27,880 for the six-speed manual Maxx, a six-speed automatic is available for an additional $2,000. This pricing places the CX-5 right in the thick of the medium size SUV segment.
Complete with a three year, unlimited kilometre warranty, the Mazda CX-5 is one of the best SUVs available today. You no longer have to spend mega bucks for a good quality SUV that is designed to turn heads.