Mazda’s “return” to South Africa appears to be proceeding well. The new 2, 3 and 6 models have all been well received by the media and the sales of most of these vehicles are satisfying given the brand’s currently limited footprint. A key model is, however, the slightly older CX-5, reviewed here in pre-facelift form. There is a new CX-5 out, which you can read about here.
It debuted Mazda’s first turbodiesel engine in South Africa when it was launched late last year and is pitched into a very tricky segment of the market where premium badges are very nearly within reach. Mazda, of course, has upmarket ambitions itself, but does the CX-5 live up to its heady price tag?
Ageing gracefullyThe CX-5 has been around since 2012 so we’ve become familiar with its handsome looks. More importantly, it has aged remarkably well. This flagship model rides on large 19-inch wheels and looks suitably upmarket with its neat lines, tinted windows and integrated spoiler. The one area where it has come in for criticism is that it lacks the detailing of some newer rivals. Mazda has already addressed this with the facelifted version launched recently, which features (among other items), LED lamps and gunmetal alloy wheels to endow the flagship CX-5 with a bit more kerb appeal.
Similarly, there’s not much wrong with the cabin except that it lacks in the “wow” department (again addressed with the facelift). The wheelbase is a lengthy 2 700mm, so there’s ample space front and rear without impacting on boot space which is rated at over 400 litres. It is possible to fit a fairly large three-wheel pram into the boot lengthwise, so the boot is well-shaped to accommodate a large variety of family holiday paraphernalia.
The cabin is predominantly black, so it can get a bit sombre in there, but at least there is a standard sunroof to let in some light. Build quality is exceptional and perfectly in line with Mazda’s premium-segment aspirations. The quality of the standard leather upholstery also appears to be at premium segment levels.
Packed with featuresAs befits any flagship vehicle, the CX-5 Akera comes with a long list of standard features. We’ve already mentioned the sunroof, but you also get electric seat adjustment, auto lights and wipers, climate control, rear park assist and cruise control among other items. Infotainment is taken care of by a colour screen on top of the facia, but it’s not particularly user-friendly and lacks satellite navigation – more issues that have been improved with the facelifted model. Keyless entry is another feature that comes as standard, but it is not always very clear whether the vehicle has been locked or not through the beeps this system emits.
With regards to safety, this CX-5 features a full armoury of front, side and curtain airbags, as well as electronic stability control.
Refined and economical engineMazda took a long time before launching its first turbodiesel engine on the South African market last year. The brand’s engineers conducted extensive local testing to make sure that its advanced powertrains would be compatible with local conditions, driving styles and fuel quality. One of the engine’s main features is that it boasts a particularly high compression ratio of 14:1 – an efficiency solution that forms part of Mazda’s “SkyActiv” suite of technologies.
Based on our test, the wait was certainly worth it – the CX-5’s 2.2-litre turbodiesel engine is not only beautifully refined but also powerful and economical. Mated with a slick six-speed automatic transmission, the engine delivers a strong 129 kW and 420 Nm of torque. The latter figure is class-leading and already available at 2 000rpm, so there’s not much in the way of turbolag and low-rev lethargy. Mazda doesn’t quote performance figures, but subjectively speaking the Mazda CX-5 could be the liveliest vehicle in its segment.
Mazda claims a combined cycle fuel consumption figure of 5.7 L/100 km, which is certainly very good. However, during our testing we achieved a possibly more representative figure of 6.67 L/100 km.
Excellent cruiserWith its deeply impressive engine, standard cruise control and spacious, luxurious cabin, the Mazda CX-5 is very well-suited to long-distance family holidays. The interior is a quiet, comfy place and one can feel that great attention had been paid to NVH (noise, vibration, harshness) during its development.
This model features standard all-wheel drive, but don’t plan on doing serious off-roading with the CX-5. The ground clearance is relatively meagre at 150 mm and it is otherwise lacking in serious off-road technology. That said, it copes well with gravel surfaces – far better than one would suspect given the presence of those large 19-inch wheels and low-profile tyres.
On tar the dynamics are not quite class-leading and dependent on the quality of the road surface and the speed. Still, the Mazda CX-5’s feathers aren’t easily ruffled and it maintains its composure well even when the driver starts to push on. Certainly, the excellent driving position alone is a major benefit to long-distance comfort – the steering wheel is rake/reach adjustable and the seat electrically adjustable (including height).
Conclusion and SummaryThis pre-facelift Mazda CX-5 still impresses with its combination of space, efficiency, refinement and quality, but at R465 400 the price could be a challenge, especially as the CX-5 lacks the glitz and glam of some newer challengers. Good thing, then, that Mazda has addressed just those concerns with the facelifted models that are now available.
Mazda CX-5 2.2DE Akera Price in South AfricaThe Mazda CX-5 2.2DE AWD Akera costs R465 400 and comes with a three-year/unlimited km warranty, three-year service plan and three year roadside assistance.
The Mazda CX-5 is smart, both inside and out. Not only is build quality right up there, but that diesel engine is a peach. However, despite its all-wheel drive badges, this is no serious offroader and I would say the only benefit of this system is on wet roads and gravel. Still, for the money, you're getting a good product with exceptional qualities all round. -David Taylor
We Like: Refined and powerful, quality, comfort
We don’t Like: Dated control interface (pre-facelift)
Also consider: Ford Kuga, Hyundai ix35, Kia Sportage, Toyota RAV4, VW Tiguan
Compare the Mazda CX-5 to the Ford Kuga and Hyundai ix35 here.