Mazda CX-5 (2012-2017) Review
The Mazda CX-5 offers a car-like driving experience in a spacious crossover design
Strengths & weaknesses
- Punchy engines
- Handsome styling
- Handles like a car rather than a crossover
- Interior a bit dull
- Not hugely capable off-road
- Expensive as used car
If you were looking for a brand new family car between 2012 and 2016, then the Mazda CX-5 should have been close to the top of the list.
It was the best car of its type, coming closest to achieving the crossover car ideal, of combining the car-like driving qualities of a hatchback with the added height of an off-roader.
It’s spacious, with plenty of headroom and legroom for tall passengers in the front and back, which is partly thanks to its longer-than-average dimensions. The 503-litre boot is big too - almost 100 litres larger than you'll find in a Ford Kuga and 70 more than a Nissan Qashqai.
Those qualities haven’t changed, and it remains one of the best used crossover choices, as an alternative to the Qashqai, Kuga and Renault Kadjar. If you’re looking for a car that changes direction sharply when you turn the steering wheel, grips strongly in corners without too much leaning, and resists bouncing over rough roads, then the CX-5 has them all beaten.
It's also got an ace underneath the bonnet: the diesel engines in every CX-5 built since 2012 meet the latest emissions regulations, known as Euro 6, even though these regulations only came into force in September 2015. This should mean that the CX-5 won't be subject to any inner-city diesel charges, based on the information that's currently available.
It jolts over bumps a little more than the cars mentioned above, without being uncomfortable, and it’s more expensive too. A 2015 car is around £3,000 more than the equivalent Nissan, Renault or Ford because the Mazda is popular and holds its value well for a car of its type.
That’s likely to mean that the CX-5 will also have a higher value in the future, which reduces the cost of owning or financing a used model.
There are plenty of other alternatives to the CX-5, including the Skoda Yeti, Kia Sportage, Hyundai Tucson, Honda CR-V and Volkswagen Tiguan, but none of the cars from the same era can match the CX-5’s qualities.
The interior of the Peugeot 3008 in particular, is vastly more impressive than that of the CX-5, which is functional and easy to use, but is overwhelmed by black plastic. It looks dated compared with models that make the touchscreen a large and glossy centrepiece of the dashboard. The new Mazda CX-5, which went on sale earlier this year is more of a match for these models.
The previous-generation CX-5 came with petrol or diesel engines, the choice of two- or four-wheel drive, manual or automatic gearboxes and a range of trim levels. Cars with sat-nav can be identified by the Nav badging (eg SE-L Nav), which wasn’t fitted to all cars early in its life. All of the more recent models had it, though.
Isofix mounts for securely fastening child seats are standard in the two rear seats, and that’s the start of a long list of safety equipment. When crash-tested by Euro NCAP in 2012, the Mazda CX-5 was given the top five-star rating, which makes it one of the safest crossovers of its era. If safety is your number one priority, then it’s worth remembering that the latest tests have been made tougher so a five star rating requires a higher minimum level of safety.
|Three years/60,000 miles
|Tax (min to max)
|Pre April 2017: £30 to £130 a year
Best Mazda CX-5 for...
Best for Economy – Mazda CX-5 2.2d SE-L Nav
‘Diesel’, ‘front-wheel drive’ and ‘manual gearbox’ are the bits that you need if you want the most efficient CX-5 in the range. Expect fuel economy to be at least 10mpg lower than the car's official 61mpg figure. Low CO2 emissions result in £30-a-year car tax for vehicles registered before April 2017.
Best for Families – Mazda CX-5 2.2d SE-L Lux Nav
Any CX-5 makes a great family car, but the SE-L Lux Nav specification level with the most efficient 2.2-litre diesel engine offers a good balance of performance, economy and standard equipment.
Best for Performance – Mazda CX-5 2.2d 175 Sport Nav AWD
Four-wheel drive provides more grip when accelerating. Combined with the more powerful version of the CX-5's 2.2-litre diesel engine, you'll be able to power from 0-62mph in a reasonably swift 8.8 seconds, and have plenty of power for overtaking quickly and safely.
One to Avoid – Mazda CX-5 2.0 Sport Nav
Real-world fuel economy of around 37mpg is fairly average for a petrol-powered crossover, but that doesn't make it any less expensive to run. Opting for the top trim level also adds to the cost.
- March 2012 Mazda CX-5 goes on sale in the UK
- October 2013 High-spec SE-L Lux and SE-L Lux Nav models added
- February 2014 Update sees improved suspension and extra equipment
- January 2015 Further revisions see more equipment, including touchscreen display
- September 2016 Production ends, as this version is replaced with the new Mazda CX-5
Understanding Mazda CX-5 names
Engine 2.2d 175
The engine size is given in litres (here it's 2.2) and the horsepower (which can also be written as PS) may be included too because the 2.2-litre engine is available in two versions with different power outputs. On early CX-5s, petrol cars were badged Skyactiv-G and diesels were Skyactiv-D, which referenced Mazda's name for the technology used to boost efficiency. Later models simply included a 'd' to indicate diesel cars.
Trim SE-L Nav
The higher the trim level on your Mazda CX-5, the more equipment is included as standard. All of the later cars were 'Nav' versions, indicating that they included sat-nav. There were some non-Nav cars sold earlier.
Driven wheels AWD
Mazda CX-5 models are available with four-wheel drive, which is also known as all-wheel drive. These cars are badged AWD.
Mazda CX-5 Engines
Petrol: 2.0 165 SKYACTIV-G Diesel: 2.2 150 SKYACTIV-D, 2.2 175 SKYACTIV-D
The CX-5 engine line-up is pretty simple to get your head around. There’s a 2.0-litre petrol and a 2.2-litre diesel, the latter available in two different power outputs: 150 horsepower (hp) and 175hp.
Performance doesn’t differ hugely across the three, and indeed the 2-litre petrol and 150hp 2.2-litre diesel are practically identical in this regard. As you might expect the diesel is more efficient. It’s also better suited to long-distance motorway runs and towing a caravan than the petrol, making it our top recommendation of the three options.
The more powerful 2.2-litre diesel is definitely satisfying to drive, but it’s not really necessary unless you really like to go fast or want to tow a large caravan or trailer on a regular basis. It’s also only available with four-wheel drive and in the most expensive Sport trim level.
With all engines, choosing an automatic gearbox and/or four-wheel drive reduces fuel economy slightly. The four-wheel-drive CX-5 is a little less likely to get stuck on slippery surfaces but few will find the advantages worth the extra running cost. The manual and automatic gearboxes are both good, with the latter being the best choice if you do a lot of driving in stop-start urban traffic.
9.0 - 9.2s
2.2 150 SKYACTIV-D
51.4 - 61.4mpg
9.2 - 10.2s
121 - 126mph
51.4 - 54.3mpg
8.8 - 9.4s
127 - 129mph
Mazda CX-5 Trims
SE-L, SE-L Nav, SE-L Lux, SE-L Lux Nav, Sport, Sport Nav
From the car's launch in March 2012 there were two core trims, SE-L and Sport, each with a Nav variant (it was short for satellite navigation). Later, in October 2013, SE-L Lux and SE-L Lux Nav arrived.
Standard equipment was good from the off. The SE-L, the cheapest variant, had automatic emergency braking at low speeds, alloy wheels, climate control, cruise control and rear parking sensors.
SE-L Nav added rain-sensing wipers, front parking sensors and a 7in colour screen with sat-nav.
You could have either the petrol or the less powerful diesel engine with this trim level – and the diesel was available with two- or four-wheel drive, and manual or automatic gearboxes.
Moving up to SE-L Lux added a tilt-and-slide sunroof, and power adjustment for the driver and front passenger seats. You were limited to just one engine, drive and gearbox combination with this trim level but fortunately it was our top pick: the 2.2-litre diesel with front-wheel drive and a manual gearbox. Again, the Nav option came with a sat-nav and a 7in colour screen.
Top-of-the-range Sport Nav opened up the choice of the more powerful 2.2-litre diesel engine (four-wheel drive only, but with choice of manual or auto), as well as piling on the extras like keyless entry, larger 19-inch alloys, bright LED headlights, a reversing camera and an upgraded Bose stereo.
In 2014 there was a partial upgrade to SE-L Lux and Sport models, which brought memory function for the drivers seat and a six-way powered passenger seat.
The biggest change came in January 2015 with the arrival of a new DAB digital radio and an improved 7in screen across all versions, an electric parking brake, and a more sophisticated optional safety pack.
By the end of the model’s life only Nav versions of the SE-L and Sport models remained.
Mazda CX-5 Reliability and warranty
Mazda's cars have a reputation for being reliable and well made. The CX-5 adds to this record; it has never, to date, been recalled for any safety issues.
The car also finished in the top half of the table for both reliability (87 out of 200) and build quality (80 out of 200) in the 2015 Auto Express Driver Power owner satisfaction survey.
Less impressive is Mazda’s new car warranty. Despite their apparently durable nature, CX-5s were only covered for three years or 60,000 miles – whichever came first. It's one of the less-generous policies available to buyers.
Used Mazda CX-5
For the first few years of the CX-5’s life it was possible to buy SE-L and Sport versions without the Nav (satellite navigation) option. However, they weren’t so popular, meaning that today, you’ll struggle to find one in exactly the colour and condition you want. Better to pay the small premium for the Nav version and enjoy far greater choice.
Cars registered from the major specification upgrade of January 2015 onwards are worth seeking out. They are a little more expensive but are worth it for their extra equipment. For example, the Sport got a new integrated navigation system offering greater accuracy, improved search features and three years of free map updating, which should still be valid. The enhanced safety pack from this date is also worth looking for, although it’s likely to be rare.
Demand for this first-generation CX-5 is strong on the used market, which means its value drops steadily rather than sharply as it ages and puts on the miles. Three-year-old examples are still worth around two-thirds as much as their brand new price, although the more powerful diesel engine and comparatively inefficient petrol lose their value faster than the less powerful diesel especially with four-wheel drive and the manual gearbox.