Following a strong five-year run characterised by continual improvements, Mazda’s second-gen CX-5 gets its first proper visual makeover and even more upgrades
Mazda is on an upward trajectory – one that’s all about creating premium offerings for the brand faithful who would like something to aspire to when they want to move on from their CX-5 – hence the recently unveiled CX-60 premium midsize SUV. But where does that leave the CX-5 itself?
This now decade-old nameplate has become Mazda’s biggest seller, and the second-generation model – launched in Australia in March 2017 – has gone from strength to strength over its lifespan with annual updates (or sometimes two!) aimed at refining what was a good car at launch, but is now a much better vehicle five years later.
So what you see here is essentially a mid-life facelift rather than just an update. In order to create a visual link between the CX-5 and its newer, larger, more expensive CX-60 sibling, the 2022 CX-5 features a whole new front clip – headlights, grille, front bumper – as well as a chunkier rear bumper, more imposing rear lights with fresh LED lighting signatures (based around L-shapes), new alloy-wheel designs and refreshed body detailing to bring this class-of-2017 SUV into the next decade.
Mazda reckons the second-generation CX-5 still has two to three years to live, so why not give it the styling pizazz to match its well-respected mechanicals?
Given Australia’s strong sales slant towards upper-spec CX-5 variants (the GT SP and Akera combined account for 45 percent of overall sales, with the Maxx Sport accounting for 37 percent), Mazda Australia has made an effort to better differentiate the more premium CX-5 grades for 2022.
While the GT SP (the regular GT has now been deleted) and top-spec Akera are essentially the same car externally, the Akera colour-matches pretty much everything and features bright-silver 19-inch alloys whereas the GT SP paints those same alloys gloss-black, and adds the gloss-black treatment to the wheelarches, side skirts and lower bumper sections while having a metallic grey finish around its new front grille (instead of the Akera’s chrome) and a little red flourish to several grille louvres on its left-hand side.
In a similar fashion, a new variant called Touring Active features silver bumper detailing, a lime-green flourish for the front grille and a light-grey spritzer for the regular Touring’s 17-inch alloys, as well as lime-green interior highlights for the air vent surrounds and seat-trim patterns – giving it considerably more visual sizzle than the regular versions, especially when painted in new Zircon Sand metallic.
There’s also been changes to body strengthening, sound deadening (Mazda claims that new headlining has reduced low-frequency cabin noise by 10 percent, joining other NVH tweaks), suspension damping and anti-roll bars, steering-tune optimisation and powertrain tweaks, making this 2022 model not only the best CX-5 ever but also an evergreen, consistently strong contender in the midsize SUV category.
While the CX-5’s engineering changes for 2022 don’t seem that serious in isolation, their finessing effect is quite considerable – especially if you’re familiar with a 2021 CX-5.
It’s definitely a smoother car to drive than it used to be on 19-inch wheels, with a more level demeanour and a more fluent driving feel. And it’s smoother again on the 17-inch wheels fitted to the Maxx, Maxx Sport, Touring and Touring Active, so if you really value ride quality in your CX-5, they’re the models to choose. But with almost half of Australian buyers favouring the top two specs, a CX-5 on 19s is probably where it needed the most help.
The dynamic changes are all about finessing what was already a really good drive. Changes underneath the body make it stronger, it’s definitely quieter than it was before and some hardware alterations in the all-wheel-drive system make it a little bit more efficient.
It also features new ‘Mi-Drive’ modes – spanning Normal, Sport, Off-road and Towing in some models – to replace the previous ‘Sport’ mode that only tweaked the transmission and throttle tuning.
Now when you flick the Turbo model into Sport, the speedo lights up red in the restyled instrument pack, the six-speed auto transmission will hold onto gears with greater intuition, and it adds a nice amount of extra weighting to the steering, which is already pleasantly weighted in Normal mode. In fact, even the steering has been optimised to provide crisper, more consistent response, and there’s a new vibration damper in petrol models to smooth it out even further.
The combination of all of these little changes makes the 2022 CX-5 a more refined, more rewarding car to drive, even though it was already coming from a pretty high base. The changes to the suspension deliver a little bit more ride plushness while maintaining a fine level of handling precision, and for a midsize SUV, this is a fun car to drive – particularly the 170kW/420Nm Turbo (all engine outputs are unchanged for 2022).
When it comes to the turbo petrol, it’s clearly the best engine in the range – even if the gutsy turbo-diesel (which these days accounts for just seven percent of sales) deserves an honourable mention. However, the vast majority of people choose the 2.5-litre naturally aspirated petrol, which now features cylinder deactivation to optimise its fuel efficiency, even though its combined fuel consumption figure isn’t really that much better than the Turbo’s – on paper, at least.
The Turbo has also seen a few changes, including a larger silencer shell for the engine, a different spare-wheel pan and some exhaust changes to make it quieter. But it still has a little bit of rort in its induction note, and it’s this nicely subtle spritzer of driver appeal that seems to define the Mazda CX-5.
Safety wise, the CX-5 has progressed to the point where even the $32K base-model Maxx (that only nine percent of people buy) is already packed with active-safety gear.
As standard, it gets front and rear AEB, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist, radar cruise control, rear parking sensors, a rear camera, driver attention alert, auto high-beam and tyre-pressure monitoring, and it now adds night-time pedestrian detection for the front AEB. And it’s all relatively subtle in operation and easy to disable if you don’t want electronic intervention.
As with the outside, the inside of the 2022 CX-5 is all about fine-tuning an already pretty decent product.
The GT SP, for example, ditches its Maztex vinyl and Grand Luxe suede-effect upholstery (which still features in the CX-5 Touring variant) for the lovely perforated leather of the now-defunct GT model, embellished with red stitching and seat heating.
The seats themselves have been re-bolstered to offer more padding in the under-thigh section, firmer bolstering on the sides, and improved cushioning in the centre for a definite improvement in comfort, though only the Akera gets fan-cooled ventilation.
Mazda says this much-needed front-seat upgrade is all about supporting the S-shape in your spine, though in reality it means you essentially sit in the front buckets rather than on top of them. Pity the front passenger doesn’t get electric under-thigh tilt, though – only rudimentary height adjustment.
The rest of the interior is again about subtle tweaking. The main changes are the introduction of wireless charging to Akera and GT SP models (though it does take quite a while to charge) and a redesigned HVAC section with new horizontal switchgear grouped together, including seat heating and the Akera’s ventilation switches. The Akera also gets steering-wheel heating, though its dashboard positioning is for left-hand drive, which is slightly odd in a Japanese car.
Audio-wise, the Akera and GT SP both get classy 10.25-inch centre screens combined with a 10-speaker Bose stereo with 249-watt amp and subwoofer, which sounds as impressive as ever … unlike the pretty average six-speaker set-up of the lower models with a slightly disappointing 8.0-inch screen – all with wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. But even the Maxx base model gets things you probably wouldn’t expect like four auto up/down power windows and auto-folding exterior mirrors.
The 2022 CX-5 also introduces new instruments (inspired by the Mazda 3’s) however the rest of the interior remains pretty much the same, meaning competitive storage (with decent door bottle holders), plenty of rear leg and head room, a pleasantly comfortable rear bench with two-position backrest, and a decent 438-litre boot with dual-level floor that is also reversible.
While one side is carpeted, the other is just plastic for carrying dirtier items. And when the floor is at its higher level, there’s a smooth transition from loading lip to the easy-fold 40/20/40 split backrests that go virtually dead flat at the flick of a lever on the boot walls.
The combined ADR81/02 fuel consumption figures for the facelifted Mazda CX-5s we drove spanned 7.4L/100km for the 2.5-litre AWD Maxx Sport, 8.2L/100km for the GT SP Turbo and Akera Turbo, and 5.7L/100km for the Touring Active AWD Diesel.
In our testing during the launch over several hundred kilometres, the GT SP Turbo averaged 11.4L/100km whereas the Touring Active Diesel achieved 8.4L/100km.
Recommended service intervals for the Mazda CX-5 Turbo are every 12 months or 10,000km, with its five-year/50,000km service cost totalling $1805. In comparison, the five-year capped-price cost for a Toyota RAV4 Hybrid is $1150 (covering a longer 75,000km period), whereas the new-gen Mitsubishi Outlander’s five-year/75,000km servicing cost is just $995.
Mazda’s warranty coverage in Australia is five years/unlimited kilometres, which is now the industry standard for most manufacturers.
Thanks to the constant updates done by Mazda to the second-generation CX-5, this was already a nicely-finessed car. But the things that really needed attention is exactly what’s been addressed with this facelifted 2022 model.
It has more presence both outside and inside, greater model differentiation, and is certainly quieter than before. It also rides better, has superior front seats, and offers a bit more technology. It looks a little bit more cool – especially the GT SP and new Touring Active.
So when you combine all that with everything the CX-5 already did really well – in particular the performance of the Turbo model, its driver appeal, general utility and even its resale – then you can understand why this midsize SUV continues to deserve buyer’s attention.
The current CX-5 might be nearing the end of its life, and only has two or three years to go before an all-new generation replaces it. But following its comprehensive 2022 once-over, this five-year-old car remains a really good thing. It’s the perfect example of honing a car over time to make it better, and even though it isn’t a brand new car, it still feels fresh and modern.
Toyota has expanded its updated 2022 RAV4 line-up with a Hybrid version of the adventure-flavoured Edge – taking the number of RAV4 Hybrid variants to nine
Key specs (as tested)
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Mazda CX-5 2022: how Mazda Australia plans to tackle the Toyota RAV4 and Kia Sportage with its facelifted midsize SUV
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