The optional diesel is arguably the best engine available in the Mazda CX-5, and the comfortable Touring spec suits Australian roads well
Many buyers who choose a petrol-powered Mazda CX-5 would probably be better served by the sleeper engine of the lineup: the 2.2-litre twin-turbo diesel.
Producing 140kW/450Nm, Mazda’s diesel is a bit more workmanlike than the better-known turbo petrol available with the CX-5, but it outpunches any of this brand’s other engines in the torque department.
If you live in a hilly suburb or like lots of power in reserve for overtaking on country roads, the diesel will be right up your alley. It’s effortless.
And effortless really is the word for the CX-5 Touring on test ($44,480 in diesel before on-road costs). Wearing slightly dowdy-looking but very sensibly-sized 17-inch alloys, it rides very comfortably.
Plus, the diesel engine is by far the most economical of any CX-5 engine, using almost 40 percent less fuel than any of the available petrol motors in our real-world testing.
So, what’s the catch – if there is one? And is the Diesel Touring the most balanced CX-5 specification you can buy?
One of our favourite things about the Mazda CX-5 is its car-like ride and handling. More than most midsize SUVs, the CX-5 feels like a big hatchback … and that’s a good thing.
Engaging dynamics, a comfortable and level ride and a selection of willing engines mean that the CX-5 is more than just competent. There’s something here for keen drivers as well.
Three four-cylinder petrol engines take the lion’s share of sales. Two are non-turbo: a 2.0-litre making 115kW of power and 200Nm, a 2.5-litre producing 140kW/252Nm. A strong but slightly grainy 2.5-litre turbo is the flagship motor, making 170kW/420Nm.
In our view, though, the twin-turbo 2.2-litre diesel continues to be the pick. It’s a bit of a sleeper, this. Putting out 140kW of power, it’s not going to light the world on fire, but the 450Nm of torque makes it the torquiest mainstream midsize SUV on the Australian market!
And it’s the torque that really makes the CX-5 diesel experience. It’s just so strong … everywhere. Whether you are gliding effortlessly off the line in the ‘burbs or overtaking a road train in the outback, the diesel CX-5 just pulls, and pulls, and pulls.
And because it is so strong at low engine speeds, the CX-5 diesel is vastly more efficient than any of its petrol peers. The difference in fuel economy is staggering, with the diesel routinely using 40 or 50 percent less fuel.
Even if you hadn’t considered going diesel for the CX-5 – possibly because of the increasing move away from the fuel type in this segment – it’s still worth test-driving. Remember, the prevalence of diesel in Australia’s hugely popular ute means this fuel isn’t going to disappear from our market anytime soon.
Front-wheel drive is standard on the non-turbo petrols, with AWD becoming optional on the atmo’ 2.5-litre petrol, while the all-paw system is standard on the turbo petrol and diesel. All CX-5s bar the base model have a standard six-speed torque converter auto. The base petrol is also available with a slick little manual…
The CX-5 diesel backs up its quality engine with ride and handling that is well above average, avoiding the all-too-common stilted dynamics of rivals.
Steering-wise, the CX-5 is sweet, with decent levels of feel transmitted through the classy leather-bound steering wheel.
Grip from the Yokohama Geolandar highway tyres is relatively modest – some rivals outfit their midsize SUVs with ContiSports! – but the CX-5 has much more mechanical chassis grip than many competing vehicles.
That means this vehicle relies more on its balanced, competent chassis than its tyres, so despite only wearing midrange tyres you can maintain good pace through corners.
There is some body roll – Mazda don’t shy away from this as it relieves some pressure on the torsos of the passengers, in concert with the company’s G Vectoring Control Plus torque vectoring-by-braking system.
Some roll noted, this is an unusually intuitive midsize SUV to drive, allowing you to fluently string corners together. It’s pleasant and even fun to drive.
The ride is phenomenal on the 17-inch wheels of lower-end CX-5 trims – including the Touring on test here. Bumps and imperfections in the road are ironed out beautifully.
Sadly, the 17s look pretty dowdy. We wish Mazda offered a compromise 18-inch size for the alloys, but it’s 17s or 19s. The 19-inch units found on the GT SP, GT and Akera grades don’t ride as well – you feel the bumps more sharply – but they certainly look more proportionate.
Safety-wise, the CX-5 includes forwards and reversing AEB across the range, plus a reversing camera and blind spot monitoring. All cars get reversing parking sensors, with the Touring also picking up front beepers and traffic sign recognition.
Lane keeping assistance is included but it’s relatively subtle: the lane-hold systems on newer rivals like the Hyundai Tucson are more sensitive and accurate.
Turning to the interior of the CX-5 Touring is where the aforementioned ‘catch’ arrives.
That’s because Mazda have not endowed the mid-tier Touring with the same technology upgrades it bestowed upon the higher-specification GT and Akera models earlier in 2021.
Those cars pick up a bigger, better Mazda Connect infotainment display running completely different software.
Along with the Maxx Sport, the Touring soldiers on with an older eight-inch screen with much more dated graphics.
That might not be a big deal to you, and at least the infotainment system remains easy to use – but it keeps the CX-5 Touring from feeling nearly as fresh as newer rivals like the Hyundai Tucson or the Toyota RAV4 with which the CX-5 duels for segment sales medals.
Other aspects of the CX-5 Touring interior aren’t quite right, either: the seats are upholstered in an elegant blend of suede and vegan leather but their manual adjustment does not include a way to alter the seat base angle.
Normally that isn’t a problem, but the CX-5’s almost minivan-like seat base angling means you feel like you’re falling forward into the creamy, leather-bound steering wheel. The Volkswagen Tiguan suffers the same fate.
The interior materials may be generally excellent – Mazda aren’t shy on the use of soft and yielding matte materials that don’t reflect or cause glare – but the cabin just feels a little undercooked in Touring spec.
All of this leads us to the conclusion that the Touring isn’t quite the right spec of CX-5 to opt for, even if we do love the ride on its 17-inch wheels.
Spending another $5710 to upgrade to the GT makes sense. There is a real sense of occasion to the GT, which provides a choice of cream or black real leather upholstery, plus a sunroof and a 249-watt, 10-speaker Bose stereo. The sides of the transmission tunnel also become plush and soft-touch
In the GT, the front seats are heated and have electric adjustment, with 10 directions of movement for the driver (including the prized seat base angle up/down), plus lumbar, and six ways of movement for the passenger.
The infotainment screen is swapped for Mazda’s newer 10.25-inch unit with crisper resolution and better software – and out back the CX-5 GT picks up a power tailgate. All in all, just under six grand more well spent.
The CX-5 Touring can be had with a non-turbo 2.5-litre petrol or the 2.2-litre twin-turbo diesel on test. The diesel may be $3000 more expensive to buy, but it pays for itself in 3-4 years, while providing a superior driving experience across that whole period.
That all comes down to fuel consumption, which is radically lower in the diesel. Our real-world testing yielded 7L/100km in mixed conditions – and 6L/100km on the highway. The petrol, on the other hand, has consistently scored around 11L/100km in our testing.
That means an annual spend of about $1300 on diesel for the average Australian buyer while the petrol sets you back about $2000 per annum.
Unusually for a diesel, the servicing intervals are pretty short: 12 months or 10,000km – whichever comes first. Those are the same intervals as the petrol engines.
Five years/50,000km of servicing adds up to $1,785 for the CX-5 diesel, which is less than $100 dearer than the petrol models.
Like all Mazdas sold in Australia the CX-5 is covered by a five year/unlimited kilometre new car warranty. That amount of coverage is now standard for the industry – though the Kia Sportage has seven years of coverage and the Mitsubishi Outlander is promotionally offered with a ten year/200,000km warranty.
The CX-5 diesel is a hidden gem in Mazda’s vast Australian line-up.
If you like a muscular twin-turbo engine, low fuel consumption, decent ride quality and good handling, then you will find that the oiler CX-5 is your kind of SUV.
The turbo petrol gets most of the attention in the CX-5 range, which is no surprise, but the diesel is like the studious, athletic sibling who doesn’t need to shout about their talent. It’s just better that way.
We’d skip the somewhat austere Touring in favour of the GT diesel ($50,190) or the flagship Akera diesel ($52,580), which have long equipment lists and even more plush interiors that befit this high-quality family car.
Do that and you’ll find you have purchased an exceptionally well-rounded SUV.
The Toyota RAV4 Hybrid achieves stellar fuel economy for a roomy midsize SUV, but it doesn’t make you sacrifice power and decent performance. But is the mid-specification RAV4 GXL the best model to buy?
Variant tested TOURING (AWD)
Key specs (as tested)
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