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Mazda CX-5 GT SP turbo petrol 2022 review


With four engines and six trim levels on offer, the Mazda CX-5 offers buyers a wealth of choice – including the subtly sporting GT SP tested here. But is the turbo-petrol CX-5 better than its gutsy turbo-diesel sibling – and is the GT SP the best variant?

Good points

  • Excellent performance
  • Precise and poised handling
  • Class-leading quality
  • Extensive safety technology

Needs work

  • Small front seat cushions
  • GT SP foregoes the GT’s leather trim
  • Short-distance servicing intervals

When it was introduced to the world back in 2011, I don’t think anyone knew just how much of an impact the CX-5 would have on Mazda’s bottom line. Replacing the long-forgotten Tribute, the CX-5 became Australia’s best-selling SUV almost the moment it launched (March 2012) and retained that title until the new-generation Toyota RAV4 usurped it in 2020.

But just because the RAV4 is the new mid-size SUV star of the moment doesn’t mean the CX-5 is no longer worthy of your attention. Indeed, Mazda has remained focused on making the second-generation CX-5 the best it can be, with annual updates including improvements to its quietness, ride quality, AWD system, dynamic cohesion (thanks to ‘G-Vectoring Control Plus’ in late-2018) and most recently, the multimedia system on up-spec variants last February.

At the same time, this sports-flavoured GT SP variant arrived wearing Mazda’s now-trademark black-out detailing, supported by a petrol-only drivetrain line-up headlined by the 2.5-litre turbo four that debuted in the CX-9 back in 2016 and migrated to the smaller CX-5 in late-2018. And it’s that very powertrain we’re testing here (in fresh-for-2021 GT SP form), as an intriguing counterpoint to the similarly potent CX-5 turbo-diesel AWD we also reviewed recently. Both are deeply impressive mid-size SUVs but which one should you pick?

Mazda CX-5 GT SP 2021 front

It’s worth keeping in mind that a facelifted Mazda CX-5 is due to land in the coming months, as previously detailed by Chasing Cars, with the focus mainly on a refreshed exterior and interior, while there are changes to the range structure and further refinement improvements.

But what won’t change is the core CX-5 you see here – one of Australia’s favourite SUVs for good reason.

How does the CX-5 drive?

The essence of the CX-5 turbo-petrol, and indeed a defining aspect of its personality, is Mazda’s 2.5-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine.

Mazda CX-5 GT SP 2021 profile

It’s such a superb performer, yet achieves this without seeming overly sporty. Instead of trying hard to impress, it’s all about smooth, effortless, beautifully effective torque – making it a very easy engine to work with. Even during foot-flat acceleration, the CX-5 turbo-petrol upshifts at just 5400rpm, deceptively masking the pace of this stealth performance SUV.

How quick? According to our own testing, the CX-5 turbo-petrol is good for 0-100km/h in 7.2 seconds, which certainly isn’t hanging about, yet it nails that number with nonchalant ease.

While the turbo-petrol’s 170kW power figure is fairly conservative (though it’ll jump to over 180kW if you feed it 98-octane premium), the CX-5’s torque figure is what paints a truer picture of its personality. Packing a really solid 420Nm at 2000rpm means the CX-5 turbo-petrol doesn’t need any more than six gear ratios to channel its grunt. And while there’s a Sport mode as well as a manual tip-shift mode, you’re better off just leaving the auto selector in Drive and letting the CX-5 do its own thing.

Mazda CX-5 GT SP 2021 rear

While the turbo-petrol is undoubtedly spirited, where it capitalises on this performance is in terms of dynamics. With slightly less weight over the nose (the turbo-petrol weighs 36kg less than the diesel) and superior engine refinement, there’s a smoother, silkier flavour to the way it drives, without taking anything away from its highly accomplished diesel alternative.

Mazda deserves credit for consistently honing the second-generation CX-5’s dynamics, to the point where it now handles exceedingly well for a mid-size SUV – particularly one that’s as lofty as the CX-5. While there’s never any doubt that you’re sitting quite high in a CX-5, the quality of its tight, precise, sweetly balanced handling really is a stand-out.

The trade-off for this level of cornering talent is often ride quality, yet Mazda has worked hard to maintain an acceptable level of compliance on the 19-inch wheels fitted to the GT, GT SP and Akera grades. It’s never plush but at the same time it’s very good at controlling body movement – particularly at speed.

Mazda CX-5 GT SP 2021 wheel

Being the second-top model, the CX-5 GT SP features plenty of active safety equipment – the highlights being front and rear parking sensors, lane-departure warning with lane-keep assist, blind-spot monitoring, front AEB with night-time pedestrian detection, rear AEB, rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control with stop and go, auto high-beam and tyre-pressure monitoring.

Yet the best aspect of the CX-5’s safety systems is that they aren’t as clumsily intrusive as they are in so many other cars. You can turn off the lane-keep assist (a feature many people find annoying) via a switch on the right-hand side of the dash and it will remain off the next time you start the car – an orange warning light in the instrument pack reminding you of its status.

Drivability scorecard
Power & performance
Ride & refinement

How is the CX-5’s interior?

Mazda has been doing really good interiors for some years now, and while the second-gen CX-5 isn’t at the top of the list for design flair, its cabin quality is excellent and it has layers of plushness that’s unusual for a mainstream mid-size SUV (such as worthwhile padding on centre console, doors, and dash crashpad).

Mazda CX-5 GT SP 2021 front cab

The GT SP shares its 10-way electric driver’s seat with two-position memory and six-way electric passenger’s seat with the regular CX-5 GT, but instead of the GT’s lovely perforated leather trim, the GT SP features Maztex vinyl with synthetic suede centres from the cheaper CX-5 Touring (albeit with red stitching).

Retrograde trim aside, what the GT SP shares with every other CX-5 is a smallish, too-short front seat cushion that feels at odds with the backrest’s generous support. You wouldn’t call it uncomfortable – certainly not for shorter distances – but the seat bases do feel weirdly undersized.

The CX-5’s rear bench also feels like you’re sitting on it rather than in it, meaning it’s acceptable rather than exceptional. But under-thigh support isn’t too bad and there’s loads of foot room, as well as decent headroom and an airier feel with the ivory-coloured headlining of the GT and GT SP (Akera gets slightly oppressive anthracite-coloured headlining).

Mazda CX-5 GT SP 2021 rear cab

Apart from rear air vents, a centre armrest with a padded lid section and two USB ports, two map pockets, and a two-position backrest, there isn’t a whole lot going on in the CX-5’s back seat, though it can fit a one-litre camping bottle in its doors, just like up front.

Arguably the best reason for stepping up to a CX-5 GT or GT SP over a Touring is the new 10.25-inch screen introduced in early 2021 – replacing a rather antiquated and clunky 8.0-inch screen fitted to the Maxx, Maxx Sport and Touring grades.

While this new widescreen extravaganza is never a touchscreen (unlike the 8.0-inch) – it’s all controlled via the MZD Connect dial in the centre console, even when stopped – it nicely integrates Apple CarPlay into its control interface (and presumably Android Auto as well, though we couldn’t test that). With CarPlay plugged in, all the main controls around the dial are focused on CarPlay itself, and don’t revert back to the Mazda base software.

Mazda CX-5 GT SP 2021 screen

Combined with a 10-speaker, 249-watt Bose audio set-up including a subwoofer, sound quality is surprisingly crisp, strong and meaty, though it lacks wireless phone charging.

As for the CX-5’s luggage area, its 442-litre volume below the neatly integrated luggage cover is respectable for a mid-size SUV, and there’s a space-saver spare located underneath. Drop the rear backrests to achieve a near-flat floor and CX-5 expands to 1352 litres, which is average for its class.

Interior scorecard
Layout & materials
Cabin technology
Driver comfort
Passenger space

What are the CX-5’s running costs?

The official ADR81/02 government combined fuel consumption figure for the six-speed automatic CX-5 turbo-petrol AWD is 8.2L/100km, though we averaged 11.4L/100km in varied driving conditions including city driving as well as brisk country-road testing, and plenty of cornering.

Mazda CX-5 GT SP 2021 badge

In comparison, the turbo-diesel’s combined fuel figure is 5.7L/100km.

Recommended service intervals for the CX-5 are every 12 months or 10,000km, with the capped-price servicing amount across five years/50,000km totalling $1830. In comparison, the five-year/75,000 servicing plan for a Volkswagen Tiguan 162TSI is $2700 whereas the five-year/75,000km cost for a Toyota RAV4 GXL Hybrid AWD is a red-hot $1150.

Mazda’s warranty coverage is five years/unlimited kilometres, supplemented by five years’ roadside assistance.

Running costs scorecard

The final verdict

A really spirited chassis with a strong level of performance is something the Mazda CX-5 uniquely offers in two different flavours – turbo-petrol and turbo-diesel, both with standard AWD.

As for the GT SP tested here, it’s only available with a pair of 2.5-litre petrols (turbo and non-turbo), so if you were contemplating a CX-5 diesel then we suggest you actually consider the model below the GT SP, simply called GT. But same goes for the turbo-petrol as well – for all the GT SP’s visual sportiness, the GT is actually a better model.

Not only does the GT save you $500 but it gives you a diesel option, as well as superior perforated-leather seats and arguably more attractive 19-inch alloys.

So if we had to recommend our favourite Mazda CX-5 variant, that would be the handsome, well-equipped, beautifully-built, eminently reliable, surprisingly rapid and undoubtedly fun-to-drive CX-5 GT turbo-petrol.

Overall rating
Overall rating
Running costs
Budget Direct
Comprehensive cover
/ year
(indicative only)
Overall rating
Running costs

Variant tested GT SP TURBO (AWD)

Options fitted
Metallic Paint Premium
Approximate on‑road price Including registration and government charges
Budget Direct
Comprehensive cover
/ year
(indicative only)

Key specs (as tested)

2488 cc
170kW at 5000rpm
420Nm at 2000rpm
Power to weight ratio
Fuel type
Fuel capacity
58 litres
8.2L/100km (claimed)
Average Range
707km (claimed)
All Wheel Drive
4550 mm
1840 mm
1675 mm
Unoccupied weight
1720 kg

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