Price: $27,880 to $48,620
The numbers indicate the Mazda CX-5 would have been Australia’s most popular SUV in 2012 if it had been available for the full year.
Since arriving as the replacement for the relatively short-lived CX-7 in February 2012, the Mazda CX-5 has been a formidable seller for the Japanese brand.
For 2013, the CX-5 line-up is strengthened with the addition of a new 138kW/250Nm 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine borrowed from the all-new Mazda 6 medium car with which it shares other components.
Until now, the Mazda CX-5 has been at its most convincing in diesel form with the more affordable versions let down by a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol that felt underpowered. It was compounded by a dithering six-speed auto that struggled to deal with the 2.0-litre’s lack of torque.
Mazda has responded by adjusting the mapping of both engine and gearbox, lifting the rev ceiling from 6500rpm to 6800rpm and raising power and torque marginally to 114kW (up 1kW) and 200Nm (up 2kW). The change quickens the 2.0-litre model’s accelerative performance by four-tenths of a second to 9.1 seconds, the company says.
Only the new Mazda CX-5 2.5 petrol was available to test on launch, so a test of the revised 2.0-litre that is replaced by the 2.5 in AWD variants but continues in front-wheel-drive models will come later.
Comparing the newer, more powerful 2.5L with the previous 2.0L, however, there is the desired improvement in performance.
At first, the difference isn’t a night-and-day case. At lower revs, your right foot still has to push through some initial resistance from the throttle pedal that’s not so evident in the lighter Mazda 6.
From there, and in situations where drivers typically require more urge, the 2.5-litre presses home its extra 22 per cent of power and extra 26 per cent of torque over the old 2.0L.
Whether overtaking or encountering steep hills, the Mazda CX-5 2.5 delivers sufficient grunt for the occasion where the 2.0-litre would be left floundering. The six-speed auto is certainly happier, now able to hold gears rather than change up only to change down again a moment later.
There’s also that familiar smoothness and satisfying engine note experienced in the 2.5L Mazda 6 as you rev the engine out.
Mazda doesn’t provide any in-gear acceleration figures for the CX-5, though from rest to 100km/h the 2.5 petrol is a full second quicker (8.5 seconds) than the original 2.0-litre.
For those who prefer the driveability and fuel consumption of diesel power, the 129kW/420Nm 2.2-litre turbo diesel CX-5 is still the quickest, at 0-100km/h in 8.0 seconds, and most efficient, rated at 5.7 litres per 100km.
The 2.5-litre officially uses 7.4L/100km – half a litre more petrol than the old AWD 2.0-litre and a full litre of petrol compared with the front-drive 2.0-litre that continues.
During our launch drive in and around Brisbane, with mixed roads, the trip computer of the two 2.5L models we tested ranged from 8.5 to 9.5L/100km.
The bigger engine can still run on regular unleaded, while another bonus is that the cost premium in the switch from 2.0L AWD CX-5 to 2.5L AWD is just $500 – with the 2.5-litre range starting from $32,880 before on-road costs are added.
You can read our separate story for a more complete guide to the pricing and specifications for the 2013 Mazda CX-5 range.
That range now includes a top-tier model called Akera that is a variant incorporating a Tech pack that was previously optional on the Grand Touring.
The pack includes blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning and headlights that can automatically switch between main and high beam.
A couple of interior technology updates across the line-up include a new Bluetooth mail function that allows SMS, MMS and email to be displayed on the CX-5’s 5.8-inch touchscreen and for messages to be read out by an automated voice.
Occupants can also use their own voice to call up to 1000 phone contacts.
Otherwise the Mazda CX-5 cabin continues as the one we’ve previously praised for its well judged blend of quality materials and stylish design.
The perception of quality compares favourably with the interior of a BMW X1.
It continues to miss out, though, on the rotary dial menu controller that gives the similarly designed Mazda 6 interior an extra touch of sophistication. Perhaps understandably, Mazda believed cupholders in the centre console were more important for the more practical-minded SUV buyer.
And the Mazda CX-5 is practical. Roomier inside than the old CX-7 despite more compact external dimensions, there’s a decent amount of space for heads and knees in the back seat.
Items big and small are accommodated comfortably by various storage options.
Boot space of 403 litres is on the small side by segment standards, though. The new RAV4, for example, offers 506 litres with an optional full-size spare wheel or 577 with the standard space saver.
The Mazda CX-5 features a near-full-size spare wheel but even the Mazda 3’s boot (430 litres) is larger due to its greater depth.
The CX-5 will still swallow prams comfortably, and the Mazda’s rear seats fold completely flat to create a total of 1560 litres.
How those seats fold is also smart. The rear sides of the CX-5’s boot feature automatic release levers – the left side with a small one that automatically releases the middle seatback and a larger one for the left seatback.
They have to be pushed to go all the way down but the rear seat pews tilt forward to allow that fully flat set-up not found in every rival SUV.
That’s also the case with dynamic qualities, an area where the Mazda CX-5 shines.
Buyers should appreciate the accurate and nicely weighted steering whether they’re keen motorists or not.
It complements a vehicle that has clearly been engineered to be enjoyed on roads that twist and turn, and one that provides immense stability and confidence through its competent all-wheel-drive system and grippy tyres even in monsoonal conditions – as we experienced during the Brisbane launch.
The trade-off is a ride that is firmer compared with some competitors, though the CX-5’s suspension is adept at deflecting surface nasties away from the cabin. The Mazda is at its most comfortable on 17-inch wheels, and gets a touch fussier on 19s.
Mazda Australia is yet to follow the trend towards capped-price servicing but continues to do consumers a service by making metallic paint inclusive where it typically costs extra.
Pricing remains imperfect for buyers, though. While the new 2.5-litre starts only $500 higher than the previous 2.0L AWD, the new engine isn’t available in the more affordable front-drive models.
And there’s still no Maxx variant of the diesel, meaning the excellent 2.2-litre is out of reach if the budget doesn’t stretch beyond $40,000 when on-road costs are included.
We’ll have to wait for that test of the revised 2.0-litre petrol to see if it’s no longer such a weak link in the line-up, but the new 2.5-litre four-cylinder ensures the Mazda CX-5 now comes with a good recommendation in petrol as well as diesel form.
2013 Mazda CX-5 range
Mazda CX-5 2.0 Maxx FWD (man) $27,880*
Mazda CX-5 2.0 Maxx FWD (auto) $29,880*
Mazda CX-5 2.0 Maxx Sport FWD $33,620*
Mazda CX-5 2.5 Maxx AWD $32,880*
Mazda CX-5 2.5 Maxx Sport AWD $36,620*
Mazda CX-5 2.5 Grand Touring AWD $43,780*
Mazda CX-5 2.5 Akera AWD $45,770*
Mazda CX-5 2.2D Maxx Sport AWD $39,470*
Mazda CX-5 2.2D Grand Touring AWD $46,630*
Mazda CX-5 2.2D Akera AWD $48,620*
*Before on-road costs