Keeping up with the Joneses used to be an expensive game, especially when it came to SUV’s. With the Japanese now stepping up their game, solid SUVs like the Mazda CX-5 have never been as easy and affordable to come by.
The medium-size SUV segment has expanded almost exponentially over the past 10 years and nearly every manufacturer now offers an SUV for the masses. While Mazda carried the Tribute, CX-7 and CX-9 for some six years before the launch of the CX-5, it was never able to offer a Rav4 or Kuga-sized SUV to take on its competitors.
While we have already reviewed the more powerful 2.5L CX-5 and the diesel offering, we haven’t had the chance to jump behind the wheel of the entry level 2.0L Mazda CX-5.
The base model Maxx can be spotted in traffic by virtue of bland looking steel wheels (instead of alloy wheels) and no fog lights. It’s a shame that Mazda didn’t go to greater lengths to make the 2.0L CX-5 look more appealing; it certainly screams 'poverty pack'.
Steel wheels aside, the CX-5 Maxx still looks the part. The renowned Kodo design philosophy oozes from every panel and makes some of the competition look like second-class citizens.
Advanced safety features have filtered down the ranks to medium-size SUVs, though blind spot monitoring, high beam assist and active headlights are available only at the upper end of the CX-5 range. The entry level CX-5 Maxx gets stability control, hill hold assist, tyre pressure monitoring and six airbags as standard.
Inside the cabin it’s all about space and versatility. There are cup-holders in the front, rear and all doors, in addition to storage space behind the front seats. The boot stows up to 403 litres of cargo and has a heightened lip that helps stop luggage moving around. An option that surrounds the entire boot with plastic lining is also available for dog owners (or messy children), as fitted to our test vehicle.
Head and legroom in the front is great, but could be better in the rear for taller passengers. The only other grumble with the rear seating is the enclosed cavity you need to step over when getting in and out. It can be a little cumbersome at times.
Passenger entertainment comes in the form of a four-speaker sound system. Capable of streaming music over Bluetooth, or while directly connected using USB or auxiliary, the sound system is good enough, but could be better. Extra speakers would help increase sound quality and cabin coverage.
Mazda’s stop/start system works effectively and plays an active part in minimising fuel use around town. The system offers power almost immediately upon start up and uses intelligent controls to make sure you are never without air conditioning for extended periods or suffer take off lag, which can occur when you need to leave from a stationary position in a hurry.
The CX-5 can also be rewarding to drive. Around town and on the back roads of country Australia, the CX-5 always manages to excel. The light but communicative steering, along with adequate throttle response means the driver is always in charge of the vehicle. While the ride errs on the side of firm, it isn’t overly intrusive or excessive.
The cost advantage of the CX-5 Maxx is negated by the underpowered 2.0L engine. It can be a bit rev-happy at times and requires patience with a full complement of passengers. Thankfully the CX-5 comes in at a very slim kerb weight of 1443kg. That’s more than 100kg lighter than the Toyota Rav4 and Ford Kuga.
This of course translates to less money spent at the petrol bowser with the CX-5 averaging a meagre fuel use of 6.4L/100km. Under the bonnet there's a 2.0-litre four-cylinder naturally aspirated engine that produces a modest 114kW and 200Nm.
The Mazda CX-5 Maxx comes with either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic gearbox. Given the price difference of $2,000 between the two gearboxes (with the latter being more expensive), the automatic is worth the investment. Sharp gearshifts and clever shift logic are among the benefits.
Parking is made easy by electric steering (that limits the need for excessive driver input) and a reversing camera. In fact, front and rear vision out of the entire car is excellent.
Starting from $27,880 (before on-road costs and dealer charges) for the six-speed manual Maxx, a six-speed automatic is available for an additional $2,000. This pricing places the CX-5 right in the thick of the medium-size SUV segment.
Complete with a three-year, unlimited kilometre warranty, the Mazda CX-5 is one of the best SUVs available today. You no longer have to spend mega bucks for a good quality SUV that is designed to turn heads.