2018 Mazda CX-5 Maxx Sport diesel review

$39,990 Mrlp
  • Fuel Economy
    6L
  • Engine Power
    140kW
  • CO2 Emissions
    148g
  • ANCAP Rating
    5Stars

The Mazda CX-5 Maxx Sport diesel has received a power boost and a price cut, keeping it fresh for buyers in Australia's most competitive new car segment.

A year, it seems, is a long time in the automotive world. Take the all-new second-generation Mazda CX-5, launched in March 2017 to continue the medium SUV’s long run of commercial success (it’s the number-one-selling SUV in the segment). Now, less than 18 months later, Mazda has already ‘updated’ the chart-topper, while also trimming a few bucks from the price.

They’re not major changes in spec or price, mind you, but they are enough to keep the CX-5 at the top of the medium SUV sales tree.

Case in point, this Mazda CX-5 Maxx Sport diesel. At $39,990 plus on-road costs, it’s $400 cheaper than the MY18 model it ostensibly replaces, and more powerful, with 140kW (against 129kW) and 450Nm (over 420Nm) available from its 2.2-litre, twin-turbo diesel. It’s not the cheapest CX-5 you can buy (that badge of honour belongs to the FWD-only 2.0-litre petrol Maxx ($28,690), but neither is it the most expensive with the range-topping Akera asking for $49,190. It is the cheapest diesel CX-5 you can get into, though.

Options? Door mats at $187 to bring the as-tested price to $40,177 plus on-roads. That's it. It’s no stripper, though, with enough creature comforts and technology, not to mention safety equipment, to keep most buyers in the segment happy, even if it is a little light on in some aspects. More on that soon.

Standard equipment includes 17-inch alloys, LED fog lights, LED headlights with auto on/off function, rain-sensing wipers, dual-zone climate control, cloth trim, and push-button start.

Infotainment comes courtesy of a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Mazda’s MZD Connect interface. There’s satellite-navigation, DAB+ radio, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming (although no smartphone mirroring capabilities, nor is it optional), a rear-view camera, and rear parking sensors.

There’s a smattering of safety equipment and tech, but it misses out on some big-ticket items reserved for higher grades up the CX-5 food chain. Standard safety gear includes autonomous emergency braking, or as Mazda calls it Smart City Brake Support, which works between 4–80km/h, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert. It misses out on adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist, with those features reserved for the top-spec Akera only. Still, all grades of CX-5 wear a five-star ANCAP rating awarded in September 2017.

Stepping inside the CX-5, it’s easy to see why buyers are lured by the Mazda. Its simple and clean design is matched by decent fit and finish. Labels of semi-premium have been thrown at the CX-5, but really, the cabin is no more luxurious than many others in the segment. The seats are finished in black cloth, and a little uninspiring.

There are plenty of softer touchpoints and the CX-5’s ergonomics are pleasing, including the dials and buttons for the climate control. The rotary dialler used to control infotainment (the touchscreen only functions as such when the CX-5 is stationary) sits nestled in the centre console and remains easy to use and intuitive.

The back row isn’t commodious, but then the CX-5 is the very definition of a medium SUV. There’s still plenty of leg room and toe room, while head room is also adequate. It’s light and airy back there too, with excellent visibility – a boon for the kiddies stuck back there. Two ISOFIX and three top-tether points complete the set-up.

There are air vents back there too, although no separate climate controls. The back seats recline by four degrees, which isn't much, but enough to help find a comfortable possie or allow you to lean back for a little snooze on those dreary, long road trips.

Of course, this is all salad on a side plate. The real test of the CX-5 is in how it drives and handles the everyday duties expected of it – the meat and potatoes. And, unsurprisingly, the answer is like, well, meat and potatoes. Which is to say, perfectly good if not gobsmackingly great.

The lift in power and torque from the 2.2-litre inline-four diesel has served the CX-5 well. Matched to a conventional six-speed auto of the torque converter type, the CX-5 is quite adept at hustling around town without ever being thrilling. It never feels cumbersome. If anything, the Mazda feels quite light and agile. Mazda claims a miserly 5.7L/100km fuel use on the combined cycle, and while we didn't match it during our time with the CX-5, we recorded 7.8L/100km over a week of urban school runs, peak-hour commuting and highway cruising.

Gearshifts are fuss-free and seamless, unobtrusive. There’s a Sport mode that adds some free-revving pep, although there are no paddle-shifters. You can swap cogs manually via the leather-trimmed gear lever, but why would you?

On long highway runs, the CX-5 really settles into its rhythm. There’s an easy loping manner to the Mazda at cruising speed as it quietly goes about its business of eating up kilometres. Note the word ‘quietly’ in that previous sentence, for the CX-5 is a Mazda that has resolved some of the brand’s noise-suppression issues of the past.

Mazda claims it has made great strides in reducing noise/vibration/harshness levels in the CX-5, and first impressions on a highway run back up that claim. It is quieter than its predecessor, with less tyre roar and engine noise finding their way into the cabin. Improved sound deadening has helped stifle that annoyance, as has some mechanical trickery to the diesel engine, including the addition of dynamic dampers in each piston pin that aid in reducing vibration.

On the road, the CX-5’s ride is best described as uncomplicated. It’s not the last word in comfort, but it’s pleasant enough to not raise an eyebrow. Road joins, potholes and other minor imperfections don’t fluster the Mazda, the CX-5 insulating occupants with barely a sweat. Buyers in this segment will care about this.

Less of a concern are the CX-5’s dynamic abilities. That’s not to say Mazda hasn’t infused some sportiness into the CX-5 – it has – but dynamism isn’t a byword for this vehicle. Its active all-wheel-drive underpinnings certainly come into play, with Mazda’s i-ACTIV AWD constantly shuffling torque to the front and/or rear wheels as required to maximise grip where it’s needed most.

This new generation of CX-5 also features Mazda’s G-Vectoring Control – already found in the Mazda 3 and CX-9 – which basically makes minute adjustments to engine torque based on a driver’s steering and accelerator inputs, improving grip and handling, it’s claimed.

With the CX-5’s already nicely balanced steering, it all adds up to an unfussed ride: perfectly capable when needed, but mostly unobtrusive. No-one will be wrestling this mid-size family hauler around corners. Instead, the CX-5 will behave exactly as asked of it in most day-to-day applications, no bad thing.

While the CX-5 remains a decent entrant in the segment, one area where the Mazda is let down is in boot space. At just 442 litres with the back row being used for people, the CX-5 trails most of its rivals in capacity, and sometimes by quite a margin. Things don’t improve much with that rear bench folded down in 40/20/20 fashion, with 1342 litres to play with. There is a ski-port, though, so long narrow objects can be stowed without compromising seating for the two outboard passengers.

There’s a small array of hooks and tie-down points in the boot to stop your bags flopping around, while a temporary space-saver spare lurks under the floor.

Mazda expects to see its diesel CX-5s in every 12 months or 10,000km for scheduled servicing, and offers a pretty decent capped-price plan for the first five years or 50,000km. Those first five services will set you back $319, $390, $319, $361 and $319 for a total of $1708. And with Mazda recently joining the five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty party for all new cars sold after 1 August, owner surety has been brought into line with some of the CX-5’s mainstream rivals.

The Mazda CX-5 continues to set the sales charts alight in Australia, with over 16,000 new homes found for the mid-sizer in 2018. That’s an increase of 5.6 per cent over the same period last year, meaning buyers continue to flock to not only the segment, but the CX-5 in particular. It remains, convincingly, the most popular kid in school.

This early-model-life update isn’t huge, by any stretch, but with an even cheaper entry point, if only by a few hundred bucks, and with a smattering of extra torque and power, the CX-5 will undoubtedly continue to remain near the top of buyers’ shopping lists in the segment. Sure, there are glaring omissions, such as leather seats, smartphone mirroring and some of the more advanced safety tech, but with its AWD platform and an even punchier turbo-diesel, the CX-5 Maxx Sport, at a snip under $40K, makes a compelling case.

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