“No wagons,” she said. Having grown up with Magna and Verada wagons as family cars, I knew how useful wagons were for trips to the local Bunnings, IKEA or the airport. The Mrs was adamant.
Our previous car was a 2005 LC Hyundai Accent sedan, which the Mrs found relatively low and too narrow for a baby capsule and two adults to sit comfortably in the back.
A higher driving position was a must, and we didn’t want a car that was too big either, so that inevitably led us to looking at mid-sized SUVs. We quickly settled on the Mazda CX-5 and took delivery of a FWD Maxx Sport auto in August 2014. The only dealer option was to add rear parking sensors.
Four years on, the first-generation CX-5 remains a very handsome shape, and to these eyes the KE model is a more cohesive design than the current KF.
It’s an SUV, so practical matters first.
We liked the CX-5’s size. At 4.54m, it’s a little shorter than a BM/BN 3 sedan and only 8cm longer than the 3 hatch, with identical 2.7m wheelbases. The CX-5 is a little wider than the 3 by 4.5cm.
The extra height of an SUV made it easier to strap our daughter in, whereas by comparison the 3’s door aperture is barely high enough to lift a Maxi Cosi capsule through with a base mounted on the seat.
The boot, at a claimed 403L, isn’t particularly large, but we have found it sufficient for one child and associated paraphernalia. The 40:20:40 split-fold has been useful for trips to IKEA, and the releases are conveniently located in the boot. The best feature of the CX-5’s boot is the cargo cover, which ingeniously clips to the boot door, and extends to lift up with the door. Why don’t more cars have this?
On the other hand, the passenger doors have been, on occasion, pretty annoying. They extend down to cover the whole sill, with the intent being that your trousers wouldn’t get muddy after an off-road excursion. However, in the urban jungle with cambered roads and deep drainage channels, it’s all too easy to catch the front doors on kerbs and nature strips. First-world problems, I suppose.
The interior is as well assembled as you would hope for a ‘Made In Japan’ vehicle, although whoever thought it would be a bright idea to put on the dash a prominent strip of piano-black plastic that is a magnet for dust and fingerprints ought to be nailed to the cross.
I’ve never found the driver’s seat to be particularly supportive, although the Mrs has had no complaints with it, and the back seats have a fairly short squab. The 2015 update apparently has more comfortable seats with a deeper rear seat cushion, so if you are looking to buy the first-generation CX-5, it may be worthwhile looking for the facelifted model for that reason alone.
The Maxx Sport has nicer upholstery than the base Maxx, however the outer bolster on the driver’s seat has frayed slightly. The seat has been protected by Mazda’s neoprene seat cover, but it does not cover the bolsters due to the side airbag.
Visibility is generally fine, helped by large door mirrors. The reverse camera makes up for the high-set rear window, but could be obscured by rain drops on occasion. Like all SUVs with a bluff nose, it can be difficult to judge how close the front is to objects. Our CX-5 doesn’t have a dimming rear-view mirror (it was optional), however its extra height over a normal sedan/hatch reduces the chance of being dazzled by low-beam headlights.
Even though our CX-5 is only four years old, technology has moved on significantly in that time. Features such as forward and reverse AEB and rear cross-traffic alert are absent on our car, but are now standard on a $23K 3 Maxx Sport. For infotainment, our CX-5 missed out on MZD Connect, and the stereo with its 5.8-inch screen and TomTom navigation looks primitive compared with today’s smartphones. At least it sounds decent, displays the GPS speed and warns of speed camera locations, which is very handy in fine-obsessed Victoria.
And now to the driving.
The SkyActiv 2.0-litre is obviously no fireball, however for pottering around suburban streets at an average of ~20km/h, it’s perfectly adequate. It revs keenly, although when acceleration is required it helps to pick the right gear first than to wait for kickdown.
Ours has the straight-shift transmission lever introduced at the end of 2013, and it’s a simple matter to knock it left and forward for a lower gear or two. The engine may feel lethargic initially, as full acceleration isn’t delivered until the accelerator has been pushed to the end of its travel to activate the 'kickdown switch'.
Fuel consumption averages around 10.5L/100km on trips to the school or train station during peak-hour traffic, dropping to 6–7L/100km on longer runs.
The steering is direct, and the CX-5 is pretty nimble through corners and roundabouts. The flipside of this is that it rides quite stiffly, especially from the back seat. Sharp-edged bumps, like what you would find in a shopping centre carpark, can be especially jarring.
I don’t consider the CX-5 to be particularly noisy at suburban speeds. It is serene when stopped at traffic lights due to i-stop, unless a Harley happens to pull up alongside, in which case somewhat oddly the bike’s rumble could be heard and felt in the cabin through the firewall more than through the windows.
In terms of reliability, the CX-5 has been faultless aside from one minor issue – we had an occasional clunk from the front left corner, and the upper front strut bearing was changed under warranty.
Overall, while our CX-5 isn’t perfect, I’d say Mazda has hit on a sweet spot. It’s neatly styled and is easy to live with, it’s roomy enough for our family, and the pricing for the Maxx Sport 4x2 spec was reasonable for what we got (back in 2014).
It’s the modern-day wagon. Just don’t tell the Mrs that.