- Excellent twin-turbo diesel engine
- High quality cabin materials
- Fun to drive and comfortable
- Touring grade is mediocre
- Rear seat and boot small by class standards
- Starting to feel a bit dated
Mazda’s CX-5 has been a big success story in Australia. While its global sales don’t hold a candle to the Toyota RAV4, up until the new RAV4 was introduced recently, the CX-5 was actually the best-selling SUV in Australia and had been since its release in 2012. Obviously, there’s a lot to like about it, so if you’re after a mid-size SUV, should it be on your test drive list – and if so, which model should you buy? We tested the 2021 Mazda CX-5 Touring Diesel AWD to find out.
Price & Equipment: 7/10
Priced at $44,480 plus on-road costs (around $49,000 drive away depending on your location), the 2021 Mazda CX-5 Touring sits smack bang in the middle of the CX-5 range in Australia. This means that it offers a lot of equipment from the entry-level Maxx and Maxx Sport, and a smattering of luxury features from the upper-spec GT.
Standard kit on the Touring includes automatic LED lighting, auto wipers, LED front fog lights, 17-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control with rear vents, faux leather and suede upholstery, an 8.0-inch touchscreen with satellite navigation, wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, digital radio, a six-speaker sound system, heated and auto-folding mirrors, an auto-dimming rear mirror, keyless entry and start, four USB-A ports (including two in the rear centre armrest) and a leather steering wheel and gearknob.
Safety kit is plentiful and includes six airbags, high- and low-speed auto emergency braking (AEB), lane keep assist with lane departure warning, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, auto high beam, a heads-up display, traffic sign recognition, driver attention monitoring, adaptive cruise control with stop and go functionality, rear auto braking, a reversing camera and front and rear parking sensors.
For almost $50,000 drive away, there is a lot of kit missing on the CX-5 Touring compared with price point rivals. While a CX-5 has more safety kit such as a heads-up display, rear auto braking, auto high beam and LED headlights, a Hyundai Tucson Elite diesel has full leather upholstery, an electric driver’s seat, heated front seats, a larger 10.25-inch touchscreen, an electric tailgate, roof rails and remote start functionality. The Kia Sportage SX+ diesel is priced and equipped very similarly to its Tucson cousin as well.
The Touring spec in the CX-5 range also looks like somewhat poor value for money thanks to its positioning. It’s $3,000 more than the Maxx Sport that sits below it, but it doesn’t add much equipment. Yet the $6,000 jump to the GT seems like good value thanks to it adding larger 19-inch wheels, full leather upholstery, powered and heated front seats, a 10-speaker Bose sound system, a sunroof, cornering headlights and so on.
Performance & Economy: 9/10
Under the bonnet of the 2021 Mazda CX-5 Touring Diesel is a 140kW/450Nm 2.2-litre twin-turbocharged four-cylinder diesel engine. It’s matched to a six-speed automatic transmission and is solely available with all-wheel drive in Australia. The engine itself is the pick of the CX-5 range, in our opinion. That’s due to its grunty nature – peak torque hits at just 2,000rpm – while it’s also quite refined for a diesel engine as well. Somehow, it’s quieter than the 170kW 2.5-litre turbo petrol engine in the CX-5 Turbo and significantly more fuel efficient as well. This is most likely down to the diesel engine running a rather low compression ratio for a diesel engine of only 14:1, producing less of that tractor-like rattling sound.
Of course, diesel engines won’t suit every buyer as they’re better suited to those living in the country or those who do big driving distance. On the motorway, the CX-5 diesel is capable of pretty great fuel economy. Mazda claims that the CX-5 diesel will use 5.7L/100km on a combined cycle and we achieved 6.8L/100km in mixed driving, including a 5.0L/100km highway run, which is excellent. The CX-5 diesel features a 60-litre fuel tank, which enables drivers a highway cruising range of around 1,200km.
Ride & Handling: 9/10
Based on Mazda’s ‘SkyActiv’ platform that is shared with the current Mazda6, as well as previous versions of the Mazda3 and even the larger CX-8 and CX-9, the CX-5 has been one of the best mid-size SUVs to drive since it was released in 2012. It puts driving fun higher up the dynamic priority list than most of its competitors and it’s great for somebody who’s had to sell a sports car for something more practical because children have come along.
What’s so good about it? It’s just a hoot to drive. Despite a porky 1,754kg kerb weight, the CX-5 handles like a warm hatch and gives a good time behind the wheel thanks to meaty steering and a well-judged ride quality that provides a good mix between comfort and sportiness. Drive it harder and the better it gets with great balance and keen handling. Put simply, the CX-5 is one of the few mid-size SUVs with a pulse.
Unlike the previous generation CX-5 however, the new model is properly quiet at speed – this is helped further by the dowdy-but-comfortable 17-inch alloy wheels that come on the Touring and below. Road noise is no longer an issue and at highway speeds, you don’t really hear much of anything at all.
Visibility is reasonable in all directions and Mazda’s safety systems are very well tuned, in our opinion – similar systems are more intrusive in the Tucson and Sportage, for example.
Interior & Practicality: 8/10
Although the CX-5’s cabin dates back to 2012, and it is starting to feel a touch dated, it’s still one of the best quality cabins in the mid-size SUV segment with an almost-luxury brand feel missing in a lot of competitors. The materials are mostly soft-touch and the faux leather upholstery (that’s ‘Maztex’ to you) is better quality than the real leather in the Toyota RAV4 Cruiser. Real leather features in the up-spec CX-5 GT and Nappa leather in the top-spec CX-5 Akera. There are more hard plastics in the Touring than the higher-spec CX-5 models, but it’s still nicer quality than rivals.
Centre of the CX-5 Touring’s cabin is an 8.0-inch touchscreen that’s well featured with wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, satellite navigation and digital radio. Unfortunately it still features Mazda’s ‘MZD Connect’ software, which dates back to 2014. It feels old thanks to its grainy screen quality and the new ‘Mazda Connect’ system on a larger 10.25-inch screen in upper-spec CX-5 models is definitely worth stepping up for, as its graphics are far sharper and it makes the cabin feel much more expensive.
Storage inside the CX-5’s cabin is reasonably though with two large cupholders in the front, big door bins, a large centre console box and a tray ahead of the shifter, which will finally be filled with a wireless charger next year.
The rear seat and boot of the CX-5 are not class-leading by any standards. Rear seat space is tight for six-footers in both leg- and headroom, while the boot is a small 442-litres (1,342L with the seats folded). Both the rear seat and boot are well featured though with vents, door and map pockets, an arm rest with cupholders and USB-A charging ports and even a 40:20:40-split in the rear seat, and tabs and side storage in the boot. A space saver spare lies under the floor and the rear seats fold almost flat.
Service & Warranty: 7/10
Like the rest of the Mazda range, the CX-5 comes with a five-year/unlimited km warranty with five years of roadside assistance included. Like other petrol and diesel Mazda products, the CX-5’s intervals are once yearly/every 10,000km. Servicing the CX-5 Touring for five years/50,000km costs $2,214 ($442 per service), while that can get more expensive for those doing more distance thanks to the CX-5’s short 10,000km service intervals.
The Hyundai Tucson features the same five-year/unlimited km warranty as the Mazda, while the Kia Sportage adds two years for a total of seven. Their roadside assistance packages are a complimentary 12 months, but if you service at a dealer, you get a further 12 months to five (Hyundai) or eight (Kia) years in total. Both the Tucson and Sportage have longer 15,000km service intervals and cost $1,875 ($375 per service) and $2,592 ($518 per service) respectively to service over five years/75,000km.
The 2021 Mazda CX-5 Touring Diesel AWD DiscoverAuto Rating: 7.8/10
The 2021 Mazda CX-5 Touring Diesel AWD is like an old friend – no matter how long it’s been since you saw them, it’s always great to see them, and it’s the same here. The CX-5’s appeal and success is obvious thanks to its keen driving dynamics, grunty twin-turbo diesel engine, high quality cabin, handsome styling and high standard safety equipment levels. Rivals are coming for the CX-5 harder than ever before, but thanks to its excellent core engineering, it doesn’t need big changes to keep it relevant.
It’s not perfect of course, with a somewhat dated feel, short service intervals, a tight rear seat and boot and in Touring diesel spec, it’s expensive to buy – so much so that we’d consider spending the $6k premium to get to the GT, which feels a lot nicer inside. Rivals from Hyundai and Kia are certainly worth considering, but the CX-5 is still a great car that’s deserving of its big success.