Mazda CX-5 review

Crossing over may not be as bad as you thought

By Shahzad Sheikh

Mazda CX-5

The last of my hat-trick of Mazda reviews (read my CX-9 and Mazda6 reviews) is this test of the CX-5. What is one of those then? The smallest offering in the marque’s SUV line-up, this is a compact crossover thingy competing in the small-family segment.

What isn’t so good, is the thought of driving around in an compact crossover. Prejudice and perception dictates that that’s usually an oversized family hatchback or worst, a small MPV, trying to be an SUV. The successful execution of this formula is supposedly a case of marrying off-road style and tall seating position to a dynamic drive and the economy of a regular car.

Mazda CX-5

Ultimately, crossovers usually fail at achieving any of this. It’s just all too far a stretch for them. And they usually end up a disappointment, being neither one thing nor the other.

So here’s the 2013 Mazda CX-5 trying to win over a driver predisposed to disliking it. And it starts off by being a good-looking little thing, although I would suggest that the white the test car came in, is probably not the most flattering colour. But the blue in these images seems quite striking.

Mazda CX-5

Supposedly it’s all thanks to KODO, Mazda’s ‘Soul of Motion’ design language. It has a friendly face, a purposeful stance, and a dynamic flow to its profile, using the upwardly curved lower crease line on the doors to much better effect than BMW’s ‘flame surfacing’ ever did.

Inside it’s very pleasantly habitable, similar to the Mazda6 saloon. Clean, crisp, slightly better appointed and presented than you might have been expecting. It’s comfortable enough for a family of four – five at a squeeze – with good boot space. The only thing I could find to complain about was the knobs on the radio were positioned the wrong way around, so every time I went to turn the sound up or down, I ended up losing my channel.

Mazda CX-5

The top of the range GTX we tested featured dual-zone climate control, keyless entry, 9-speaker Bose, front and rear parking sensors and rear camera, leather upholstery, remote controls on the steering, dual exhaust, front and side curtain airbags, and 19-inch alloys – which seems a bit excessive on a family runabout.

Plus it had the 185bhp 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine and all-wheel drive, although a 2.0-litre with just front-wheel drive is also available. A base version of that does away with most of the goodies, so don’t choose the GS spec (in any case it’s a special order, probably intended for fleets). If you want it to be attractive for resale and impressive to friends and family, opt for the GT trim at the very least.

Mazda CX-5

The full range includes the 2.0 2WD GS (special order), 2.0 2WD GT (AED93,000), 2.0 AWD GS (special order), 2.0 AWD GT (AED99,000), 2.5 AWD GT (special order), 2.5 AWD GTX (AED115,000).

With a kerb weight of 1602kg, and 251lb ft from the 2.5-litre to pull it along at 3250rpm, it feels remarkably punchy just past the three-grand mark. The gearbox is decent, the steering is weightier than you’d think for a family wagon, and the body control too is remarkably composed.

Mazda CX-5

Dare I say it, but it’s even rather satisfying and entertaining to chuck around and hustle through city traffic and blast around town. It’s relatively compact dimensions and agility proving handy.

So a great looking and practical little SUV with very little to fault it, and a dynamic edge proving an added bonus that will keep the driver happy. Stretch to a GT with the 2.5-litre engine and AWD – which could come in handy here, and this is a viable alternative to the Honda CR-V/Toyota RAV4 duo that dominates this segment. Although I’d still place the more charismatic Ford Escape and GMC Terrain models slightly ahead.

Mazda CX-5

2014 Mazda CX-5 2.5 GTX AWD
Prices: AED115,000 ($31k)
Engine: 2.5-litre four-cylinder, 185bhp @ 5700rpm, 184lb ft @ 3250rpm
Performance: 8.3secs 0-100kph (est), 200kph, 9.0L/100
Transmission: Six-speed auto, all-wheel drive
Weight: 1602kg

Let us know which compact SUV you would choose in the comments section below

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