Mazda CX-5 2.0 SE-L 5dr

April 2012

picture of car from the front

Bold styling should help CX-5 stand out from the crowd


Overall Rating 8Overall rating

Value for money Rating 8Value for money

Space and Practicality Rating 8Costs

Space and Practicality Rating 8Space and practicality

Controls and display Rating 7Controls and display

Comfort Rating 8Comfort

Security Rating 8Car security

Safety Rating 9Car safety


  • Bold exterior look
  • Comfortable and refined cabin space
  • Pleasingly agile when driven briskly
  • Clever use of technology to boost economy and performance


  • Distinctive design won't please everyone
  • Certain interior plastics could be of higher quality
  • Cabin could be better insulated from exterior noise
  • Despite SV looks don't expect it to impress off road

Once viewed as a maker of sensible rather than exciting cars, Mazda has taken a radical approach to its future model line-up. The firm's CX-5 demonstrates Mazda's desire to boost crash safety, fuel economy and reduce emissions but without compromising driver enjoyment. Plus, it's decided to spice up its image with a bold new design policy.

Some clever technology has gone into the making of the CX-5. From rethinking the way cars are constructed and selecting extra-strong metal alloys to improve crash protection and help keep weight down to improvements to engine technologies, Mazda has done its upmost to give the CX-5 the best chance possible to compete against more established brands.

The end result is a car that not only looks striking but also delivers a driving and ownership experience that should help the CX-5 move up the wish lists of prospective buyers. And while it may occupy the 'soft-roader' end of the SUV scale, it's a competent car capable of easily filling the void left by those trading up from a family hatchback and also down from a full-blown 4x4.

One of the reasons for this has been Mazda's approach to driving dynamics, which has involved devising new suspension set-ups and reducing weight to create a more responsive and agile car. The result is an SUV that drives more like a car than a regular 4x4, with the CX-5 proving to be engaging and rewarding on a wide variety of roads.

And while you might automatically opt for diesel power, Mazda's engineers have developed a new petrol motor alongside its advanced oil burner. The unit's refinement is immediately noticeable, while there's ample power across the rev range to counter any concerns over the ability to cope with lugging loads or high speed cruising. Certainly, if you don't plan on covering many miles but still need flexible performance there's little evidence of any compromise here.

Our verdict on the Mazda CX-5 2.0 SE-L 5dr

The CX-5's bold look signals a concerted effort from Mazda to make a serious impact in the burgeoning soft-roader market. The combination of advanced powertrains and advanced construction promises a combination of engaging driving dynamics, enhanced crash protection, low fuel consumption and the emissions. With running costs expected to be modest, the CX-5 could well be the smart choice for cost-conscious active families.

Costs rating 8

With the prospect of above average fuel economy even for petrol variants, buyers should be able to look forward to modest running costs and low VED outlays over the ownership period. Mazda has a reputation for building dependable, reliable cars and this should also be a factor when making purchasing decisions.

Space and practicality
Space and Practicality Rating 8

While three adults will fit across the CX-5's rear seat, the preferred combinations are two adults or up to three children. The boot floor is relatively high but offers a good surface area to spread luggage out on. There is space beneath the boot floor as well, because there is no spare wheel, and there's a good selection of oddment storage options in the cabin.

picture of car from the rear

CX-5 also proves striking from the rear

Controls and display
Controls and Display Rating 7

Mazda's attention to detail is a well-known and appreciated attribute of its many cars and the CX-5's displays and controls are a good example of how to get it right. The three-dial instrument cluster layout is simple but effective, and is partnered by a comprehensive trip computer. On models with satellite navigation, the main functions are controlled by a dial on the lower centre console behind the gearstick and it's easy to use, even on the move.

Comfort Rating 8

The car's supportive seats and ample cabin space for occupants fore and aft results in a pleasant experience for all concerned. The wide cabin ensures that, up front, elbows won't clash while those in the back don't feel cramped. It would be nice, however, if the cabin was better insulated from road and tyre noise. It's not alarming but distant tyre rumbles and wind roar can spoil an otherwise calm ambience.

Car security
Security Rating 8

The CX-5's security provision is par for the course in its market sector, with the car featuring an alarm with internal sensors, an immobiliser and remote central locking.

Car safety
Safety Rating 9

Mazda's SkyActiv ethos extends beyond just improving fuel economy, as its engineers developed innovative ways of boosting structural rigidity and crash performance without adding extra bulk or weight. That said, the CX-5 also packs the usual combination of airbags and electronic stability aids, although some of the more advanced features only appear on the options list.

Driver appeal
Driver Appeal Rating 8

One of Mazda's main aims with the CX-5 was to make it an enjoyable car to drive. Conventional SUVs aren't always the sharpest of steers, but the CX-5 displays a more car-like behaviour that's in keeping with its road-focused set-up. The assured ride and surprising willingness from the petrol motors means you don't feel obliged to opt for diesel power to secure meaningful performance.

picture of car interior

Cabin is both versatile and spacious

Family car appeal
Family Appeal Rating 9

This is where the CX-5 excels, as the spacious SUV is more family wagon than all-out off-roader. Combining the convenience and all-round ability of a hatchback with the commanding seating position and extra visibility of a 4x4, it's ideal for an demanding, active family. It should also be economical to run and there are child seat mounting points as standard in the CX-5, should parents need them.

First car appeal
First car Rating 4

It's unlikely that the CX-5 would find favour with novice drivers as it's probably too expensive, too family-focused and too big to make a sensible or appealing first car. That's not to say the SUV isn't an easy car top drive, just that smaller, more manageable models exist in Mazda's line-up.

Quality and image
Quality and Image Rating 7

Mazda has a longstanding reputation for producing solid, reliable cars and the CX-5 will likely continue this tradition. It's a little more radically styled than the firm's previous SUV offerings, but the bold approach is designed to generate attention and attract a younger owner profile.

Accessibility Rating

With its tall stance and good size doors, access and egress should be straightforward. An upside of the CX-5's road-biased focus is that you don't have to haul yourself up and into the cabin like you would with a genuine off-roader thanks to the Mazda's lower ride height. At the rear, the car's tailgate proves easy to open and close, with the load lip at a reasonable height to aid with loading and unloading bulky items.

Stereo and ICE (In car entertainment)

The standard stereo will likely be more than good enough for most buyers. It can play music via a USB input socket while high-grade models have a satellite navigation system including a screen mounted in the centre console that also acts as a media interface. It's clear and easy to use, and the navigation function issues straightforward instructions and is easy to programme.

picture of car in detail

Twin sun roof option lets plenty of light into the cabin

Colours and trim

It's only fair to compliment the car's bold looks with an equally bold exterior colour choice, as darker hues do little to bring out the exterior's many different detailed styling cues. In contrast, the CX-5's interior boasts a more sombre ambience, although this is improved by the use of light coloured trim accents.


With its speed-sensitive power steering and high seating position the driver has an excellent view all around, making it easier to judge where obstacles are. Good size mirrors and parking sensors help matters enormously when in tight spaces.

Spare wheel

Emergency tyre repair kit supplied as standard.


Range information

Petrol engine options - 2.0-litre (163bhp). Diesel engine options - 2.2-litre (148bhp and 173bhp). Transmission options: six-speed manual, six-speed automatic. Trim levels: SE-L, Sport, SE-L Lux.


Alternative cars

Nissan Qashqai Popular crossover model has become the affordable soft-roader benchmark

Skoda Yeti Compact SUV boasts lots of character and practicality

Ford Kuga Good to drive, bold looks and affordable to boot

Volkswagen Tiguan Excellent build quality and commanding driving position

Over 1,200 more car reviews online

All the reports since 1990 are available on this site, just search by make and model below.

Step 1 > Select make Alfa Romeo    Aston Martin    Audi    Austin    BMW    Bentley    Cadillac    Caterham    Chevrolet    Chrysler    Citroen    Daewoo    Daihatsu    Dodge    Ferrari    Fiat    Ford    Honda    Hyundai    Isuzu    Jaguar    Jeep    Kia    Lada    Lamborghini    Lancia    Land Rover    Lexus    Lotus    MG    MINI    Maserati    Mazda    Mercedes-Benz    Mitsubishi    Nissan    Perodua    Peugeot    Porsche    Proton    Renault    Rolls-Royce    Rover    SEAT    Saab    Skoda    Smart    Smart Car    Ssangyong    Subaru    Suzuki    Toyota    Vauxhall    Volkswagen    Volvo    Yugo   


April 2012