Mazda CX-5 GSX 2012 Review

Mazda CX-5 GSX 2012 Review

I never call the Thames Coast road by its proper name. I call it ‘The Road of a Thousand Bends’. Apart from a couple of short straights at Manaia and a few villages dotted along the coast it is a relentless barrage of tight (often blind) corners wedged precariously between the sea and steep bluffs.

If you have a car with great dynamics this road is frustrating during the day but awesome at night. During the day there’s a procession of boaties, campervans and sightseers meaning you can’t stretch the vehicle’s legs; late at night, though, you can

often get a clear run through from Coromandel to Thames, even if you’re moving at pace.

And so it was that I happened to be in Coromandel on a clear, dry Sunday evening in Mazda’s new CX-5. The ads I glimpsed on the telly relate it to some kind of big cat (probably a leopard or cheetah since choosing a cougar would be a semantic faux pas). This implies that it has cat-like features like being lithe, agile and fast, and sitting in front of the fire blocking the heat from everyone else.

The ads don’t lie. I’m trying to think of another SUV that I felt handled quite so much like a car. I can’t. The lateral grip is confidence-inspiring and the brakes are strong. It’s just let down by a lack of real urge to rocket you out of the corners. When you do put your foot down there is modest acceleration but it’s accompanied by a wholly unsatisfying engine noise which makes me want to accelerate like I actually don’t want to get where I’m going.

However, this new two-litre, four-cylinder, 16-valve DOHC petrol engine is one of Mazda’s Skyactiv ones which is far more frugal than its predecessors. Skyactiv is a number of features implemented not only in the engine, but the whole car. Within the engine there is a high compression ratio that gives 15% more torque (despite running on 91 octane) while using 15% less fuel using sequential valve timing and a custom exhaust system. There is also a lighter body frame, a brake system that stores power and a trick six-speed gearbox that’s like a cross between a conventional manual and a CVT. This gearbox gives better acceleration from standstill, but reduces fuel use by 7% over a conventional automatic.

To assist further with the fuel economy the CX-5 features Mazda’s i-stop which cuts the engine when you stop the car, for example, at traffic lights, then starts it again when you lift your foot off the brake. The system worked flawlessly and would save money for drivers who spend a lot of time in town or rush hour traffic.

The exterior styling looks great in colour but loses it a little in the dark metallic grey of our test car. There are some nice curves, particularly the interplay between the front headlights and the front wheel arches, and over the rear wheel arches. The large front grille is a little too see-through for my liking.

At the back the styling is a bit boring compared to the sides and front. You get a reversing camera which displays on the 5.8-inch dashboard screen but, oddly, no parking sensors.

The interior is well thought out. The boot contains a couple of useful recesses either side of the spare wheel cover which were good for holding items that liked to slide around. The spare wheel cover seems a little high, but the fact it’s flush with the tailgate aperture makes for getting heavy things in and out with ease. The boot still managed to fit my luggage in with ample room (large rucksack, large camera bag plus laptop and a few smaller bags). There are two useful inclusions, though. The first is the integrated boot blind which hooks to the tailgate, and the second is that the rear seats split 40/20/40 for added flexibility. The rear seats fold fairly flat, too.

Legroom for rear passengers is adequate, and in the front you get sports seats and a relatively commanding driving position. Satellite navigation is supplied as standard on this model and is controlled using the touch screen in the centre of the dash. This screen also managed the stereo, Bluetooth phone connections and general car settings.

Six airbags, dynamic stability control, traction control, ABS and other electronics help enhance the handling and safety.

It’s hard to fault the CX-5. You have to start being picky. I definitely don’t like the engine sound, but is there anything else? Not really. It’s very practical – particularly with the 40/20/40 split seat, sizeable boot and integrated luggage blind. Despite being a petrol engine SUV the fuel economy was good – less than 7l/100km. It even looks good (best in blue in my opinion).


  • Fantastic handling, and it comes in 4WD like a proper SUV if you purchase the model up
  • Plenty of kit


  • Engine sounds coarse when worked hard

You might also consider:

Volkswagen Tiguan TSI

Hyundai ix35

Vehicle Highlights
Price $41,390+ ORC
Style 5 door Crossover SUV
Tank capacity (Litres) 56 litres
Recommended fuel 91 RON
Fuel consumption – combined 6.4 litres per 100km
Emissions standard Euro IV 148g/km
Engine type 2.0L in-line 4 cylinder 16 valve DOHC S-VT SKYACTIV-G (petrol) with i-stop
Capacity (cc) 1,997
Compression ratio 13.0:1
Maximum power (kW) 114kW @ 6,000rpm
Maximum torque (Nm) 200Nm @ 4,000rpm
Throttle control Electronic (drive-by-wire)
Transmission SKYACTIV-DRIVE (6-speed Automatic) with manual shift function
Drive Front Wheel Drive
Number of seats 5
Doors 5
Overall height (mm) 1,710
Track – front/rear (mm) 1,585/1,590
Overall length (mm) 4,540
Overall width (mm) 1,840
Wheel base (mm) 2,700
Kerb weight (kg) 1,482
Towing capacity – braked (kg) 1,800
Towing capacity – unbraked (kg) 750
Cargo room volume (VDA) 403 litres (rear seats in use) 1,560 (rear seats folded)
Steering Electronic power assist
Tyre size 225/65 R17
Rim size 17 inch
Wheel Type Alloy
Brakes – front Ventilated disc
Brakes – rear Solid disc
Air conditioning Dual-zone climate control
Cabin Air Filter Ventilated pollen filter
Bluetooth® handsfree phone connectivity Yes
Steering column – adjustable Tilt and telescopic
Cruise Control Yes
CD player Single disc MP3/WMA-compatible
Auxiliary input USB, iPod® and 3.5mm MP3 player compatible
Speakers 6
Bluetooth® audio Yes
Steering-wheel-mounted audio controls Yes
Cup holders Yes
Interior illumination Cargo room lamp, ignition key surround, map reading spot, power window switches
Leather wrapped shift knob Yes
Leather wrapped steering wheel Yes
Seat trim Cloth
Rear seats 40/20/40 fold
Satellite Navigation In dash (TomTom)
Multi Information Display 5.8-inch colour, with touch screen control
Windscreen wipers – front 2-speed with rain-sensing function
Windscreen wipers – rear With intermittent function
Door handles Body coloured
Mirrors Body coloured with power adjustment
Aerial Shark fin-type
Headlamps Halogen with auto on/off function
Windows Powered with one touch driver function
Fog-lamps Front
Body kit Sports grille, rear spoiler, dual exhausts
Push button engine start Yes
Genuine Scheduled Servicing 3 years/100,000km (whichever occurs first) at no extra cost
On Road Assistance 3 year unlimited kilometre Mazda On Call Roadside Assistance
Warranty (years/km) 3 year unlimited kilometre Mazda Genuine Factory Warranty

Words and photos: Darren Cottingham

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