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The Top Gear car review: Mazda CX-5

£22,810£30,395
7/10
Overall verdict

For: 

Intelligent design, overall abilities, very fuel efficient, good value

Against: 

Design ought to be more lively outside and in
The CX-5 is a cracking SUV that really will exceed your expectations. Well worth a look.

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Our choice

Mazda

2.2d SE-L 5dr

£24,040
N/A
61mpg
9.20s
150bhp
119g/km

What we say: 

Mazda takes a fresh look at SUV design and comes up trumps with an able contender

What is it?

Family car buyers, despite the appearance of Mazda’s smart CX-5, read on: it is a car that should be on your shortlist. It’s no Evoque, despite the new ‘Kodo’ design language, but it’s inoffensive enough and actually underplays the Mazda compact SUV. Beneath the surface, there’s a lot more interesting stuff going on.

Nothing here has been carried over from other Mazdas: the chassis is new, the engines are new, even the way it’s built is new. Is it enough to make Mazda a real player in this sector? Well, actually, yes. It is.

Driving

The CX-5 is a very mature model to drive. Only the Ford Kuga matches it in the mainstream sector: otherwise, it has the taut dynamics and impressive agility to match the German brands. It even steers nicely, yet also has an easy-going, relaxed feel.

The two engines are ‘Skyactiv’ units: one remarkably high-compression petrol, or a remarkably low-compression 2.2-litre diesel with two power outputs. 85 per cent sold in the UK will be diesel so it is a significant new engine and it is also a peach, proving incredibly smooth and quiet yet also willing to rev way beyond 5,000rpm. Of the two power outputs, the lower one is all you need: even this has a fine turn of speed and also returns excellent economy too. And the petrol? It’s nice enough, but can largely be ignored here.

On the inside

We wish Mazda had spent a bit more on the cabin materials, because they lack tactility in places and the design could be more interesting. Refinement and comfort more than make up for this, though. Mazda has gone as far as inventing a new type of noise insulation material, and it really works, giving a Germanic refinement at all speeds.

It’s very practical inside, with ample head and legroom all round plus a 503-litre boot that expands to 1,620 litres with the 40:20:40 split rear seats down. It may look Qashqai-sized on the outside, but it’s much bigger than that. Mazda’s even cured the problem of storing the parcel shelf, by designing a home for it under the floor.

Owning

Reflecting the fact these cars come from Japan, trim levels are simple: just SE-L and Sport, both with a very good level of standard kit (Sport has bigger wheels and thus a slightly stiffer ride). They’re keenly priced but the clincher is exceptional fuel economy. Avoid the auto and 4WD options, and the Skyactiv-D diesel can return a remarkable 61.4mpg, and emits just 119g/km CO2. A Ford Kuga can’t get above 50mpg or below 150g/km, illustrating just how impressive the Mazda is here, too.

Highlights from the range

Title 0–62 CO2 MPG BHP Price
The fastest
2.2d [175] Sport Nav 5dr AWD
8.8s 136g/km 54.3 175 £29,210
The cheapest
2.0 SE-L Nav 5dr
9.2s 139g/km 47.1 165 £22,810
The greenest
2.2d SE-L Lux Nav 5dr
9.2s 119g/km 61.4 150 £26,340

Wildcard

How about something completely different?

Wildcard

9/10

Land Rover Range Rover Evoque

£30,145£51,745
The Range Rover Evoque costs way more than the Mazda but is a similarly groundbreaking SUV that has sharp design on its side too