Mazda CX-5 Driving, Engines & Performance | Top Gear
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Wednesday 4th October


What is it like to drive?

Alright, so it’s not exactly like an MX-5 to drive. But there’s verve to the way the CX-5 turns into corners, and its steering responses are pure and brimming with feel – someone who really relishes driving has had some hefty clout on the development team.

The same goes for the fitment of ‘G-Vectoring Control’, which subtly mimics the proper driving-shoes act of lifting off the throttle into corners to put weight over the front axle, thus improving the car’s responses. It’s nerdy as hell and we’re here for it. Whether anyone cross-shopping with a Qashqai cares is entirely another matter.

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Those cross-shoppers are more likely to notice the complete lack of hybrid options in the CX-5 range. Mazda is starting to electrify its cars – there’s the MX-30 EV, and a few mild-hybrid powertrains on smaller models – but here’s a company keeping its options open (and wide) as it looks into the future. Mazda is pouring a lot of effort into helping develop synthetic fuels, firmly believing that internal combustion has a long – and crucially clean – future ahead of it. In the mainstream car world, that makes it a bit of a lone voice.

But what does this all mean now?

It means the CX-5’s engine range feels out of kilter with conventional thinking. You’ve a choice of two non-turbo petrols or two big diesels, and oddly it’s the latter which are nicest to use. A nat-asp petrol engine is wondrous in a little sports car, but a bit laborious in a fully stocked SUV. Go for the 163bhp petrol manual CX-5, as most buyers will, and you’ll be downchanging at least once, perhaps twice for overtakes and big inclines. But you are better off with the smaller petrol; much as our inner luddite loves the idea of a stocky 2.5-litre powerplant, it’s loud and uncouth above 3,000rpm and not especially rich in torque below that point. It drops a sole second from the base engine’s 0-62mph time, and at 9.3secs, isn’t notably sprightly as a result.

The minority who pick a diesel will be getting a more complete-feeling car, the higher output engine especially smooth mated to the automatic gearbox. It’s how an SUV really ought to feel – quiet, effortless and taking the strain out of driving.

On which note, the 2022 update has also seen Mazda reshape the CX-5’s seats, lower its road noise levels and soften its suspension a tad, following customer feedback. And it’s certainly plusher than before. Perhaps a crossover driving like a little roadster is a better idea than it is a reality.

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