Mazda CX-5 Driving, Engines & Performance | Top Gear
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BBC TopGear
Car Review

Mazda CX-5

£ 26,135 - £ 37,725
Published: 25 Feb 2012


What is it like to drive?

Let’s talk petrol first. Mazda believes in something called “rightsizing”. Versus the more fashionable “downsizing” – which theorises that smaller petrol engines use less fuel, and that you can make up for the inevitable power deficit by adding a turbocharger – Mazda simply fits its cars with larger-capacity naturally-aspirated petrols big enough to power the cars to which they’re fitted without the need for forced induction.

So while Seat, for example, will sell you an Ateca with a tiny turbocharged 1.0-litre three-cylinder motor, the smallest petrol engine you can get in a CX-5 is a comparatively hefty 2.0-litres with four-cylinders. And Mazda’s just gone one better, by adding a punchier 2.5-litre four-cylinder to the line-up for 2021.

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Both engines do without turbochargers or any form of electrical assistance (whereas Mazda’s smaller cars get a 48-volt mild-hybrid boost), but can shut down two of their four cylinders when you’re cruising to save fuel. In the 2.5-litre car you don’t feel this happening at all.

On our mixed 50-mile test route, the 2.5-litre CX-5, which is only available with all-wheel drive and an automatic gearbox, met Mazda’s claim of 35.3mpg without any trouble. We’ve not tested the front-wheel drive 2.0-litre car since the CX-5 was launched in 2017, but Mazda claims CO2 emissions are down by 7-9g/km for 2021, and fuel economy is up – the official claim is up to 42.2mpg for the standard (and excellent) manual or 37.7mpg for the auto.

As you’d expect the 2.5-litre CX-5 feels brawnier than the 2.0-litre, but there’s actually not that much between them on paper. The 2.0-litre has 163bhp and, with the auto, gets to 62mph in 9.8 seconds. Meanwhile the 2.5-litre car has 191bhp but takes 9.2 seconds to reach 62mph. You’re feeling the added torque of the bigger motor – just 157lb ft versus a healthier 190lb ft.

The 2.5-litre motor isn’t the quietest or most refined engine in the world, and the noise it does make isn’t particularly pleasant, but it gets the job done. It’s responsive and, though it doesn’t feel its near-200bhp, is plenty powerful enough to push the CX-5 along at a decent pace. The six-speed auto isn’t as crisp as the best dual-clutch transmissions and tends to hang on to ratios for too long, but its changes are smooth and there are paddles on the wheel so you can make the decisions yourself.

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If you want a petrol, the sensible thing to do is stick with the more economical 2.0-litre. Even if it feels a bit weedy. The 2.5-litre forces you into top-spec GT Sport trim, an auto gearbox and all-wheel drive, so in all it costs almost £10k more than the most basic 2.0-litre car.

That said, the best engine for a car of this size and type tends to be a turbodiesel, just because of how they make their power/torque. Mazda offers two – both 2.2-litres, one with 148bhp and the other with 181bhp – so together with the two petrols you have four engine options. The diesels aren’t standout, but they’re as quiet and refined as you’d hope and compliant with all the latest emissions standards. Do feel a bit lardier than the petrols in the bends, mind.

The CX-5 isn’t as agile as an Ateca nor as soft or comfortable as a C5 Aircross, but it still handles rather well. All CX-5s get something called G-Vectoring Control, which rather than vectoring torque across the axle, takes a little bit of torque away from the front wheels when you turn in. This shifts weight forward over the front axle. As you accelerate through and out of the bend said torque is restored, shifting weight backwards to aid stability.

Highlights from the range

the fastest

Mazda CX-5 2.2d [184] Sport 5dr
  • 0-629.2s
  • CO2128.0g/km
  • BHP184
  • MPG
  • Price£ 32,235

the cheapest

Mazda CX-5 2.0 SE-L 5dr
  • 0-6210.3s
  • CO2146.0g/km
  • BHP165
  • MPG44.1
  • Price£ 26,435

the greenest

Mazda CX-5 2.2d Sport 5dr
  • 0-629.9s
  • CO2128.0g/km
  • BHP150
  • MPG57.6
  • Price£ 30,735
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