There are three engine options and two gearboxes to choose from.
A 2.0-litre petrol unit in the Mazda CX-5 gets 163bhp and pulling power is rated at 210Nm. The petrol engine pulls strongly and, although somewhat vocal when worked hard, it does the job very nicely indeed. It boasts CO2 emissions of just 139g/km. The petrol-engine car will get to 62mph in 9.2 seconds, and go on to a top speed of 124mph.
You can have either a six-speed manual, which is a veritable joy to operate thanks to Mazda borrowing design ideas from the MX-5, or a six-speed automatic with the diesel engines. This offers drivers the ability to shift gears manually, albeit somewhat slower than a twin clutch gearbox, via the conventionally-located gear lever. You can also specify front- or all-wheel-drive.
Pair of outputs for diesel engine
The diesel engine, a twin-turbocharged 2.2-litre unit, can be had in two power outputs. The lower-powered version generates 148bhp and 380Nm of pulling power, and it can be ordered in either two- or four-wheel drive. It's likely to be the most popular engine as in two-wheel-drive manual configuration it emits just 119g/km. This means low road tax and company car tax costs. It will go from 0-62mph in 9.2 seconds, and will reach a top speed of 126mph.
The automatic version takes 10 seconds and will reach 123mph. There’s also a 173bhp model available in four-wheel-drive specification only. With this version the sprint to 62mph is dispatched in a brisk 8.8 seconds, while the top speed is 129mph. Both diesel engines drive extremely well, with torque available from very low revs and an even spread of power right to the 5,200rpm red line.
We’d head for the 148bhp 2.2 turbodiesel with manual gearbox and front-wheel drive to benefit from the low emissions and excellent fuel economy.
Mazda has gone to great lengths to ensure the CX-5 handles well. The first thing worth mentioning is that this is a light car compared to the competition. The Japanese firm has used some extremely lightweight steel to build the bodyshell, resulting in the car tipping the scales at just 1,425kg when fitted with the petrol engine. This really shows in the agility the car demonstrates.
If you ignore the higher-than-normal driving position it doesn’t even feel much like an off-roader. Turn-in is sharp, with the electronic steering assisting in a progressive fashion that may not provide the ultimate in driver feedback but certainly inspires confidence through corners. On four-wheel-drive models there’s a lot of grip available, and even on the two-wheel drive versions the fat 225-profile tyres mean you’re never left in a situation where traction is an issue.
There’s an element of body-roll, but nothing too over-the-top. Being a family-orientated car, with softer suspension, that’s pretty much par for the course.
Mazda has put a lot of effort into providing the driver with an excellent driving position. The location of the gear lever, the pedals and the seat combined mean you really feel in control. Visibility is also good and helped by the raised seating position. Although perhaps not as luxurious as offerings from premium firms such as Audi or BMW, behind the wheel of a CX-5 isn’t a bad place to be.
The dash is a simple mixture of analogue dials and an LCD trip computer screen telling you everything you need to know. There’s a sat nav fitted to the dash with a 5.8-inch touchscreen, but you don’t have to lean forward to operate it; you can do so via steering wheel-mounted buttons or the ‘commander’ module, which is a rotary knob and set of buttons sitting just behind the gear lever.
You can’t change the colour of the dash materials, but can order either ‘sand’ or black leather or fabric upholstery.
The ride is very good indeed, so you get great Mazda CX-5 comfort. It feels extremely measured on less-than-ideal road surfaces and will negotiate bumps and potholes in a style usually reserved for more expensive cars. There’s a lot of room available too; with two fully-grown adults in the front there’s loads of headroom and still enough space for adults to sit in comfort in the back.
You’ll notice a bit of noise travelling in the CX-5, but in a characteristic break from the norm Mazda has decided not to make the car the last word in silent motoring. The firm believes you should hear the engine, so it has engineered the sound-deadening in a way that allows those frequencies into the cabin while dampening others such as road and tyre noise.