One thing is not unique about the Mazda CX-5: it is a large SUV and there are a lot of them. Almost all brands have SUVs in their range, so the differentiating factor starts with the looks. For this, Mazda has been deploying "Kodo, the soul of motion" for years. That is, the designers have turned the phenomenon of "movement" into a design style.
For the 2022 model year, the exterior has barely changed. Still, the CX-5 is characterised by flowing, almost organic lines. And that sets this SUV apart from brands who opt for an imposing appearance that emphasise their ties to off-road vehicles. Compared to the 2017 version, a single chrome accent more or less can be found, but with that, the external differences have been discussed.
Space and equipment
Inside, too, the differences are small. As ever, the space in the front is good and adults are also comfortable in the rear. The test car has an electrically operated tailgate that provides access to a boot that is slightly smaller than average for a car of this size. However, in absolute terms, the boot space remains large and usable.
The progress for model year 2022 is in the equipment. A DAB+ tuner and alarm are now standard. The CX-5 can automatically brake for objects and will do so in the dark from now on. Mazda still opts for a traditional setup with analogue dials behind the steering wheel and a modest display in the middle of the dashboard. That display has grown slightly though and now measures 10.25 inches, as the previous one was really too small (8 inches).
The audio, communication and sat nav system now starts up significantly faster. The menus have been modified and the font has been changed, making operation a little easier. However, Mazda continues to patronise the driver by activating the touchscreen only when the car is stationary. Driving, only the combined push-and-turn knob is available, making operation slower and more cumbersome than by simply touching the screen. Moreover: Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are now also supported and operating them with a rotary knob is extremely clumsy.
As long as the tone control is neutral and all "sound enhancers" are switched off, the Bose audio system of the more luxurious versions sounds reasonable. The more "enhancers" are switched on, the more artificial and fatiguing the sound becomes.
Several car brands have now said goodbye to the diesel engine and/or only supply electric cars. Mazda, on the other hand, argues that the acceptance of alternative powertrains is uneven. That is why the manufacturer supplies both an electric SUV (the MX-30) and a petrol-powered compact SUV (the CX-3). The CX-5 is the largest SUV and since it is also used as a tow vehicle (max 2,100 kg braked trailer weight), a diesel engine is still an option.
This 2.2-litre four-cylinder previously delivered 175 hp, which has increased to 184 hp for the 2022 model year. To meet the latest emissions requirements, the exhaust gases are now cleaned more thoroughly. To make economical driving easier, the feel in the accelerator pedal has been changed. The resistance provided by the pedal has been increased and the way the engine management interprets the driver's commands has been changed. As a result, driving is more even and therefore more economical. This may sound a bit vague, but the result is worth it: the test consumption came to 6.6 litres per 100 km, which is equal to the promise in the brochure.
With a calm driving style, it is hardly noticeable that this is a diesel engine. The motor does its job almost inaudibly and always has so much power on hand that the revs rarely rise sharply. This is also thanks to the (optional) automatic gearbox, which does its job just as imperceptibly. Only when the engine is revved up does the mechanics come alive. This is also when it delivers the performance to be expected from this most powerful version of the CX-5.
The lack of any form of electric drive is both the CX-5's strongest and weakest point. Compared to its (semi-)electric competitors, the CX-5 is more taxing on the environment and more costly to run (fuel costs, depreciation, maintenance). However, a car without batteries is lighter and that translates into confident and dynamic handling.
For years, Mazda has preached that it wants to make the bond between driver and car as strong as that between a rider and a horse (its advertisers like to use the Japanese term "Jinba Ittai"). However, Mazda does not do this by opting for rock-hard suspension or direct steering. Instead, it is about making the car as easy to drive as possible. Especially for a large and tall car, the CX-5 is remarkably well balanced. The CX-5 is therefore just as easy to drive as a lighter car and always reacts exactly as can be expected.
Will the Mazda CX-5 be able to compete again after the facelift for the 2022 model year? That question cannot be answered with a simple "yes" or "no". For that would imply that one solution is the ideal one for everyone. What Mazda has achieved with the rejuvenation cure is that the CX-5 manages to stand out more.
The CX-5 is primarily for those looking for a large, practical car without any fuss. Mazda sticks to the familiar where it can and improves only where it really makes sense or is necessary. Common objections about the small screen and lack of Apple CarPlay / Android Auto support have been dispelled. Thanks to further engineering developments, the diesel engine meets the latest emission requirements and Mazda can continue to serve customers who, for whatever reason, do not yet want to make the switch to electric driving.
The strongest point remains unchanged: the concept. Unfortunately, Mazda marketing lapses into vague terms and Japanese proverbs, but the distinguishing point of every modern Mazda lies in the ease with which the technology does its job. In doing so, the car never intrudes on the driver; instead, the technology does exactly what it is supposed to do. As such, the CX-5 has no distinct character and offers no groundbreaking technology, but that is all that is needed when a concept is well originated!
- Premium build quality
- Quiet, powerful diesel engine
- Excellent driving characteristics
- Touch-screen not available while driving
- Not available with (partly) electric drive