Car Reviews

2018 Mazda CX-5 Review – Australian Drive

Isaac Bober’s 2018 Mazda CX-5 Review with pricing, specs, ride and handling, safety, verdict and score.

In a nutshell: The ‘new-generation’ Mazda CX-5 brings updated styling and NVH, maintaining a steady as she goes approach.

2017 Mazda CX-5 Touring

Price $38,990+ORC (Touring) Warranty three years, unlimited kilometres Safety Not tested Engine (as tested) 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol Power 140kW at 6000rpm Torque 251Nm at 4000rpm Transmission six-speed automatic Drive all-wheel drive Dimensions 4550mm (L); 1840mm (W); 1675mm (H) Bootspace 442 litres Spare space saver Ground Clearance 193mm (unladen) Turning Circle 11.0m Fuel Tank 58 litres Thirst 7.5L/100km (combined)

THE MAZDA CX-5 launched in 2012 and became the Japanese car maker’s first model to showcase its new KODO design language and Skyactiv technologies. And it became a staggering sales success, accelerating to become one of the brand’s best-selling models, accounting for 25% of every Mazda sold around the world. Indeed, since 2012, 1.4million CX-5s have found driveways to call home.

2018 Mazda CX-5 Touring Review by Practical Motoring

Fast forward to now, and refreshing such an important car was never going to be easy. So, per CX-5 program manager, Masa Kodama, the car maker settled on “refinement” as its keyword for this next-generation CX-5.

What is it?

The next-generation Mazda CX-5 (which has been this country’s best-selling SUV for four years) feature’s the brand’s latest generation KODO design language as debuted on the CX-9; think slimmer head- and tail-lights and a flatter-looking snout, as opposed to the gaping grille of the old CX-5 (despite the description, I like the look of the old car).

2018 Mazda CX-5 Touring Review by Practical Motoring

Taking a steady-as-she goes approach to refreshing the CX-5, Mazda has, more or less, left the mechanicals unchanged from the old model; happy with the car’s dynamics and engine performance. Indeed, the key mechanical change is the addition of G-Vectoring Control which is designed to make cornering smoother, by reducing the torque load on one wheel and thus dial out the influence of those cornering forces on occupants.

The updated CX-5 carries over the current car’s three engines and two transmission options, although only the entry level Maxx can be had with a six-speed manual, all other variants are mated exclusively to a six-speed automatic transmission. And, like the outgoing model, Touring (a new variant), GT and Akera variants are only available with on-demand all-wheel drive.

On the outgoing model, Mazda admitted at the local launch this week in Brisbane that there’d been a cavernous price gap between Maxx Sport and GT variants. To that end, it has added a bridging model, the Touring, which is likely to take over from the Maxx Sport as the most popular CX-5 variant. That said, Mazda believes it’s the GT that will eventually take over as the most popular CX-5 variant. Mazda is expecting to shift around 2000 CX-5s a month for the rest of this year.

2018 Mazda CX-5 Touring Review by Practical Motoring

As mentioned, the mechanicals are carried over from the old car, but the design of the new CX-5 sets it apart from the outgoing car. It adopts the slimmer head and tail-lights from the CX-9 and, overall, looks (and is) flatter than the outgoing car. Via the tape measure, the new CX-5 is 10mm longer than the old car (4550mm Vs 4540mm), the same width, shorter (1675mm Vs 1705mm) with the same wheelbase of 2700mm.

Pricing for the CX-5 runs from $28,690+ORC for the entry-level Maxx in 2WD and with a manual transmission through to $49,990+ORC for the top-spec diesel-powered Akera.

What’s the inside like?

Let’s start from the back… after all, SUVs are meant to be all about space and practicality, right. Okay, the boot is bigger on the new CX-5 than the outgoing model which is good, now 442 litres (up from 403 litres). But this is short of the 466 litres of space in the back of a Kia Sportage, and a long way off the 600-plus litres of storage space offered in the Volkswagen Tiguan.

2018 Mazda CX-5 Touring Review by Practical Motoring

There are four tie-down hooks, but these are designed for a cargo net, rather than securing, say, a portable fridge. The boot shape is nice and wide, and there’s no real load lip that you’ll have to heave items over. Some variants get an automatic tailgate with programmable height setting.

The back seats are standard in 40:20:40 split fold, which is great, but I’d suggest there more like 45:10:45 with the middle seat being quite narrow, and more of a perch than an actual seat. The two outboard seats offer ISOFIX mounts and top tether anchor points.

2018 Mazda CX-5 Touring Review by Practical Motoring

These two outboard seats are well-shaped and comfortable and getting in and out of the back of the CX-5 is easy. There’s good head, shoulder and legroom, and the back rest can be reclined. There are rear air vents on Maxx Sport variants and up, Maxx misses out as you need dual-zone climate control to get the rear air vents, and it only has single-zone climate control. Similarly, on Maxx Sport and above there’s a fold-down centre armrest with a single USB outlet.

The lower roof line doesn’t seem to have eaten into headroom in the back but it and the rising waist line makes for slightly pinched rear glass, and so it doesn’t feel quite as bright and airy in the back as it does in the front.

2018 Mazda CX-5 Touring Review by Practical Motoring

Climb into the front of the CX-5 and there’s been a noticeable step-up in quality of design and the materials used, but… on both the Maxx Sport and Touring Variants we found there’s still a little bit too much hard plastic in places you’re likely to touch, like on the lower door panels and the centre console. Indeed, being able to see the seam in the plastic on the centre console in the Maxx Sport we tested was a bit of a disappointment for what is otherwise a much-improved cabin.

But, it’s still not perfect. Mazda’s seven-inch infotainment unit sits at the top of the dashboard making it very easy to glance across at while driving, and it’s not particularly affected by glare. However, it’s not a touchscreen unit (unless stationary) and needs to be controlled by the rotary knob and shortcut buttons down on the centre console, and that does require you to look down from time to time. There’s also no Apple Car Play or Android Auto which is disappointing as the unit in the CX-5 is not overly feature rich.

Look at the picture of the dash above and you’ll notice the blank space next to the stater button. In this writer’s opinion, this is where the climate control functions should have been placed. Instead, they’ve been pushed right down to the bottom of the dash and that means you’ve got to look right down to fiddle with them, and the buttons are quite small.

The small storage area at the base of the dashboard holds a 12V outlet but no USB outlet; you’ve got to look in the deep centre console bin to find them – there’s two of them. There are two cup holders that will take a 500mL water bottle, side-by-side at the front of that. The glovebox isn’t very big, but it will hold a 10-inch tablet, says Mazda.

What’s it like on the road?

Mazda’s engine line-up continues from the old car into this new CX-5, but the trainspotters might notice the fuel consumption has gone up… this figure is based on Mazda’s real-world testing in Europe and is intended to provide buyers with a more realistic fuel figure, rather than chase a lab-based number.

While the engines have been carried over and power and torque is the same across the board, that doesn’t mean the engines are the same. Mazda said it worked on things like making them more responsive to the accelerator and quieter, too. Sundry other tweaks have combined to make the engines smoother.

2018 Mazda CX-5 Touring Review by Practical Motoring

The six-speed transmission does a good job and is well matched to the engines, offering quick shifts once up and running, only getting caught out on a particularly slow, uphill corner. But, such was the corner that most cars in this segment would have probably had the same issue.

In general, the 2.5-litre petrol engine (141kW/251Nm), in the Touring we tested, offers plenty of oomph for overtaking or tackling hills. It’s down on torque compared with the diesel engine, but it never felt underdone on the roads we drove across on the local launch.

2018 Mazda CX-5 Touring Review by Practical Motoring

Mazda is the zoom-zoom brand and is keen, at every turn, to emphasise its car and driver philosophy, even when it comes to high-sided SUVs like the CX-5. But, and I know this will cause a lot of CX-5 owners to howl me down, the new CX-5, just like the old model, was a competent handler rather than a particularly sporty one.

And I don’t think that’s a problem. See, the CX-5 is an SUV aimed at families, not sports car drivers. We spent most of the local launch in a CX-5 Touring and while the roads were urban with little in the way of challenging tarmac, the CX-5 proved to be a comfortable with good grip and a generally easy car to drive.

That said, the suspension didn’t feel quite as well controlled as you get in a Volkswagen Tiguan, or a Kia Sportage or Hyundai Tucson with their locally-tuned set-up. The steering is consistently weighted, but is lacking in feel; then again, this isn’t a sports car and the set-up compares well against its competitors. The brakes proved strong, but the pedal lacks progression, only grabbing at the end of its travel and feeling spongey up until it caught.

2018 Mazda CX-5 Touring Review by Practical Motoring

The CX-5 runs an on-demand all-wheel drive system, and that means to keep fuel consumption low it drives the front wheels only until slip is detected, or excessive force is applied to the steering wheel. Then, drive is sent to the rear… Mazda, like Audi with the system in the Q2, says it’s a predictive system rather than a reactive all-wheel drive system. There wasn’t a chance on the drive program to test out the performance and we’ll endeavour to do that (on dirt) once we get the new CX-5 into the Practical Motoring garage.

In the past, we’ve made mention of NVH concerns with the CX-5, but that’s all been addressed with the new car. Plenty of insulation has been added to keep outside and road noise at bay on all but the coarsest of surfaces.

What about safety features?

The new CX-5 hasn’t been tested by either Euro NCAP or ANCAP yet, although a European test is expected shortly, but Mazda is confident the new car will, like the old one, be a five-star car. Beyond the use of more high-strength but lightweight steel in the structure, the new CX-5 offers, depending on the grade, radar cruise control with stop & go function, adaptive LED headlights, traffic sign recognition, blind spot monitoring, lane-keeping assist, driver attention alert, and smart city braking which works in both forwards and reverse between 4-80km/h – the system can also detect pedestrians between 10-60km/h.

2018 Mazda CX-5 Touring Review by Practical Motoring

All models offer auto door locking, traction and stability controls, speed limiter, rear parking sensors, reversing camera, rear cross traffic alert, engine immobiliser, hill hold assist, blind spot monitoring, smart city brake support, and whiplash minimising front seats.

Why would you buy one?

The Mazda CX-5 continues the march of the previous generation and adds a classier interior and more modern design. All the models are well equipped, but it’s not quite as spacious as some of its competitors, nor as practical, and it’s not quite as dynamic either.

What the CX-5 is, though, is a vehicle that will satisfy those looking for a reliable, well-priced and competent compact SUV.

Editor's Rating

What's the interior like?
What's it like on the road?
What about safety features?
Practical Motoring Says: The new Mazda CX-5 has been treated to new clothes, inside and out, improved sound insulation and there’s a new variant to choose too, bridging the once cavernous price gap between Maxx Sport and GT. If you liked the way the old CX-5 drove then you’ll like this one too. That said, in terms of cabin quality, the CX-5, although improved on the old model, is still a little way behind the likes of Volkswagen Tiguan and Kia Sportage, and we suggest the Skoda Kodiaq when it arrives towards the middle of this year, will be another front runner for quality.


  • Dug Rc

    Slight error, the screen is touchscreen, however only when stationary.

Isaac Bober

Isaac Bober

Isaac Bober was born in the shadow of Mount Panorama in Bathurst and, so, it was inevitable he’d fall into work as a motoring writer. He began his motoring career in 2000 reviewing commercial vehicles, before becoming editor of Caravan & Motorhome magazine. He then moved to MOTOR Magazine before going freelance and contributing to Overlander 4WD, 4×4 Australia, TopGear Australia, Men’s Health, Men’s Fitness, The Australian, CARSguide, and many more.