Car Reviews

2018 Mazda CX-5 Review: Maxx AWD

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

In a nutshell: What we’re looking at here is one of the most popular CX-5 variant in the range, with the most popular engine and drivetrain set-up (AWD).

2018 Mazda CX-5 Maxx AWD

Price From $33,690+ORC Warranty three-years, unlimited kilometres Service Intervals 10,000km/12months Engine 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol Power 140kW at 6000rpm Torque 252Nm at 4000rpm Transmission six-speed automatic Drive on-demand all-wheel drive Dimensions 4550mm (long) 1840mm (wide) 1675mm (high) Ground Clearance 185mm Weight 1641kg Towing 1800kg maximum braked Towball 150kg Boot Space 442-1342L Spare 17-inch steel temporary Fuel Tank 58L Thirst 7.4L/100km

Comprehensive Car Insurance

AUSTRALIANS HAVE snapped up more than 140,000 Mazda CX-5s since it was launched in February 2012 making this the best-selling SUV for five years straight. In May this year, Mazda made a handful of tweaks to the CX-5 range.

What is the Mazda CX-5?

Besides being Australia’s best-selling SUV, the Mazda CX-5 was recently updated in May with the petrol and diesel engines coming in for some fuel-efficiency tweaks, while some variants in the range were given some minor feature updates.

In addition to feature enhancements, many variants saw a price drop with the vehicle were reviewing here, the Maxx Sport (and the Touring) drop by $400 while the GT and Akera models received an $800 price drop. In all, there are 12 CX-5 variants available, including 3 Maxx, 3 Maxx Sport, 2 Touring, 2 GT and 2 Akera grades.

2018 Mazda CX-5 Maxx Sport AWD Review by Practical Motoring

There are three engines available, a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol, a 2.5-litre petrol and a 2.2-litre turbo-diesel engine. Your CX-5 can be had in 2WD or on-demand AWD and with the choice of a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. So, there really is a variant to suit just about every kind of buyer.

2018 Mazda CX-5 Maxx Sport AWD Review by Practical Motoring

With this refreshed CX-5, Mazda said it was aiming for 2000 vehicle sales per month with the vehicle we’re reviewing, a Maxx (petrol) all-wheel drive with an automatic transmission estimated to be one of the most popular in the line-up.

2018 Mazda CX-5 Maxx Sport AWD Review by Practical Motoring

Our test car, the Maxx with a 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine is mated exclusively to the on-demand all-wheel drive system. In terms of key features, it offers dual-zone climate control, 17-inch steel wheels, rain-sensing wipers, sat-nav, rear seats with centre arm-rest storage and USB input. This variant is priced from $33,690+ORC. In general, pricing starts at $28,690+ORC and tops out at $49,190+ORC.

2018 Mazda CX-5 Maxx Sport AWD Review by Practical Motoring

In terms of the looks, the CX-5 is a good-looking SUV with a purposeful stance and focussed-looking front-end. It all ties in with Mazda’s aim of designing vehicles with an element of ‘sportiness’ in the surfacing. As it’s done with the recent refreshment of the Mazda6, Mazda’s designers aimed for refinement of the CX-5 which means it was lightly tweaked here and there to make it look more premium than its price tag would suggest. And it works as we’ll explore in the next section.

What’s the interior like?

Like the exterior, the interior has been tightened up with better quality materials and a more ‘premium’ feel throughout the cabin. Climbing into the CX-5 Maxx you could be forgiven for thinking it was a more expensive model…that is until you touch some of the plastic and find that it’s hard, but the point is that it doesn’t look hard. The plastics are well grained and nice to look at and being hard they’ll last longer…it fits with the $33k price tag.

2018 Mazda CX-5 Maxx Sport AWD Review by Practical Motoring

The top of the dash is soft-touch and the rest of the cabin features brushed aluminium accent bits and bobs as well as hard but quality looking plastics. There’s decent storage in the front of the cabin with a 12V and USB (x2) outlets in the centre console, you can either leave your phone in here and connect to the infotainment via USB for music streaming or Bluetooth for calls and music.

There are two cup holders and door bins that’ll hold a 500ml water bottle. The glovebox holds the owner’s manual with room for a few more odds and ends besides – it’ll hold a 10-inch tablet, for instance.

2018 Mazda CX-5 Maxx Sport AWD Review by Practical Motoring

The dashboard is dominated by the tablet-esque infotainment screen which measures 7.0-inches. The screen is both touch sensitive as well as being able to be controlled via a rotary dial and shortcut buttons down on the centre console – it also does a good job of resisting glare. Personally, I find the rotary dial a little annoying to use on the move and work between a mixture of the dial and then tapping at the screen. Or, I just get the passenger to control the infotainment…

There’s no Apple or Android smartphone connectivity but that is coming soon to Mazda and there’s enough functionality and ease of connectivity that I’m not so sure you miss not having it in the CX-5. But, would it be better without it? Maybe not, but it would be easier to access the things you want to access regularly…and the voice control via Siri would be easier too.

2018 Mazda CX-5 Maxx Sport AWD Review by Practical Motoring

The front seats in our Maxx are cloth (no leather option available) but it’s a nice-feeling and I’d suspect hard-wearing material. And, being black it’ll hide stains from kids a little better. The front seats are comfortable for both long and short drives and you tend to squidge into them so there’s good grip in the corners too.

There’s decent manual adjustment on the seats and the steering offers reach and height adjustment which means it’s easy for drivers of all heights to get comfortable. Vision from the driver’s seat is good and the big wing mirrors offer good rewards vision. The reversing camera offers a good field of view with gutter-projection lines allowing you to park without fear of scraping a wheel.

2018 Mazda CX-5 Maxx Sport AWD Review by Practical Motoring

Over in the back the seats are split up as 40:20:40 with a two-stage recline function, allowing you to drop the seat back to a lean of 28-degrees. Like the front seats, the cushions are a urethane foam that’s designed to mould to your body. There are no air vents on the back of the centre console but there are outlets under the front seats, ISOFIX mounts for the outboard seats and top-tether anchors in the middle of the two outboard seats and higher up on the back of the middle seat. In the Maxx you miss out on the fold down armrest with storage and USB outlet.

With the front seats set up to suit me I found I had plenty of leg and knee room in the back with good shoulder and head room. That said, this is a strict two adults in the back kind of car. The middle seat lacks the shape of the two outboard seats and is more of a perch than a full-sized seat that an adult would be comfortable in.

2018 Mazda CX-5 Maxx Sport AWD Review by Practical Motoring

The boot offers 442L of storage space with the back seat in use while the load lip measures around 73cm from the ground with the width between the wheel arches a little more than one metre. The space itself is nice and square and according to Mazda you’ll fit four golf bags in the back. Raise the boot floor and there’s a 17-inch temporary spare.

What’s it like on the road?

The refreshed 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine in our test car makes 140kW at 6000rpm and 251Nm of torque at 4000rpm and it drinks around 7.5L/100km. In my time with the car that’s included a mixture of driving covering around 450km I’ve returned a respectable 8.4L/100km.

The clever thing about this engine is that it offers cylinder deactivation to improve fuel efficiency when running at a constant speed, say, on the highway. The system will see cylinders one and four shut-down and the cut in and out is so smooth you won’t be able to tell the difference between running on two or four cylinders.

2018 Mazda CX-5 Maxx Sport AWD Review by Practical Motoring

As the numbers suggest there’s a decent amount of oomph on offer for the size of vehicle and even loaded down with the family or a couple of the lads from my soccer team didn’t blunt its performance with the engine showing a willingness to accelerate that you might not expect from an efficiency-oriented engine.

Mated to a six-speed automatic the transmission is another one that proves more gear transmissions are not always the answer when chasing fuel economy. Despite its keenness when the throttle is prodded, the engine and transmission are otherwise a very relaxed partnership keeping the drive experience smooth and relaxing. Even trying to annoy the transmission and cause it to hunt sees it refuse, either holding or changing gears as and when it should. There’s a Sport mode which will see the engine rev higher than normal in each gear to give a little more zing but this is a family car and I can’t imagine too many people driving around in Sport too often.

2018 Mazda CX-5 Maxx Sport AWD Review by Practical Motoring

Across the Practical Motoring road loop the CX-5 performed well with good body control and grip via the on-demand all-wheel drive system. But, like the cylinder deactivation, so smooth is the all-wheel drive system that you’ll never notice when it’s active and when it’s not – there are 27 sensors monitoring everything from the wheels to the throttle, gearbox and suspension.

On the morning I headed out West on our loop the temperature had dropped below zero overnight and the shadowy corners were icy…up and running I didn’t notice any slip or scrabble just a sensation of being pushed around the corner with confidence and composure. There are still situations where a permanent all-wheel drive system is preferable but for most buyers, the on-demand system in the CX-5 offers a good blend.

2018 Mazda CX-5 Maxx Sport AWD Review by Practical Motoring

Even on the dirt sections the car displayed good turn-in and grip through the front and back of the car with excellent bump and body control across even the roughest sections on our drive loop. In the past, I’ve been hard on Mazda’s NVH but with each tweaking it gets better and better with this refreshed CX-5 feeling smooth and quiet across bitumen and dirt. About all you notice is a little bit of wind noise from around the mirrors at highway speed (something easily drowned out by playing music).

The steering feels great offering a nice easy action with a consistent weighting and a directness that keeps the driver tied into the car’s doings without feeling like it’s trying to be a sports car. Similarly, the pedals offer a nice progressive action that makes modulating speed or braking very easy.

2018 Mazda CX-5 Maxx Sport AWD Review by Practical Motoring

Like most cars, the CX-5 offers stop-start (i-stop) and while you can switch it off I didn’t bother in my week with the thing. I found it smooth and quick to respond. It certainly wasn’t one of those systems that constantly tries to switch off the car even when you’re creeping along, or when you’ve moved into an intersection.

What about safety?

The CX-5 range gets a five-star ANCAP rating along with, depending on the variant, more or less of Mazda’s i-Activesense suite. All variants get things like a reversing camera and rear sensors, as well as airbags for the front and rear, traction and stability controls and also hill-hold assist. Our test car offers blind-spot monitoring, cross traffic alert, as well as city-based autonomous emergency braking in forwards and reverse.

What about ownership?

We’ve talked about pricing already but one area where Mazda’s falling behind key competitors is in its three-year, unlimited kilometre warranty. This was a good warranty but there are so many makers now offering five-years, unlimited kilometres that it looks very much out of date. At the recent Mazda6 launch, Mazda was asked about its warranty with the car maker saying there’d be no change in the foreseeable future.

In terms of servicing, our particular test car runs a10,000km/12 months servicing schedule with capped price servicing running from $308 to $336 depending on the service.

So, what do we think?

It’s easy to see why Mazda believes the Maxx AWD will be one of the most popular in the line-up. It walks a fine line of being budget-friendly while having enough creature comforts that you don’t feel like you’re missing out. The on-demand all-wheel drive system is excellent, the engine and transmission smooth and, indeed, the general driving experience is impressive. There’s decent room in the front and back with a family-friendly boot.

Editor's Rating

What's the interior like?
What's it like on the road?
What about safety?
Practical Motoring Says: The CX-5 Maxx AWD we tested is a perfect example of budget-conscious motoring without feeling like you’re making much of a sacrifice. It’s got a great active safety suite, is roomy inside for a family and is good to drive. It’s easy to see why this car, in this spec will be the most popular in the range. It would be our pick although we would like to see Mazda move to a longer warranty.

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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.