Car Reviews

2018 Mazda CX-5 GT Review

Dan DeGasperi’s 2018 Mazda CX-5 GT Review with Price, Specs, Performance, Ride and Handling, Safety, Verdict and Score.

In a nutshell: The CX-5 GT with a diesel engine can challenge premium German rivals for luxury and punch on paper – but do the premium vibes translate on the road?

2018 Mazda CX-5 GT Specifications

Price $46,590+ORC Warranty five-years, unlimited km Safety 5 stars Engine 2.2-litre 4cyl twin-turbo diesel Power 140kW at 4500rpm Torque 450Nm at 2000rpm Transmission six-speed automatic Drive all-wheel drive Dimensions 4550mm (L) 1840mm (W) 1675mm (H) 2700mm (WB) Ground Clearance 193mm Kerb Weight 1751kg Towing 1800kg maximum braked Fuel Tank 58L Spare space-saver spare Thirst 5.7/100km claimed combined, 7.7L/100km tested

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WHEN do mainstream vehicles segue into luxury vehicles? It is a question for the times, because the 2018 Mazda CX-5 GT begins to make an argument then hint at an answer.

This is the top-selling medium-sized SUV in Australia, so exclusivity – apparently a requisite for luxury – is not on its side. Starting at sub-$30,000 doesn’t suggest premium aspirations, either, although this tested GT diesel is the first to step the CX-5 over the $45,000 barrier.

Mazda CX-5 GT Review

If being power (or torque) hungry is a sign of luxury, then Mazda’s diesel is more potent than the equivalents in an entry-level Audi Q5, BMW X3 and Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class – while equipment such as heated seats and high-end audio are included here; optional there.

The question, then, is simple: do you buy a cheaper and more mainstream CX-5, or can Mazda justify the extra charge to this GT diesel and prove itself genuinely German-rivalling?

What’s The Price And What Do You Get?

While the Mazda CX-5 line-up starts with the Maxx and Maxx Sport with a 2.0-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder petrol engine and front-wheel drive, priced from $28,690 to $33,990 plus on-road costs, the Maxx Sport and Touring are first to offer a 2.5L naturally aspirated four-cylinder petrol and all-wheel drive combo, at $36,990 and $38,590+ORC respectively.

But those 2.0L and 2.5L petrol engines only produce 114kW and 140kW of power, and 200Nm and 250Nm of torque, which is all a bit ‘mainstream’. The Maxx Sport and Touring are also first to offer a 140kW/450Nm 2.2-litre twin-turbocharged diesel four-cylinder and all-wheel drive combo, for $39,990 and $41,590+ORC respectively. That torque figure, by the way, bests the 400Nm in the $65,000-plus Q5, X3 and GLC-Class diesels.

But it takes this CX-5 GT (petrol $43,590 and diesel $46,590+ORC) to really excel at luxury.

While the Touring already gets 17-inch alloy wheels, front and rear parking sensors, head-up display, keyless auto-entry, digital radio, satellite navigation and part-leather trim, the GT thrusts forward with 19s, swiveling LED headlights, electric tailgate, electric sunroof, leather seat upholstery, electrically adjustable front seats and a 10-speaker Bose audio system. Add the diesel engine, and on-paper this spec appears to be a perfect mix of torque and luxury.

What’s The Interior And Practicality Like?

With several competitors in the medium SUV segment, an entry-level interior is often executed well but in a modest fashion. However, when loftier model grades add kit and cost extra, humble origins can be exposed and the cabin can look cheap though now glitzy.

Mazda CX-5 GT Review

Not so with this Mazda. Smooth and consistently matched soft-touch plastics are used on the door trims and even across the middle part of the dashboard – which is extremely rare. Fit-and-finish is excellent, while the seats are broad and comfortable both front and rear.

Mazda CX-5 GT Review

Headroom is also fantastic in every position, and although rear legroom is not the most generous in the class, the CX-5 proves that true comfort is more than about counting millimeters. With a high-set bench and plentiful toe room under the front seats, back-seat passengers have plenty of room to drop their feet down and away from being splayed. There’s air vents back there, too.

Mazda CX-5 GT Review

The GT’s boot does cop a penalty due to its premium intentions, though. The electric tailgate opens to only 442 litres of cargo volume, short of the 500+ expected in the medium SUV class. Blame in part the thick carpet padding that even sneaks up the sides of this boot, in which most rivals cover with hard plastic. There’s no sliding rear seat, either, but the rear backrest does split 40:20:40 so the middle portion can be used as a ski port. There’s also a ‘one touch’ lever to fold each portion flat into the floor, which is among the easiest to use.

Mazda CX-5 GT Review

What Are The Controls And Infotainment Like?

As with its boot space, the 7.0-inch centre screen in the CX-5 GT can’t claim to be the biggest in the class.

Perhaps more importantly, though, it is among the easiest to interact with, owing to touchscreen functionality plus a rotary dial on the centre console surrounded by shortcut tabs. The graphics are dated, but aspects such as the sat-nav’s voice control – allowing a driver to enter 1 Smith Street, Smithville in one shot – are timelessly superb.

Mazda CX-5 GT Review

Driver-controls such as adaptive cruise control and automatic-adaptive high-beam are starting to filter down from premium rivals these days, but they’re absent on the GT and are only available – along with lane-keep assistance and a 360-degree camera – on the flagship CX-5 Akera (petrol $46,190 and diesel $49,190+ORC) that rounds out the entire line-up.

Otherwise, the knurled-silver dual-zone climate controls are a class act, and even the power window switches – with auto up/down functionality for all door-glass – impart a sense of tactility that edges this Mazda towards premium territory. If only the glovebox and centre console bin were larger, though the rear armrest’s storage with twin-USB ports is inspired.

What’s The Performance Like?

Mazda’s 2.2-litre twin-turbo four-cylinder is the best diesel engine in the medium SUV segment by some margin. It is instantly responsive, owing in part to a beautifully direct and connected first gear inside the six-speed torque converter automatic transmission, with no stutter or hesitation to speak of.

It is also dutifully refined and decently spirited once off the mark, carrying this admittedly heavy (1751kg) model with aplomb whether cruising or overtaking. The recent decision to boost power and torque from 129kW/420Nm to 140kW/450Nm has only extended its lead.

Mazda CX-5 GT Review

Meanwhile claimed combined-cycle fuel consumption has dropped from 6.0 litres per 100 kilometres to 5.7L/100km. On test that wasn’t quite achieved, but 7.7L/100km is still excellent for an even mix of urban, freeway and country driving.

Indeed, the only aspect missing compared with the cheaper petrol versions is a Sport mode for the auto, which is used so effectively there during fun driving. Why is it deleted here?

So are there any downsides?

Beyond the lack of a Sport mode for the auto, there are only a few other downsides. The GT diesel is 74kg heavier than the GT petrol, and that mass falls entirely over the CX-5’s nose.

Along with slightly sharper responses from the lower-profile 19-inch alloy wheels compared with the lighter Touring petrol (on 17s) driven recently, the higher specification models lose out slightly for dynamics. But only slightly – all is explained in the next section.

Mazda CX-5 GT Review

With the petrol being $3000 cheaper, a case could also be made for putting up with its harder revving, but still-sweet characteristics and pocketing the cash up-front compared with this diesel. Even so, it will use more fuel, especially when loaded up.

Finally, if you need outright space and flexibility, then best look to medium SUV models such as the Volkswagen Tiguan, with a sliding rear seat and bigger boot – even if that rival isn’t as classy inside or as sweet to drive.

What’s It Like On The Road?

Sweet to drive? Yes, the CX-5 GT, even in heavier diesel specification with larger wheels, remains the benchmark medium SUV for steering, ride and handling responses.

This is a smooth and supple performer around town, being very easy to park and navigate through backstreets. Only pitter-patter niggling from the low-profile tyres at medium speed (say, on 70km/h urban arterial roads) spoils what would otherwise be a perfect ride score.

Mazda CX-5 GT Review

More importantly, and unlike several rivals, the Mazda keeps its body completely level over even the worst surfaces, which should minimise any car sickness or leg-wobble from pets.

Even better for mums or dads who may have in their younger years owned a sportier hatch, the GT puts its torque and stickier tyres to good use through corners, displaying sharp response and agility to surpass all rivals including a Q5, X3 or GLC-Class. It’s that good.

Does It Have A Spare?

Yes, but only an 80km/h-limited temporary space-saver spare.

Can You Tow With It?

Yes, a decent maximum of 1800kg with a braked trailer. Bigger SUVs can tow 2000kg+.

What about ownership?

Mazda has recently upgraded its range to a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, which is an inspired move. Its capped-price servicing features annual or 10,000km intervals at a decent cost of $1028 over three-years or 30,000km and $1708 over five-years or 50,000km.

What about safety features?

Mazda’s autonomous emergency braking (AEB) works in both forward and reverse, which is inspired, but while a blind-spot monitor and traffic-sign recognition is standard here, the likes of lane-departure warning, lane-keep assistance and adaptive cruise are reserved for the CX-5 Akera.

Editor's Rating

How do we rate the interior and practicality?
How do we rate the infotainment and controls?
How do we rate the performance?
How do we rate the ride and handling?
How do we rate the safety?
Practical Motoring says: Only the need to fit a double-pram plus luggage in the boot of a family SUV should cause some pause for thought before entering CX-5 ownership. Outright luggage space, as well as a not-quite-perfect level of standard active safety technology, are probably the only slight downsides to this otherwise properly luxurious GT model grade. As a diesel, with plenty of punch and refinement, it can especially challenge ‘premium’ German rivals. All of which makes for a very nice equation – pay mainstream, get luxury. You win.

Dan DeGasperi

Dan DeGasperi