Mazda’s CX-5 is a runaway sales success. They’re everywhere, bought by young ‘uns and not-so young ‘uns in vast numbers. But chart success is not always a hallmark of quality as a brief glance at what passes for a music chart will attest.

The CX-5, though is different. Along with its cheery sales numbers comes handsome looks, some clever tech and a reputation for ride and handling. The top-spec Akera though is a test – priced where the Germans start (Audi Q3, BMW X1, Mercedes GLA), it has to fight badge snobbery as well as a crowded field from Japan and Korea.

The CX-5 range starts at a very modest $27,880 for a two-wheel drive manual petrol 2.0-litre and goes all the way to nearly $50,000 for the diesel Akera. This petrol Akera is the last stop before that high water mark, weighing in at $46,570.

The Akera’s long list of standard features include leather interior, keyless entry, nine-speaker Bose-branded stereo with Bluetooth and USB, reversing camera and parking sensors all round, cruise control and a cluster of sensors inside the windscreen for auto-wipers, headlights and lane departure warning.

The headlights are of the adaptive bi-xenon variety (and very good, too), the seats up front are electrically adjustable, heated and have two memory slots.

The Mazda CX5 is a lot of car and the Akera’s big 19-inch wheels add to that big look. Sadly, its rather lovely styling causes a couple of little problems. The first is that over the shoulder, you can’t see a thing through those tiny windows. On the Akera, blind spot monitoring is a very welcome addition.

Secondly, the rear doors are not an easy proposition for smaller kids. They don’t open very wide and it’s a bit of a climb up. Once they’re in, though, there’s plenty of space and they sit up nice and high and they can easily see out.

It’s not bad in here, but a car that costs the same as an Audi Q3 or a BMW X1 could do with a bit more luxury than what’s on offer.

Having said that, it’s all perfectly functional. It just doesn’t feel all that special. In its defence, neither does the X1.

It isn’t the biggest inside, either. On a hardware trip to gather a lot of wood, our long-term Hyundai ix35 fitted more in. The Mazda does have the better finish by a country mile, better than Honda, Hyundai, Kia or Ford and not far away from the Germans.

ABS, dynamic and stability control, six airbags, city brake assist, lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring all add up to five ANCAP stars.

The nine speaker stereo is unbelievably slow when plugging in an iPhone. You get a swirly thing on the screen and whatever you choose on the device is not reflected on the screen and the audio matches neither what you chose on the device nor what’s displayed car’s screen. Which is, to say the least, perplexing.

That screen isn’t really big or smart enough for you to use, it’s actually quite fiddly. Once you’ve deciphered it, though, it’s not bad and sounds quite good. Needs work, though.

The Akera is powered by the larger SkyActiv 2.5-litre four-cylinder. There’s no turbo, but it pushes out 138kW and and 250Nm of torque through all four wheels and with a very good six-speed automatic.

Mazda claims a combined fuel figure, aided by stop-start, of 7.2 litres per 100 km but this seems a distant possibility with our 12.2 L/100km figure that didn’t include an undue amount of hard acceleration.

The CX-5 is without doubt one of the better SUVs and holds up pretty well against a lot of lower-slung sedans.

The power and torque figures don’t suggest it, but together they do an impressive job of pushing the 1650 kg Akera down the road at a very decent pace. The transmission is very responsive to the right foot and there’s some real fun to be had behind the wheel.

Passengers will be very happy with the good ride and lack of body roll that one or two competitors suffer from (CR-V and Forester). On the freeway, they will also appreciate the quietness of the engine and the well-suppressed wind and tyre noise.

From the driver’s seat, you could be driving a well-sorted hatchback with some kind of clever dimension-shifting windscreen. It is hard to believe it’s a high-riding SUV, which is quite an achievement.

The wheel is well-weighted for the most part, so banging around the ‘burbs is never going to cause the CX-5 any trouble. The throttle is pretty soft to aid smooth progress but on the plus side, this means that there won’t be any embarrassing lurching when it wakes from stop-start.

The Akera’s biggest problem is the price. Up at the $45,000 mark, it’s not out of line to expect a bit more plushness. Aside from that, it is packed full of stuff, including a very decent set of safety features.

Price aside, it’s definitely one of the top three SUVs for anyone’s list and its dynamic abilities more than justify how many of these cars that fly out of Mazda showrooms. There’s a few flaws, but none fatal or even significant for that matter.

It looks good, drives well and does the job without looking like a box on wheels. More to the point, it does the job just as well as the European, Japanese and Korean competitors, if not better.


Maxx 2.0-litre petrol 2WD five-door wagon: $27,880 (manual), $29,880 (automatic)
Maxx 2.5-litre petrol AWD five-door wagon: $32,880 (automatic)
Maxx Sport 2.0-litre petrol 2WD five-door wagon: $33,620 (automatic)
Maxx Sport 2.5-litre petrol AWD five-door wagon: $36,620 (automatic)
Maxx Sport 2.2-litre turbo-diesel AWD five-door wagon: $39,470 (automatic)
GT 2.5-litre petrol AWD five-door wagon: $44,180 (automatic)
GT 2.2-litre turbo-diesel AWD five-door wagon: $47,030 (automatic)
Akera 2.5-litre petrol AWD five-door wagon: $46,570 (automatic)
Akera 2.2-litre turbo-diesel AWD five-door wagon: $49,420 (automatic)
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Mazda dealer for drive-away prices.

ABS Brakes: Standard in all models
Automatic Transmission: $2000 option in Maxx 2WD, standard in all other models
Cruise Control: Standard in all models
Dual Front Airbags: Standard in all models
Front Side Airbags: Standard in all models
Electronic Stability Program: Standard in all models
Rear Parking Sensors: Not offered in Maxx and Maxx Sport, standard (including front) in GT and Akera
Reversing Camera: Standard in all models
USB / Auxiliary Audio Input: Standard in all models
Bluetooth: Standard in all models
Steering Wheel Mounted Controls: Standard in all models

SPECIFICATIONS (Mazda CX-5 Akera 2.5-litre petrol five-door wagon)

Capacity: 2.488 litres
Configuration: Four cylinders in line
Head Design: DOHC, four valves per cylinder
Compression Ratio: 13.0:1
Bore/Stroke: 89.0 x 100.0 mm
Maximum Power: 138 kW @ 5700 rpm
Maximum Torque: 250 Nm @ 4000 rpm

Driven Wheels: AWD
Manual Transmission: Not offered
Automatic Transmission: Six-speed
Final Drive Ratio: 4.325:1

Length: 4540 mm
Wheelbase: 2700 mm
Width: 1840 mm
Height: 1710 mm
Turning Circle: 11.2 metres
Kerb Mass: 1614 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 58 litres
Towing Ability: 750 kg (1800kg with braked trailer
Boot Capacity: 403 litres (1560 litres with rear seatbacks folded)

Front Suspension: MacPherson struts
Rear Suspension: Multi-link
Front Brakes: Ventilated Disc
Rear Brakes: Disc

Fuel Type: Petrol 91RON
Fuel Consumption – Combined Cycle (ADR 81/02): 7.4 L/100km

Greenhouse Rating: 7/10
Air Pollution Rating: 6.5/10

Three years/unlimited km

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