Consistently one of Australia’s most popular mid-size SUVs, the Mazda CX-5 has been a huge hit since it first appeared in 2012 as a replacement for the CX-7.
Now in its second generation, which was introduced in 2017, Mazda treated the CX-5 to a mild update in early 2022 to ensure it still compares favourably with rivals like the Toyota RAV4 and Kia Sportage.
The model range is vast and gives buyers the choice of four engines (three petrols and one diesel) and front- or all-wheel drive.
Every CX-5 is covered by Mazda's five-year/unlimited km warranty and service intervals are every 12 months or 10,000km.
A long list of medium-SUV rivals include the Ford Escape, GWM Haval H6, Honda CR-V, Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage, Subaru Forester, Toyota RAV4, and Volkswagen Tiguan.
2022 Mazda CX-5 review: Akera Turbo AWD
Mazda’s range-topping CX-5 Akera comes with three engine options. We test the most powerful, the 2.5-litre turbo-petrol
The Mazda CX-5 is one of those cars that everybody knows. When you mention another vehicle in the segment to someone who isn’t all that interested in cars they’ll say, “I don’t know that car. Is it like a CX-5?”.
Partly because the CX-5 has been around forever and mostly because Mazda has sold them by the boatload over the last decade. I originally wrote “decade and a half” because it’s such a fixture on our roads, so I’m glad I checked.
The CX-5 comes in a wide variety of specifications, with front-wheel drive, all-wheel drive, three petrol engines and a diesel. In typical Mazda style, your choices stretch well into the double digits. You can get a manual 2.0-litre front-wheel drive Maxx if you’re patient or right at the top of the range you can get the Akera 2.2-litre turbo-diesel and plenty of carefully yet narrowly defined choices in between.
We’re at the top of the range with this review, a car few CX-5 owners choose – well, around ten per cent – with possibly the most intriguing engine in the line-up and the second highest price you can pay for a CX-5.
Pricing and features
This CX-5 Akera is one of three versions available.
You can have the 2.5-litre naturally-aspirated petrol ($50,880), the 2.2-litre turbo-diesel ($53,880) or the 2.5-litre turbo-petrol ($53,380), which is the one we’ve got. All priced before on-road costs.
Your near fifty-four grand outlay nets you:
At the time of writing – and due to you know what – the Akera, like the GT SP, loses the gesture activation on the tailgate. You might get one with or without, so if that’s important to you, make sure you speak to your dealer.
The Akera features the new widescreen version of Mazda’s media software as seen in the Wheels COTY-winning CX-30.
It’s a cracking set-up and the only problem with it (as far as I am concerned) is that it looks like it should be a touchscreen but isn’t. Mazda has taken BMW’s 2007 view that the rotary dial is enough – and it is – but it would be nice if was also a touchscreen.
You get wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as well as DAB+ digital radio to keep you entertained.
Five-star ANCAP safety from 2017 comes courtesy of:
The forward AEB has pedestrian and cyclist detection and works at high and low speeds for other vehicles.
Your only option is premium paint. The car I had was the slightly unsettling Zircon Sand, which costs $695 extra, as do the gorgeous Soul Red, Polymetal Grey and Machine Grey.
I am not a red car guy but reckon if you don’t buy a CX-5 in Soul Red, you’re doing it wrong. Feel free to furiously agree with me in the comments.
Comfort and space
Mazda interiors are great, they really are. The only problem is that despite its best efforts, the company has usually failed to add any colour or materials to lift it, except where you can option white or red leather. The Akera does feature some lovely metallic finishes that look terrific.
The front seats aren’t much to look at but they’re clothed in lovely Nappa leather and are heated. The older I get, the more I like seat heating and now shake my head at my youthful and exuberant statements about how awful is seat heating.
You also have two cup holders, storage under the centre armrest and bottle holders in each of the doors, as well as the charging mat for your phone under the climate controls. Sadly the charging mat does not match up with wireless Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, which I always think is a bit of an own goal.
The rear seats are very comfortable but your leg and knee room is limited if both you and the front seat occupant are 180cm or taller. It’s not a big cabin – it’s probably one of the smallest in the class – but Mazda does its best to make you comfortable. The centre armrest has two cup holders, the doors a bottle holder each and you also have air-conditioning vents.
Small cabin means small boot, which starts at 442 litres. On its own, that’s not bad, but it’s smaller than most of the rest of the segment and has cars like the GWM Haval Jolion and Kia Seltos – a segment down – snapping at its heels.
If your eye was to wander to other brands, the RAV4 has 580 litres and the VW Tiguan a stout 615 litres owing to its sliding middle row. Drop the 40:20:40 split-fold rear seat in the Mazda and 1342 litres are ready for your gear.
On the road
Mazda’s 2.5-litre engine is pretty good. It’s in a lot of the company’s cars and was always the one to have – the 2.0-litre is a bit of a gasper when it has to push more than a ton-and-a-half of SUV through the air.
Until the second-generation CX-9 arrived with a turbo strapped to the exhaust manifold, Mazda was committed to unassisted breathing for its petrol engines. The new engine certainly transformed the fuel efficiency equation over the original version’s enthusiastic thirst from its now pensioned-off V6.
In the CX-5, it’s less about hauling two tonnes – although the Akera is a portly 1765kg – but more about making the car a more relaxing drive.
That honour used to belong to the diesel, but as sales of the oil-burner fell along with the fuel itself falling out of favour, Mazda didn’t really have an answer for those who wanted a bit in hand for towing. Then it remembered the 2.5 turbo fits nicely in the CX-5.
It results in a super-relaxed car. It’s certainly swift, too, with a 7.7-second dash to 100km/h, but it’s far more about a comfortable drive. You don’t need much pressure to encourage the slab of torque to find its way to the wheels, shifting you quickly and quietly along.
VW Tiguan owners know where it’s at with the 162TSI and the Mazda unit is every bit as appealing as that package, while outgunning the German with a superior 170kW and 420Nm.
The six-speed auto is smooth and compliant, doing what you want it to do without resorting to the paddleshifters. If you really want to get a move on, Sport mode sharpens the shifts and needs little encouragement to find a lower gear when you prod the throttle.
Developing 168 more newton metres than the non-turbo 2.5 and only 30 fewer than the heavier diesel – itself 30kW down on the turbo-petrol – it’s just a shame this 2.5T isn’t available all up and down the CX-5 range.
As ever, the CX-5 steers and handles impeccably well. It has long been a great performer in this segment, with plenty of refinement finding its way into the package over the last decade. The G-Vectoring tech, which imperceptibly lifts the throttle when you turn the wheel, shifts the weight forward to the front wheels to ensure a better turn-in and more secure feel on corner entry.
Similarly imperceptible is the all-wheel drive system, which mostly runs in front-wheel drive to save fuel and kicks torque to the rear wheels when it starts to get slippy.
Mazda offers a five-year warranty with unlimited kilometres and roadside assistance.
Servicing comes up every 12 months or 10,000km, the latter being a bit on the short side but no shorter than naturally-aspirated CX-5s, which is mildly baffling (some car-makers have shorter intervals for turbo engines).
The capped-price servicing regime covers the first five services, with three priced at $363 and two at $393 for a total of $1875. That’s barely more expensive than the naturally-aspirated 2.5, which is quite welcome and relatively reasonably priced. Not so great if you do more than 10,000km per year, though.
The Akera is the kind of car you get to treat yourself. It definitely has the best engine in the CX-5 line-up, with an easy, torquey nature that makes the car almost as punchy as the diesel while being a heck of a lot cleaner. But it’s more than that engine, it’s a car with more than you need.
I always tell people to steer clear of the top of the range, but nobody listens and for good reason. Sometimes you just want to get something with everything thrown in.
The CX-5 Akera has plenty and while it doesn’t have a huge glass roof or ride on 20-inch rims, it’s got plenty of luxury and the style to go with it.
2022 Mazda CX-5 Akera specifications
Things we like
- Smooth looks
- Subtly powerful engine
- Calm interior design
Not so much
- Tight rear seat
- It’s dark inside
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