How the Mazda CX-5 will make you reconsider your need for a German SUV
Think of a handsome SUV with a nice interior and you’ll probably think German, but there’s a Japanese contender worthy of attention
While SUV might be a dirty acronym with car enthusiasts, the general car buying public can’t get enough of them. The segment was largely born from premium buyers’ urge to be bigger and better than their neighbours, but now there’s an SUV for every budget.
However, buying decisions are still hugely influenced by image – if you can afford a big car you must be doing well for yourself. Couple that with consumers increasingly turning towards more luxury options thanks to enticing finance options, and it’s easy to see why premium SUVs have become such big business.
The likes of BMW’s X range and Audi’s Q cars spring to mind, but for many buyers they’re still tantalisingly out of reach. Turn your nose up at badge snobbery, though, and there are some excellent alternatives, such as the Mazda CX-5 we’ve been driving recently.
Prices start at about £25,000, which gets you front-wheel drive, a manual gearbox, and a petrol engine plus decent kit, while we’ve been driving the high-powered diesel in top Sport Nav+ trim, which is only available with all-wheel drive and starts at £32,595 – a good £8,000 less expensive than an Audi Q5’s entry point.
Mazda has absolutely nailed mid-range premium appeal. Its now-familiar Kodo design language means that despite the CX-5 being quite a large SUV, it has sharp lines and could even be described as quite pretty, despite its heft.
But it comes into its own inside. Mazda’s interiors have been excellent for a while now, offering simple designs with materials that wouldn’t look out of place in much more expensive machinery. It’s not Audi levels of refinement, but it’s better than the £10k difference would imply.
Out on the road the CX-5 continues to impress. It feels much more lightweight than any large SUV has any right to, and doesn’t come unstuck if you want to have a bit of fun on a winding country road. The flip side of this is that it doesn’t feel as planted as many rivals, but those who spend most of their time in the city will find the light controls a delight.
Perhaps the CX-5’s only real negative from a practical point of view is the lack of a seven-seat option, which you can get with rivals such as the Skoda Kodiaq. Even if the extra seats aren’t needed, the Czech option is a worthy rival to the Mazda, though being a VW Group product it lacks the character and individuality of its Japanese counterpart.
No matter how you look at it, the Mazda CX-5 is up there with the best SUVs in its segment. A nice interior, decent diesel engines and both front- and all-wheel drive options all wrapped up in a great value package make it worthy of attention.
If you’re looking at nearly-new BMW and Audi SUVs, the Mazda CX-5 could be a fantastic showroom-fresh alternative.