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Mazda CX-5 review 2022


The Mazda CX-5 is a competent and popular SUV with no major vices and nothing needing major change – so in this refresh Mazda hasn't.
Driving Experience
Value for money


The Mazda CX-5 is a competent and popular SUV with no major vices and nothing needing major change – so in this refresh Mazda hasn't.

The Mazda CX-5 compact SUV is one of the Japanese brand’s most popular cars. Globally, it’s the brand’s best-seller, while it accounts for a quarter of all Mazdas sold in the UK – only the CX-30 is more popular.

So it’s perhaps not overly surprising that this mid-life refresh of the CX-5 is not exactly dramatic, centring on styling tweaks, a bit of extra tech in the driving modes and revised trim levels.

Mazda clearly hopes that the subtle changes will maintain the model’s popularity. As of February 2022, the CX-5 has an Expert Rating of 75% in our industry-leading Expert Rating Index, which analyses more than 10,000 new car reviews from 30 different UK motoring sites. The CX-5 has earned praise for its powerful engines, spacious interior and quality engineering, though reviewers are split on the driving experience.

One item that remains missing from the CX-5 range is any electricity in the powertrains. Mazda, long an advocate of improved internal combustion engines, has revised upward its plans for introducing battery-powered electric vehicles, but for now the CX-5 engine choice remains simply petrol or diesel.

What’s new about the Mazda CX-5?

In short, not a lot. With the CX-5 already so popular, Mazda clearly feels that major updates and radical changes are not necessary for this mid-life refresh, instead applying the usual diet of gentle massaging to the styling. So we get revised front and rear bumper designs and new headlight and taillight clusters.

Anyone who already drives a Mazda CX-5 will notice no changes at all to the car’s performance on the road – the only addition to the car’s technical specification is to the petrol automatic models which come with Mazda’s ‘I-Drive’ switchable driving modes. You have always had the option of ‘normal’ and ‘sport’, now on the top all-wheel-drive variants there is also an ‘off road’ mode – this sets the car up better for coping with the likes of rough, muddy tracks.

Mazda does add that many changes have been applied to the CX-5 in areas one can’t see – the body shell, suspension and seats have been worked on for better ride comfort to reduce fatigue while road noise has also been greatly reduced, particularly when driving on rough surfaces such as gravel. The safety specification has been upgraded, too.

How does it look?

Actually, not bad at all. The CX-5 has always been one of the better-looking SUVs and the updates to the styling actually add to this image, giving it a bit of a sharper presence. 

These updates include a front grille made to look more prominent (as is the current industry trend) and more three-dimensional. The trim on the wings no longer merges into the lamp cluster, while at the rear the light design is changed and a new-shaped bumper fitted.

The changes do their job – the elements of the front in particular look rather more joined up and complimentary to each other than on some rivals, and viewed form outside the car has a pleasing, purposeful stance.

What’s the spec like?

It’s all change where CX-5 trim levels are concerned – or at least the names of them. The offerings have been restructured into five levels at prices ranging from £28,145 up to £39,385, with distinct styling differences to make it easier to tell them apart. In all there are 20 different versions to choose from.

Things start, as before, with the SE-L trim. This is available with both the lesser-powered diesel and petrol engines, and only with front-wheel-drive.

Brand new is a trim called ‘Newground’ and only offered with the less powerful 165hp petrol engine – it’s designed to give the car a more rugged look with front and rear silver underguard trims, silver lower body trim, black door mirrors and 19-inch alloy wheels. More controversial, perhaps, will be the colour of the accent detailing. Trim elements in the grille, on the interior air vent surrounds and seat piping are all in a bright lime green…

Most buyers are expected to go for the Sport, which you can have with the 165hp petrol engine or both of the diesels. Choose the more powerful diesel, which only comes with an automatic gearbox, and you can also have all-wheel-drive.

Sport Black is another new trim, which is basically a sportier-looking version of the Newground but with black leather instead of half leather seats. Gloss black features a lot on the styling, and those colour accents remain – but, thankfully, the lime green is replaced by a rather less gaudy red.

The CX-5 range-topper is the GT Sport, which also offers three engine options – both petrols and the more powerful diesel. It gets the most technology as standard, plus bespoke interior woodgrain trim which looks and feels of good quality. But, at close to £40,000, it is quite expensive compared to some rivals.

Safety specification has been improved as part of this update as well. There was already a full suite of active safety across the range and the model holds a five-star Euro NCAP rating, dating from 2017. The safety kit has been updated in some areas, including the addition of ‘Cruise & Traffic Support’ – this assists with the accelerator, brake pedal and steering when in traffic jams.

What’s the Mazda CX-5 like inside?

A lot of the Mazda CX-5’s popularity comes from its interior, which is both quite roomy for a model competing at the smaller end of the SUV market and very well put together. Not only are the materials good, they combine with an effective chassis to provide a very comfortable ride.

The boot is a reasonable size, at 522 litres expanding to 1,638 litres with the seats folded (though slightly less on diesel models due to the need to fit in a tank for the AdBlue engine additive). It’s easily accessed too, especially if you go for Sport models or above which include a powered tailgate.

One welcome change on the latest model is that you now load straight onto a flat boot floor without a sill in the way. On Newground versions the floorboard is reversible with a water- and scratch-proof covering on one side, suiting owners with ‘active lifestyles’.

The front-seat environment is both practical and well-designed. The big ten-inch central infotainment screen was made standard across the range for 2021 and its position atop the centre console, rather than in it, means that viewing is easy without one’s eyes straying too far form the road. It offers all the usual Smartphone compatibility and also can be matched to a Mazda app with features including vehicle location, navigation loading and service notifications through one’s phone.

The top three trim levels also provide digital displays in the driver’s controls and a windscreen-projected head-up display which works very well.

What’s under the bonnet?

Engine choices for the Mazda CX-5 remain familiar – because they have not changed at all. Basically, you are choosing between two petrol engines (a 2.0-litre 165hp unit and a 2.5-litre 194 hp unit), and two 2.0-litre diesels of 150hp and 184hp. Which engine you choose will govern your trim level, and also whether the front or all wheels are driven – you can only get the 165hp petrol in front-wheel-drive format, for example.

What you cannot get with a Mazda CX-5 is any powertrain with a hint of electricity. Mazda still bangs the drum for improved internal combustion engines, putting investment into synthetic fuel research, but is belatedly following the trend to electric having revised upwards its part EVs will play in its range by 2030 from 12% to 25%. There is no indication of any electric addition to the CX-5 range, but the forthcoming CX-60 will include a plug-in hybrid option.

What’s the Mazda CX-5 like to drive?

A great deal of driving in the Scottish Highlands on the 2022 CX-5 launch event saw us able to test three of the four engine combinations, only the 184hp diesel not coming under our gaze. All three of the engines tested were enthusiastic in their application – if anything, the petrols outshine the diesel. They were also suitably refined – the Mazda CX-5 is one of the quietest mainstream internal combustion SUVs around.

The choice of drive route certainly gave the chassis a good workout, demonstrating that the CX-5 is confident through corners, precise in its turn-in and holding its poise well through the bend. General ride comfort is good too, the chassis smothering most of the potholes brought on by a typical Scottish winter.

The all-wheel-drive model included the I-Drive system, allowing the driver to select different drive modes. We didn’t have an opportunity to try out the off-road mode but switching out of Normal into Sport certainly made a difference beyond the speed dial changing to a red display. The mode holds a gear longer and provides sprightly acceleration – swift overtaking manoeuvres are easily accomplished as a result. The auto transmission impresses too – its changes swift, smooth and barely noticeable, with no irritating hunting between ratios.


The 2022 update to the Mazda CX-5 is not exactly headline-grabbing but then it doesn’t really need to be – the model’s big slice of Mazda’s sales show that it already resonates with buyers. The changes are for the most part evolutionary, with the possible exception of some of the trim detailing choices.

We are sure that the CX-5 will continue to sell well as it offers most things the buyer of a mid-sized SUV is looking for, and it does all it needs to rather well. However, by the time this car comes up for its next update, that will need to include some form of electrification.

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Key specifications

Model tested: Mazda CX-5 Newground
Price (as tested): £29,725
Engine: 2.0-litre petrol
Gearbox: six-speed manual

Power: 165 hp
Torque: 213 Nm
Top speed: 12 mph
0-62 mph: 10.5 seconds

Fuel economy (combined): 41.5 mpg
CO2 emissions: 153 g/km
Euro NCAP safety rating: Five stars (2017)
TCE Expert Rating: 75% (as of February 2022)

Andrew Charman
Andrew Charman
Andrew is a road test editor for The Car Expert. He is a member of the Guild of Motoring Writers, and has been testing and writing about new cars for more than 20 years. Today he is well known to senior personnel at the major car manufacturers and attends many new model launches each year.
The Mazda CX-5 is a competent and popular SUV with no major vices and nothing needing major change – so in this refresh Mazda hasn't.Mazda CX-5 review 2022