Mazda CX-5 long-term test: dog duty and family tests

Published: 20 December 2019

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Month 3 of our Mazda CX-5 long-term test: the acid test of ffrench-Constant's dog and family duty

Well, the CX-5’s certainly proving a more involving steer than the Honda CR-V it’s replaced. 

However, much like the diplomatic deployment of the word ‘striking’ when asked to comment on a close friend’s new nettle-dyed lambswool tank top, the up-close-and-personal levels of intimacy implied by the use of ‘involving’ are not always entirely desirable. Just ask Chris Froome.

On the plus side, the Mazda’s helm is meatier, more accurate and a deal more communicative than that of the Honda. Lob stiffer springing and damping into the equation, and the Mazda is far happier to string together a sequence of bends without increasingly strong signals from the bodyshell that, if you offered it a biscuit, it might actually come over all toy dog on you...

The downside is a somewhat firm ride, most noticeably at lower speeds, when individual road surface trip-hazards are picked out and communicated to the cabin.

Mazda’s next-generation machinery – heralded by the new Mazda 3 – addresses this through the expedient of softer tyre walls and more pliant undercarriage allied to a stiffer bodyshell. The 2019 CX-5 driver, however, currently has no choice but to opt for smaller wheels, or simply drive faster – at which point progress smooths out considerably.

Or rather, it would, were it not for my inability, thus far, to get to grips with the CX-5’s gearchange. True, the Honda’s vorpal action is a hard act to follow, but I can’t remember any previous Mazda stick being this notchy and, on occasion, downright recalcitrant – most perceptibly when slotting into sixth. Still, with under 1500 miles on the clock, I’m hoping the action will yet settle down.

Neither the missus nor the evil-smelling dog has yet to pass comment. That said, the former is delighted to no longer suffer a nagging dash-bitch dictating the sequence in which every action must be performed, and the latter no longer scrabbles noisily for grip on a plastic loadspace liner. Though it will, I fear, have the last laugh when Mudforshire next lives up to its name.

By Anthony ffrench-Constant

Logbook: Mazda CX-5 2.2D 2wd Sport Nav+

Price £29,900 (£30,460 as tested)
Performance 2191cc turbocharged four-cylinder, 148bhp, 9.9sec 0-62mph, 127mph
Efficiency 49.6mpg (official), 44.9mpg (tested), 128g/km CO2
Energy cost 13.2p per mile
Miles this month 111
Total miles 1413

Month 2 living with a Mazda CX-5: the little details

Forced Entry

Keyless entry is a Pretty Good Idea. Especially for single people, who run less risk of the key winding up in the missus’ handbag 70 miles from the car you’ve just switched off to refuel. A stabbed door handle button locks and unlocks the CX-5 – not as touchy-feely as some.

Snatch Catch

Mazda CX-5 seatbelt

All too many seatbelts hang limpet-snug against the B pillar, making a right-hand grab impossible, and even the less satisfactory left-hand alternative an inevitable mutter of hot, fidgety fuss. Not so the CX-5’s, which considerately stream like celebratory tickertape.

Screen Shot

Mazda CX-5 screen

Mazda would be the first to accept that its centre console screen is a tad off the pace these days. Yet compare the simplicity of its turn-and-push knob operation to systems which require left index finger letter-by-letter writing, and you quickly realise all that’s wrong is the graphics.

All Change

Mazda CX-5 gearshift

Most of the notch of a somewhat recalcitrant gearchange has indeed worked itself out of the system as the miles pile quietly aboard. You can still feel the weave of the cable-link trundling over the pulleys, but that’s strangely pleasing.

Logbook: Mazda CX-5 2.2D 150ps 2wd Sport Nav+

Price £29,900 (£30,460 as tested) 
Performance 2191cc turbodiesel four-cyl, 148bhp, 9.9sec 0-62mph, 127mph 
Efficiency 49.6mpg (official), 45.4mpg (tested), 128g/km CO2 
Energy cost 13p per mile 
Miles this month 475
Total miles 1888

Month 1 living with a Mazda CX-5: hello and welcome

There’s not a whiff of ff-C clan preferred specification or option box ticking about this CX-5. It is, simply, the best-selling variant of Mazda’s best-selling model in the UK; the price tipped a whisker over the 30 grand mark by the only extra, £560 worth of metallic paint.

It’s also, to this increasingly jaded eye, one of the best-looking SUVs out there, wearing its sport utility bulk with considerably more élan than the man who believes he can slim away his obsession with real ale merely by leaving his shirt untucked.

Apparently, no Japanese automotive manufacturer can bring a car to the tarmac without having first conjured some semantic raison d’etre behind the design, and Mazda has been running with ‘Kodo – Soul of Motion’ for a while now. Happily, the company’s current iteration of Kodo is hell-bent on perfecting the purity of less-is-more form. And even though the coachwork of this dandelion-clock-gently refreshed 2019 CX-5 is blatantly a generation behind that of the even more sleekly elegant new Mazda 3, it’s still pretty pleasing to look at.

Particularly at the sharp end, where Mazda remains the only manufacturer to have successfully incorporated the Big Grille into proceedings. Ever since it merged the upper and lower grilles on a hapless A8 because, defended the designer, ‘it was the logical thing to do’, Audi has struggled desperately to make the resultant maw look anything other than an inflatable doll in chrome lipstick. 

And now, undeterred or unimaginative, it seems BMW is to follow suit with a raft of kidney grilles suffering from acute hydronephrosis. Nurse; the screens…

On board, the CX-5’s Sport Nav+ trim level seems pretty comprehensive at first rummage, and saves a couple of grand on the top GT Sport Nav+ spec. 

Mazda CX-5 interior

It includes such goodies as keyless entry and start, full leather, power-operated and heated front seats, a weight-adding powered tailgate for those whose biceps are become bingo wings, two out of three proper analogue dials, a seven-inch central touch- and knob-controlled infotainment screen, a head-up display, adaptive LED headlights and all the safety kit reactive Euro NCAP has concurred that we need.

One key feature the CX-5 mysteriously lacks (and I can hardly wait for the missus to find out) is a dashboard button for centrally unlocking the doors, which is going to give rise to untold mirth on the school run. Not.

Thus far, the CX-5 has only been round the block a couple of times so, from an entirely comfortable driving position there is, as yet, little to report. 

The entirely unstressed 2.2-litre, 148bhp turbodiesel remains weapon of choice for the buying public, and it’s easy to understand why. With 280lb ft available from under 2000rpm it’s lusty enough, notably quiet on the move, and yet already returning over 10mpg more than both the CR-V and XC60 that preceded it at ff-C Towers.

Logbook: Mazda CX-5 2.2D 150ps 2wd Sport Nav+

Price £29,900 (£30,460 as tested)
Performance 2191cc turbodiesel four-cyl, 148bhp, 9.9sec 0-62mph, 127mph
Efficiency 49.6mpg (official), 45.4mpg (tested), 128g/km CO2
Energy cost 13p per mile
Miles this month 64
Total miles 130

By Anthony ffrench-Constant

Contributing editor, architect, sentence constructor, amuse bouche