Mazda CX-5 AWD Sport-Nav 2.2 175ps Diesel Review – SKYACTIV Tech Offers Power & Economy

Mazda CX-5?

Mazda CX-5 AWD Sport 2.2 175ps Diesel review sports SUV

When Mazda introduced their CX-5 in 2013, it was the first of their 6th-generation cars and it also housed their SKYACTIV technology too, offering a new lightweight chassis with good power, superb fuel economy and low CO2 emissions from advanced engine tech.  We were sent the most powerful Mazda CX-5 AWD Sport 2.2 175ps Diesel manual to review, and find out what Mazda are getting all excited about…

Exterior. Butt ugly or beauty?

Mazda CX-5 AWD Sport 2.2 175ps Diesel review

Mazda’s 6th generation line-up are designed to show their ‘KODO – Soul of Motion’ concept. This depicts “the powerful and smooth movements of animals like the cheetah [and] the concept of motion”. While it all sounds a little like the designers have had too much caffeine, actually these new KODO-themed Mazda’s – such as the Mazda6 we reviewed – look rather stylish.

While other compact crossover’s such as the Nissan Qashqai and Suzuki S-Cross are heading towards looking sporty, the CX-5 seems to play it down more, and there’s a more grown-up look to in. Get the right model with a good colour and wheel combo, and the CX-5 even starts to look elegant to a degree.

Mazda CX-5 AWD Sport 2.2 175ps Diesel review-4335

The front has a large v-shaped grille with a huge Mazda emblem top centre, just so you know whose car it is. The front headlights are narrow, and between those the bulging bonnet drops down to the aforementioned grille, and below that to another grille and lower lip which juts out proud, and you can see that cheetah look going on. Lower down, the small fog lamps are housed in oversized cut-out sections that are aggressively shaped.

From a side viewpoint, the windows appear narrow, and the roofline is raked back towards the rear, while the side panels have deep swage lines cut out, making it more interesting than conventional flat panelling. A roof spoiler finished things off nicely. Around to the rear, and the tail lights follow on from the fronts in terms of design, and while there’s nothing really to shout about, it remains okay to look at. Not a bad angle per se, but you’ll want to view it from a front three-quarter angle for that.

Interior. Neat or nothing special?

Interior of the Mazda CX-5 AWD Sport 2.2 175ps Diesel

This sixth generation of Mazda’s have been improved massively both on the exterior, and the interior too. Open the door the CX-5 and you’ll find a high quality interior. Even if your budget only allowed the base-spec CX-5 SE-L, you won’t be disappointed, as the fabric seats are the same style as the leather versions and the material itself is well chosen and doesn’t look cheap. It’s the same with the rest of the interior, as there’s little to no difference with the trim finishes between the base model and the top Sport-Nav version.

While there’s a lot of greys and blacks, with only the odd splash of silver, there’s an air of quality overall. The fit and finish of everything seems very well done, and it’s all put together solidly. Really, what I’m saying is that it’s the very opposite of cheap. The driver’s instrument panel is stylish, and rather traditional with its analogue dials, aside from an information screen to one side. The dials themselves are crystal-clear to read, nicely lit and are actually quite classy in their own right. The CX-5’s steering wheel is chunky, and nice to hold with plenty of controls for the stereo, cruise control, phone and more.

2014 Mazda CX-5 AWD Sport 2.2 175ps Diesel screen modes gps sat nav radio music controls

Over to the centre console and noticeable is the clear-fronted housing for the LCD heating display. Some thought this was a little tacky and outdated, but I thought it looked decent, and almost retro. The heating controls are well laid out, easy to reach and non-distractingm and aside from these everything else is controlled with the user-friendly 5.8″ touchscreen (standard on all CX-5 models) unit. Again, this of good quality and there wasn’t anything I disliked about it. There’s even a controller dial/joystick (a bit like BMW’s iDrive) placed between the front two seats, and you can control most stuff from here. It’s a handy place to have it, and saves leaning across to touch the screen whilst driving.

Mazda CX-5 AWD Sport 2.2 175ps Diesel heating controls

The physical entrainment system itself is great, being easy to use. Even the TomTom sat nav was really modern and ergonomic, and on the Sport and Sport Nav versions you get Bose speakers. To my annoyance though, these lovely speakers are rather wasted, as the sound setup has no mid tone adjustment, and therefore I couldn’t set them up as well as I’d liked, and you’re constantly having to adjust the bass dependant on songs as the Bose speakers kick a ton of it out, even on a low setting. Shame that.

The soft dash top also adds a bit more of a luxury feel to the CX-5, and its spongy texture is much better than big section of knock-hard plastic. The seating in the CX-5 is comfortable, and on the Sport version we were sent, the contemporary leather seats are stylish and bang up to date. The fronts are wide but with decent support, while the rears seat three adults with no trouble, and for once even the middle of the rear is bearable, unlike many ‘5-seater’ cars now.

Mazda CX-5 AWD Sport 2.2 175ps Diesel rear seat side view 2

Mazda CX-5 AWD Sport 2.2 175ps Diesel rear leather seat interior

Head and legroom in the rear is also respectable, and you’d be certainly be comfortable on a long road trip in the CX-5, whether you travelled up front or in the back. If that was the case, you’d probably be taking luggage, and the 503 – 1,620 litre load space in the Mazda is absolutely good enough to take a stack of gear. What’s rather neat is are the folding seats, which can be done with the simple pull of a lever in the boot. What’s even better is that you can not only drop each side seat individually, but you can also drop the centre one alone as a kind of ski hatch. Simple, but ingenious!

Mazda CX-5 AWD Sport 2.2 175ps Diesel boot space seats upright


Mazda CX-5 AWD Sport 2.2 175ps Diesel boot space seats down

Overall, it’s very hard to fault the Mazda CX-5’s interior. Even at base level it’s very good, and you plenty of kit too. It’s comfortable, roomy and will hold loads of gear in the boot. Really, the only issues I can find are that while the interior looks nice, it lacks a degree of flair and is a little dull colour-wise, plus the lack of mid tone on the sound settings take away from the potential of the Bose speakers. Apart from that, I’m liking it.

Engine and gearbox

Mazda offer two SKYACTIV engines with a total of three power outputs. Firstly, there’s a SKYACTIV-G 2.0 litre petrol putting out 161 PS and 155 lb ft (210 Nm) of torque, returning up to 55.4 UK mpg. This comes in 6-speed manual-only guise, and only on the 2 wheeld-drive models. I’ve tested this version and wasn’t blown away by it. It felt too underpowered in the CX-5, the same as it did in the Mazda6, but it did return very respectable fuel economy and decent CO2 emissions for a petrol engine in an SUV, thanks to Mazda’s clever SKYACTIV tech.

Mazda CX-5 AWD Sport 2.2 175ps Diesel review engine bay

The other option, and the more sensible one, is the SKYACTIV-D 2.2 twin-turbo, 4-cylinder diesel. According to Mazda, this will account for 85% of UK sales, and justifiably so, as it’s simply better than the petrol.There are two power outputs for the diesel, a 150 PS and a 175 PS version with either a 6-speed manual or a 6-speed automatic. Both are available in either 2WD or 4WD spec, but that depends on the trim level you buy.

The 175 PS version we were sent is an utterly brilliant engine, kicking out a big 310 lb ft (420 Nm) lump of torque at just 2,000 rpm. The manual will do the 0 – 62 mph run in 8.8 seconds and it’ll hit 129 mph at the top end. The 150 PS gets approximately 6 – 8 mpg more than the 175 PS manual CX-5, but as it still achieves quoted UK mpg figures of; urban: 47.1, extra urban: 60.1 and combined: 54.3, I’d not be bothered by this. As I found on the Mazda6, you’ll actually get fairly close to these official stats too on something like a motorway run.

Mazda CX-5 AWD Sport 2.2 175ps Diesel 6 speed gear box

How come it’s quick but still good on fuel though? Here I’ll quote my previous Mazda6 article to explain how it works: This is due to Mazda SKYACTIV technology, and the i-ELOOP system which are explained in-depth here. This will be included on every new Mazda from now on. The i-ELOOP (Intelligent Energy Loop) system is a capacitor-based brake energy regeneration system, and in short works by a 12V-25V double-layer capacitor being charged each time you release the accelerator, charging it fully within the average deceleration time of 7 – 10 seconds. Impressively, this is enough stored power to run components such as the climate control and audio systems for 60 seconds. Combined with i-Stop (stop-start), this makes the cars up to 10% more fuel efficient. Clever stuff, eh!

Ready to roll? Let’s drive!

Driving the Mazda CX-5 AWD Sport 2.2 175ps Diesel review

Without doubt, the Mazda CX-5 drives really nicely. Mazda state that the 6-speed manual was “designed to deliver wrist-flick changes like those enjoyed by Mazda MX-5 driver [and] painstakingly developed to deliver the ultimate in shift quality“. Certainly, I’d say that it’s a good ‘box to use, with a nice light clutch for town driving, and it changes positively and with little effort. Good then. However, I’m still a big fan of the automatic that Mazda do, as the 6 had we previously tested, and you only lose around 3 miles-per-gallon against the manual. The manual is good, yes, but I’d still choose the auto over it for a more refined drive.

The CX-5 actually gives quite a dynamic driving experience, as the suspension is well set up, offering an almost sporty ride, and on a flowing country road it becomes practically… fun… to drive, surprisingly so, in fact. Mated with the superb and lively 175 PS turbo-diesel and the manual ‘box, change through the gears before the torque runs out and on the straights you’ll ride the wave joyfully as the CX-5 forges ahead satisfactorily. Into a bend, and the brakes are sharp, responding well to your input without being vicious, and while the steering doesn’t give as much feedback as I’d have liked, remember this is still a crossover vehicle, not an MX-5.

Mazda CX-5 AWD Sport 2.2 175ps Diesel review

As with Mazda’s new engine technology, they’ve also made the brand-new chassis and body using the SKYACTIV methodology too, so they are made from advanced materials that are light (the CX-5’s kerb weight is 1,671 kg/3,683 lbs) yet strong, therefore making the CX-5 a safer car all-round whilst still offering the positive ride I’ve just mentioned.

What I did notice though, is that whilst it’s not exactly hard, the suspension is noticeably firm when driving on poorly maintained roads, or over speed humps. Not uncomfortably so, but it’s worth mentioning. Another point is that at higher speeds, there was more tyre noise than I expected from the CX-5. I’m hazarding a guess that this is possibly down to the fairly low-profile 225/55 tyres  wrapped around the large 19″ wheels. If you spec the 17″ versions, there’ll be much less sound coming from the rubber, but you’ll lose a bit on the handling.

Safety-wise, the CX-5 definitely holds its own against the competition. On all versions, as standard there’s driver, passenger, front side, and curtain airbags, plus electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD), hill-hold assist (HHA), TCS (Traction Control System), DSC (Dynamic Stability Control) and something impressive which is normally an option on cars, is the Smart City Brake Support (SCBS), which activates the brakes and reduces engine output if it detects a frontal collision is going to happen, working at up to 19 mph. This’ll help lower your insurance premium by a fair few levels too, which is always good.Driving the Mazda CX-5 AWD Sport 2.2 175ps Diesel review

The CX-5 AWD Sport and Sport Nav models can also be optioned with a ‘Safety Pack’. For £700 (Apr. ’14), you’ll get Rear Vehicle Monitoring, Lane Departure Warning and High Beam Control.

We had the CX-5 AWD (all-wheel-drive) on test, and, which is only available with the diesel engine. Here’s a good tip; if you’re going for a base CX-5 SE-L anyway, and are willing to forgo the automatic gearbox for the manual, you’ll pay just £400 more for the 2.2 150ps diesel AWD manual than the 2WD auto version! (figure: April ’14) For the peace of mind in bad weather, and the fact you can keep going through the winter months, it’s definitely worth the extra.

Mazda CX-5 AWD Sport 2.2 175ps Diesel review

With the AWD CX-5, the car is normally driven through the front wheels until the system detects slippage, when it will split the torque up to 50/50 front/rear. No doubt this will work okay over something like a boggy field or down a snowy lane, and there’s also 210mm (8.26″) of ground clearance (unladen) which is a decent amount. I’m saying that about the AWD system, but if you’ve ever seen the Top Gear episode with Clarkson using the CX-5 AWD to tow a caravan down an extremely rough forest track, it was much more capable than you’d have thought, showing just how far electronics systems on all-wheel-drive vehicles have come in recent years.

All in all, the Mazda CX-5 is drives and handles well. That 175ps twin-turbo diesel engine is superb, providing good power and torque delivery in a notably quiet package, whilst still returning great fuel economy. While I found the ride to be a little firm around town and the tyre noise overly high because of those big 19″ wheels, other than that it makes both a great tourer whilst still handling with enough vigour to put a smile on your face should the mood take you.

To add: Since our reviewing this 2013 model, the 2014 CX-5 is now equipped with revised suspension featuring re-tuned dampers, bushes and stabilisers which improve driving dynamics by delivering increased ride comfort and reduced noise, vibration and harshness. Therefore – and without testing it – that overly-firm ride and road noise may now be gone. Still applies to the 2013 version though, so look out for that.


Mazda CX-5 AWD Sport 2.2 175ps Diesel review

The Mazda CX-5 is priced from £21,595 – £29,595 (April ’14). In my opinion, the best version to go for would be the SE-L 2.2 Diesel 150ps manual AWD at £24,995. The 150ps diesel still has plenty of torque, and while you get fabric seats instead of leather, these are still very comfortable and look fine, plus the trim itself is the same as the higher models, and you’ve also got the added benefit of all-wheel-drive for bad weather and better towing stability.

Physically, the car feels its worth the asking price. Its exterior is well designed, while the interior used good quality materials and the fit and finish of these is admirable. The spec of all models is high too, and you get plenty of bang for your buck.

Mazda CX-5 AWD Sport-Nav 2.2 175ps Diesel verdict & score

Mazda CX-5 AWD Sport 2.2 175ps Diesel

Much like Kia, in the space of a very short time Mazda have started to turn their range of cars from average to very good. The CX-5 is one of those cars, and Mazda have done well with it, making it a real competitor in its market, by offering comparatively bigger engines than the competition with good power outputs, while maintaining great fuel returns using their advanced SKYACTIV technology.

It’s also a very roomy and comfortable car, and an outstanding Euro NCAP adult occupant safety score of 94% and child occupant score of 87% makes this an impressively safe car.

If you’re looking to buy a crossover/SUV there are a lot to choose from now, and it’s a tough market to be in. However, the Mazda CX-5 holds its own, and it’s a very decent thing. Should you go and test-drive one, I think you’ll find it as nice as I did.

Do you own a Mazda CX-5? What are your views on it, and what are the best and worst points about it? Share your thoughts and leave a comment below!

Exterior  7
Interior  7.5
Engine (175ps)  8
Gearbox (manual)  7.5
Price  7.5
Drive & Ride  8
Overall Score  7.5 / 10


Model (as tested)  2013 Mazda CX-5 AWD Sport-Nav 2.2 175ps Diesel manual
Spec includes  19″ alloy wheels, Smart City Brake Support (SCBS) Hill Hold Assist (HHA) ABS, EBD, DSC & TCS, dual-zone climate control, 5.8″ touchscreen with TomTom sat nav & bluetooth, leather seating, 6-way driver/passeger seats with 3-stage heating, Premium 9-speaker Bose surround-sound See website for more info
Options you should spec  Buy the SE-L 2.2 litre 150ps Diesel manual AWD version for the best all-round price
The Competition  Nissan Qashqai, Suzuki SX-4 S-Cross, Volkswagen Tiguan, Ford Kuga, Toyota RAV4
Price  (April ’14) £21,595 – £29,595 This model: £29,595
Engine  2.2 litre, 4-cylinder, 16-valve twin-turbo SKYACTIV-D (diesel)
Power, Torque, CO2   Power: 175 PS @ 4,500 rpm | Torque: 310 lb ft (420 Nm) @ 2,000 rpm | CO2: 136 g/km (manual)
Drive, Gears (as tested)  All-wheel-drive | 6-speed manual
Ground clearance  Clearance: 210mm (8.26″)
Top Speed, 0 – 60 mph, Euro NCAP  Max speed: 129 mph | 0 – 62 mph: 8.8 seconds | Euro NCAP rating: 5 stars
Fuel economy (UK mpg)  Urban: 47.1, Extra urban: 60.1, Combined: 54.3
Weight (kerb)  1,671 kilograms (3,683 lbs)
Websites  Mazda UK, Mazda USA, Mazda global

Check out our other car reviews here

Words: Chris Davies | Tested by: Chris Davies | Photography: Chris Davies, Matthew Davies

2 responses to “Mazda CX-5 AWD Sport-Nav 2.2 175ps Diesel Review – SKYACTIV Tech Offers Power & Economy”

  1. Rad

    I hope they offer the 2.2L diesel with the manual transmission in canada when it comes out this fall. I really want this! Seems to be a better option than the 2.0L petrol offered with the manual transmission at the time.

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