First Drive: Is the Mazda CX-5’s new petrol engine the one to go for?

What is it?

Mazda CX-5
(Mazda)

If you’re looking for a Goldilocks SUV – i.e. one that’s not too big, but not too small either – the CX-5 has long been one of the top choices. Mazda has always been one of those underrated brands, not often discussed at the top of conversations despite being fully deserving.

The CX-5 is the prime example of this. It has stylish looks, a classy interior and is great to drive, rivalling big hitters such as the Ford Kuga and Volkswagen Tiguan. It’s also received updates for 2021, which includes a new, more powerful petrol engine that we’re testing today.

What’s new?

Mazda CX-5
(Mazda)

Aside from the new engine, there’s also an upgraded infotainment system across the whole range with faster operation and more connectivity. The CX-5 range has a wide variety of engines and trim levels, meaning there are 18 different models to choose from, so there should be something for everyone.

There are petrol and diesel choices and depending which version you go for, front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive alongside manual and automatic gearboxes. Generally speaking, the higher-output, automatic and all-wheel-drive options are reserved for higher trims.

What’s under the bonnet?

Mazda CX-5
(Mazda)

We got behind the wheel of a 2021 CX-5 with the new engine. Called Skyactiv-G, it’s a 2.5-litre petrol unit and debuted in the Mazda6 saloon, making 191bhp and 258Nm of torque. Its nine-second 0-60mph time shows it’s far from rapid, but its 35mpg fuel consumption is fairly respectable for a petrol SUV at least.

In truth, it’s unlikely to be a big seller, being exclusively available on the top-spec GT Sport trim with all-wheel-drive. It’s a rather odd engine, because it’s not particularly punchy nor refined, but it has more than enough oomph for the car’s size – that said, performance isn’t up much on lesser-powered models, but fuel consumption is…

What’s it like to drive?

Mazda CX-5
(Mazda)

The Mazda CX-5 has always been a rather sweet steer, and the latest model is no different. In top-spec GT Sport trim with all-wheel-drive it’s comfortable, but it does have quite stiff suspension to make it more fun in corners, meaning it’s not so adept at smoothing out bumps and cracks in the road surface.

The trade off here is that it’s more involving in the bends than, say, a Citroen C5 Aircross, while the all-wheel-drive in this model gives you more confidence when the weather takes a turn for the worse.

How does it look?

Mazda CX-5
(Mazda)

If you’re looking for a good-looking family car, Mazda’s range is a great place to start. Its current design language means all of its models look fantastic, whether they be sports cars, saloons, or big SUVs like the CX-5. This model has a large front grille, framed by chrome and large, narrow headlights.

The side profile is simple but elegant by chunky SUV standards, with a subtle slope to the roof that gives it a sportier edge. The rear is slightly less exciting, but has a pleasant simplicity, with smaller taillights and twin-exit exhausts.

What’s it like inside?

Mazda CX-5
(Mazda)

It’s a similar theme inside, with a minimalist, classy appearance and a genuinely premium feel. The darker interior colours might be dull to some eyes, but it’s a look that Mazda has made work well thanks to decent materials used in all the important places.

It’s also nice to see that Mazda is resisting the urge to ditch buttons in favour of vast expanses of touchscreens, but the fairly small screen perched atop the dashboard is beginning to look dated now. Overall, though, there’s a real sense of quality and refinement.

What’s the spec like?

Mazda CX-5
(Mazda)

Entry-level SE-L CX-5s start at £27,245 and come with 17-inch alloy wheels, 10.25-inch infotainment display, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, dual-zone climate control and LED headlights as standard.

However, the price jumps considerably for our top-spec GT Sport model with the new 191bhp petrol engine. For this combination, prices start at £36,885 and equipment includes 19-inch alloy wheels, brown Nappa leather seat upholstery, 360-degree cameras, head-up display and ventilated front seats.

Verdict

Mazda CX-5
(Mazda)

The Mazda CX-5 continues to feel like a hidden gem in the family SUV market. Its stylish looks have aged incredibly well, the interior is high quality if looking a touch dated, and it’s one of the most fun cars to drive in this segment.

This new Skyactiv-G engine is not the pick of the bunch, though. It’s only available in expensive trims, doesn’t add much in performance, but does increase running costs compared with lesser-powered petrols in the range. Despite the war on diesels, they still tend to suit this sort of car best…