Ageing Mazda CX-5 still a decent option as CX-60 arrives in SA

The latest iteration of the 2023 Mazda CX-5 2.2l DE 6AT AWD Akera. Picture: Lance Witten / IOL

The latest iteration of the Mazda CX-5 2.2l DE 6AT AWD Akera. Picture: Lance Witten / IOL

Published Jul 12, 2023


I need to be upfront with you. I’ve always been a huge fan of Mazda.

I owned a spectacular Mazda 3 MPS at one point and loved it. The MX-5 remains a bucket list item for me, and I’ve always wanted to own a CX-5... well, the second generation onwards at least.

The original was a little ungainly. The proportions just looked wrong. The facelift a few years after it was introduced did much to improve it, but it was the second-generation that really took the CX-5 from an also-ran mid-sized crossover/SUV to a sexy, want-to-own piece of machinery.

I used to joke with my wife that the CX-5 looks more like a Jaguar than the E-Pace introduced in the same year.

@lancethewit10 I’ve got news for you! The @Mazda Southern Africa #CX5 may be getting a little long in the tooth, but it’s still my pick of the mid-sized #SUV bunch 👌![CDATA[]]>🏽 #carreview #carsoftiktok #motoring #cars #review #drive ♬ original sound - Lance Witten450

Now in its 2022 facelift guise, it’s getting a little long in the tooth, and while you’d never guess that from its taut looks and well laid-out and comfortable interior, you can definitely tell when you smash the loud pedal.

OK, it’s not a loud pedal at all. The 2.2l AWD Akera diesel model is among the quietest and refined diesel motors I’ve ever had the pleasure of driving. With 140kW and 450 of Newton’s metres, it shouldn’t be sluggish... but it is.

Does the ‘S’ in ‘SUV’ not stand for “Sports”?

Picture: Lance Witten / IOL

The Mazda CX-5 moves with purpose rather than urgency.

And it’s fairly economical too. I returned figures of 7.9l/100km - a little ways beyond Mazda’s claim of 5.7l/100km, but not bad for a car this size.

Inside, the CX-5 still holds up to modern standards. The switchgear is solid and it’s really well laid out. The touchscreen infotainment system can also be controlled by a scroll wheel without your arm having to leave the armrest. Mazda is really clear about its mission to fight distracted driving, and the layout of controls in the cabin reflect this.

In fact, I preferred using the the scroll wheel and controls accessed by my left hand to using the steering-mounted controls for audio.

There are plenty of premium-feel materials in the cabin from the soft-touch dashboard, to the padded leather siding on the centre stack so you don’t hurt your knees when you go off-roading.

The 19“ wheels and low-profile tyres are not the most comfortable on rutted roads, but they look incredibly sexy. Picture: Lance Witten / IOL

The seats are supremely comfortable, and with the 8-way adjustable seats, you’re sure to find your perfect seating position.

The driving experience, as I’ve pointed out, is one of comfort rather than agility. The 6-speed auto does a decent enough job of motivating the CX-5, and it rarely hunts for gears. As mentioned though, it could do with a little more oomph. Even if you slip it into manual - either by using the gear shifter or the flappy paddles - you can delay the gear changes and free up the rev range, you’re not going to find much more pep than is on offer in automatic mode.

Lance Witten on a customary jaunt through the back-roads behind Botrivier. Picture: Lisa Witten

It’s also a big car, and it begins to show its age when you need to park in tight underground parking spaces. The turning circle is just far too big, and I found myself having to adjust more than once to fit into a space. In other cars this size, it’s just not as much of a problem.

Despite this, the CX-5 still holds up as an attractive option in a massively overcrowded market, and is well-priced too.

Between the Mazda and Hyundai’s Tucson, Kia’s Sportage, Haval’s H6, Nissan’s X-Trail, Toyota’s RAV-4, and the countless other Eastern varieties, I’d pick the CX-5 any day.

Pricing starts at R508,000 for the 6-speed manual 2.0l Active model, where you’ll get silver 17“ wheels, cloth interior and a 6-speaker sound set-up, to R631,100 for the Carbon Edition, where you’ll find leatherette seats, a 10-speaker BOSE premium sound system and black 19” rims, right up to the 2.2l DE AWD 6AT Akera model at R754,000 with every conceivable bell and whistle bar a panoramic sunroof - you get a standard sunroof instead. You also get red stitching in the leather, a black roof liner, high gloss black trim on the rims and other exterior accents, and go-faster red inserts in the glossy black grille.

Go-faster grille inserts are a neat, nifty touch. Picture: Lance Witten / IOL

Most of the range, including the Carbon Edition, is powered by a naturally aspirated 2.0l (121kW), while the AWD models are powered by a 2.5l petrol with 143kW on tap and the 2.2l diesel.

Oh, and I didn’t yet mention the intelligent adaptive high-beam lights that operate spectacularly to give you the best possible night-time illumination. Even as the CX-60 arrives with an even more premium fit and finish and additional refinement, the CX-5 is my pick of the bunch.