MAZDA CX-5 (2012-2017)


5-door SUV [2.0 petrol / 2.2 diesel]



For years now, the market’s fastest growing segment has been that for Qashqai-like Crossovers and compact soft-roading SUVs. If you want a used car that offers the best of both and offers fine driving dynamics, low running costs, practical space and decent value, then it’s hard to ignore this one, the first generation version of Mazda’s CX-5. Not the first car of this sort you thought of is it? But try one and you might just think it to be the best.

The History

Mazda was late to the Qashqai-class Crossover party but when it did at last turn up with a model in this segment – in 2012 with this first generation CX-5 model - we found that the job had been done properly. So is this a soft-roading RAV4 or Freelander-style compact SUV with at least a modicum of off road gumption? Or the or the kind of family hatchback-on-stilts the industry calls a ‘Crossover’, Qashqai or Peugeot 3008-style models better suited to Sainsburys than the Serengeti? We’re going to let you make up your own mind on that one.

Probably, the definition doesn’t matter. Depending on your preference, you could pigeonhole this CX-5 either way -which is exactly as Mazda wants it. That’s why it created modestly powered entry-level 2WD versions for school run mums. And pokey all-wheel driven variants with a tougher remit further up the range. Here’s a brand who reaped the benefits of late arrival to this particular party. A maker who looked carefully at what was available, what buyers wanted and what they actually needed. A measured approach that paid dividends. This MK1 model CX-5 sold until it was replaced by a second generation model in mid-2017.

What To Look For

Most CX-5 buyers were came across in our ownership survey were enthusiastic about this car but inevitably, there were a few rogue examples; make sure you avoid them by checking out the things below on your test drive.

One owner had a problem with faulty engine injectors necessitating frequent oil changes. Another found his manual model would continually get stuck in reverse and would crunch in 1st and 2nd gear. Another found he was getting through tyres at an unreasonable rate – 3 sets in a year, the issue compounded by the fact that only two brands make tyres for a CX-5, so prices are high for replacement rubber. One owner experienced a knocking sound on full lock, an issue traced to faulty suspension mounts. And another found the iStop engine start/stop system on his car ceased to work.

Otherwise, the issues we came across were relatively minor ones. Check out the infotainment system; there were lots of reports of faulty Bluetooth connections and faulty sat nav set-ups. A lot of these issues can be solved by software updates and a larger SD card. One owner had a faulty rear parking sensor. And another found warning lights randomly coming on in the dash.

On The Road

The key to understanding this CX-5 is getting to the bottom of what Mazda means when it uses the term 'SKYACTIV Technology'. Basically, it's Mazda's programme for radical lightweight efficiency and it debuted on this car. This claims clear benefits in terms of economy and emissions but it also means that the CX-5 is a vehicle that drives quite differently to most of its key rivals. And by ‘differently’, we mean better.

The entry-level petrol model weighs little more than 1,400kg - which is remarkable. To put that into perspective, a similarly-sized Land Rover Freelander weighs over 1700kgs, which means that you could sit two average sized adults and a pair of kids in a Mazda CX-5 and it would still weigh less than an empty Freelander. You'll feel that this car is light on its feet as soon as you pull away. Mazda has worked hard at reducing friction in the drivetrain and the gearbox feels light, the pedals perfectly spaced and the steering responsive.

The top range-topping diesel version offers four-wheel drive and a twin-turbocharged 2.2-litre unit putting out a healthy 175PS. With the powerplant in this form, you don’t get the option of a front-wheel drive-only variant, something that so many customers for this kind of car now seem to want. Still, this is available on a model with the de-tuned 150PS version of this unit. And 2WD is the only choice if you go for the entry-level 165PS 2.0-litre petrol variant.

There's a directness that you get at the helm and a tautness to this Mazda’s responses that is unlike anything else in this class. Get out of one of these after driving hard and into a Freelander or a CR-V and you'd do well not to plough clean off the road at the first corner you come to. For keen drivers, this is the best car in its class. It's as simple as that.


The CX-5 isn’t one of those cars that jumps out at you on first acquaintance. But as with many Mazdas, its modesty hides a product packed with innovation. The result is excellent packaging, class-leading economy and emissions and driving dynamics that set a new benchmark in this sector. Add in a high specification and competitive pricing and you’ve a compelling proposition.

Nothing less was necessary given the Japanese maker’s tardiness in entering this segment. The styling may not be anything special but everything else about this car is. It’s yet another example of Mazda going its own way, doing things differently. Which means? Well something quite simple really. Looking for a car of this kind? Start here first.