Expert Review: Mazda CX-5 Akera

by Mike Costello, Journalist at CarAdvice.com


We’ve teamed up with the experts at CarAdvice to bring you honest, no holds barred reviews of some of Australia’s most popular vehicles. Here’s what they had to say.

"The 2019 Mazda CX-5 Akera now comes with the company's 2.5-litre turbo-petrol engine, giving buyers the sort of performance it has long deserved. There are flaws, but it's the top-seller for a reason…"

Mazda’s belated embrace of turbocharged petrol engines in its current fleet of cars has been most welcome. The first recipient was the new CX-9 family crossover, then the Mazda 6 sedan and wagon joined in, attaining the punch they long deserved.

Next off the rank is the updated 2019 CX-5, also known as Australia’s top-selling SUV for seven consecutive years. The engine in question is called SkyActiv-G 2.5T. This 2.5-litre four-cylinder turbo makes very healthy outputs of 170kW and 420Nm, promising sharp acceleration.

The new range-topping engine joins the existing non-turbo 2.5 petrol, range-opening 2.0-litre petrol with front-wheel drive, and 2.2-litre turbo diesel which was the performance leader of the line-up. It’s available on the flagship CX-5 GT and Akera spec levels, reflecting its positioning.

The best bits about the CX-5 Akera:

  • Refined and torque-rich turbo engine
  • A sharper drive than your average family hauler
  • Typically slick design, interior tactility
  • Long list of active safety features
  • Mazda dealer network, good warranty

But could do with some work here:

  • Less back seat, boot space than most rivals
  • Small sunroof may irk the kids
  • Small centre touchscreen with grainy 360 camera
  • Muscular engine comes with fuel economy impost

It’s a lovely engine, better described as muscular and relaxed than ‘peaky’ and high strung like a hot hatch, with greater levels of refinement than the other engine options and good rolling response from low speeds, helped by the fact the peak torque arrives at 2000rpm. It’s closer to being the petrol unit the CX-5 has always deserved.

Claimed petrol fuel economy is 8.2L/100km, though we averaged 9.8L/100km in real-world driving. The diesel uses about 30 per cent less fuel, though commendably the 2.5T can run on cheap 91RON fuel, unlike some rivals. It also has a relatively subtle stop/start system.

Allen, CarAdvice reader and serial Mazda owner (he’s had three in the past six years) writes about fuel economy in his 2017 model CX-5 Akera; “After three months of ownership, the real average fuel usage is about 8.5L/100km. Our daily drive is around the Central Coast on mostly flat roads. We occasionally hit the highways, mostly on weekends.”

While entry grades of the CX-5 come with front-wheel drive (FWD), the Akera is all-wheel drive (AWD). The on-demand system uses 27 sensors to allocate torque to whichever end has surface purchase. It also banishes the slight torque steer we noticed on the FWD Mazda 6 2.5T.

The Akera’s interior is a mixed bag. The leather driver’s seat has electric adjustment and memory settings, while the telescopic steering column adjustment has plenty of fore/aft movement, and the TFT analogue instrument display is crisp. The leather wheel is lovely, too.

Cabin storage includes two front cupholders, a small-diameter but deep console, one-litre bottle holders in the doors, a padded phone area under the fascia and a sunglasses holder in the roof.

The 7.0-inch touch screen is also smaller than average and the processing power could be better, given the slow loading times on start-up. On the other hand, you get the great MZD Connect rotary dial and now also Apple CarPlay/Android Auto. We should point out that it also works as a touchscreen, but only when stationary or at low speeds.

There’s a vast list of standard equipment, including sat-nav, a Bose stereo, a projecting head-up display giving you the much-needed digital speedo, DAB+, seat heating and ventilation up front, a heated wheel, a small glass sunroof (many rivals have panoramic roofs that are larger), proximity key, and active LED headlights.

In terms of active safety, you get autonomous emergency braking forward/reverse, rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot monitoring, lane assist and departure warning, and radar-guided active cruise control with stop&go. You also get a 360-degree camera, though its low-resolution means it appears too grainy for our liking, and parking sensors at both ends.

The CX-5 has never been the most spacious medium SUV in the back seats, and a Honda CR-V or Subaru Forester beat it in this area, in terms of headroom/shoulder room/legroom, door apertures and outwards visibility. However, two 190cm adults can fit.

There are rear vents, LED reading lights, bottle holders, a skim port, two ISOFIX anchors and damped grab handles. The middle seat has a very short base and the humped transmission tunnel makes it largely useless for anyone but a small kid.

The electric tailgate opens to reveal a modest 442L boot that again trails a Honda CR-V or Nissan X-Trail, or for that matter the new VW Tiguan. It’s acceptable for a pram or a few cases, but not as massive as the best in class. There’s also only a temporary spare wheel. There is a clever lever system that allows you to fold the novel 40:20:40 back seat row flat really easily, however.

One of the things Mazda pins its messaging on are driving dynamics. There are a few changes for 2019, including an updated G-Vectoring Control Plus system. The first iteration of GVC reduced engine output in response to steering inputs to harness weight transfer. GVC Plus also lightly brakes the outer wheels as the driver returns the steering wheel to centre, post-turn.

The CX-5 remains a pleasant, competent and able handler, though as with almost any SUV the motor-driven steering is a little vague and the higher roll axis means some body movement in corners. It does dispatch twisty roads with agility and a stable, planted feel though, certainly in a more engaging and reassuring fashion than a Nissan X-Trail or Subaru Forester.

Mazda CX-5 Akera owner Ben is complimentary when it comes to the driving experience of his CX-5;

“On unsealed roads, the ride is very comfortable, with only big potholes or very uneven surfaces causing any discomfort. Similarly, the CX-5 has proven surprisingly capable off-road for use on camping adventures and getting to out-of-the-way mountain bike tracks and hikes. I have (cautiously) taken the car on a few 4×4 tracks in the Grampians National Park to get to hiking locations and on some semi-soft sand locations. I have also taken a handful of tracks for short cuts to campsites at Lerderderg National Park without any difficulties.”

From an ownership perspective the CX-5 comes with a five-year and unlimited kilometre warranty, and services are capped at alternating prices of $315 and $343, excluding brake fluid and air filter every two years ($65 and $71 a pop). By comparison, the diesel alternates between $336 and $364, and the 2.5 non-turbo petrol $310/$339. The intervals are a modest 12 months or 10,000km.

Owner Ben noted regarding the above service intervals; “The service interval of 10,000km could definitely do with an increase. Otherwise, thankfully reliability is never an issue for Mazdas in my experience. After a Grampians trip involving a lot of dusty, corrugated, unsealed roads (the same trip that the wheel arch dislodged), I noticed that a rear brake light had a fair amount of red dust in it. Mazda replaced the part at my routine services. Otherwise, the CX-5 has had no issues to report 25,000km in.”

So, the updated Mazda CX-5 Akera turbo-petrol. Be aware of the smaller-than-average boot and small centre screen, and the fact that the drivetrain is not tuned to feel like a proper performance setup, as the numbers may suggest.

Yet there’s no doubt the new engine is better, and it remains a stylish, well-equipped and generally good-to-drive family SUV that by and large lives up to the price tag.

Mike Costello, Journalist at CarAdvice.com

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