Our sub-editor wanted a car that would be relaxing on the motorway, but fun to drive elsewhere. Is his new SUV delivering?...

mazda cx-5 long-term test review

The car Mazda CX-5 2.5 AWD GT Sport Auto Run by Chris Haining, sub-editor

Why it’s here To see how a traditional, petrol-powered, four-wheel drive large SUV fits in with daily life today

Needs to Shrug off rough roads and tough weather, soothe in motorway traffic, entertain on a twisty road

Mileage 1585 List price £38,905 Target Price £37,484 Price as tested £39,485 Test economy 38.5mpg Official economy 35.3mpg Options fitted Snowflake White metallic paint (£580)

12 September 2022 – Tradition takes a stand

And now for something completely different. The Mazda CX-5 is an example of an increasingly rare breed; a large SUV that isn’t electric or even hybrid powered. It relies solely on petrol for motivation, with a big engine connected to all four wheels via an automatic gearbox, and with no steering wheel paddle shifters in sight.

mazda cx-5 long-term test review

Not exactly clutching the zeitgeist, then, but while cars are developing at a breakneck pace, not everybody wants their wheels to be perched on the bleeding edge of technology. Some would rather buy something that’s been proven by time, particularly if it has a specific job to do. And I’m looking forward to seeing whether Mazda’s large SUV still makes sense in progress-obsessed 2022.

Updated this year with styling and tech tweaks, the Mazda CX-5 range is pretty broad, and the front-wheel drive versions account for the lion’s share of sales. You can have petrol or diesel power and manual or automatic gearboxes, and the CX-5 makes for fine, practical and comfortable family transport with any combination of the above. Its four-star What Car? rating puts it towards the top of the large SUV class, even though it does without the third row of seats that some rivals offer.

The version I’ve gone for, though, sits at the more specialised end of the CX-5 lineup. With its four-wheel drive system, it should make easy work of damp slipways and muddy tracks, as well as affording that last degree of security in treacherous road conditions when winter rolls in. The four-wheel drive system comes exclusively with an automatic gearbox, and while you can team this set-up with petrol or diesel power, I’ve gone for the former.

mazda cx-5 long-term test review

Why’s that, then? Well, I’m hoping for a bit of sportiness. While most people in the market for a large four-wheel drive SUV plump for diesel power, which typically serves up the lazy low-down grunt that you want if you’re towing a heavy trailer or caravan, I have no such haulage ambitions. What I do have, though, is a network of very enticing country roads on my doorstep, and a 2.5-litre 197bhp petrol engine should – in theory – be just the job for squeezing as much fun out of the CX-5 as possible.

The racy theme continues in the trim level I’ve gone for, but while the GT Sport grade brings colour-coded bumper mouldings and wheelarches as well as adding a bright finish to the 19in alloy wheels, it’s more than just a package of cosmetics. In fact, it promotes the CX-5 from generously equipped to unashamedly opulent, with soft dark brown Nappa leather upholstery, front seats that are ventilated as well as heated (the outer rear seats being heated, too), and wood trim on the dashboard. I’m a sucker for a bit of wood trim, I don’t mind admitting.

GT Sport also brings a hefty roster of driver assistance and convenience tech. In the former category, I’ve got adaptive LED headlights, driver attention monitoring and automatic emergency braking when reversing as well as going forwards. This all comes on top of the blind spot monitoring, lane-keeping assistance and adaptive cruise control that all CX-5s are equipped with, and the 7.0in digital instrument panel and colour head-up display that you get with Sport trim and above.

mazda cx-5 long-term test review

The price for all this? Well, after adding £580’s worth of smart Snowflake White metallic paint, my CX-5 tips the scales at £39,485. That’s a sizeable chunk of change, but while the Ford Kuga and Nissan X-Trail cost less, a similarly well-equipped four-wheel drive Skoda Kodiaq is a little costlier, and premium rivals such as the Audi Q5 and Land Rover Discovery Sport will set you back even more. And over the coming months, I’m looking forward to seeing just where the CX-5 sits in the large SUV spectrum.

It can expect to face a varied programme of long-haul commuting and dirt-track exploring, as well as being asked to entertain me when I’m in the mood to just go out for a drive. Basically, it needs to fit in with my life; yes, the CX-5 could be accused of not moving with the times, but I, too, am a creature of habit.

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