An update gives us cause to take a fresh look at Mazda’s CX-5 – and find out whether it’s a better buy than talented family SUV rivals such as the all-new Kia Sportage...
- The contenders
- New Kia Sportage 1.6 T-GDi 2WD 3
- New Mazda CX-5 Skyactiv-G 2.0 Sport Black Edition
- Performance, ride, handling, refinement
New Kia Sportage 1.6 T-GDi 2WD 3
List price £30,945
Target price £30,129
The latest Sportage is a fine all-rounder in hybrid form. But what if you go for the entry-level petrol engine?
New Mazda CX-5 Skyactiv-G 2.0 Sport Black Edition
List price £32,765
Target price £31,881
The CX-5 has been around for a few years now, but a tweaked interior and new trims promise to give it a new lease of life
The constant churn of new models can make the Family SUV market feel like the conveyor belt in a sushi diner. The freshest plates grab everyone’s attention and get snapped up, and anything that’s been around for a while gets ignored. But is that really the right way to think when you’re choosing your next car?
The current generation of Mazda’s CX-5, for example, may have been around since 2017, but it has always been a worthy contender, with a classy, spacious interior and generous equipment levels. And now it’s been given a revamp in an effort to keep it competitive. The interior has been updated and there’s a new range of trims to choose from – including the Sport Black Edition you see here. It gives the CX-5 sportier looks, black exterior highlights and loads of kit.
Where does that leave the CX-5 in relation to the best of its rivals, though? One of the toughest of these is the recently introduced fifth-generation Kia Sportage, which, in hybrid guise, has already seen off the Ford Kuga as well as the closely related (and almost as fresh) Hyundai Tucson. We’re testing it in mid-range 3 trim – our favourite version, because it gives you all the kit you’re likely to want for a reasonable price.
We’ve gone for the regular petrol engine in the Sportage this time, to match that of the CX-5 (which isn’t offered as a hybrid). Both drive the front wheels via six-speed manual gearboxes. The CX-5’s engine is a bit bigger and more powerful than the Sportage’s, but does that give it an advantage on the road or mean it’s a better buy?
Performance, ride, handling, refinement
One of our contenders is significantly quicker than the other – but it isn’t the one with more power. That’s right: the Sportage, with its 148bhp 1.6-litre turbo engine, accelerates from 0-60mph in 8.9sec, whereas the 162bhp 2.0-litre CX-5 takes 9.6sec (in wet conditions).
There’s plenty of pull from low revs in the Sportage, meaning you don’t always need to change down for a quick burst of acceleration. The CX-5, which isn’t turbocharged, feels much more lethargic at low revs; you need to work the engine harder to keep pace with the Sportage and change gears more frequently just to maintain momentum on undulating roads.
Given how often you’ll be changing gear, it’s just as well that the CX-5 has the slicker gearbox. With a shorter gearlever and precise action, changing gear is an enjoyable process. The Sportage’s shift action is slower and less positive, while an overly light clutch pedal means you can easily find yourself over-revving the engine when pulling away.
Both cars have reasonably firm suspension by class standards, although neither is uncomfortable. The CX-5 tends to thump more over sharp-edged bumps, particularly at higher speeds, whereas the Sportage feels more settled and deals with potholes and the like better around town, giving it the edge overall when it comes to ride comfort.
The upside of the taut suspension is that it helps to improve agility, with both cars benefiting from tidy body control in corners. The Sportage’s steering feels a little numb and is slower to respond when you begin to turn the wheel, making the CX-5 feel sharper and more agile up to a point. But push harder and it’s the CX-5 that begins to run out of grip first, whereas the Sportage always feels reassuringly planted and predictable.
Settle down to a cruise and these cars are relatively hushed inside. The Sportage suffers from a little more wind noise around its door mirrors on the motorway, along with a hint of turbo whistle at low speeds. However, it’s the more peaceful companion overall, because its engine is more muted, plus there’s less suspension noise along bumpy roads and not as much road noise at high speeds.