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First report: Mazda CX-5 long-term test

Date: 14 July 2022   |   Author: Pete Tullin

Zircon Sand paint polarises opinions of our new Mazda CX-5.
Mazda CX-5 2.0 165 Sport Black
P11D price: £33,530
As tested: £34,270
Official consumption: 41.5mpg
Our average consumption: 36.8mpg
Mileage: 2,841

Without question the CX-5 is one of the sweetest driving mid-sized SUVs currently on sale. That said, there's something about our newly arrived example that is sure to polarise opinion.

Zircon Sand is the official designation Mazda gives to the paint colour that adorns our freshly minted long-term CX-5, however, a few less generous individuals have been quick to offer up a whole host of disparaging alternatives. Seasick green, farmyard slurry, pensioner beige and even baby poo being some of the more colourful nomenclatures.

Now I understand why some may think Zircon is a bit of an 'edgy' choice, but in a world where colours trends are often conservative with a capital C and countless SUVs suffer from a clone-like styling quality, I really like the idea of our CX-5 getting a few tongues wagging.

I'll be the first to concede that you have to see the CX-5 in the metal to appreciate its vibrancy, as a photograph capturing a fleeting moment in time cannot adequately reflect its lustrous finish. That's always providing the paintwork is 100% squeaky clean and the contrasting gloss black highlights are unblemished because, as a recent downpour carrying several tonnes of Saharan interlopers revealed, the merest smattering of grime is enough to reduce its luminosity to a flattened monotony.  

I've always thought that of all the Japanese companies, Mazda comes closest to mirroring German manufacturers, which by general consensus, set the benchmark for interior appointments. The CX-5 is no exception. With solid, high-end materials woven into the fabric of the vast majority of components and all of them assembled with millimetre precision, the overall impression is one of super engineering integrity and a finish that belies its affordable price point. 

That Germanic influence is also reflected in Mazda's infotainment system, albeit an ageing one, reminiscent of older generation Audis and BMWs. With no touchscreen to prod - many will see this as a good thing - the various menus are controlled via a rotary controller surrounded by a quintet of hard keys located just south of the gear knob. Although the display screen is rather slim, it isn't at all difficult to read or navigate on the move. I find the accompanying standard head-up display especially useful, as having recently moved back to London, I'm still getting used to scanning the tumults of signage that adorn the side of every 100-metre stretch of battered blacktop. Attempting to adhere to bus lane time restrictions and dodge in and out of more red lines and yellow boxes than a toddler's colouring-in book, I'm especially grateful that the constantly varying speed restrictions are accurately displayed in the HUD, making it one less thing to worry about. Or so I thought, until my supposed ally turned backstabber and inexplicably give me the green light to do 90mph in a 30mph limit. Well, it was like this, your Honor...

Not that I see the CX-5 getting me in too much trouble with the boys in blue. Although the 2.0-litre Skyactive-G engine produces a reasonable 165hp because it has no electric or turbocharger assistance it needs to be revved pretty darn hard to produce that number. A fundamental lack of low-end grunt means that, when driving in traffic, it's always a fine line between not giving it enough revs and letting the engine bog down or over-revving it with all the finesse of a 17-year-old on their first driving lesson. Thankfully the six-speed manual gearshift is as slick as they come, and the clutch pedal is light and precise, so I can usually give it a bit of cheeky slippage and quickly recover the revs in order to avoid any embarrassing stalling episodes. 

With prices of unleaded knocking on the door of £9 - 10 or twelve if you're reading this in the Autumn - I've always got one eye on the mpg readout, which so far has hovered around the 36.8mpg mark. That said, this number has been achieved driving almost exclusively in town, so it will be interesting to see what numbers I come up with next week when I load the CX-5 up to the gunwales with all manner of golf gear and head off to my spiritual Geordie homeland.