What 6 Months With A Mid-Sized SUV Taught Me

After six months and 12,000 miles behind the wheel of a Mazda CX-5, I'm pleased to report it's not all bad news
What 6 Months With A Mid-Sized SUV Taught Me

In August last year, the automotive world was dealt one of its harshest blows. Shitbox hoarder and MX-5 aficionado Alex Kersten (that’s me) took delivery of the ‘Anti-Christ’. My new Soul Red Mazda CX-5 was not only the embodiment of the phrase ‘what’s wrong with an estate?’, but it was also the 2.5-litre NON-TURBO with an automatic gearbox. That’s right, I’d gone full dad-bod.

The reason for my ‘misdemeanour’ was the need to tow cars up and down the country, and with a towing capacity of 2100kg, the CX-5 would be able to handle these tasks while not being too large and cumbersome for daily driving; I live in West London where space is limited and where Uber drivers plague the road network.

What’s more, people who cry about SUVs being akin to the Black Death are either aged 13-17 or just plain stupid. Because guess what, SUVs like this one certainly do have a lot of positives. And I should know because after six months and 12,000 miles, I grew very fond of the CX-5. Here’s what I learned.

It took a while to bond with it

What 6 Months With A Mid-Sized SUV Taught Me

Sometimes you get in a car and just know you’re going to be great friends. It happened to me recently with my latest purchase - a 218k-mile E46 330i Touring - but not so the CX-5. This was a slow burn, and here’s why.

I’ll stick my neck out on the line and say that the CX-5 is one of the best-looking mid-sized SUVs currently on sale. Dynamically, too, it’s very good. Much like Jaguar, Mazda’s ethos for all of its cars is a sporty ride, and while this sounds great on paper, this means that the ride is always firmer than you’d perhaps like - great for a B-road blast (which the CX-5 does surprisingly well), but on the motorway, the mid-sized SUV never feels particularly settled.

My biggest gripe, however, was the petrol engine’s drone that only got worse the higher up the rev range you got. And get there you did a lot because thanks to an N/A engine and an automatic gearbox whose tendency it was to hold onto gears. The noise was always there.

Despite these automotive foibles, I grew to love the CX-5, and not in a Stockholm syndrome kind of way. I grew to love it because the more I threw at it - including various towing trips, a set of mud terrain tyres, some light off-roading, and more - the CX-5 always exceeded my expectations. It hauled well, it took the mud in its stride and it impressed everyone who spent time behind the wheel.

The fuel tank is too small

What 6 Months With A Mid-Sized SUV Taught Me

Any car fitted with a 2.5-litre petrol engine, automatic gearbox, all-wheel drive and a 1719kg kerb weight is never going to be particularly fuel-efficient - in fact, Mazda claims 35.3mpg combined (although I got around 32mpg on a long motorway run). You’d therefore expect a fuel tank of around 70 litres capacity, which is why the 58-litre reality came as a (bad) surprise, especially when towing.

I can’t remember any other car I’ve ever had that I needed to fill up so often, which is again another reason I’d ditch the petrol in favour of a torquey and more fuel-efficient turbo diesel.

I enjoyed the raised ride height (for the most part)

What 6 Months With A Mid-Sized SUV Taught Me

Sitting further away from the ground while driving is nice. You see traffic ahead over cars, and you generally feel ‘safer’. Around town and on the motorway, being higher up makes perfect sense, then, but where it really matters to me - namely B roads - sitting lower to the ground is paramount for stability and knowing what the car is doing through corners.

While the CX-5 was surprisingly agile with a foot full of accelerator pedal, it never really felt at home. An estate does the job far better, enabling you to push harder and ultimately have more fun, but on the flip side, an estate can’t tow 2100kgs behind it.

The CX-5, then, is a good ‘compromise’ car - agile enough to raise a smile, tall enough to see into the distance, and heavy enough to tow 99 per cent of things you’d ever need to.

Despite the drawbacks, it's a car I'd still recommend to a friend

What 6 Months With A Mid-Sized SUV Taught Me

The reality is this: people looking for a mid-sized SUV probably won’t tow cars up and down the country, and they certainly won’t fit their daily driver with a set of all-terrain tyres and hit the mud. These are things I wanted to try to see if they were possible, and every time the answer was yes.

What people want from a car like the CX-5 is for it to be safe, reliable, easy to use and efficient. And in all but one area (efficiency), the Mazda nails the brief thanks to autonomous emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist and driver attention monitor (which, by the way, seemed to think I needed a break every 45 minutes) coming standard on ‘my’ £36,860 top-spec GT Sport.

It’s easy to drive, easy to park because it’s not too big, and would suit a small family with a dog (like me). So yes, I’d recommend the CX-5 to a friend. Just be sure to make it a diesel.


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