David Motton
Tow Car Editor

See other tow car reviews written by David Motton

It has long been one of our favourite mid-sized SUVs, so what tow car ability does the latest Mazda CX-5 have? Let's get a van, hitch up and go testing!

Overview

Here we’re testing the second-generation Mazda CX-5.

The Japanese car maker says it’s both more refined and more enjoyable to drive than its predecessor, which was a class winner at the Tow Car Awards, so we’re hoping the new CX-5 will prove an able tug.

We’re driving the range-topping 175PS diesel AWD Sport Nav Auto, priced at £33,195.

We know what tow car talent its predecessor has, so we want to know if Mazda has succeeded in making the latest CX-5 better to drive, with and without a caravan in tow.

Towing

The Mazda CX-5 has a promising spec as a tow car, especially when fitted with the more powerful diesel engine (there’s also a 150PS diesel and a 165PS petrol).

It has a kerbweight of 1746kg, including 75kg for the driver, and a legal towing limit of 2100kg.

The only slight disappointment is a maximum noseweight of 84kg. Rivals such as the Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage have a 100kg limit.

There’s on-paper promise from the engine, too, with 173bhp delivered at 4500rpm and 310lb ft of torque from 2000rpm – that’s enough pulling power for any prudently matched caravan.

We hitched up to a Swift Fairway 580 with a Mass in Running Order of 1373kg, and the Mazda pulled it from 30-60mph in a lively 11.7 seconds.

All Mazda CX-5s with the 175PS diesel are 4x4s, a definite plus when it comes to the hill start.

The electronic parking brake held car and caravan still on the slope, and released smoothly as the driver accelerated.

The Mazda pulled to the top of a 1-in-6 hill without fuss or wheelspin.

We tried the same test on a 1-in-4 and although more engine revs were needed, the CX-5 towed up this steep gradient without undue strain.

The brakes proved strong, too, bringing the outfit to a stop from 30mph in 10.4 metres. In normal towing we found the brakes easy to apply smoothly.

The CX-5 made easy work of the lane-change test, too. Direct and accurate steering helped the driver place the Mazda precisely, and there was no sign of the car being dragged off course by the caravan at any time.

The Mazda CX-5 was also mostly secure and reassuring at high speeds.

However, in strong, gusty winds there was some slight side-to-side movement on the motorway. It wasn’t unnerving, but it was noticeable.

But otherwise the Mazda handled towing duties well, with punchy acceleration, strong brakes and excellent hill starts.

Everyday driving

Now we know what tow car talent this SUV has, let’s see what it’s like when not hitched up.

Mazda prides itself on building cars that appeal to the driver.

On the right road, the old CX-5 was enjoyable to drive, but on the wrong road its so-so refinement and stiff ride were weaknesses.

At first the new CX-5’s steering feels too light, but after a few miles you discover that it’s just as precise as before.

The CX-5 handles really well, changing direction keenly and keeping body roll well in check.

Mazda’s efforts to improve refinement have mostly paid off.

There’s an extra 50kg of sound-deadening material compared with the old car, and wind and road noise are less prominent than they were.

The engine sounds a bit more distant, too, although it’s still rather gruff.

Another point high on Mazda engineers’ to-do list was a more comfortable ride.

Perhaps the CX-5 is a little more supple now, but on the 19-inch alloys fitted to Sport Nav cars it’s still firm. So avoid big wheels if you can.

Space

The quality of fit and finish hasn’t been one of Mazda’s strengths in the past, but the CX-5 is a big step forward on what’s gone before.

It’s much more upmarket.

Up front, there’s sufficient adjustment to the seat and wheel to suit a wide range of drivers – we still felt comfortable after a long day behind the wheel.

The powered sunroof doesn’t eat into headroom too much, although it’s a shame it’s not full-length like those in some rivals.

Adults can travel happily enough in the back of the car. There’s not exactly room to stretch out if you’re very tall, but the CX-5 is competitive.

However, the Honda CR-V and Škoda Kodiaq both have noticeably more rear legroom.

The boot capacity is 506 litres with the back seats up and 1620 litres with them lowered.

Again, that’s competitive with the likes of the Kia Sportage, but the CR-V or Kodiaq give you much more luggage room for a similar price.

Running costs

The Mazda CX-5 is very well equipped in Sport Nav spec.

For just over £33,000, it has 19-inch alloys, a reversing camera, a powered tailgate, leather upholstery, heated front seats and steering wheel, a Bose sound system and sat-nav.

There’s also a strong roster of safety kit, helping the CX-5 achieve a five-star rating from Euro NCAP.

According to the official figures, the car achieves 48.7mpg on the combined cycle.

While towing on A-roads and motorways we achieved 26.2mpg.

Technical specs

Engine size2191 cc
Kerbweight1746 kg
85% KW1484 kg
Towball limit84 kg
Maximum towing limit2100 kg
Power173.0 bhp
Torque310.0 lb ft
Official MPG48.7 mpg
Towing MPG26.2 mpg
CO2152 g/km
30-60mph10.8 seconds
30-0mph10.4 m

Verdict

The Mazda CX-5 is one of our favourite mid-sized SUVs.

You can buy bigger cars for similar money, and some ride more smoothly, but few tow better or are as enjoyable to drive solo.

Conclusion

Pros

  • It's a strong tow car
  • It is also a great car to drive solo
  • The interior is more upmarket than before

Cons

  • Some rivals ride more smoothly