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January 10, 2017

Review: 2017 Mazda CX-5 AWD 2.2 Skyactiv-D

The diesel engine has been embroiled in a lot of controversy lately. With several carmakers caught cheating on emissions, could the love affair with this frugal oil burner be over? Is the future finally all about fancy gasoline hybrids or complicated electric vehicles? Though stringent emissions have yet to be implemented in the Philippines (the country is still at Euro 4 while others are moving towards Euro 6), one carmaker has spearheaded the move for a truly clean diesel; one that doesn’t require a cheat device to meet the most demanding emissions standard in the world: Mazda.

The story of the Mazda CX-5 is a well told one (read our reviews: 2012 M/T and AT, 2013 AWD Sport2014 2.0 Pro, 2015-2016 AWD Sport). First introduced in 2012, it’s the first “fourth-generation Mazda”; the one that combined the head-turning looks of KODO with the holistic suite of vehicle tech called Skyactiv. It’s been praised endlessly by the public and pundits alike, calling out the stellar driving dynamics and knock-out styling as just two of its endless positive characteristics. But in as much as it’s a great drive, people wanted more. They wanted more power and efficiency crammed into that shapely body. The result is a fitting swansong to the current CX-5: the AWD Skyactiv-D.

That single letter, the “D” appended to the Skyactiv badge, uncovers an entirely new story for Mazda. Although Mazda is the least one you’d expect selling diesels, it’s been a huge success for a company that has built a reputation for defying convention. Before Skyactiv-D, only 1 percent of cars sold in Japan were diesels. Turned off by their poor refinement and emissions, Japanese consumers opted for hybrids. Five years later and thanks in huge part to Mazda’s efforts, that share has grown to about 8 percent. Half of that number is Mazdas, accounting for 36 percent of their total sales volume in Japan (103,771 units).

Mazda attributes the success of its diesel engines thanks to three key Skyactiv-D traits: first is that it offers 20 percent better fuel economy compared to diesels with the same displacement and power. Second, it has a smooth and linear response with a relatively high 5,200 rev limit. Third, it complies with global emissions regulations (up to Euro 6) without expensive exhaust treatment or cheating.

Skyactiv-D has achieved all these because Mazda took a conventional diesel and turned it over its head. For starters, it has a 15 percent lower combustion ratio (a gasoline-like 14.0:1). By lowering the compression ratio, Mazda has effectively lowered the temperature and pressure at the piston’s top center. This results in a longer ignition alleviating the formation of unwanted exhaust gases and soot. At the same time, the lower compression ratio reduces the stresses put on the engine and allows engineers to use an aluminum cylinder block. Not only is this 25 percent lighter, but it also offers reduced friction without any sacrifice to engine service life.

Of course, going low compression has its problems: poor cold-start emissions and misfiring during warm-up. Mazda solved this by adopting multi-hole injectors that offer different injection patterns based on driving conditions (up to 9 injections per combustion) as well as Variable Valve Lift (VVL) on the exhaust valves. This combination offers more precise fuel injection control along with the quick stabilization of compression temperatures eliminates poor cold-start emissions and engine misfiring.

The final piece of the Skyactiv-D puzzle is the use of a clever twin turbocharger system that uses one small one and one large one that operate selectively based on driving conditions. Not only does this give high torque at low speeds and high power at high speeds, but it works synergistically with the low compression ratio to reduce emissions and fuel consumption even further.

All this tech talk translates beautifully on the road as the Skyactiv-D powered CX-5 presents itself as the ultimate version of Mazda’s compact crossover. With 173 horsepower and 420 Nm of torque, it has enough grunt to make any self-professed petrol head renounce his hate for diesel. Whether it’s for that quick overtaking maneuver on C5 or effortless cruising on the expressway, this engine can do it all. And unlike its gasoline counterpart which needs to be wringed, there’s always a surge of power on tap. In fact, 50-60 percent throttle application is all that’s needed to scare your passengers. Plus, it’s quieter and more refined than other diesels out there, the Europeans included. The diesel clatter intrudes more in this particular application than in the Mazda6, but that’s down to the latter’s more extensive sound insulation.

Like its diesel-powered executive sedan counterpart, the CX-5 Skyactiv-D comes with a 6-speed automatic. Unlike the Mazda6 though, the CX-5 doesn’t come with paddle shifters. Though the gearbox works well enough, commanding an up- or downshift quickly, there’s some noticeable shift shock whenever first gear is engaged.

In addition, the CX-5 doesn’t have i-ELOOP installed. It does, however, have the i-stop idle start/stop system. Though normally not talked about, Mazda’s i-stop system itself is unique in that it requires just a single cycle to restart the engine (typical diesel start/stop systems require two). It does this by carefully positioning the pistons as the engine stops. As a result, the engine restarts in just 0.4 seconds, achieving the world’s fastest diesel engine restart time. This along with Skyactiv-D enables the CX-5 to squeeze out 10.42 km/L at an average speed of 15 km/h.

Four years on and the CX-5 is still the sportiest compact crossover out there. It’s far nimbler than any other offering in the segment, achieving an intricate balance of linearity in its steering and responsiveness in its chassis. The ride is most definitely firm, but road imperfections are soaked well enough as not to cause any passenger complaints. However, because of the heavier diesel hardware, this version of the CX-5 does tend to understeer and lean more when cornered hard. It doesn’t distract from the overall fun-to-drive experience though.

The CX-5 managed to introduce many firsts for Mazda and as a result, has become a shining example that a vehicle engineered by a company that defies convention can still achieve mainstream success. The pinnacle of the CX-5’s achievement though is perhaps the introduction of Skyactiv-D. More than just breathing new life to a well-told story, by defying what a diesel engine is and what it can do, Mazda is proving that oil burners can be both sporty and clean. As the first-generation begins to bid adieu, it has done so with a balanced driving performance combined with clean emissions and a clear conscience. If this is what the first-generation CX-5 is, imagine what the all-new model can deliver.

2016 Mazda CX-5 AWD Skyactiv-D
Ownership 2016 Mazda CX-5 AWD 2.2 Skyactiv-D
Year Introduced 2012 (Refreshed: 2015, 2016)
Vehicle Classification Compact Crossover
The Basics
Body Type 5-door Crossover
Seating 5
Engine / Drive F/AWD
Under the Hood
Displacement (liters) 2.2
Aspiration Twin Turbo
Fuel Delivery Direct Injection
Layout / # of Cylinders I4
BHP @ rpm 175 @ 4,500
Nm @ rpm 420 @ 2,000
Fuel / Min. Octane Diesel
Transmission 6 AT
Cruise Control Yes
Fuel Economy @ Ave. Speed 10.42 km/L @ 15 km/h
Dimensions and Weights
Length (mm) 4,540
Width (mm) 1,840
Height (mm) 1,670
Wheelbase (mm) 2,700
Curb Weight (kg) 1,586
Suspension and Tires
Front Suspension Independent, MacPherson Strut
Rear Suspension Independent, Multi-link
Front Brakes Vented Disc
Rear Brakes Disc
Tires Toyo Proxes R36 225/55 R 19 V (f & r)
Wheels Alloy
Safety Features
Airbags 6
Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS) Yes
Traction / Stability Control Yes
Parking Sensors No, with Reverse Camera
Other Safety Features Tire Pressure Monitoring System
Lane Departure Warning
Lane Keep Assist
Exterior Features
Headlights LED, Adaptive
Fog Lamps Yes, Front
Auto Lights Yes
Rain-sensing Wipers Yes
Interior Features
Steering Wheel Adjust Tilt/Telescopic
Steering Wheel Material Leather
Seating Adjustment Electric (front)
Seating Surface Leather
Folding Rear Seat Yes, 40/20/40
On-Board Computer Yes
Convenience Features
Power Steering Yes
Power Door Locks Yes
Power Windows Yes
Power Mirrors Yes, with Fold
Climate Control Yes, Dual
Audio System Stereo
# of Speakers 9, Bose
Steering Controls Yes


  1. 176hp and 420 torque at 2m? Wala yan sa 200hp and 500 torque ng 1.4m ng colorado! Meron png manual for real men!

    1. compare mo naman ang bigat at comfort ng colorado dito.

    2. Pang unisex lng itong CX5.
      It cannot traverse mud and gravel, cannot cross streams and rivers. Cannot climb steep grades and rocky uphills. So what's the 2M price for?
      Going to mall and massage parlor?

    3. Para kung punta sa beuaty parlor ang mga owners

    4. Colorado sobrang laki. Hirap i park. Mahal maintenance. Mahal gulong pag nakalbo. Hirap isingit sa trapik. Hirap linisin. Hirap sa makitid na kalye. Hindi lang power at torque labanan sa buhay. There are things na kaya gawin ng crossovers na di kaya ng suvs..

    5. Guys, stop compensating for your you know what. Stop being jealous that people actually have them bigger than yours. Enjoy what you have :)

    6. PPV's and pickup's have horrible ride quality compared to car based crossovers. But would still choose a midsize sedan or compact hatch over a crossover because I don't need the extra ground clearance. Sedans/hatches have a more relaxing drive, more comfortable, cheaper, and have better creature comforts than SUV's.

    7. .. until the flood comes.

    8. In North America we no longer have many options for wagons/Hatches. If I could get a Mazda 6 wagon with a diesel and a manual I'd buy one in a heartbeat. Not available here though, so it looks like CX5 it will be.

    9. They are same five seaters and how often does it flood? A few times in a year?

  2. Sir Uly, big fan of your work and this site for your honest to goodness reviews. If we were choosing for a quick crossover, would you recommend this or the TOTL gasoline version over the Forester XT? Thank you

    1. If it's just about outright acceleration, the Forester is still faster 0-100 km/h in 7.5 seconds compared to the Mazda CX-5's 8.8 seconds.

      As for everyday usability, it depends. If you don't have a large family (single, newly married, or adult kid/s), the CX-5 is good enough. The interior space is a tad small and that's its problem. The Forester has a larger interior and it helps if you do bring friends or family along a lot.

      In terms of maintenance, they're more or less the same in cost, though the Yojin-3 does mean the Mazda will have no cash out for the first three years.

      If it were me? Wait for the all-new CX-5. If it comes with the diesel, get it then.

    2. Rule number 1. Never purchase a newly released model. It still has flaws and gremlins and faults waiting to surface once you bought it. Better to wait a year or two. For me, this 2017 model has all flaws sorted out already. Better buy than the new one coming...

    3. Rule number 2. Don't believe everything you read on the internet.

    4. The beauty with the 2nd-generation CX-5 is that the drivetrain and platform are carried over. It only gets a new body will likely be reliable enough.

    5. It's the small improvements that count.

  3. My avg fuel consumption in my 2017 M3 2.0 is around 5-6km/l at an avg speed of 7km/h. Is that bad? Traffic is really bad in the metro. Still, I only spend 2500 monthly on gasoline, with a daily commute of 6km per day.

    1. I observed 7km in my 2.0 with the same driving at around 10km per day so thats probably normal real world fuel consumption

    2. God, please stop calling mazda 3 an M3. There are no M3's with 2.0. ///M3 is BMW and that's a legendary badge.



    1. Meron bang lasing na indi nakainom?

    2. Correction: RK2718 ang conduction number ng MAZDA CX5 ng SUSPECT.

  5. Sigurado po, nakainom yan at tsaka naka 3 bote ng ALAK.

  6. im planning to buy the all new cx 5 this year, and kung sakali this will be my first mazda, but i just want to know kung gaano ang maintainance cost of this vehicle, i own a 2016 montero sport, more or less ba ay same lang sila nga price i-maintain in the long run? looking forward for ur answer SIR ULY

  7. Please need help on choosing..Mazda Cx5, Forester or Santa Fe? San ba mas maganda between the 3, I travel a lot with my wife and kids, so importante comfort lalo s mga bata. My wife prefer Santa Fe, I prefer Forester or CX5.


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