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mazda cx5 gl review this one is strictly for minimalists

Mazda CX5 GL review: This one is strictly for minimalists

Our take: skip the GL trim and head straight to the GLS trim. You'll be happier, really

Christopher Ng Photo

Christopher Ng

31 May 2018

It’s a really good thing that the cheapest Mazda CX-5 that you can buy doesn’t look like the cheapest Mazda CX-5 that you can buy. Only a nit-picker would be able to tell the difference based on the minor differences in equipment – this GL-spec CX-5 is the only one that comes with bulbs for the daytime running lights and the tail lights. Oh, and the ‘GL’ badge on the rear hatch is also telling.

Look past those minor differences and this CX-5 keeps true to the design language. Every line, angle and curve – right down to the squinty-designed headlights that house LEDs – remains the same across the board. The new shape appears more streamlined than the previous generation, leading to a windswept, coupe-like shape. Almost.

There are details in the fold of the metal to appreciate, especially how it each line plays with light and shadows. The new premium paint job makes shadows appear deeper that in turn highlights the metallic colour better. And in the new Soul Red Crystal, which commands an RM2,830.19 premium, the CX-5 looks every bit expensive.

The new red, along with Machine Grey and Snowflake Pearl White, gets you three layers of coats starting with the reflective base coats that employ horizontally-aligned aluminium flakes to reflect light. On top of that, the translucent base coat uses high-chroma colour pigments that add Mazda claims to add colour to passing light. How does one enhance the light or colour spectrum is a science that’s beyond my understanding. Topping it all off is a clear coat.

Just as it is on the shell, the interior looks every bit as classy even if it is simple. As with all car manufacturers that follows automotive design trends, most of the multimedia buttons have been moved into software-controlled largely by a big knob on the transmission tunnel; displayed on the eternally popped-up screen on the dashboard. Sweeping away the function buttons from the dashboard allows the fascia to become slimmer, yet successfully makes the top of the dashboard look broader.

In case you haven’t noticed, there’s a colour theme there and it’s ‘B&W’. Black dominates the colour of the interior while letterings, icons, indices and digital graphics are all in white. Of course, you have a bit of grey here, a stroke of red there and streaks of chrome ties everything together nicely.

As good as this SUV looks, the CX-5 rides brilliantly over roads that have large chunks of tarmac stripped off by weather and large-vehicle abuse. The chassis soaks up and dissipates all sorts of quakes and shocks, only the most severe gets let through in the form of mini rumbles that passes all too quickly.

It is in the corners that the CX-5 out-performs the competition. The inclusion of GVC, a system that shuffles the G-force around the vehicle to keep it stable, carries out its duties to the letter. Not that the previous CX-5’s handling is rubbish, but the body roll is dialled back even more. The feel of the SUV’s weight shifting from the front to the side to the rear when you’re entering the corner, steering around it, then powering out is significantly reduced. Not only the handling is better, the overall ride is also vastly improved.

Although vibration and harshness have been dealt with professionally, noise is a factor where the CX-5 stumbles. Sounds of wind and road seep into the cabin but it is the roar of the engine that is the most audible, especially when Sport is engaged. Nothing that turning up the sound system’s volume can’t fix but the SUV does complain much when the pedal is pushed to the floor.

You’ll hear the sound get of all 162 horses galloping at 6,000rpm. The climb up the gear ratios – each change is as quick as it is smooth – reduces the volume of the engine to the point where it returns to comfortable. Having said that, we could always do with less noise because a stonking SUV the CX-5 isn’t.

The fact is, having a 2.0-litre non-charged engine, producing 162hp and 210Nm, doesn’t quite ignite the imagination. The SUV will accelerate and get up to speed without leaving you feeling that power is lacking; what it has is enough.

Remember that this the CX-5 in this trim cost the least in the range. So not only you have the smallest engine but also lack front parking sensors, keyless entry and the entire i-Activesense suite. But with a price tag of RM128,303.99, should you expect more? The most powerful, fully-featured CX-5 comes with either a 2.5-litre petrol engine or a 2.2 diesel engine. 

Still, don’t dismiss the Mazda CX-5. The higher trims offer more feature and equipment, which will make the ownership experience a more pleasurable one. Just as how a no-frills airlines price their seats, the CX-5 in GL trim is as basic as basic can get and should only be considered for a fleet. For personal consumption, you should really start with the CX-5 GLS.

Mazda CX-5 2.0L GL



16-valve, 4 cyl. with VVT, 14.0:1 compression ratio


6-speed automatic SKYACTIV Drive

Front-wheel drive









182kph max speed



On-the-road without insurance

Overall Rating

7 Rating