The Mazda CX-5 is one of the more popular medium SUVs, but is it worthy of such recognition? We pair the high-specification Mazda CX-5 Akera with a Hyundai Tucson Highlander to see which is the better choice.
It’s no secret – the Australian public loves the Mazda CX-5. It regularly finds itself in the top five best-selling vehicles each month despite an ageing platform that competes against newer rivals like the 2022 Hyundai Tucson.
Mazda updated the CX-5 range in early 2022 to keep it sharp against newer rivals, but we wonder if that’s enough to maintain its sales popularity, which sees it second only to the Toyota RAV4.
Cars like the Hyundai Tucson are more affordable, have newer infotainment systems and up-to-date safety equipment, and have smartly laid-out cabins with generous interior space. We’ve paired two high-spec versions of each, matching the 2022 Hyundai Tucson Highlander N Line with the flagship Mazda CX-5 Akera in this all-out, petrol-powered, top-tier, medium-size SUV twin test.
About 12 months ago, Hyundai launched its all-new and fourth-generation Tucson medium SUV in Australia. It replaced the outgoing Hyundai Tucson, a product that for the last six years has been one of the brand’s best sellers in Australia.
Now, the 2022 Hyundai Tucson moves upmarket. How? By introducing sharp exterior styling, new technology, and the option of an N Line appearance package across the range.
Yes, that does mean you can buy an entry-level and self-titled 2022 Hyundai Tucson and then introduce a fancy N Line sports styling kit. The range kicks off from $34,900 plus on-road costs ($38,930 drive-away) for the base-model Hyundai Tucson, or $38,400 plus on-road costs ($42,535 drive-away) for the same car with N Line kit (drive-away prices based on a metro Sydney address. Pricing may vary by location).
Next up, and in the middle of the range, is the 2022 Hyundai Tucson Elite. Priced from $39,400 plus on-road costs ($43,565 drive-away), it’s at this trim level where new drivelines are unlocked. For an extra $5000 you can pick a 132kW/265Nm 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol with all-wheel drive and seven-speed dual-clutch auto, or for $7000 more the 137kW/416Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel with eight-speed torque-converter auto and all-wheel drive too.
Last up the 2022 Hyundai Tucson hierarchy is the Highlander model we’re testing today. Starting from $46,400 plus on-road costs ($50,841 drive-away before options), it too is offered with the same three drivelines: a front-drive 2.0-litre naturally aspirated petrol, all-wheel-drive 1.6-litre turbo petrol, and all-wheel-drive 2.0-litre diesel.
Our test car not only featured the 1.6-litre turbo petrol and all-wheel-drive powertrain, but also the N Line styling package. Add in the $595 extra for Crimson Red paintwork and you’re left with an almost $57,000 drive-away proposition – $51,995 plus on road costs, or $56,717 drive-away.
Since the Mazda CX-5 arrived in Australia in 2012, it has been one of the most popular new vehicles on sale. In fact, not only has Mazda sold more than 235,000 in the last 10 years, the Mazda CX-5 mid-size SUV is regularly in the top five best-sellers, beaten only by dual-cab utes and the Toyota RAV4, its arch rival.
So, this new CX-5 updated for 2022 has big shoes to fill, and big expectations if it is to maintain the momentum. Let’s take a closer look at how Mazda has refreshed its biggest seller.
There are six variants in the 2022 Mazda CX-5 line-up, starting with the Maxx from $32,190 and stretching to the Akera Turbo diesel at $53,680. The turbo petrol Akera we’re testing here is just $500 less than that at $53,180 (all before on-road costs).
Mazda’s on-road price is $58,481, including CTP, 12 months’ registration, stamp duty and dealer delivery fees.
Picking the 2022 update from the outside takes a bit of insider knowledge. Unless you’re a CX-5 anorak, you won’t notice the slightly different 3D-look front grille and the bolder front wing. The LED headlights are shaped differently too.
Along the side, Mazda has replaced the black plastic cladding of other other CX-5 variants with body-coloured sills on the Akera for a more luxurious look. The Akera also gets silver alloy wheels and body-colour wing mirrors. At the back, the tail-lights have been reshaped, and… That’s about it.
|Key details||2022 Hyundai Tucson Highlander N Line||2022 Mazda CX-5 Akera|
|Price (MSRP)||$51,400 plus on-road costs||$53,180 plus on-road costs|
|Colour of test car||Crimson Red||Snowflake White Pearl Mica|
|Options||Premium paint – $595||None|
|Price as tested||$51,995 plus on-road costs||$53,180 plus on-road costs|
|Drive-away price||$56,717 drive-away (Sydney)||$58,481 (Melbourne)|
On the inside, the dashboard and its surrounds are an all-new affair.
Grabbing your attention instantly is a huge and dominant centre stack, where you operate the vehicle’s infotainment system and general cabin controls.
I make a point because this central ‘control centre’ is the focal point of the Hyundai Tucson’s interior design, as both left and right adjacent sections of the cabin have been clearly designed symmetrically and sympathetically to pay tribute to the large rectangular piece of glossy black plastic in the middle.
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Once you’ve gotten over its dominance, you begin to notice other new and nice touches for 2022. Hyundai as a brand is big on perceived quality and material selection, and you can see that when you begin to poke about.
For example, elements like the squishy and gel-backed fabric strip that runs along the dash and doors, as it’s nice to see different types of materials making their way into the usual sea of black plastic.
It even sports a slightly German and tartan-inspired design motif on the dash that wouldn’t look astray in a Golf GTI. Aside from the cool fabric, there’s acres of deeply grooved and solid-looking plastics, too, and overall the cabin looks to have stepped up in terms of quality.
The seats inside our test car are clad in suede-look and leather trim as part of the N Line styling package. If you pick a regular 2022 Hyundai Tucson Highlander without the N Line package, you’ll receive full leather seats.
They’re comfy, albeit flat and not very sporty, electrically adjustable with two-way lumbar support and two-position memory, heated, and also ventilated. The side bolstering around your back is strong, but the seat base could do with more support around your thighs.
Still, the vantage point is great with plenty of tall glass to peer out of, and the driver’s pew in particular can be lifted high enough to give a shorter person the same view. Which, if you are sitting here, means you’re staring directly at the 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster that’s in front of you.
Other small touches in the first row include a fun push-button gearshifter (instead of a lever), two USB-A charging points and a 12-volt power outlet, a wireless charging pad, plus a pair of large cupholders.
Over in the back, occupant space is good for the segment. Sitting behind my own driving position, my knees were clear of the seat back, feet able to kick around under the front pew, and my upper body left with enough room to get comfy.
It’s worth mentioning that three fully grown men across the second row may be a challenge, but a trio of teenagers will find it comfortable enough. I also fitted a forward- and rearward-facing Britax convertible child seat and found there to be enough room for two children.
The excellent and high hip point also means loading kids in support seats is easy, and the same goes for frail people, too, as popping in and out yourself is easier than climbing into a low-slung sedan.
Amenities in the back include a pair of air vents, two USB ports, a pair of cupholders in the fold-down armrest, and a pair of bottle holders in the doors. In terms of boot space, the 2022 Hyundai Tucson range packs 539L of storage, which is fantastic for the segment.
I found the boot plenty big enough for a child’s small bike (with training wheels), groceries, and a couple of backpacks too. It’s the sort of space where you can leave things (umbrella, picnic mat and other detritus) and not worry about ever needing the extra room.
Moving inside and this CX-5 Akera has everything Mazda can throw at it. But you’d expect that for a price tag north of $50,000.
That means full nappa leather trim, front seats with heating and ventilation, rear seats with heating, a heated steering wheel, real wood in the doors and dashboard, and ambient lighting.
That’s on top of the electric front seat adjustment, power sunroof and tailgate, climate control, head-up display, 10.25-inch touchscreen with sat-nav and premium Bose sound system, wireless phone charging, and smartphone mirroring.
As for the driving position, it’s good. Mazda has long had a knack of providing a Goldilocks driving position for me, and with enough flexibility for body shapes that aren’t like mine. Mazda says it updated the seats for 2022, making them more comfortable for longer trips.
Storage options up front are the usual array of cupholders and storage bins. There’s also a wireless charging mat in front of the transmission lever. It’s tilted rather than flat, which makes it easier to get your phone in and out, but larger smartphones slide off the charging spot.
The CX-5 is quite spacious in the second row, with plenty of legroom and under-seat foot room. Headroom is ample for my 175cm frame, with eight to ten inches to spare above. The two outer seats are heated, which is nice, and the backrest across all three positions reclines up to 28-degrees to provide more comfort on longer trips or to accommodate taller passengers.
The second row has a fold-down armrest with a pair of cupholders and a USB port. There are two ISOFIX mounting positions, one in each outer seat.
Now, the boot, which on this Akera opens electrically. Boot space is good without being great – 438L is the claim, and that looks about right. But that’s a lot smaller than the RAV4 and Sportage, which are both around 540L, and a country mile behind the big-butt king of the medium SUV brigade, the 600L Haval H6.
The Mazda’s rear seat split-folds 40/20/40 to liberate more luggage space at the expense of back seat passengers, and there are remote seat releases accessible from the boot.
|2022 Hyundai Tucson Highlander N Line||2022 Mazda CX-5 Akera|
|Boot volume||539L seats up
1860L seats folded
|438L seats up
1340L seats folded
Infotainment and Connectivity
Across the 2022 Hyundai Tucson range, two infotainment systems are offered.
Entry-level Hyundai Tucsons receive an 8.0-inch touchscreen, whereas both the Elite and Highlander (like our test car) get a 10.25-inch display. The bigger screen not only packs more processing power, but it also looks better, as its dimensions are identical to the other 10.25-inch display in front of the driver.
Though the cluster features a few stylistic themes and different modes, it does lack the customisation and configurability of what’s found in Volkswagen Audi Group products. Gimmicks aside, its legibility is top-notch regardless of sun blasting in through the sunroof or driver’s door, and I like the fact it lacks a binnacle over the top, as it clearly doesn’t need one.
Although the main infotainment screen is bigger and better than the 8.0-inch screen in the entry-level model, it does lack some connectivity. Whereas the base 2022 Hyundai Tucson has wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, the mid-tier Elite and top-spec Highlander offer smartphone connectivity via a wired connection only.
It’s a technical glitch that Hyundai Global is trying hard to solve, so don’t assume that just because the entry-level car has certain tech, every other model in the range must do too. The system in the 2022 Hyundai Tucson Highlander N Line also dropped in and out of Apple CarPlay a few times, despite changing the cord to a genuine and new one halfway through.
Other than some patchy smartphone mirroring, the rest is up to scratch. The hardware package is juicy enough to run programs responsively, and the software features a nice-looking interface.
Finally, and as a top-spec model, the infotainment wouldn’t be complete without premium audio. Offered exclusively on 2022 Hyundai Tucson Highlander models is an eight-speaker Bose premium audio system complete with external amplifier.
While it’s branded, the sound system left me feeling cold. The high points of Bjork’s Crystalline lacked brightness, but overall the mix was handled well enough. Another staple track by Eric B and Rakim felt a little narrow, too, but again was at least staged correctly and with audio in the right physical places.
It’s not the first time I’ve disagreed with a Bose-branded vehicular sound system, but to be honest I was expecting more from the package.
No touchscreen?! What were they thinking? Were they thinking?
The Mazda CX-5 Akera comes with a 10.25-inch infotainment screen that has all the usual systems – audio, sat-nav, smartphone connectivity, etc – plumbed in, but can only be operated via a rotary dial behind the gear lever.
The CX-5’s sound system is by Bose and has 10 speakers. It also has AM/FM and DAB+ digital radio, and Bluetooth phone connectivity. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard fitment, via a wired connection.
As a mid-sized family SUV, safety gear and tech are high priorities.
The complete 2022 Hyundai Tucson model range benefits from a five-star ANCAP safety rating having been tested under ANCAP’s latest and most strict 2021 testing criteria.
Things helping the result include standard-fit safety features like blind-spot collision avoidance assist, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection plus junction assist, lane-keeping assist, and rear cross-traffic alert.
Moving up to the Tucson Highlander brings a 360-degree parking camera, auto high beams, and a trick blind-spot view monitor that uses cameras to show you live vision down the side of your car when you activate a blinker. Cool stuff.
The Mazda CX-5 is a five-star car according to independent crash testing done by ANCAP, which gives you peace of mind. The rating was bestowed in 2017, a time at which ANCAP’s testing standards were not as rigorous as today. However, since the CX-5 has not changed structurally since then, ANCAP has not retested it.
The CX-5 Akera also has a plethora of active safety systems to help the driver avoid an accident, including autonomous emergency braking (forward and reverse), blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and lane-keeping smarts.
The only safety additions the Akera gets that the GT SP variant below it doesn’t get are adaptive LED headlights and a 360-degree camera.
As a recap, our 2022 Hyundai Tucson Highlander with optional N Line sports package and Crimson Red paint is a $57,000 drive-away proposition.
A likely alternative is the recently updated 2022 Mazda CX-5, with a comparable all-wheel-drive CX-5 Akera model at the top end of the range.
A three-year/30,000km plan costs $957 or $319 each stop. A four-year/40,000km package costs $1267 or $316 annualised, and five-year/50,000km at $1595 or $319 each year.
The only downsides to the 2022 Hyundai Tucson’s maintenance plan are its 10,000km intervals. If you travel closer to the national average of 13,000km per year, a competitor with 12-month/15,000km intervals will be much cheaper to maintain over the long term.
Hyundai’s official fuel consumption rating for the Tucson with a 1.6-litre turbo engine is 7.2 litres per 100 kilometres. On test we recorded a still respectable 8.5L/100km. The Tucson is rated to run 91-octane regular unleaded or E10 fuel.
The Mazda CX-5 comes with a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty and five years of roadside assist. Servicing intervals are 12 months or 10,000km, which is a touch shorter than some rivals. Each service costs either $363 (first, third and fifth) or $393 (second and fourth), making for a total outlay of $1875 for the first five visits.
Brake fluid and cabin air filters must be replaced every 40,000km and cost an additional $155, which takes the real five-year servicing cost to $2030.
Comprehensive insurance for the CX-5 Akera Turbo costs around $1170 for a 35yo Sydney male with a clean record. That compares with $1108 for a similarly priced Hyundai Tucson Highlander N Line.
This turbocharged petrol Akera is not light – it weighs 1730kg, which puts it among the heavier mid-sizers, but the engine disguises the weight well. You will notice it in the fuel consumption, though. Mazda says this car will consume around 10.3L/100km around town, and 6.9L in the country for an average of 8.2L/100km.
That’s not what you’d call economical by today’s standards, but it is in keeping with this turbocharged engine’s performance… So if you use it, be prepared to pay.
If you don’t need the speed this Akera has on offer, two other drivetrains are available. There’s a non-turbocharged petrol variant with 140kW and 252Nm that is said to average 7.4L/100km, or you can go even more frugal with a 2.2-litre turbo diesel that averages 5.7L/100km.
|At a glance||2022 Hyundai Tucson Highlander N Line||2022 Mazda CX-5 Akera|
|Warranty||Five years, unlimited km||Five years, unlimited km|
|Service intervals||12 months or 10,000km||12 months or 10,000km|
|Servicing costs||$957 (3 years), $1595 (5 years)||$1119 (3 years), $1875 (5 years)|
|Fuel cons. (claimed)||7.2L/100km||8.2L/100km|
|Fuel cons. (on test)||8.5L/100km||11.0L/100km|
|Fuel type||91-octane regular unleaded||91-octane regular unleaded|
|Fuel tank size||54L||58L|
Even though our 2022 Hyundai Tucson Highlander is littered with N Line sports features, it still thankfully drives like a family car.
There’s no need to make the ride quality firm and stiff to match the looks, and Hyundai clearly agrees. The ride quality is great, and around town it’ll soothe after a long day in the office. It’s a soft, squishy ride that even has some roll and play about how it goes over potholes and tatty road surfaces.
The only thing you’ll notice is some trembling or rippling felt through the body as those large 19-inch wheels strike deep road imperfections, but that’s as bad as it gets. Some of the suspension’s inherent softness is to blame here, as its damping isn’t controlled enough to manage the inertia of the large and heavy wheels.
Off-road editor Sam Purcell noted no such thing on his drive of the entry-level car with smaller wheels, so consider that the price you pay for vanity. Out on a country lane, the Hyundai Tucson continues to feel composed and well-mannered.
Its soft and supple suspension means mid-corner bumps at the speed limit don’t throw it off-course, and its all-wheel-drive system unquestionably aids traction when the conditions are wet, like they were for most of the loan.
When the road does get a little faster, and some of the corners begin to switch-back on each other left-to-right, the 2022 Hyundai Tucson can feel cumbersome. It’s in these scenarios where the locally tuned 2022 Kia Sportage product earns it keep, and proves that the chassis is capable of being better.
Wet weather, however, is another point where the all-wheel-drive system pays dividends is off the mark, as the all-paw traction helps it get away from the lights smartly, just in case you forgot the lane ahead is ending.
Performance from the 132kW/265Nm 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine is great, and mostly because of that latter torque figure. Although not the largest outright number, the healthy-enough torque output is still offered in full from 1500–4500rpm, or just about a third of the rev gauge.
It helps the Tucson feel a little more broad-shouldered than it actually is, but the gutsy powertrain still has enough legs to lug a family around with the boot full. A seven-speed dual-clutch is the only transmission offered, and 95 per cent of the time is right for the task.
Although far more refined than its earlier attempts at a twin-clutch auto, it’s still not perfect. You’ll still find the odd calibration woe when tasking the auto with sudden inputs on irregular inclines, or when reverse parking on a hill. Doing so still requires a delicate foot and diligent management of the accelerator pedal.
As expected, you do learn quite quickly what inputs are needed to best avoid any hesitation or lurching. It’s worthwhile spending a day to tune in and pay attention to how it operates during the first couple of drives, especially before absolutely cranking the standard-fit Bose eight-speaker stereo system.
Other than those couple of scenarios mentioned above, the seven-speed auto is generally well-mannered, quiet, and actually quite fast on the upshifts. If you feel like banging through the gears and channelling your inner youth, it’ll somewhat humour your antics.
The Mazda CX-5 is more of a driver’s car compared to rivals like the Mitsubishi Outlander and Toyota RAV4, although the Kia Sportage and Hyundai Tucson come close in that regard.
The 2.5-litre turbocharged engine is strong off the mark and has plenty of roll-on acceleration for picking up speed in traffic or overtaking – as you’d expect of an engine producing 170kW and 420Nm. Those outputs put this variant up near the top of the medium SUV category on performance, and it feels like it too.
It’s all-wheel drive, so there’s no fear that the car won’t be able to get the power down even in trickier conditions. That said, this is not an all-wheel-drive off-road wagon that’ll take you through the Simpson Desert and back, but it’s good enough to give me confidence on moderate dirt roads and gravel tracks.
The throttle is quite sensitive and the powertrain very responsive, which makes it hard to be smooth initially. It takes concentration to iron out the jerks, but that’s because this powertrain is so willing to get going. And we much prefer that to a sluggish engine you have to be aggressive with all the time.
The CX-5 has a six-speed automatic transmission that does a pretty good job picking the right gear for the occasion. During our test drive it proved itself a smooth and seamless companion.
The updated CX-5 has Mazda’s Intelligent Drive Select, which lets you customise throttle response and gear-change mapping, either to suit a more sporty drive or for off-roading. When you change the setting, the colouring in the instrument dials changes to match.
As for ride quality, well, it’s a Mazda, which means it’s firm and sporty rather than soft. If you’re looking for a plush, wafting, luxurious ride, this is not it. This is a more athletic SUV that feels taut and agile. It’s not uncomfortable, but it does follow the undulations in the road rather than glide across the top of them.
The steering is heavier than its rivals, which in turn means the driver gets more feedback about road conditions and grip and the front end. At lower speeds the assistance increases, making it lighter, but it still requires more effort than its rivals at parking speeds. The steering itself is very direct, and the turning circle is relatively tight at 11.0m. That’s not the best in class, but neither is it the worst.
|Key details||2022 Hyundai Tucson Highlander N Line||2022 Mazda CX-5 Akera|
|Engine||1.6-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol||2.5-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol|
|Power||132kW @ 5500rpm||170kW @ 5000rpm|
|Torque||265Nm @ 1500–4500rpm||420Nm @ 2000rpm|
|Drive type||All-wheel drive||All-wheel drive|
|Transmission||Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic||Six-speed torque convertor auto|
|Power to weight ratio||78.2kW/t||98kW/t|
|Tow rating||1650kg braked, 750kg unbraked||2000kg braked, 750kg unbraked|
Both our contenders are impressive, but it has become clear to us that both have different focal points and will appeal to buyers with different priorities. The Mazda is a proven performer that matches driving dynamics with practicality. The Hyundai, by comparison, packs pretty much everything you could want in a mid-size SUV package while remaining competitively priced among rivals.
The Mazda CX-5’s interior is a comfortable cabin to spend time in, though elements of its dash design and console do look dated, and it’s not as spacious. This is most evident when you sit inside the CX-5 compared to the newer Tucson. Its interior just feels a little too cosy for comfort, and this cramped feeling is especially evident in the second row and boot.
The Hyundai, by comparison, feels huge no matter which door you enter through. The boot is far larger to fit luggage, and back seat passengers will no doubt marvel at the level of second-row comfort.
The Hyundai also manages to impress on materials quality and exudes a no-fuss interior design quality. And this despite being more affordable than the Mazda CX-5 Akera Turbo.
The Tucson is also more affordable to service and uses less fuel.
Both are rated five stars in terms of safety, but it’s the Hyundai that was tested to more rigorous post-2018 standards and boasts more active safety technology.
The Mazda CX-5 does claw back some points in the driving stakes, boasting more power and a sportier drive experience. If that’s what you desire in your medium SUV, then the CX-5 is the better choice.
However, the Tucson does make do with enough power for most applications, and contains a beautifully supple ride quality that we argue is more valuable in this domain.
There’s something to be said for the Mazda CX-5’s enduring success in one of the most competitive new car sales segments. However, for our money, the Hyundai Tucson is the better choice.
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