Used 10-year old Mazda CX-5 KE from RM55k – The original sporty Japanese crossover
Dinesh · Apr 25, 2022 07:58 PM
As a petrolhead, you’re probably had to undergo the misery of coming across one of those “Respect your elders” decals on some old rust bucket of a BMW. With most of us springing up in somewhat traditional Asian households, that statement is extremely familiar to us.
However, it’s at your local car gathering but instead during family gatherings when we come across those aunties whose vocabularies are limited to the sentence “When are you getting married?” and “Someone’s been eating those extra kuih.”
Nonetheless, as much as we enjoy harking back to the lost days of when cars were mechanical monsters that “functioned as extensions” of our hands (hint: that’s actually the slop in the steering because rubber bushings of the time were shit), much of the performance-oriented cars we still see on the road truly are evolutions of their older selves.
But that’s another K-drama for another season of keyboard warriors. The objective of those dreadful “Respect your elders” decals can actually be applied quite generously to vehicles that you’d otherwise dismiss as unworthy of that 20-cent decal.
Case in point; and it’s going to be extremely divisive, the first-generation Mazda CX-5 KE.
Now that you’ve recovered, let’s remember that the CX-5 is the pioneer of the sporty Japanese crossover. Much like the second-generation CX-5 we touched on before this, the first made the rest of the Japanese SUVs sit up and take notice that could have a little fun with your family-mover; especially against the likes of the mundane Honda CR-V and Nissan X-Trail of the time.
Variants of the Mazda CX-5 KE
As the first Mazda to adopt the Kodo design language, the CX-5 definitely looked every bit better than its peers of the time; in fact it still does. When it was first launched in Malaysia back in 2012, just 2 variants were available with the only distinction being 2WD or AWD.
They both had the 2.0G SkyActiv mill that made.
2.0G SkyActiv 2WD (153 HP and 200 Nm)
2.0G SkyActiv AWD (152 HP and 198 Nm)
Although just having 2.0-litres of displacement, the SkyActiv engine had a high 13:1 compression ratio (CR) that made it very punchy. Cool fact for you if you end up purchasing one, the CR was higher than the Ferrari 458 that only had 12.5:1.
In fact, the Japanese spec CX-5 engine had a CR 14:1 but our low-quality fuel is the reason behind the lower number. Nonetheless, it was still able to run on the regular RON 95 fuel.
The SkyActiv mill was quite clever for its time. It utilised a 4-2-1 exhaust manifold that helped to alleviate knocking; common with high CR engines. Furthermore, the engine’s piston has a cavity on the piston crown that gives better air-fuel mixture around the spark plug.
Overall, the SkyActiv-G engine was 10 percent lighter with 30 percent less mechanical resistance compared to Mazda’s current engines. These added up to 15 percent better fuel economy and torque output as well as 15 percent lower emissions.
A 6-speed auto was the only transmission available and blessed with clever SkyActiv wisdom, it packed a smaller torque converter unit that only kicked in when the vehicle was moving from a stationary position.
Now about that handling; it rode on MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link layout in the rear. The latter is something you’d find on sports sedans rather than SUVs which goes a long way in explaining why it handled impressively for an SUV.
One of the USPs for the CX-5 was the generous equipment that came standard with it. Both early variants came with a suite of safety tech that was unheard of during its launch and is still considered par for course a decade later.
Safety comprised 6 airbags, DCS, TCS, four-wheel ABS, EBD with Brake Assist and a Tyre Pressure Monitor.
A couple of years later, Bermaz launched the CX-5 2.5G. Apart from the larger engine that made 184 HP and 250 Nm of torque, the kit count was almost identical to the 2.0G trims with the addition of i-stop start/stop system, a sunroof and a 9-speaker Bose sound system.
More importantly however was the 20015 facelift that saw the CX-5 2.5G arrive first. Much of the complaints from the pre-facelift such as LED lighting was addressed.
The switch to an electronic parking brake freed up more space between the front seats and now housed the rotary control for the new MZD infotainment system.
Addressing feedback from owners regarding the sluggish transmission (we’ll touch on later) saw Mazda introduce a Sport mode for some extra grunt when required.
The final facelift saw even more improvements in terms of the kit count and a shift towards the current naming nomenclature such as the GL and GLS trims.
This saw the 2.0 trims only available in 2WD while the 2.5 trim had the option of 2WD or AWD.
The 2.0 GL still used auto-halogen headlights but made up for it with the MZD infotainment system. From the 2.0 GLS onwards, LED headlights became standard while above that, it was LED lighting front and rear.
Lest we forget, the CX-5 also brought about the monstrous turbo-diesel mill towards the end of its first-gen lifespan.
The CX-5 2.2-litre SkyActiv-D was one of the few diesel-powered unibody SUVs. That monster of a twin-turbo diesel mill made 173 HP and 420 Nm which was sent to the front wheels via the familiar 6-speed SkyActiv auto.
A downside to this though was the recommended use of Euro 5 diesel for this engine.
In terms of equipment, it was identical to the 2.5G with the addition of i-ActivSense driver assist systems such as Smart City Brake Support (SCBS), Blind Spot Monitoring (BSM) and Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA).
Reasons to buy a CX-5 KE
At the time of its launch, the CX-5 had a plenty going for it. Apart from the impressive handling that we’ve already touched on, it also had an extremely generous equipment list that didn’t spare the entry-level trims; something its peers could be accused of in the court of public perception.
The SkyActiv engines were powerful yet economical, making for an SUV that was definitely a little more fun to drive and didn’t burn the wallet for maintenance.
Plus, that Kodo styling has aged quite well when you line it up against its contemporary competition. Those boxy designs on the CR-V and X-Trail haven’t aged well at all.
Being used primarily as a family mover, the first gen CX-5 is still a relatively safe car and even the lower trims benefit from plenty of safety tech.
In a nutshell, the first-gen CX-5 had a solid powertrain, good fuel economy, sporty handling and good safety features. It’s hard to argue with USPs such as those.
Used market prices of the CX-5 KE
In this day and age, it’s a given that the likes of a Honda or Toyota hold their value well in the used car market. But seeing how well-equipped the CX-5 is, it’s hardly surprising to see that it’s still priced a bit higher than its peers from the same period.
That said, prices for the pre-facelift 2.0G trims vary from RM 55k to RM 70k. If you’re keen on the larger engine, the CX-5 2.5G goes from around RM 62k to RM 70k.
As for the facelift, pricing for the 2.0 trims hovers around the RM 80k range. The reason the price doesn’t vary much is the second-gen CX-5 was arriving later in the year.
The turbodiesel CX-5 ranges from RM 75k to RM80k. Again, the first-gen diesel was only launched in 2016 so there aren’t many on the road to begin with before the second-gen one arrived.
Which CX-5 KE variants to buy?
Of all the variants, we’d highly recommend the high-spec 2.0G facelift trim. Many owners have confirmed that power is more than adequate which negates the need for the 2.5G models.
Even the pre-facelift 2.0G trims are value-for-money buys but going for the facelift just makes it a little easier to obtain a loan.
In the back of our minds, we’d love to recommend the SkyActiv-D models. That torque is monstrous and is rightly addictive. However, the fact that Bermaz recommended Euro 5 for the early models can be a hindrance.
Ultimately, the diesel CX-5 is the one to get but unlike service history, it’s not as straightforward to confirm if the owner always filled up with Euro 5. Down the road, the dirtier diesel could present problems, especially with the injectors.
Hence, the one to get would be the facelifted 2.0 GLS.
Much like the second-gen we covered earlier, the first-gen CX-5 is quite devoid of major issues. Most of it is centred around DRL failures and a windshield that cracked easily.
Another area that can be tricky to ascertain would be the free 3-years of scheduled maintenance from Bermaz when the CX-5 was new.
Many owners were unhappy that Bermaz used semi synthetic engine oil instead of the recommended fully synthetic. While they confirmed that it was safe to run the former, there were a number of owners that opted to go with fully synthetic oil at their own cost.
Again, it’s not straightforward to determine the service history but a solid starting point would be the complete records from Bermaz side before determining if the owners opted to switch to fully synthetic oils once the free service package was over.
Also bear in mind that the early CBU models rode on 19-inch wheels before the CKD ones switched to 17-inch rollers. While they look good, when it comes time replace your 19-inch rubbers, your wallet will thank you for picking the CKD units.
Lastly, some feedback from owners online; while not complaints, would be key in considering before you purchase a used first-gen CX-5.
Many mentioned wind noises at higher speeds, minor squeaks and rattles as well as infotainment system glitches.
A trade-off for the sporty handling would be the firmer ride. That’s something you’d have to live with. It also lacks rear AC vents, something your kids strapped in the rear might not be too pleased with.
Lastly, owners weren’t very keen with the SkyActiv transmission that had a tendency to upshift too quickly. This is part of the while fuel-saving ethos and Mazda addressed with the Sports mode in the facelift, another reason to go for that.
Simply put, the first-gen CX-5 is an SUV that was powered by a punchy mill, handled well, was generously-equipped and had excellent safety features for its time. The drawbacks however were a smaller interior and a somewhat firm ride.
The fact that it holds value better over the CR-V and X-Trail of its time is a strong indicator of a good buy. Just remember to be extra through regarding the service history with regards to the engine oil used in the early years.
Here are a couple of decent examples of pre-owned first-gen CX-5 models from Carsome. Check it out here and here.
“Better late than never.” Some despise it, others begrudgingly agree with it but he swears by it… much to the chagrin of everyone around him. That unfortunately stems from all of his project cars not running most of the time, which in turn is testament to his questionable decision-making skills in life. A culmination of many wrongs fortunately making a right; much like his project cars on the rare occasions they run, he’s still trying to figure out if another project car is the way to go.