Group test: Mazda CX-5 vs Ford Kuga vs Skoda Kodiaq

Group test: Mazda CX-5 vs Ford Kuga vs Skoda Kodiaq
Group test: Mazda CX-5 vs Ford Kuga vs Skoda Kodiaq

Can the revamped Mazda CX-5 retake the large SUV crown?

With the SUV market still in full swing, there are so many sectors to choose from, but the large SUV group still has quite a presence. If you need family space and flexibility, then there is plenty to choose from. The Skoda Kodiaq is the new king of the castle, but Ford has recently revamped the Kuga while Mazda has launched a new CX-5. The Mazda may have been a bit self-effacing, but it was always a very solid performer. Could a new version take Skoda down a peg or two?

Driving experience

Naturally some people buy an SUV because it can go places a normal car can’t, but then the most efficient models are these – all front-wheel drive. We’ve also levelled the field with a trio of 148bhp diesel engines. They all weigh a similar amount too, so obviously there isn’t a stand-out performance star here.

Ford Kuga 2.0 TDCi 150 ST Line

Ford Kuga

Price: £28,745
Engine: 2.0-litre diesel
Power: 148bhp
Torque: 273Ib ft
0-60mph: 9.4sec
Top speed: 121mph
Official economy: 60.1mpg
True MPG: 43.9mpg
CO2 emissions: 122g/km

However, the CX-5’s 2.2-litre acts more like a turbo petrol than the 2.0-litre engines in the other two. It revs hard and freely as well as pulling decently from low down. The Ford has a narrower powerband, starting later, finishing earlier, so you do have to swing that gearlever around in the six-speed manual. (The Mazda has a six-speed manual too.)

The Skoda has a seven-speed auto box and that shifts smoothly and efficiently between the cogs, although low speed work can be a bit jerky. The Kodiaq gets the power down and handles in a very predictable manner. You might notice it rolls more than the Ford Kuga, but you feel in control at all times. The Ford is simply a fidget.

The Mazda has a flat cornering style from which you deduce correctly that the suspension is fairly stiff, which means the ride quality isn’t brilliant, although the Mazda has the best steering of the three. For the most accomplished ride, you’d want to be in the Skoda.

Interior

SUV owners normally want that high driving position, but their want will be found wanting in the Ford, where the driver sits more at normal car height. The Mazda scores best here, with the comfiest driving position with the best visibility all round. And it scores good points too for the quality of the cabin overall – and that’s not something you could have said about the previous version.

Mazda CX-5 2.2 Skyactiv-D 150 Sport Nav

Mazda CX-5

Price: £28,695
Engine: 2.2-litre diesel
Power: 148bhp
Torque: 280lb ft
0-60mph: 9.3sec
Top speed: 127mph
Official economy: 56.5mpg
True MPG: 47.4mpg
CO2 emissions: 132g/km

Where the Ford Kuga feels decidedly low rent inside, the Skoda delivers an accomplished cabin that is also the largest and most practical here. There’s acres of room in the rear, definitely more than in the Mazda, although that is far better than the Kuga where rear passengers will feel all but cramped in. The Kodiaq also has the largest boot by a margin, and has the benefit of second row seats which can slide to and fro. Big win for Skoda so far inside, but you only get a 6.5-inch infotainment screen, without sat nav, unless you feel like forking out £755 for the eight-inch screen.

The Mazda offers a seven-inch screen mounted high for easy use. It’s even easier to use when you use the rotary controller too. We like the Bose sound system as well. However it doesn’t offer Apple CarPlay mirroring like the eight-inch system in the Ford, which also throws in sat nav, a DAB radio and Android Auto compatibility. However, the system has fairly low resolution and isn’t the most logical to use.

Running costs

The Skoda Kodiaq looks the cheapest on paper, but it needs to be borne in mind that you’re unlikely to get a discount on such a new model, and it’s presented here in fairly basic SE trim in contrast to the other two. Factor discounts in and the Ford is the cheapest by a couple of grand, with the Mazda on a few hundred more than the Skoda.

Skoda Kodiaq 2.0 TDI 150 SE DSG

Price: £27,115
Engine:2.0-litre diesel
Power: 148bhp @ 3500-4000pm
Torque: 251Ib ft @ 1750-3000rpm
0-60mph: 9.2sec
Top speed: 123mph
Official economy: 56.5mpg
True MPG: 43.1mpg
CO2 emissions: 131g/km

The Ford discount will mean Ford depreciation of course, and it’s the Mazda that is predicted to depreciate the slowest and be the cheapest to own over three years. However, the Mazda will cost the most as a company car in BIK tax. To set against that you have a huge list of standard kit thrown in, including full electric leather seats which are heated in the front pair, powered tailgate and head-up display. The Skoda can’t even get close to that and doesn’t even offer sat nav as standard.

Verdict

Although the Ford Kuga has a decent amount of kit it just doesn’t seem like good value for money in this ST Line trim. A more basic spec, with prices starting at £21,895, makes more sense, but it doesn’t at this level. You’re reminded that, updated or not, the cabin is still a relatively low-rent place to be and safety equipment isn’t up with the other two.

We like the Skoda Kodiaq a whole lot more. It’s incredibly spacious and practical, handles and rides well, is enjoyable to drive and the price seems sensible. But if you want a decent selection of kit you’ll be breaking the £30k barrier, so for once the relative value offered by Skoda fails to stack up so well.

Which means that the revamped Mazda CX-5 really was worth the effort. The cabin has been improved significantly, and they’ve filled it with desirable equipment while still leaving ample room for everyone and everything. It’s the cheapest to run, will depreciate the slowest, and it’s even fun to drive. If we’re being fussy we might choose a lower trim that had smaller wheels to improve the ride, but otherwise this is a clear and deserved winner.

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