2022 Mazda CX-5 Akera Turbo v Kia Sportage GT-Line diesel comparison

Should I buy a petrol or a diesel mid-size SUV? We compare the 2022 Mazda CX-5 Akera Turbo and the Kia Sportage GT-Line Petrol to see which is the better choice for mid-size SUV buyers

Mazda CX-5 Akera Turbo v Kia Sportage GT

Why are we doing this?

One-in-five new vehicles bought by Australians is a Medium SUV. These spacious, capable, high-riding five-seat wagons have the practicality and performance that Aussies love. They’re also very well equipped, built to five-star safety standards and priced affordably between $35,000 and $55,000 plus on-road costs. 

But with more than 20 different models on offer in more than 100 specifications, finding the right one for you is akin to the proverbial needle in the haystack. 

One of the first choices that needs to be made is around the drivetrain. Do you want a petrol, diesel or hybrid engine?

So, if we look past hybrids, the more common choice confronting buyers is between petrol and diesel. Two exemplars of the breeds are the Mazda CX-5 and the Kia Sportage.

The Mazda CX-5 Akera Turbo has one of the most powerful turbocharged petrol engines in the medium SUV class. And with a fuel economy rated at just 8.2L/100km, it’s also surprisingly economical.

Likewise, the Kia Sportage has one of the most potent and economical turbocharged diesel engines in the class. 

So, which one is the better choice for those with around $55K to spend? Let’s find out.


How much does the Mazda CX-5 cost?

There are six variants in the 2022 Mazda CX-5 line-up, starting with the Maxx from $32,390 and stretching to the Akera Turbo diesel at $53,880. The turbo petrol Akera we’re testing here is just $500 less at $53,380 (all before on-road costs). 

Mazda’s on-road price for the Akera Turbo is $59,205, 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 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.


How much does the Kia Sportage cost?

Though there are four model grades to the Sportage range priced from $39,845, we’ve gone straight to the with the $57,582 drive-away 2022 Kia Sportage GT-Line diesel.

Excellent news for buyers is it comes fully loaded from the factory with no other options to add on top, aside from metallic paint options. The test car depicted in this review is painted in Vesta Blue.

The GT-Line is fitted with a 2.0-litre turbo-diesel engine that comes with an all-wheel drivetrain, and is only available with an eight-speed automatic transmission.


Key details2022 Mazda CX-5 Akera Turbo AWD2022 Kia Sportage GT-Line diesel
Price (MSRP)$53,180 plus on-road costs$52,370 plus on-road costs
Colour of test carSnowflake White Pearl MicaVesta Blue
OptionsNoneMetallic paint – $520
Price as tested$53,180 plus on-road costs$52,890 plus on-road costs
Drive-away price$58,481 drive-away (Melbourne)$58,125 drive-away (Melbourne)

Is the Mazda CX-5 roomy inside?

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.


Is the Kia Sportage roomy inside?

Hop inside the large cabin and – even on initial impression – it’s an impressively presented space with a large screen array and purposeful design elements. The seats are part leather, part suede and the overall look is modern.

Materials use in the front row is good, though between the piano black centre console and wide touchscreen, the interface gets covered in fingerprints quick-smart. This is especially evident in full sun as sunlight shines through the windscreen and makes everything look grimy.

However, comfort is high in both front and second rows, with excellent adjustability between the steering wheel and seats to get a high-perch driving position that affords good visibility through the cabin. Space in the second row is commodious – there was never cause for concern for this 6ft 4in tester in terms of headroom, legroom or room to stow your feet.

Ambience in the back seat is marginally worse than in the front – the windows aren’t auto down, and some of the materials feels a bit sub-par for the top-spec variant. There are handy USB outlets nestled in the side of the front seats to charge devices and a nifty coat hook on the back of the headrests. Storage in the second row is good – there are map pockets and door card slots to store large bottles.

Back in the first row, the seat is a great shape and features both heating and ventilating – though I noticed an odd phenomenon at night time where the driver’s-side seat controls wouldn’t light up like the passenger’s. As well, I’m sure there’s a way to push the headrest back, though I couldn’t find it. It was slightly too far forward for me and annoyed at times.

Storage is a highlight up front, with a large centre console bin between driver and passenger, a configurable cubby beside the shifter that can switch between cupholders and a large tray, and long door pockets that’ll eat up bigger items. There’s also a tray underneath the dash that contains a Qi-certified wireless phone charger, though it doubles as a handy nook to store keys and spare change.

It’s a quiet and refined interior to spend time in, no matter whether you’re headed around the corner to the shops or further afield on the freeway on a road trip.

For the latter, the boot contains a minimum of 543L of space with the rear seats up. Fold them down and that capacity swells to 1829L. An electric boot release paves the way to use the space and can be triggered from the driver’s seat too.

2022 Mazda CX-5 Akera Turbo AWD2022 Kia Sportage GT-Line diesel
Boot volume438L seats up
1340L seats folded
539L seats up
1860L seats folded

Does the Mazda CX-5 have digital radio?

The Mazda CX-5 has a touchscreen that is not always a touchscreen. For some reason, Mazda’s engineers decided it should only operate as a touchscreen when the vehicle is stationary. When the car is moving, drivers are forced to use a less intuitive and slower dial mounted just ion front of the armrest.  

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. 

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.


Does the Kia Sportage have digital radio?

Kia has made great strides in its infotainment systems over the last 18 months and – of all its product – I think the current software is best viewed on the Sportage. Fingerprints aside, the wide touchscreen displays content beautifully and menu systems are in a nicely laid out manner. 

Though it serves no real functional purpose, the curved 12.3-inch display looks very cool and is a neat design highlight to brag about to Toyota RAV4 owners. It does envelop the driver without excluding the passenger.

The map designs look fantastic and the navigation between various functions is a breeze. Those not interested in Kia’s native system can use Apple CarPlay or Android Auto through a cable.

A thin touch panel below the main infotainment unit switches between air-conditioning controls and media playback controls. It’s a straightforward process to switch between the two, though I wish they were kept separate anyhow for at-a-glance simplicity.

Sportage SX+ specification cars and above get an eight-speaker Harman Kardon premium stereo, though I wasn’t a fan of the system and it didn’t enthuse me to play tunes like you’d expect from a Harman Kardon unit. To try and enjoy songs you must have the volume all the way up, and back seat passengers complained of quiet outputs.

Is the Mazda CX-5 a safe car? 

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. The CX-5 Akera doesn’t match the best in class for active safety, so if that’s a concern for you, have a closer look at our 2022 Drive Car of the Year Kia Sportage and the Hyundai Tucson. The Toyota RAV4 is well-specced in this area, too, as is the Mitsubishi Outlander.


What is the Kia Sportage like to drive? 

Powering the top-spec Kia Sportage GT-Line diesel is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel engine. Outputs are rated at 137kW/416Nm, which are deployed to an all-wheel-drive system through an eight-speed automatic transmission.

The pairing is a perfect partnership in all situations. Shifts from the transmission are well-judged between changing throttle inputs and the gear changes themselves are comfortably smooth too.

The diesel powertrain is arguably the best of the three engines on offer in the model line-up, for me anyway. There’s a reassuring surge of torque that propels you along, whether you’re pushing for an overtake or getting up to speed in traffic around town. It is noticeably louder than a petrol engine car, though is still perfectly agreeable to live with day to day.

Touring inside the Sportage is great – the suspension tune travels beautifully over undulating surfaces and remains composed over potholes and road cracks. It’s also quiet and refined in terms of road and wind noise, aside from the aforementioned engine noises permeating the cabin.

What did annoy on tour was the car’s safety systems that beeped and pulled the car back into its lane. The overly sensitive system can be turned off in the car’s menu, though it won’t remember the settings the next time you get back in the car – it must be turned off every time.

The adaptive cruise control is well behaved for the most part, though does jerkily grab at the brakes when trying to slow down the car. It keeps good distances and speeds up to overtake if needed.


When things get more twisty, the Sportage rounds bends with confidence and the body is well controlled. The steering is of nice firm weight, though remains easily turned for quick manoeuvres around town. That said, the Sportage does have an annoyingly large 12.2m turning circle that makes swift three-point turns a bit cumbersome.

Key details2022 Mazda CX-5 Akera Turbo AWD2022 Kia Sportage GT-Line diesel
Engine2.5-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel
Power170kW @ 5000rpm137kW @ 4000rpm
Torque420Nm @ 2000rpm416Nm @ 2000-2750rpm
Drive typeAll-wheel driveAll-wheel drive
TransmissionSix-speed torque converter automaticEight-speed torque converter automatic
Power to weight ratio98kW/t78kW/t
Tow rating2000kg braked, 750kg unbraked1900kg braked, 750kg unbraked
Turning circle11.0m12.2m