Can a Mazda CX-5 tow a caravan?

Can a Mazda CX-5 tow a caravan?

A caravan or camping holiday is a dream for many Australians, but what do you do if there’s no ute or large 4×4 in the driveway? Can your medium SUV tow a caravan?

2023 Mazda CX-5 G35 GT SP

To set the scene for our medium-sized towing adventure, let’s take a look at our wheels.

Up front, we’re driving a 2023 Mazda CX-5 G25 GT SP. This car has a 2.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine with 170kW and 420Nm output and is priced from $52,410 before on-road costs. It features the $795 option of Mazda Soul Red Crystal paint and has a genuine Mazda towing kit, yours for $1565.

This gives our car a braked tow rating of 2000kg and a towbar ball weight of 150kg.

Most medium-sized SUVs will have a tow rating somewhere between 1500kg and 2000kg for a braked trailer. For example, a Kia Sportage (1.6-litre turbo petrol) is rated to 1650kg, as is a Nissan X-Trail ePower Hybrid, but an X-Trail petrol is rated to 2000kg, and a diesel Sportage (or Hyundai Tucson) is up to 1900kg.

The Toyota RAV4 is the only real outlier in terms of top-selling medium SUVs, with AWD models offering a 1500kg braked tow rating, but front-drive petrol models are only rated at 800kg. Front-drive hybrid RAV4s are only rated to 480kg, which doesn’t make it a very usable platform if you want to tow.

The towbar ball weight is also variable. The Hyundai Tucson diesel has a 1900kg tow rating, but only a 100kg ball rating, which is the amount of weight the trailer pushes down onto the car.

With all these figures, check what your car and caravan are rated at before getting too far. If you are still shopping for a van, all the weights and ratings will be available from the manufacturer.

Key details 2023 Mazda CX-5 GT SP
Engine 2.5-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol
Power 170kW @ 5000rpm
Torque 420Nm @ 2000rpm
Drive type All-wheel drive
Transmission Six-speed torque converter automatic
Power-to-weight ratio 100.9kW/t
Tow rating 2000kg braked
750kg unbraked
Turning circle 11.0m

The Jayco J-Pod is a compact caravan that offers all the goodies to give you a comfortable home away from home while being manageable for a smaller vehicle like the CX-5. It is priced from $30,190.

Our test example is the mid-range Outback which includes a popup tent on top to allow sleeping for up to four people. It weighs 910kg and has a tow ball weight of 120kg, both within our Mazda’s tolerances.

The Outback version features a slide-out kitchen, solar panel array, awning, storage and off-road tyres. It’s perhaps a little too ‘rugged’ for our red Mazda and sits higher than the SUV, but it’s just the thing for our test.

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Note too, that there is a lighter version of the J-Pod (without the roof tent) which weighs 760kg and has a tow ball weight of 80kg. It has more road-biased tyres and would probably be our pick if you are looking to buy.

Key details 2023 Mazda CX-5 GT SP & Jayco J-Pod Outback
Price $52,410 (Mazda) / $30,190 (Caravan)
Colour of test car Soul Red Crystal
Options Metallic paint – $795
Tow pack (hitch, harness, ball) – $1565
Price as tested $84,960 plus on-road costs
Tow rating 2000kg braked / 150kg ball weight
Gross combination mass (GCM) 1693kg + 910kg = 2603kg (without James or gear)

How do you connect a caravan to a Mazda CX-5?

If you’ve never towed before, your greatest friend is about to become your rear-view camera.

With the car unhooked and the trailer on its jockey wheel, use the camera to line up the tow ball on the car with the hitch on the trailer. With a little bit of practice, you’ll be positioning things with pinpoint accuracy every single time.

Lowering the trailer onto the car is simply a matter of winding down the wheel, and this is where the tow ball weight comes in. As you rest the caravan on the car, you’ll see the car sink down a bit. Here, we know the trailer is rated to 120kg and the car 150kg, but if you get those numbers around the wrong way you are in danger of overloading your tow hitch, and making the whole articulated convoy dangerous to drive.

The next big tip is that when connecting your chains between the car and the caravan, you cross them over.

The chains act as a failsafe if the tow ball somehow breaks or comes loose, crossing them over makes the trailer easier to turn in the first instance, but if the hitch breaks, the chains form a cradle of sorts below the hitch and can catch it if it does fail. We’re talking worst-case scenarios here, but it is still good practice.

Finally, connect your power leads, lower the trailer brake and (before you set off) check your lights.

If you have someone with you this is easy, but if you are running solo, we find it’s best to turn the car on, switch on your headlamps and then turn the hazard lights on. This way you can see if all the trailer lights are working as they should.

Note too that if when doing this your car shows an error or the indicator ‘ticks’ at an irregular rate, something is wrong somewhere in the wiring setup, and you should have your car and caravan checked by an auto electrician before hitting the road.

How long is a Mazda CX-5 with a caravan?

The biggest thing to remember when you have a trailer of any kind connected is how long your articulated miniature road train is. Our CX-5 is 4575mm long, and the J-Pod is 4390mm, for a total of 8965mm. The J-Pod is 2300mm tall too.

This is much longer than any regular vehicle and means you need to drive with consideration of your overall length (and weight) particularly when braking, turning and overtaking.

Look out for low branches and don’t even attempt to go through a drive-through takeaway lane!

Don’t worry, you’ll get used to it.

What is a Mazda CX-5 like to drive while towing a caravan?

The best way to approach driving with a van on the back is to be smooth and measured in your movements.

Don’t lurch off the line or slam on the brakes. Don’t turn too sharply or move too aggressively. You’ve got a long road ahead, just take it easy and relax.

The 2.5-litre turbo in the CX-5 is a great engine, and in most cases, the pick of the options that Mazda has available (there’s a non-turbo petrol as well as a turbo-diesel). If you are going to be towing every day, maybe consider the diesel, but if your CX-5 will be predominantly driven without the Jayco on the back, the 2.5-turbo is the most rewarding unit to have under the bonnet.

Off the line, the CX-5 does feel a bit sluggish, clearly reminding you that there’s a weight connected behind. It may not be as swift as it can be ‘naked’ but when towing will get up to posted speeds well enough, and more importantly, will hold even highway speeds while touring easily enough.

Mazda claims a combined cycle fuel consumption of 7.4L/100km, which drops to 6.3L/100km when touring and steps to 9.3L/100km around town.

We’ve found all scenarios to be a little bit higher, dipping into the 11-12L/100km range on urban and high-6L/100km range on tour, but that’s without the van on the back.

With the J-Pod connected, the touring consumption climbed as high as 16L/100km but then settled into the same sort of range (13L/100km) that we saw around town in the car alone. It even dropped as low as 10L/100km for some touring sections. The caravan didn’t really impact the urban rate, which barely changed at all (12L/100km).

Fuel Useage Fuel Stats
Fuel cons. (claimed) 7.4L/100km
Fuel cons. (on test) 13.2L/100km
Fuel type 95-octane premium unleaded
Fuel tank size 65L

Steeper hills required the car to work a little harder, but it was able to continue to maintain a good enough pace so as not to feel overly challenged. We even managed to overtake a couple of slower caravans!

Highway touring sees the CX-5 settle well, but what about when you pass through a smaller town or other waypoint on your adventure?

Negotiating intersections may seem daunting at first, as you sometimes will need to swing a little wider or head just a little bit further into an intersection before turning, but the Mazda’s steering is well-weighted and makes the movement of the longer and heavier load very easy in your hands.

The CX-5’s regular mirrors are large enough to manage a van the size of the J-Pod, which is good as you’ll use them a lot. It will become second nature to check your mirrors more than normal just to make sure the van is still there and everything is in order. Rest assured that other cars will always find a way to be in your blind spot, and poles and trees in narrow roads or carparks will feel as though they are jumping out at you, but just keep your attention up and stay cool and you may even begin to enjoy yourself!

While it does move around a bit with the Jayco connected, the Mazda still feels planted and predictable on the road, and maintains its ride comfort even on some poor-quality roads.

This car has 19-inch wheels, which if towing is going to be a regular pastime, may be better swapped for 18-inch items. This will give you just a little bit more rubber to insulate from the heavy load, but may arguably be easier to find a spare should you run into trouble out-back of the outback.

I would even go as far as to say that Mazda has done a good job at keeping the CX-5 fun to drive, even with a trailer on the back.

Do I need an AWD Mazda CX-5 to tow?

Our car is the all-wheel-drive variant, which is what we would always recommend.

With the weight on the back, the front wheels may often feel ‘lighter’ than normal, and if the road surface is wet or unstable, this may lower the amount of traction the car has. Selecting all-wheel drive helps mitigate this, as well as providing added surety when dealing with standing water or other road-trip hazards.

You don’t NEED all-wheel-drive, but if given the choice, we do recommend it.

Do I need any special training to tow with a Mazda CX-5?

You don’t… but you should.

We would always suggest a towing course before heading off on a long-distance adventure, especially if this is your first time towing. There are great providers in all states, and your caravan provider should be able to suggest a reputable one in your area.

Remember too, that when reversing you won’t have the luxury of your rear-view camera (as the trailer blocks the view) and your rear parking sensors and cross-traffic alert system may go a bit wonky, but take it easy and use your mirrors (plus a spotter) and you’ll do just fine.

At a glance 2023 Mazda CX-5 GT SP
Warranty Five years, unlimited km
Service intervals 12 months or 15,000km
Servicing costs $1321 (3 years)
$2505 (5 yearw)
Length 4575mm
Width 1845mm
Height 1680mm
Weight 1730kg (kerb)
2023 Jayco J-Pod Outback
Length 4390mm (full) / 2788mm (body)
Height 2300mm
Weight 910kg (tare)

Towing with a medium-sized SUV like a Mazda CX-5 isn’t only possible, its easy.

Just make sure you check all your numbers before you commit to anything, and once you have your rig, check all the connections, weights, lights and tyres before setting off.

Keep reminding yourself that you are longer, wider, taller and heavier than normal and when on the road, drive to the conditions and always err on the side of caution. After all, if you’ve got a little van like the Jayco J-Pod hooked up, you’ve always got a nice place to stay!

How do I buy a Mazda CX-5 – next steps?

Mazda currently has stock of the CX-5 G35 GT SP, and you can even have it in red like ours. While the GT SP tends to be our favourite of the CX-5 range, the Touring and Touring Active also offers a great blend of equipment and value, although you can’t have them with the 2.5-litre turbo. If a Touring is your preference, go for a diesel.

Mazda does a great job of paints, and while you’ll never go wrong with the iconic Soul Red, Sonic Silver and both blues look great too. Maybe avoid the coffee-coloured Zircon Sand though…

In terms of the Jayco J-Pod, Jayco moves through stock pretty quickly, and the vans are generally built to order. That said, there are plenty of Jayco dealers who may be able to get you hooked up to a J-Pod without too long of a wait. It’s not the only option in the compact caravan stakes either, so work out what features you need and start shopping around.

In terms of the next steps, our recommendation is to contact your local Mazda dealer to arrange a test drive, but also talk to your caravan retailer to understand both the tare weight of the trailer but also the ball weight, so you can ensure your car-and-caravan combo are set up for many years of safe and reliable touring.

Ratings Breakdown

2023 Mazda CX-5 G35 GT SP Wagon

7.7/ 10

Infotainment & Connectivity

Interior Comfort & Packaging

James Ward

James has been part of the digital publishing landscape in Australia since 2002 and has worked within the automotive industry since 2007. He joined CarAdvice in 2013, left in 2017 to work with BMW and then returned at the end of 2019 to spearhead the content direction of Drive.

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