Mazda CX-5 2.2 Sport Nav diesel
Engine: 2.2-litre, four-cylinder, diesel
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Top speed: 127mph
0-62mph: 9.4 seconds
Economy: 56.5mpg combined
CO2 emissions: 132g/km
By a quirk of scheduling I’ve spent most of the last month driving Mazdas. Starting with the 3 hatchback, I’ve worked up to this, the new
It’s based on the same platform as the old model but has been heavily revised in almost every area to keep it fresh in a packed marketplace.
From the outside the changes are subtle but effective. To me, Mazda’s corporate front end is one of the sharpest on the roads and the CX-5 takes the aggressive pointiness to new levels with slit-like headlights and a bold, wide grille. Further back it’s all a bit more generic SUV but the sloping roofline and raked rear window give a hint of the sporty feel Mazda is aiming for.
Under the revised bodywork, the CX-5 range is fairly straightforward. A single petrol engine comes only as a two-wheel-drive manual. Above that is a 2.2-litre diesel which can be had in 148bhp guise with two- or four-wheel drive and a manual or auto gearbox or in 173bhp tune with AWD as standard.
The 148bhp diesel is expected to be the big seller, with most buyers sticking to 2WD and manual transmission. On the road this combination feels fine 90 per cent of the time. It’s as smooth and refined as most rivals and the six-speed manual gearbox is precise and slick. A couple of particularly steep hills revealed a shortage of very low-down torque but like so many SUVs of its class and size the 148bhp version is likely to be adequate for most users most of the time.
In comparison the 163bhp petrol feels underwhelming. It’s smooth and quiet but without a turbo it takes a lot of working to get anything from it. Real-world economy of 40mpg is impressive given the car’s size but the diesel feels better suited to everyday use and offers near-50mpg economy on the road.
At its launch Mazda talked a lot about the CX-5’s connection with the driver. It’s certainly one of the more engaging mid-sized SUVs. There have been refinements to steering, suspension and brakes, along with the introduction of torque control to offer a more engaging drive. These, a stiffened body and focus on keeping down weight mean the car handles and grips better than you might expect (and better than many rivals) over some tricky country roads.
The ride feels a touch firm at first but is actually surprisingly pliant without sacrificing much in the way of body control. Nonetheless, there’s no getting away from the fact this is a big, tall car. Drive it like an MX-5 and you’ll eventually come a cropper, but ren things in just a bit and the mix of handling and comfort will keep driver and passengers happy.
They should also be pretty happy with the space available. The CX-5 is bigger than rivals such as the Nissan Qashqai and offers a small but welcome amount of extra space in the cabin and boot – key to the families at whom it’s aimed.
Mazda say they’re going after the VW Tiguan with the updated CX-5 and their intention is clear from the car’s interior. Switchgear and layout are largely shared with the refreshed Mazda6 and are a clear step above other Japanese brands.
There’s a feeling of quality and class that a Qashqai or Rav4 just can’t match and it also puts the Ford Kuga in the shade. It’s still not up to the standard of the peerless VW but with high-quality leather and metallic highlights it’s definitely among the best in class.
The ambition to go after VW is also reflected in the price, with the CX-5 sitting above most mainstream rivals and just below the Tiguan. Prices start at £23,695 for a petrol-powered SE-L Nav, rising to £33,195 for the higher output diesel with four-wheel-drive and an auto gearbox.
Offsetting the cost difference to some extent is the extra space and a generous specification that includes LED headlights, front and rear parking sensors, cruise control, dual-zone climate control and a seven-inch touchscreen with sat nav, DAB and Bluetooth.
That media setup is a rare misstep. The screen looks like a growth that’s burst out of the dash and although the rotary controller is a welcome feature the system isn’t as easy to navigate or use as some rivals’.
The higher of the two trim levels – Sport Nav – adds a power tailgate, keyless entry and start, leather upholstery, 19-inch alloys, heated seats and steering wheel, traffic sign recognition and a new projected head-up display.
The only disappointment is that safety kit such as blind spot assist, lane-keep assist and rear smart city brake is part of a paid-for option pack even on the Sport Nav.
The CX-5 is competing in a crowded marketplace but manages to stand a little way apart from other models. Its extra cost will put some buyers off but does bring with it one of the nicest interiors in the class along with better space, decent kit levels and a drive that puts most rivals in the shade.