Mazda CX-5 review
SUV, crossover, 4×4: call it what you will, the new Mazda CX-5 is a game-changer. Not only does it bring Mazda into one of the most competitive and desirable sectors of the market, the CX-5 does so with some considerable firepower at its disposal.
Not least among its armoury to take on the likes of the Audi Q3, Kia Sportage and Volkswagen Tiguan are its brand new range of petrol and diesel engines. The 163bhp 2.0-litre petrol is decent and comes with front-wheel drive only, but it’s not the most refined. No matter, Mazda expects the petrol to make up no more than 15% of sales out of a total of 6000 cars per year.
Much more impressive is the new 2.2.-litre turbodiesel, which has the lowest compression ratio of any production diesel motor in the world today. Apologies for going all technical on you, but this 14:1 compression ratio counts because is means the CX-5’s diesel is very clean, efficient and powerful.
Another benefit of lowering the diesel’s compression ratio is Mazda can now build the cylinder block from aluminium instead of steel, which saves weight. Add in all of the lightweight components of the engine and gearbox that are part of Mazda’s Skyactiv philosophy and you have a 2.2-litre diesel that delivers 148bhp, 61.4mpg and 119g/km carbon dioxide emissions. In an SUV, remember, not a supermini.
Compare the CX-5 to its closest rivals and it bests them at every turn for on-paper figures. Get behind the wheel on the road and the Mazda makes its point even more clearly.
The CX-5 takes everything Mazda has been getting right for some time and pushes it forward a long way. It corners with little roll, helped by firm-ish suspension that gives excellent control on battered British tarmac. There’s some jiggling on the very worst roads, but we’d take this every time as a small sacrifice for the fine handling and balance of the CX-5. Next to the dull responses of an Audi Q3 or roly-poly of a VW Tiguan, the CX-5 displays an agility and appetite for corners you have to pay considerably more for in a BMW X3 to match.
Refinement could be better in the Mazda, which kicks up more wind and road noise than the Audi or Kia Sportage. However, the new diesel is very refined, even when worked hard.
We tried it in front- and four-wheel drive guises, and in 148- and 173bhp forms. As the CX-5 is not off-roader, we’d stick with the front-driver and opt for the lower powered engine. This is not just because it’s the more affordable, coming in at £23,395 in SE-L Nav trim, but because it’s the best CX-5, and by definition the best car in its class.
It gets from 0-62mph in 9.2 seconds to feel brisk and there’s more than enough power in reserve at all times for quick, safe overtaking. It wafts along the motorway with less noise than other CX-5 models we tried and it will give 61.4mpg average economy.
Coupled to a six-speed manual gearbox, which Mazda has worked hard to give the same shift quality and action as the MX-5, the CX-5 feels quick and composed.
Inside, the high-riding driving position gives a good view ahead and in all directions for lane changing and parking. The seats are all-day comfy, there’s good pace in the rear for the family and the boot is generous. As we’ve come to expect of Mazdas, the rear seats are easily and quickly folded to form a completely flat load floor.
Mazda also loads up the interior with more standard equipment than its rivals. You get the usual air conditioning, air bags and CD stereo, but you also get front and rear parking sensors, push button start and rear privacy glass. The Sport version adds reversing camera, electric driver’s seat adjustment and heated front seats. Sport models also have larger 19-inch alloy wheels, but we don’t see the need to go beyond the SE-L models already generous specification.
On top of all this, every CX-5 comes with City Brake Support, which automatically applies the brakes for an emergency stop if the car senses the driver is not reacting to a hazard. It works at up to 19mph and Mazda is the first in this class to fit it as standard.
If you want all of this on any of the Mazda’s rivals, you’ll be paying considerably more, especially as Mazda is offering free satellite navigation on the first CX-5s bought before the end of June.
Even without so much standard equipment, the CX-5 would stand out as the pick of its litter. Mazda has come out all guns blazing with the CX-5 and the opposition should be running for cover.
Words: Al Suttie
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