MAZDA Australia has given all-wheel-drive versions of its best-selling CX-5 compact SUV a welcome dose of extra firepower, adding a more powerful 2.5-litre SkyActiv engine in place of the 2.0-litre unit in return for a $500 price hike.
The beefier new direct-injection 138kW/250Nm four-cylinder engine, transplanted from the just-launched Mazda6, headlines a range update now streaming into showrooms that arrives a mere 12 months after the CX-5’s original local launch.
Following the start of its rolling launch in February 2012, the CX-5 swiftly raced to the top of the segment sales charts, averaging 1600 sales per month and regularly shading rivals such as the Nissan X-Trail, Toyota RAV4 and Subaru Forester.
However, the fast-growing compact SUV market has seen some substantial changes over the ensuing months, with new-generation versions of the RAV4, Forester, Honda CR-V and Mitsubishi Outlander going on sale in recent months.
By transplanting the more powerful new naturally aspirated engine into AWD versions of the CX-5, Mazda Australia simultaneously keeps the car fresh against newer contenders and addresses a major criticism of the previous version – its underpowered engine compared to key rivals.
The new engine produces 25kW more power and 52Nm more torque than the 2.0-litre unit still used in the price-leading front-drive variants, although oddly the braked towing capacity is unchanged at 1800kg.
The extra power comes at a price, however, with the Maxx, Maxx Sport and Grand Touring variants all copping $500 price increases over their less-powerful predecessors.
Despite this price jump and the raft of refreshed rivals, Mazda expects to maintain its lofty sales numbers.
The company expects 70 per cent of sales to be petrol-powered – either the 2.0 FWD or 2.5 AWD – and 60 per cent of all variants sold to be AWD.
Peak power for the new engine of 138kW arrives at a high 5700rpm, while maximum torque hits at 4000rpm.
Power is sent to all four wheels via a standard six-speed automatic transmission (a six-speed manual gearbox is offered only on base 2.0 Maxx front-drive variants as a price-leader).
Driving the front wheels most of the time, the AWD system employs variably controlled rear torque and slip-detection technology to apportion up to 50 per cent of drive to the rear axle.
Combined-cycle fuel economy of 7.4 litres per 100km is up 0.5L/100km, but in real-world driving the difference may be less, as the 2.0-litre engine needs to be revved harder to achieve the same result.
Furthermore, the 2.5 CX-5 still trumps the RAV4 and CR-V by more than a litre per 100km, and shades the Outlander by 0.1L/100km.
All CX-5 variants come with idle-stop.
The new engine is only available in AWD versions, with cheaper front-drive variants (still from $27,880) retaining the existing SkyActiv 113kW/198Nm 2.0-litre unit.
The potent 129kW/420Nm 2.2-litre turbo-diesel engine option continues unchanged.
In addition to the new powertrain, Mazda has upgraded the Bluetooth system on all variants, added three new paint colours (Soul Red, Jet Black and Meteor Grey) and introduced a new flagship Akera variant that will sit above the Grand Touring thanks to a host of active safety technologies.
Kicking off the AWD petrol range is the 2.5 Maxx, priced from $32,880 plus on-road costs and fitted with a 5.8-inch touchscreen with Bluetooth and USB, cruise control, push-button start, power windows and 17-inch steel wheels.
The Maxx Sport, from $36,620, adds automatic headlights, dual-zone climate-control, leather-covered gear-shifter, handbrake and steering wheel, rain-sensing wipers, fog lights, satellite navigation, six-speaker audio, 17-inch alloy wheels and 40/20/40 split-fold rear seats.
The Grand Touring, from $43,780, adds adaptive bi-Xenon headlights, daytime-running lights, an electric sunroof, auto-dimming interior mirror, heated leather seats with eight-way power adjustment for the driver, keyless entry, a nine-speaker BOSE sound system and 19-inch alloy wheels.
The new Akera, which features active safety equipment including blind-spot monitoring, high-beam control and lane-departure warning, headlines the range from $45,770 as a petrol or $48,620 as a diesel.
All CX-5s come with the maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating and feature six airbags, a reversing camera, hill-start assist, emergency brake assist and whiplash-minimising seats as standard.
As before, cargo capacity is listed as 403 litres with the seats up, expanding to 1560 litres with the rear seats folded flat.
Suspension comprises MacPherson struts up front and an independent multi-link set-up in the rear, the spare wheel across the range is a space-saving steel unit, and the turning circle is listed as 11.2 metres.
The CX-5 range has been a global hit since launch, with waiting lists in several major global markets, forcing Mazda to bring forward a planned upgrade to one of its Japanese plant, allowing it to increase global production from 200,000 units to 240,000 per year.