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Car reviews - Mazda - CX-5 - 5-dr wagon

Launch Story


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27 Feb 2012

ARGUABLY the most important Mazda in recent history will hit dealer showrooms on March 1 with class-leading efficiency, economy, diesel torque output and safety gear availability, along with leading levels of driveability, dynamics, lightness, strength and space.

Kicking off from $27,800 plus on-road costs, the KE-series CX-5 is the first production Mazda to fully adopt its make-or-break SkyActiv chassis and drivetrain technologies, as well as its ‘Kodo’ design language.

Taking on the newly redefined ‘medium SUV’ contenders led by the Nissan X-Trail, Subaru Forester, Toyota RAV4, Mitsubishi Outlander, Honda CR-V, Volkswagen Tiguan and Kia Sportage – but strangely not the Hyundai ix35 that spawned the latter – the CX-5 is expected to become a ‘top three’ player with approximately 1000 sales forecast per month.

This is significantly beyond the 775 or so averaged monthly by the newcomer’s larger and swoopier CX-7 predecessor, which has been discontinued in Australia, though not in other markets for now.

That $27,800 opening gambit is for the CX-5 Maxx with front-wheel drive and is the sole model offered with a manual gearbox.

Along with an expected five-star ANCAP crash-test safety rating thanks to ABS brakes, stability and traction control, brake assist, brake-force distribution, hill launch assist, an emergency stop signal, six airbags and anti-whiplash front-seat head restraints, every CX-5 includes idle-stop start/stop technology, a reverse camera, tyre-pressure monitors, keyless push-button start (but not entry), Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, air-conditioning, cruise control, electric windows and mirrors, keyless entry, a rear spoiler and Mica/metallic paint.

An extra $2000 buys the new six-speed auto, while a further $2500 is necessary for the $32,300 Maxx AWD – the cheapest CX-5 with all-wheel drive.

Though the base model is expected to be the most popular over the CX-5’s expected five-and-a-half year lifespan, in the initial period Mazda reckons the Maxx Sport (from $33,540 for the FWD, $36,040 with AWD and $39,040 for the AWD Diesel) will hold most sway with buyers.

The Maxx Sport AWD Diesel is the lowest price point if CX-5 buyers do not want to drive a petrol-powered version as no FWD Diesel is offered for now.

Adding to an already buoyant specification, the Maxx Sport tempts with a Tom-Tom integrated satellite-navigation system, improved audio sound, dual-zone climate-control air-con, auto headlights, foglights, rain-sensing wipers, alloy wheels, a 40/20/40 split-fold rear seat (as opposed to the base car’s 60/40 arrangement) and leather-wrapped steering wheel, handbrake and gear selector.

Topping the range is the Grand Touring in $43,200 AWD and $46,200 AWD Diesel variants.

Challenging Euro SUVs like the Tiguan, Renault Koleos and Peugeot 4007/4008, the GT includes bi-Xenon high-intensity discharge headlights with adaptive front lighting and daytime-running lights, sunroof, leather seats, a multi-adjustable and powered driver’s seat, heated front seats, remote keyless entry, a Bose sound system, front and rear parking sensors and 19-inch alloy wheels.

Plus, GT buyers can opt for an optional ($1990) Mazda-first active safety pack, consisting of a blind-spot monitoring system, auto high-beam control and a lane-departure warning device.

Being an all-new vehicle, almost nothing is shared between the CX-5 and CX-7 – and at the heart of this is the SkyActiv chassis and drivetrain.

Out go the old-generation MZR four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines for all-new powerplants boasting comprehensively greater efficiencies.

The 2.0-litre in-line four-cylinder 16-valve direct-injection petrol ‘SkyActiv-G’ unit delivers 114kW of power at 6000rpm and 200Nm of torque at 4000rpm in FWD models, with AWD versions producing 1kW and 2Nm less.

The aim, according to Mazda, was to have a more linear and progressive power delivery across a wider rev range for easier and more natural driveability. To that end, the compression ratio is a high 13:1, utilising a new 4-2-1 exhaust system and special pistons to reduce mass, internal friction, consumption and emissions.

A Euro IV-rated petrol engine is tuned to run on 91 RON unleaded petrol, delivers 6.4 litres per 100km with either transmission and FWD, 149 grams per kilometre of carbon dioxide emissions (auto: 148), a top speed of 197km/h and 0-100km/h acceleration in 9.7 seconds.

Going for AWD with the auto transmission sees petrol consumption edge up to 6.9L/100km and emissions to 160g/km.

By comparison, the old CX-7 featured a 120kW/205Nm 2.5-litre unit offering 9.4L/100km and 223g/km (Classic FWD), or 175kW/350Nm 2.3-litre turbo four-pot downing premium unleaded at 11.5L/100km and 273g/km (Sport AWD).

On the Diesel front, the ‘SkyActiv-D’ is pitched as the performance model.

A new 2.2-litre four-cylinder 16-valve common-rail direct-injection unit featuring a two-stage turbocharger and intercooler and an uncommonly low 14.0:1 compression ratio (for a diesel), it pumps out 129kW at 4500rpm and a claimed class-best 420Nm at 2000rpm, while returning 5.7L/100km and 149g/km – very respectable figures considering the 194kg penalty this model carries against the FWD manual.

Its similar-sized CX-7 Diesel Sports predecessor only managed 127kW, 400Nm, 7.6L/100km and 202g/km.

The idle-stop system restarts the petrol and diesel engines in 0.35 and 0.4 seconds respectively – industry-best figures, Mazda claims.

Also new is the SkyActiv-MT six-speed manual gearbox – currently only available on the base Maxx FWD. Designed for short-throw shifts akin to that of an MX-5 (45mm from neutral), it is 16 per cent lighter than its predecessor and has a much higher torque capacity.

The equally fresh SkyActiv-Drive six-speed automatic transmission, meanwhile, is said to combine the best of a conventional torque-converter automatic with the efficiency of continuously variable and dual-clutch transmissions.

A full-range direct-drive torque converter with full-range lock-up clutch for all six gears, it is said to be quicker and more responsive yet smoother and more comfortable (less jerky) than a dual-clutch gearbox, and is said to offer fuel economy benefits of up to seven per cent compared to Mazda’s old five-speed auto.

As part of the SkyActiv chassis hardware, the suspension and steering is also fresh for the CX-5 generation, being lighter, stiffer and more precise than in previous Mazdas of this size.

One of the main objectives when work began in 2009 was achieving gains in handling and roadholding without high-speed ‘over-sensitivity’ while providing a supple, comfortable and quiet ride.

This led to a total rethink of every item and involved different mounting points, front-wheel caster angles, cross-member lengths, damper tunings and bonding methods.

MacPherson struts are utilised up front and a multi-link design is the arrangement out back, while electro-mechanical rack-and-pinion steering adjusts feedback according to speed and conditions.

The front brakes use ventilated discs while solid discs are used in the rear.

Operating the front wheels for the majority 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 back axle.

The Kodo styling attempts to evolve Mazda’s current visual language, with what it calls a ‘signature wing’ face and more sculptured body sides. Cheetahs were apparently studied for inspiration.

In an effort to bring its SUV in line with the old compact SUV segment ‘sweet spot’ after the ‘no-man’s land’ CX-7, Mazda’s newcomer is 153mm shorter than its predecessor – but also taller and more upright, for significantly increased cabin dimensions.

Key exterior measurements are (with CX-7 FWD in brackets): length 4540mm (4693mm) width 1840mm (1872mm) roof height 1670mm (1645mm) wheelbase 2700mm (2750mm) front track 1585mm (1627mm) rear track 1590mm (1622mm).

Kerb weights between the generations also tumble, with the CX-5 ranging from 1443kg (Maxx FWD manual) to 1687kg (GT AWD Diesel auto), compared to the CX-7 at 1589kg (Classic FWD auto) to 1928kg (Diesel Sports manual).

Towing capacities rise significantly in the newcomer, to 1800kg braked (up 800kg) and 750kg unbraked.

While laden ground clearance is about class average at 215mm (AWD: 210mm), Mazda says the CX-5 has one of the highest ‘eye points’ (the vertical distance from the ground to eye level) in its class, due to optimised seating and pillar placements.

Mazda also claims easier entry and egress was a priority, with relevant door and pillar structures designed accordingly.

Achieving better ergonomics also figured highly, with redesigned (and lighter) seats fitted and greater attention paid to minimising switch and control reach and effort, while shoulder space and legroom were also priorities.

Despite being smaller overall than the CX-7, cargo volume rises by three litres to 403 litres and folding the rear seats (via Mazda’s remote ‘Karakuri’ system that now drops the centre piece independently in vehicles fitted with the 40/20/40 backrest) increases capacity to 1560 litres.

According to project manager and keen cyclist Hideaki Tanaka, two bicycles with their front wheels removed will easily fit inside, while the load length to the back of the front seats can accommodate his 175cm frame for sleeping.

A lightweight cargo barrier that lifts with the longer and deeper tailgate improves access.

Mazda claims the CX-5 enjoys ‘premium sedan’ levels of body rigidity, thanks to enhanced engine and suspension mounting points, a stiffer rear structure, stronger wheel wells, beefier side rails and extra bracing for the rear damper area.

To cut noise paths (a common Mazda bugbear), the engineers took a fresh approach, using new sound-deadening material between the engine bay and dash panel, in the dashboard itself and around the wheelarches, while other sources have been diverted away from occupants’ ears via the side sills, within the engine compartment cross-member structures and beneath thick floor mats.

The 0.33Cd aerodynamic drag figure is claimed to be best in class for what is a relatively bluff SUV.

Maxx and Maxx Sport use 225/65 R17 tyres and the GT wears 225/55 R19 rubber, while the steel temporary spare is a 185/80 R17 unit.

Of the 1000 units Mazda is planning on selling each month, it expects the petrol engine to account for 70 per cent of volume while – initially at least – 65 per cent of customers will go for the AWD.

Maxx is expected to scoop about 40 per cent of buyers, with Maxx Sport and GT accounting for 30 per cent apiece.

All Australian-market CX-5s will be sourced from Mazda’s Hofu plant in Japan.

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