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Car reviews - Mazda - CX-5 - GT

Our Opinion

We like
Style, quality, space, features
Room for improvement
No rear vents, fluffy petrol engine performance

Gallery

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Mazda logo2 Apr 2015

Price and equipment

SHOW any motorist a new model that has more equipment and is cheaper than its predecessor and they’re interested.

Mazda has clipped up to $840 off the previous model’s price (although the flagship Akera jumps $1140 because of extra equipment) with the Grand Touring (GT) petrol model tested here now $43,390 plus on-road costs, a discount on 2014 of $790.

The price reduction belies the expanded kit, now including a next-generation connectivity suite that through Bluetooth accesses a string of internet-based services and apps.

It’s particularly intuitive and offers music services such as Pandora and Stitcher. The 2015 upgrade includes a bigger 7.0-inch touchscreen monitor on all models.

The GT has a more chiseled appearance thanks to the five-bar grille that relinquishes the previous model’s awkward bulbous top bar, new bumpers with LED fog-lights, and LEDs used to light the headlights, tail-lights and daytime running lights.

Body panels remain unchanged but the SUV’s street cred gets a lift with shadow-tone 19-inch alloy wheels.

Further supporting the Mazda corner is the GT’s sunroof, leather upholstery in a choice of black or white, heated front seats with electric adjustment, nine-speaker Bose audio, keyless entry and push-button starter, satellite navigation and front and rear parking sensors.

The optional safety pack includes blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and auto low-speed city braking for $1060. It is highly recommended.

The only other option is the single hero colour called Soul Red that adds $200.

All other metallic paints are available at no additional cost, a freebie most manufacturers – Subaru and Mazda excepted – choose to bypass.

While we’re in the high $40,000s, some buyers may consider stepping up to the flagship Akera that is $47,410 with the petrol engine. It ups the GT’s features with inclusive safety equipment plus lane assist, rear smart braking, driver fatigue monitor, adaptive headlights and radar cruise control.

Interior

One of the big attractions of the CX-5 is its car-like cabin. There’s not much to split the Mazda6 sedan and the CX-5 in visual appeal when it comes to the interior.

Changes for 2015 appear minor but look closer and there is refinement in the centre console with perceived quality extending from the big screen to better switchgear.

The replacement of the manual handbrake lever with the small electric brake button has been the catalyst for the most change.

Singularly, it has opened up the centre console to more personal storage space and created a cleaner design.

It incorporates the twist dial that accesses functions of the monitor, a remote volume dial for the audio and in the petrol model tested, a “sport” button that sparkles up the transmission and tweaks the engine response.

The GT has leather as standard and now gives the choice of black or white. Be warned that however alluring white leather may sound, it easily gets grubby and can happily share the colour of your blue jeans.

Cabin space remains as before, suitable for five adults but better for four.

There’s good rear-seat legroom and excellent headroom with three child anchor points.

Boot space is generally on par with its rivals with 403 litres with the rear seats in situ and 1560 litres when collapsed. Compare that with the Toyota RAV4 (577-760 litres), Ford Kuga (406-1603 litres) and Subaru Forester (422-1481 litres).

Engine and transmission

Mazda continues the CX-5 line up with three engines, two transmissions and front-drive or all-wheel drive offerings.

But the selection is very model specific. A manual gearbox, for example, is only on the Maxx variant with the 2.0-litre engine and front-wheel drive.

If you want the healthier 138kW/250Nm 2.5-litre petrol engine or the 129kW/420 2.2-litre bi-turbo diesel you get AWD and an automatic transmission. No choice.

The GT has the 2.5-litre petrol that eschews turbocharging in favour of a high 13:1 compression ratio to allow a relatively lean fuel mixture. In turn, this creates an engine with strong power and in comparison with similar capacity rivals, reduced fuel consumption.

It is part of Mazda’s SkyActiv technology umbrella that uses cutting-edge concepts and then integrates them to create the car.

The engine drives through a six-speed automatic transmission with quick gear lock-ups to, again, minimise fuel thirst. Drive is to the front wheels with traction sensors that divert some power to the rear when needed.

As a package, it’s a clever SUV. It balances durability with ease of use by the driver and is delivered with a low-cost service program. Better still, despite the high compression ratio, the engine runs on standard unleaded petrol.

And I guess you’re waiting for the “but”. And here it is. But while the engine’s power looks good, it isn’t particularly responsive and relays a mushy accelerator pedal feel at low, sub-2500rpm, revs.

Let it spin, get the revs up beyond 3000rpm and it changes character, becoming perky and free-natured and fulfilling Mazda’s “zoom-zoom” philosophy.

Clearly there is a compromise here and Mazda has aimed to reduce response in order to improve fuel economy.

For most buyers, it’s unlikely to be an issue. For slow work through the suburbs and city, the engine is smooth and quiet.

Mazda knows that there’s a bit of glug at the bottom of the rev range. So the petrol gets a “sport” button that adds better engine response and sharpens up transmission shift points. It’s no more powerful, just feels a bit sprightlier.

Mazda claims 7.4 litres per 100 kilometres but the test cycle over everything from dirt roads to freeways, city crawls to suburban shopping treks yielded an 8.9L/100km average.

Ride and handling

The 60,000-odd Australian owners of Mazda CX-5s selected this SUV more because it feels and drives like a sedan than a truck-like wagon.

One drive around the bock confirms this. It’s not the only SUV capable of replicating a passenger car, standing alongside the Ford Kuga, for example.

The steering is positive and relatively light, visibility from the driver’s seat is one of the best in the SUV mix, the ambience within the cabin is assuring and ergonomically it’s an easy car to drive.

The seats are firm yet long-distance driving has never revealed poor body support. But the rear seats are rather formless and feel firmer than the front pair.

In its latest iteration, the CX-5 has additional sound proofing to mute road, wind and tyre noise. It’s an improvement on the previous model but the work has only brought the wagon up to levels of some rivals, including the Kuga and Honda CR-V.

Under the body is a simple suspension arrangement of MacPherson struts at the front and a multi-link independent rear with coil springs. That is par for the course in this class.

But component and geometry changes as part of this year’s upgrade have improved the ride and handling, flattening the wagon a bit through corners and firming the suspension movement. In action, it makes the wagon feel more solid when cruising and grippier through the bends.

Minor though those changes are, it makes the CX-5 the most comfortable SUV in its class and can trounce some of those in higher, more expensive market segments.

Safety and servicing

No surprises here with a five-star crash rating since its 2012 debut. The star rating has changed this year and becomes more stringent but the CX-5 already has a strong equipment base.

Mazda continues with the option of safety packs and then loading its flagship up with the complete Santa sack of goodies.

The safety pack, called i-ActivSense, comprises blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, auto-dimming rear-view mirror and Smart City Brake Support that is an automatic collision warning and forward braking system.

This costs $1230 for the Maxx and Maxx Sport models and $1060 for the GT because this version already has the auto-dimming mirror.

The flagship Akera gets the lot plus lane-change warning, driver fatigue monitor and a more upmarket Smart City Brake Support that adds the same anti-collision feature when reversing.

Standard equipment in the GT already includes a tyre pressure monitor, front and rear park sensors, reversing camera, dusk-sensing LED headlights with active cornering, LED daytime running lights and tail-lights and fog-lights, six airbags, electronic traction and stability control, hill holder and emergency brake light display.

Buyers aiming for the Maxx, Maxx Sport or GT are urged to include the i-ActivSense option. For 2.4 per cent of the GT’s purchase price, it’s a no-brainer that because of the anti-collision system, could even reward the owner with a discount on car insurance.

Mazda has a comprehensive service program with capped-price servicing that has sufficient flexibility for short-distance owners. It recommends servicing every nine months but drive 10,000km a year and it can reduce that to an annual visit.

The program can cost as low as $924 for three years, plus some mandatory parts.

Mazda’s warranty is for three years or unlimited kilometres.

As expected, the CX-5 is as popular new as it is second hand. Glass’s Guide has given it a high 57 per cent resale value after three years.

It beats its rivals, though not by much, which score 54 per cent (Kuga), 57 per cent (RAV4), 55 per cent (Subaru Forestr) and the Honda CR-V at 55 per cent.

Verdict

The 2015 update is basically a small change to maintain interest and in the light of its lion’s share of the medium-size SUV sector, could easily be classed as unnecessary.

But the move enforces Mazda’s commitment to its original design and for 2015, is particularly important for adding value. It is an impressive package and ideal for a young family but the variant choice and entry-level price of $27,190 plus costs opens it up to a very wide audience.

It’s unlikely to go off the bitumen but that’s not the point. It looks stylish, is “trendy’’ in the best possible definition of that maligned word, and simply easy to live with. The other 60,000 owners can’t be completely out of the ballpark with their decision.

Rivals

FORD KUGA Titanium $44,990, plus on-road costs
This second-generation Ford gets crisper styling and a better drivetrain, comes with all the desirable safety gear and is especially well-equipped with convenience items. Its 178kW/345Nm 2.0-litre turbo-petrol is a beauty though at 8.8L/100km of premium petrol, is the thirstiest here. It has the biggest cargo area here at 1603 litres.

TOYOTA RAV4 Cruiser $44,990, plus on-road costs
City-friendly manners and stylish design make this high on SUV shopping lists. The standard safety kit is the best here. It’s also sporty with a 132kW/233Nm 2.5-litre engine that claims 8.5L/100km of standard petrol. But though its length is on par with its rivals, it has the smallest cargo area at 706 litres.

HONDA CR-V VTi-L $42,290, plus on-road costs
Honda admits this SUV isn’t for the Great Outdoors. But it’s a very comfortable, spacious and efficient family hauler. The carry-over 140kW/222Nm 2.4-litre engine is durable rather than dynamic. The luggage space is 1120 litres but cabin flexibility and cargo access is one of the best here. Fuel use is 8.7L/100km of standard petrol.

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