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Car reviews - Mazda - CX-5 - range

Our Opinion

We like
Dramatically improved NVH levels, cabin look and feel, still the driver’s choice in the segment
Room for improvement
Fuel economy figures have risen, underpowered 2.5-litre petrol engine, new active safety tech for top-spec Akera only

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Mazda logo29 Mar 2017

By TIM NICHOLSON

IT WAS clear pretty soon after the launch of the first-gen CX-5 in 2012 that Mazda was on to a winner. It was a strong offering in a growing segment at the perfect time.

People were abandoning traditional passenger sedans and wagons after determining that a high-riding SUV offers more flexibility and the often-desired elevated ride height.

But having a successful model – like being the biggest selling SUV in Australia for the past four years – also brings challenges. Like replacing it with a model that maintains that success by winning over even more new buyers, while retaining the buyers that loved the original.

Which is why Mazda appears to have taken a cautious approach in rolling out the second-generation version of the CX-5.

Mazda has kept the line-up mostly as is, aside from the addition of a new mid-range Touring grade, with the powertrains carrying on with very few changes and moderate pricing alterations.

The new model even has the same 2700mm wheelbase. But this is not to say the model has not improved over its predecessor. On the contrary.

More standard equipment ensuring better value, dramatic improvements to cabin noise, more interior and cargo space and a vastly improved interior design are the key upgrades for CX-5 version 2.0.

The new design ensures that the car is still instantly recognised as a CX-5. It is part of the next iteration of Mazda’s ‘Kodo’ design language introduced with last year’s CX-9 seven-seater.

While the first-gen CX-5 was hardly a fussy design, Mazda has smoothed it out further, with the company eschewing any character lines or indents and introducing a more modern look with slimline head and tail-lights.

The original is still a handsome SUV and the new version evolves that design without alienating current owners.

Inside, the overhaul continues and the CX-5 is the better for it. There were few issues with the old model’s cabin, but the update gives it a more modern look and feel and brings it closer into line with its CX-9 sibling.

The touchscreen sitting atop the stack looks much better than the old screen that was set too far into the dash, like an old television.

The overall look of the dash is not ground-breaking, but it works. More soft-touch material is used this time around, and while it has a similar look to the cockpit-like cabin of the CX-9, you don’t feel quite as ensconced as you do in the larger SUV.

Mazda has thankfully redesigned the front seats, which, in the previous version, felt like they were angled slightly too far forward, giving the occupant the feeling that they were being tipped out of the seat.

The new ones have lost that, and are supportive and comfortable. In the Touring grade, the seats can come with a suede insert contrasted with fake leather and the look and feel is top notch.

While we did not drive the GT or top-spec Akera, they come with classy black or white leather, and while the white looks good, be wary if you have children or wear jeans. It wouldn’t take long for the white to turn a nice shade of Levis blue or crayon pink.

In the rear, there is plenty of room in the CX-5, a little more than before and there is more than adequate head, knee and toe room. The seats are quite comfy and all variants except the base Maxx offer rear-seat air vents.

Cargo space has grown to 442 litres – up 39 litres – helped in part by the lack of a full size spare wheel, which is still well off the pace of rivals such as the Toyota RAV4 (577L), Nissan X-Trail (550L) or the Hyundai Tucson (488L).

Overall though, it is hard to beat the CX-5 for cabin quality and feel in the segment. The others look positively old next to it.

In terms of specification, the new Touring grade is the sweet spot in the range, offering generous standard gear for the price.

Going from the GT to Akera really only adds the suite of active safety gear as standard – it is not available even as an option on any other grade – so unless you feel you need Mazda’s i-Activsense gear, maybe stick with the Touring or the GT.

The Maxx Sport, the first CX-5 we drove, is also still excellent value.

Under the bonnet of our test car is a 2.5-litre naturally aspirated four-pot, delivering 140kW and 251Nm. Mazda has not done a huge amount to this engine and while it is not a bad powerplant, there are newer, sprightlier options in the segment.

Hyundai’s turbo petrol unit in the Tucson, for example, is a sweetie.

While it has more than enough get up and go to satisfy most buyers, it feels slightly underpowered at times.

Also fuel economy has increased thanks to a 40kg weight gain in the second-gen car. It is not dramatic, but it is rare that a new model goes backwards when it comes to weight and fuel efficiency.

Alterations to the suspension setup have ensured that the CX-5’s dynamic ability has not diminished. It has been known as the driver’s mid-size SUV of choice and it looks set to retain that title.

There is little noticeable bodyroll and it handles sweeping bends and tight corners admirably, with traction assisted ably by the i-Activ all-wheel-drive system.

The ride quality has also improved in the new CX-5, although we only drove it on well-sealed roads, so it might take a full week behind the wheel on some less favourable surfaces to determine this for sure.

Next up is the Touring with the 129kW/420Nm 2.2-litre turbo-diesel paired with a six-speed auto and the AWD system. It is a punchy little unit and for our money it is probably the powertrain highlight of the range. And paired with the Touring spec grade, it is a definite winner.

We even managed a fuel use figure of 5.6 litres per 100km in the diesel, bettering the official figure of 6.0L/100km.

By far the most significant improvement over the previous model, however, is the noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) measures Mazda has included to drastically lower road and wind noise and cabin intrusion.

Like the recently launched CX-9, the new CX-5 is a revelation on that front. We took a while to realise we were driving the diesel as we could hardly hear it, until we accelerated hard.

The CX-5 is now best in class for cabin quietness and overall comfort. Some years ago Mazda promised to focus on improving NVH in its cars, which had been an issue with the last CX-5, and they are certainly delivering.

With the overall drive experience, including ride, handling, cabin comfort and performance pretty strong in the original CX-5, Mazda has improved the SUV enough in all of these areas to ensure it can fend off its impressive rivals such as the Tucson, RAV4, X-Trail and Forester.

Australians love the CX-5 and it maintains the strong value for money, good looks, great drive and overall likeability of the model it replaces.

Mazda is on to yet another winner.

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