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Driven: Mazda launches cheaper CX-5

Party of 5: Mazda's CX-5 was the top-selling SUV in Australia last year, with 21,571 finding homes in 2014.

Facelifted Mazda CX-5 SUV benefits from FTA with Japan

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Mazda logo20 Jan 2015

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS

AUSTRALIA’S Free Trade Agreement with Japan has helped yield cheaper pricing for all but the top versions of the facelifted Mazda CX-5, despite product improvements and minor increases in standard specification across the range.

Out on February 1 and kicking off from $27,190, plus on-road costs, the base Maxx front-wheel drive manual is $690 cheaper than its immediate predecessor, while the volume-selling Maxx Sport in petrol-powered format is now $830 less expensive than before.

The only price rises are for the flagship Akera, which jumps $840 or $1200 depending on whether it’s the petrol or diesel version respectively, while all other variants of the latter are down by just $440.

Mazda points out, however, that the Akera gains $2500 worth of safety gear compared with the model it replaces, representing better overall value.

A blink-and-you’ll-miss-it makeover visually – no sheet-metal alterations have been made – means the facelift is limited to new headlight and tail-light lenses, revised grille and bumper inserts (both brandishing horizontal fins instead of mesh), fresh colours and restyled alloys on variants wearing 19-inch wheels.

The aim of the restyle is to bring the CX-5 closer to its newer Mazda2 and Mazda3 brethren, as well as the forthcoming CX-3 crossover.

More palpable improvements have been wrought inside, with changes to the dashboard bringing a sizeable console overhaul, resulting in a larger (seven-inch) central screen featuring the company’s MZD Connect connectivity system and the Human Machine Interface (HMI) concept that includes a controller located near the gear shifter.

Longer rear seat cushions, a Mazda-first electronic park brake, better storage solutions and updated trim and materials complete the interior upgrades.

Enhancements have also been made underneath, with new dampers and redesigned bushes in the front suspension’s lower arms designed to improve the CX-5’s ride quality.

Making the Mazda quieter has been another goal, with a promised 10 per cent sound-intrusion reduction due to more effective noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) measures borne from “path-blocking and concentrated sound absorption”.

New external mirrors help airflow, which also makes the CX-5 quieter, while thicker door glass also benefits NVH.

Consequently, the overall kerb weight ratings rise, by about 10 to 15kg, with the Maxx FWD coming in at 1454kg, topping out at 1701 for the Akera AWD all-wheel drive diesel.

To help offset this, lighter yet stronger body-in-white properties have been achieved through the use of increased high-tensile steel and new production processes.

Minor efficiency gains also come with a switch to lower-viscosity synthetic oil for the all-wheel drive system, while the six-speed automatic transmission adopts the ‘Sport’ drive selection switch for a more responsive performance feel in petrol variants only.

The base Maxx remains the sole recipient of a (six-speed) manual gearbox.

Otherwise, mechanically speaking, the CX-5 remains as before – meaning Euro 4-rated direct-injection four-cylinder engines in 114kW (at 6000rpm) and 200Nm (at 4000rpm) 2.0-litre petrol FWD, 138kW (at 5700rpm) and 250Nm (at 4000rpm) 2.5-litre petrol AWD, and 129kW (at 4500rpm) and 420Nm (at 2000rpm) 2.2-litre turbo-diesel AWD guises.

Consumption figures, too, are unaltered, faring from 7.4 litres per 100 kilometres and 172 grams per kilometres of carbon dioxide emissions for the 2.5-litre petrol, to 5.7L/100km and 149g/km for the 2.2-litre diesel.

The Akera comes with Mazda-first adaptive LED headlights, a lane-keep assist system employing torque-assisted steering inputs and wheel vibration alerts, a driver fatigue monitor, adaptive cruise control, Smart City Brake Support (SCBS) with rearward as well as forward detection capabilities, and Smart Brake Support for mid- to high-speed frontal collision mitigation.

While all CX-5s include gear like stability and traction controls, lane-departure warning, auto hill-hold, reverse camera and six airbags, additional safety items are bundled in packages on all but the flagship.

The Maxx and Maxx Sport’s $1230 Safety Pack brings blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, auto-dimming rear-view mirror and forward-only SCBS, while the GT’s is $1060 as the mirror is already standard, although its SCBS is both forward and rearward-detecting.

One in two buyers are expected to choose the Maxx Sport this time around, with the Maxx vying for a 25 per cent share, the GT 15 per cent and Akera just 10 per cent. Only one in four sales will be the diesel, while 65 per cent of CX-5s will be AWD.

With the outgoing version averaging nearly 1700 monthly sales since its early 2012 launch, some 60,000 have been sold in Australia.

Mazda is confident that the newcomer’s refreshed styling, improved specification, better ride and quieter cabin will keep the customers coming in.

The CX-5 was the first of the new-generation Mazdas with its SkyActiv efficiency-enhancing modular drivetrain and platform technologies, and also debuted the existing ‘Kodo’ design themes.

The mid-size SUV’s global success has helped pull the company from near collapse late last decade to its highest-ever profit in the last Japanese financial year. This year the brand will strive to sell 400,000 units worldwide – up from around 350,000 in 2014.

However, despite protestations to the contrary from Mazda staff, the smaller (and newer) CX-3 crossover that’s also out in February may ultimately prove a stumbling block to the CX-5’s record-sales aspirations.

Mazda CX-5 pricing*
2.0L Petrol FWD
Maxx$27,190 (-$690)
Maxx (a)$29,190 (-$690)
Maxx Sport (a)$32,790 (-$830)
2.5L Petrol AWD
Maxx (a)$32,190 (-$690)
Maxx Sport (a)$35,790 (-$830)
GT (a)$43,390 (-$790)
Akera (a)$47,410 (+$840)
2.2L Diesel AWD
Maxx Sport (a)$38,990 (-$480)
GT (a)$46,590 (-$440)
Akera (a)$50,610 (+$1190)
*Excludes on-road costs.

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