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Driven: Mazda CX-5 Sport Nav. Image by Mazda.

Driven: Mazda CX-5 Sport Nav
Mazda gently evolves the CX-5 into its second generation - and itís a superb crossover as a result.

   



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Mazda CX-5 Sport Nav

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

Good points: Handsome looks, classy cabin, lovely ride quality, strong diesel drivetrain, good value and equipment levels

Not so good: Not the most exciting thing in its class

Key Facts

Model tested: Mazda CX-5 2.2d 150 Sport Nav 2WD
Price: CX-5 range starts from £23,995; Sport Nav from £28,695, car as tested £29,255
Engine: 2.2-litre SkyActiv-D four-cylinder turbodiesel
Transmission: front-wheel drive, six-speed manual
Body style: five-door crossover-SUV
CO2 emissions: 132g/km (VED £205 first 12 months, then £140 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 56.5mpg
Top speed: 127mph
0-62mph: 9.4 seconds
Power: 150hp at 4,500rpm
Torque: 380Nm at 1,800- to 2,600rpm

Our view:

Here's a blink-and-you'll-miss-it round of updates to the first-generation Mazda CX-5 crossover-SU... wait, what? What's that? You're saying this isn't just a midlife model update? And that it's actually an all-new, second-gen CX-5? Are you sure about that...? Oh. Oh, how foolish of us. Our apologies.

So, here we have a test of the Mk2 Mazda CX-5. Now, it might look tremendously familiar to that which has gone before but look closer - much closer - and you might spot that it now has plenty of exterior detailing that ties it in with its nearest relation, the Mazda3 hatchback. Slimmer headlights, a bold and defined 3D grille, the neat rear clusters - they're all ported straight off the hatch and onto the familiar lines of the CX-5; note, though, the similar D-pillar and glasshouse arrangements on this Mk2, compared to the Mk1 crossover.

Yet, for all our facetiousness above, what Mazda has developed here is a stunning-looking mid-sized SUV. All Kodo-styled Mazdas are handsome beasts but when your run-of-the-mill family machine like this is attractive enough to have you casting backward glances at it, every time you park it, then you know the designers have done an astonishing job. Even in the UK's default (and rather boring) paint choice of silver, the CX-5 has some lovely detailing to drink in - such as the two separate swage lines, one leading forward from the rear lights and the other sweeping off the front arches. Neither meets in the middle of the car and they only serve to emphasise how, in profile, the front light clusters are much lower than the rears - this makes the CX-5 at a standstill look all racy and sporty, despite the fact its primary purpose is transporting sprogs around in safety.

The wonderful work continues within, where you'll find one of Mazda's best cabins. There's a nice scalloped ledge on the passenger-side dash to give some contours and visual relief, instead of occupants having to stare at a smooth expanse of plastic or leather, while the MZD Connect infotainment is almost iDrive-esque (there's no higher compliment than that) in its simplicity and use. The CX-5 also feels a significant cut above its CX-3 sibling, which we drove the week before, because its mainly-analogue instrument cluster does have an up-to-date digital information screen to the right-hand side (and not, as on the CX-3, those old blue LCD numerals in a basic trip computer formation) and the head-up display is 'proper'; as in, it projects directly onto the front glass, not a little fold-up screen. It's also one of the best HUDs in the automotive business - clear, concise and classy.

Then there's the interior space. Acres of the stuff, both in the passenger compartment and also stashed away in the 506-litre boot. And the fit and finish, which is superb. And the toy count, which - for a range-topping Japanese car - is understandably generous, to a degree that makes the European manufacturers look a bit stingy. For a less-than-£30,000 outlay, this Sport Nav enjoys truly top-end kit like 19-inch Gunmetal alloys, a powered tailgate, a reversing camera, smart-key entry and go, that head-up display, three-stage heated front seats and a heated steering wheel, power adjustment for the front chairs (eight-way with memory for the driver's pew, six-way for the passenger item), leather seats and a Bose ten-speaker high-end sound system. Indeed, the only cost option on our test car was the £560 Sonic Silver paintwork. Remarkable stuff from Mazda to offer all this on a sub-premium SUV-crossover like this and keep the cost to less than 30 large.

The resulting machine is one which you would be more than happy to see slotting seamlessly into your life. Powered by the lower-spec 2.2-litre diesel, with 150hp and 380Nm - plus a manual 'box and front-wheel drive - the Mazda CX-5's one failing is that it's not exactly exciting in any driving situation. Accurate and sharp steering, a minimal amount of roll and plenty of mid-range punch from the four-pot derv mill do serve to make the Mazda feel surprisingly spry for a big vehicle like this - and it's most definitely not dull or stodgy to drive - but to say you'd ever enjoy a back-road thrash in it would be over-stretching things somewhat.

What you will enjoy, though, unless you're a curmudgeon of the magnitude of Ebenezer Scrooge, is the exceptional civility of the CX-5. Despite the 19-inch wheels, it still has pudgy 55-profile tyres and so the ride quality is exquisite. Rare are the occasions you ever notice the road surface passing beneath you. Nor do you notice an abundance of chatter from said rubber, nor ruffling of wind around the Mazda's A-pillars. Like any SkyActiv-D engine, the 2.2 is surprisingly happy to be revved out to 4,000rpm and beyond - not something you can say of every four-cylinder turbodiesel on sale right now - but you don't need to do that to elicit decent pace from the CX-5, and when it's below 3,000rpm it's almost completely inaudible and vibration-free.

And thus, the Mazda crossover is a thoroughly charming companion. Within five miles of making its acquaintance, you'll be totally at ease with all its mannerisms and foibles, so much so that you can smoothly drive the CX-5 on near-autopilot for most of the time. That makes covering distance in it ridiculously easy and comfortable, and while we never ran it for long on a motorway, we did get more than 40mpg while driving on rural lanes and 51.2mpg while travelling along major, lightly trafficked A-roads. So, imagining the CX-5 giving back near its quoted economy of 56.5mpg on a long, steady 70mph run is not beyond the realms of feasibility.

Therefore, while it might not look like much has changed on the outside, the second-gen Mazda CX-5 is a step up from its predecessor. This is a car that proves that beauty is definitely more than skin deep and, in a fiercely contested sector, it's one of the leading lights that you should most definitely be considering if you want something sensible and family-orientated yet stand-out and striking too. That's an extremely difficult balancing act to pull off, so Mazda must be commended for achieving just that with this highly amenable crossover-SUV.

Alternatives:

Hyundai Tucson: Similarly worthy Asian C-segment SUV competition here, from another sharp-looking and well-stocked machine. Tucson is lovely, but the Mazda feels slightly higher quality.

Peugeot 3008: This thing has shaken up the segment. With its daring styling, lively chassis and truly mesmeric interior finishing, the 3008 is our favourite crossover in the class; crucially, it's interesting.

Skoda Karoq: Typical stolid brilliance from the Czechs. Like the CX-5 itself and the Tucson mentioned above, the Karoq does nothing particularly showy... but precious little wrong, either.


Matt Robinson - 3 Apr 2018



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