Steve Sharpe test drives Mazda’s award-winning SUV crossover
THE CX-5, Mazda’s compact crossover SUV, first appeared on UK streets earlier this year and has been picking up awards ever since.
Just this week it was awarded the title of Japanese Car of the Year, which can be added to a plethora of other honours including the safety award in the Scottish Car of the Year, top SUV in the What Car? Green awards and Auto Express Best Crossover.
And it’s gone down well with the European car-buying public, too, with an impressive number of sales in the first six months of its availability.
One of the things which has gained the most plaudits is the green side of things. The CX-5 was the first model to adopt the full range of Mazda’s SKYACTIV technology, the manufacturer’s fancy name for a whole raft of new engineering including new engines, transmissions, body and chassis.
The diesel version is equipped with Mazda’s new-generation clean engine, which the company says boasts powerful performance comparable to a 4.0-litre V8 petrol engine.
At the same time, it achieves an SUV class-topping fuel consumption figure, with only 119 g/km of CO2 emissions.
As well as all this new technology, the CX-5 is the first Mazda to feature the company’s new design theme, called Kodo, or “Soul of Motion”
They reckon it makes the Mazda look “like a cheetah about to pounce on its prey”.
If they hadn’t have mentioned it it wouldn’t have been a comparison that would have occurred to me but it is a smart-looking SUV anyway.
The big, bold grille, which will be installed on other new models in the Mazda range following the Kodo design language, gives the SUV a striking front end, and the combination of creases and black plastic along the flanks work well.
Inside things are smart as well. The dashboard itself is well laid out with clear speed and rev gauges directly in front of the driver and a satnav / media screen placed in the centre of the console.
This is partly controlled by a dial in front of the handbrake which, like many cars which use this control system, takes some getting used to – and taking your eyes off the road before you get to know what’s what – but you get used to it.
The actual dash is finished well with shiny plastic and chrome inserts but some of the plastics used elsewhere, such as the doors and further down, are quite hard to touch, and lack that top-quality feel.
But the interior looks like it will stand the test of time, though, and like all Mazdas everything is fitted together extremely well.
The seats are big and comfortable and the cabin is a smart and comfortable environment to travel in. Despite a predominantly dark interior there’s plenty of light coming in through the large areas of glass.
Visibility is good overall but thick pillars at the rear do get in the way when reversing at certain angles.
Where this compact SUV scores highly is in roominess. There’s bags of legroom in the front and back plus enough headroom for anyone. The back seat is also big enough to sit three in a fair degree of comfort.
There’s plenty of space for cargo, too, with a massive boot and rear seats which fold down for even more space if required.
Economy is a focus for this new breed of Mazdas and the CX-5 also scores highly in economy figures.
There are a number of engines available in the range, in either 2-litre or 2.2-litre, in petrol or diesel. There’s also a choice of two-wheel or all-wheel drive.
I drove the 2-litre Sport Nav petrol model, which boasted impressive fuel figures of 47mpg. The diesels top the 60mpg mark.
All models are also featured with Mazda’s own version of the Stop-Start system, the iStop, which cuts the engine when the car is stationary and in neutral. It works smoothly, too.
Emission figures are low as well, thanks to that new technology, which has petrol models actually bettering the diesel figures of some rivals.
This economy, though, hasn’t resulted in a lack of performance.
The 2-litre engine pulls away strongly, and will reach 60mph in a sub-10 second time, reaching a top speed of 124mph.
It’s pretty responsive throughout the gears although it performs best when the revs are high.
At low speeds the cabin is well hushed although as speeds rise there’s a bit of wind noise coming around the sides, and my Sport version had bigger alloys than standard, through which you get a bit of road noise, especially on rougher surfaces.
SUVs often suffer as far as handling is concerned but, although this CX-5 is on the tall side, it can handle itself well on twisty lanes and corners. There’s a degree of lean but it’s well controlled – the steering is precise and the whole thing grips nicely even on tight corners, leaving you with a feeling of being in control.
With big hitters like Nissan’s Qashqai and crossovers from the likes of Kia and Honda, value for money has to be a primary objective, and so even the entry level CX-5 comes with a great selection of goodies as standard, like 17-inch alloys, dual-zone climate control air-conditioning, integrated Bluetooth system, cruise control, 5.8-inch colour display screen and Mazda’s Multimedia Commander.
There are three other trims – Sport models add leather trim, xenon headlamps a rear camera, a higher quality stereo and larger wheels.
An optional ‘Safety Pack’ is available on the four AWD Sport and AWD Sport Nav models.
A load of safety options are fitted as standard, too.
The design of this crossover will be featuring in most of Mazda’s future cars and it can only be good news for the driver and the environment.
The CX-5 is a spacious car that’s good to drive, comfortable and with low running costs.Mazda has also priced the car competitively with the entry level 2-litre model starting at £21,395, rising to £27,795 to the top-of-the-range Sport Nav all-wheel-drive diesel.
And the company’s enviable reliability record should ensure years of problem-free motoring.
Mazda CX-5 Sport Nav
Engine: 2litre petrol
Gearbox: 6-speed manual
0-60: 9.2 secs
Top speed: 124mph
Economy: 47.1 mpg