A bolder face brings Mazda’s CX-5 back into the spotlight…
In the past, Mazda’s CX-5 was something of a fringe player in a compact SUV sphere where the Germans and Koreans hogged the limelight. But, more recently, sales figures have improved and the Mazda appears to have achieved the widespread acceptance it so richly deserved. Beneath styling that was neat but not overly dashing and a badge held by a company that was only just beginning to graze the surface of the car-buying public’s awareness after a period of near-anonymity, the previous CX-5 delighted us when we sampled it back in 2012.
While the composition of the compact SUV staples has changed little in the last five years, a recent injection of sporty, distinctive models by Mazda has boosted awareness of the brand globally. So, in keeping with its recent penchant for rolling out some eye-catching new metal, Mazda has given the CX-5 a bold update that should hopefully give it the attention it deserves.
Although we’d never describe the previous CX-5 as po-faced, in a segment defined by the classy angularity of the Tiguan and the bold swoopiness of the Koreans, the Mazda was always rather safe and subtle. While most midlife facelifts are often a case of a new headlamp lens cover here and a bit of chrome trim there, the bold cuts into the previous car’s gently profiled skin almost suggest that Mazda’s designers used a samurai sword in lieu of a spatula when working on the updated CX-5’s clay-model mock-up.
The gentle curve of the previous car’s nose has been chopped into a more bluff, purposeful form, highlighted by LED headlamps slashed along the apexes of a signature shield-shaped grille that’s bolder than that of its forebear. The rest of the exterior changes are subtler and comprise new LED elements in the brakelamps, a restyle of the front and rear aprons, and redesigned alloy wheels. It’s a reworking that finally gives the CX-5 the presence for which it’s been crying out.
It’s a similar story inside, where the major changes take place up front and taper off towards the tail. The chunky upper tier of the previous car’s dash has made way for a narrower, slim-line section that sees the infotainment system’s screen migrate from a facia recess to a freestanding panel on top, and there are hints of MX-5 about the stronger horizontal trim elements and dashing air-vent surrounds. There’s also a good degree of substance behind the sportier styling, with both build and material quality easily on par with that of its rivals.
However, while the sound of rattling trim isn’t an accompaniment to your journey’s soundtrack, the diesel engine’s boominess under hard acceleration is apparent. It’s an engine that hasn’t undergone any changes, still churning out a respectable 129 kW and 400 N.m. While the latter is a hearty lump of torque, the engine doesn’t possess that instant kick you feel in diesels with more than 350 N.m on tap; it’s more of a measured swell that spreads the torque over a wide rev range.
This is possibly an upshot of the low-compression ratio that’s a signature feature of Mazda’s SkyActiv diesel engines and a transmission that, although smooth, can be somewhat languid unless the throttle is mashed or the drivetrain-management module is nudged into its “hang-on-doggedly-to-every-gear” sport setting. The SkyActiv tech does, however, pay some dividends on the fuel-consumption front, with our mixed-route fuel run returning a respectable 7,2 L/100 km.
Dynamic engagement is an area in which the previous CX-5 eclipsed most of its peers, and with its fluid ride, an impressive chassis setup that controls body roll crisply during brisk changes in direction and steering that’s precise and pleasantly weighted, it remains one of the most rewarding compact SUVs to drive.
At about R560 000, the CX-5 occupies a similar pricing bracket to the likes of the Kia Sportage, Hyundai Tucson, Ford Kuga and the Volkswagen Tiguan. Normally sitting smack-bang among such accomplished and popular rivals is cause for concern, but in addition to being a well-resolved package, the Akera model wants for almost nothing in terms of standard specification. In addition to a raft of comfort and convenience features expected in most range-topping compact SUVs, the CX-5 throws such items as adaptive LED headlamps, head-up display and sat-nav into the mix.
To put this into context, equipping the 2,0 TDI 4Motion version of our current overall favourite compact SUV, the Volkswagen Tiguan, to specification comparable with that of the CX-5 sees the German vehicle’s asking price climb to an eye-widening R640 152. But it’s the standard fitment of such electronic safety nets as blind-spot and lane-departure warning, city-braking assist and lane-keeping assist – features relegated to optional extras or altogether unavailable on most rivals – that lends the CX-5 even greater appeal to buyers with families.
If there is one area where the Mazda concedes some standard-feature ground, it’s the inclusion of a service plan that’s two years shy of its rivals’ five-year items. This is, however, offset to some degree by the fact that there’s no mileage limitation for the duration of the CX-5’s service plan.