What is it?
Irrespective of size or price, it’s the reigning champion of all SUVs in Australia – a sales record it has held for the past four years.
The hot-selling SUV in question is Mazda’s CX-5 mid-sizer and so popular has the vehicle been since its 2012 launch, that dealers have now found homes for more than 1.5 million units worldwide.
The just-released 2107 range comes in five grades, not four as was the case with the outgoing line-up.
New to the family is the Touring version and across the range, buyers can choose between three engines and two transmissions while enjoying all the benefits of more safety and driver-aid goodies.
There are two four-cylinder petrol engines – one 2.0-litre unit and the other boasts 2.5 litres.
The first is good for 114kW at 6000rpm and 200Nm of torque while the latter comes in at 140kW at 6000rpm and 251Nm at 4000rpm.
Opt for the 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel and you’re looking at 129kW at 4500rpm and an impressive 420Nm that arrives at a lazy 2000rpm.
Buoyed by unprecedented pre-launch interest, Mazda shipped 1200 units to Australia in readiness for the on-sale date.
Marketing boss Alastair Doak says 100,000 people entered a competition to win a new CX-5.
Of these, 33,000 registered their interest in the vehicle and more than 45,000 asked to be contacted by Mazda once the car went on sale.
What’s it cost?
The pecking order is Maxx, Maxx Sport, the new Touring, GT and then Akera and pricing kicks off at $28,690 for the 2.0-litre petrol, front-wheel-drive, six-speed manual Maxx and travels all the way to $49,990 for the range-topping all-wheel-drive Akera with its 2.2-litre turbo-diesel and six-speed automatic transmission.
The 2.0-litre FWD Maxx is the only variant that comes with a manual gearbox and the only one not available in diesel.
Maxx and the Maxx Sport are also the only variants that offer FWD but you can specify an AWD Maxx, so long as you mate it with the 2.5-litre petrol engine.
An auto adds $2000 to the base-model Maxx, but it’s $3000 with the rest of the range.
Mazda claims a combined-fuel-consumption figure of 6.9L/100km for the 2.0-litre petrol, 7.5L for its bigger 2.5-litre sibling and 6.0L for the diesel.
For its first full year in dealer showrooms, Mazda believes the sales split will be 10 per cent Maxx, 30 per cent Maxx Sport, 23 per cent Touring, 22 per cent GT and 15 per cent Akera.
So far as engines are concerned, Mazda thinks 25 per cent of buyers will opt for the diesel, 60 per cent for the 2.5-litre petrol engine and 15 per cent for the two-litre petrol unit.
While visually – both inside and out — the new CX-5 looks very much like its predecessor, closer inspection will confirm an all-new body and new design touches in the cabin.
In terms of the new Mazda’s standard kit, all variants come with six airbags, push-button start/stop, low-speed auto emergency braking, a 7-inch colour touch-screen, digital radio, Bluetooth, Mazda’s MZD Connect, rear cross-traffic alert and a reversing camera.
In fact, Mazda claims that across the range it has blessed the new CX-5 with an average $2000 in extra value.
The entry-level 2.0-litre petrol Maxx has 17-inch steel wheels, cloth trim and basic air conditioning (without rear vents).
Climb up a rung to the Maxx Sport and the steel wheels become alloys, the cloth trim is fancier, there is dual-zone climate-control “air” (with rear vents), front fog lights, satellite navigation and a rear centre armrest that houses a USB socket.
New to the range is the Touring and it sports suede and fake-leather interior trim, a head-up display with traffic-sign recognition, front-parking sensors and keyless entry.
Second from the top of the range, the GT, adds leather trim (either black or white), 19-inch alloys, a sunroof, power-adjustable front seats, a better head-up display that is projected onto the windscreen, a powered tailgate, a fancier 10-speaker Bose audio and adaptive headlights.
The one-with-the-lot Akera really shines in the safety-kit department, coming as it does with radar cruise control with stop-and-go for heavy traffic, lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assistance, LED headlights, driver-attention alert and a handy side camera.
What’s it go like?
So far as the engines go, Mazda does them all extremely well but I’m something of a sucker for torquey diesels and for me, it’s the pick of the bunch, closely followed by the 2.5-litre petrol unit.
The electric power steering is nicely weighted and even when you push the car into a corner with a degree of exuberance, it sits nice and flat while imparting a feeling of sure-footedness.
Unlike some of the medium SUV players, Mazda sticks with a conventional six-speed automatic rather than a CVT and I for one am pleased about that. The company’s automatics work extremely well and mate beautifully with all three engines.
Mazda has, in recent years, copped its fair share of criticism about the noise, vibration and harshness standards of its cars – something that’s left its vehicles languishing below best-in-class rivals.
To its credit, the company has listened to customers, dealers and the motoring media and put a great deal or work into improving performance in this key area.
Moving off the first thing you notice is how much more refined they all are.
They have zeroed in on reducing the level of low-frequency road noise, especially evident on coarse surfaces.
That, combined with cutting wind-and-tyre noise says Mazda is roughly equivalent to the effect of travelling 20km/h slower than in the outgoing model.
To achieve this level of refinement, Mazda engineers have made a lot of small alterations rather than one big change.
For instance, the windscreen wipers now hide below the bonnet and the exterior mirrors and A-pillar are more aerodynamic, so they slice through the air better, reducing turbulence and therefore noise.
The new CX-5’s underbody is also more aerodynamically efficient with a six per cent improvement in the car’s drag coefficient.
All models have plenty of handy door pockets, a roof-mounted sunglasses holder and other cubby holes and the 442 litres of cargo space is a 39-litre improvement on the outgoing model.
In recent years, the interiors of all Mazda models have gained in overall classiness, both in terms of styling and functionality, and the new CX-5 continues the trend.
Much of the hard plastic used in the outgoing model has been replaced by the much nicer soft-touch variety.
In fact, the top-spec Akera’s interior treatment and quality credentials are right up there with anything wearing a prestige European badge.
All models ride on a MacPherson-strut front-suspension setup and a multi-link rear arrangement, and like all Mazdas, the ride is on the sporty side.
That said, while certainly not harsh or unpleasant, the GT and Akera, with their 19-inch alloys and lower-profile tyres certainly have a noticeably firmer ride.
Unlike their Korean cousins Kia and Hyundai, Mazda doesn’t undertake local suspension tuning but there’s no doubting its suspension engineers are pretty good at what they do.
What we like
- High standards of safety
- Generous kit even on entry-level model
- Excellent supportive front seats
- Ideal easy to dial up driving position
- Excellent driving dynamics
What we don’t
- 3-year warranty positively miserly
- No rear air vents for Maxx
- Space saver spare
- Minor weight and fuel consumption increases
Hyundai Tucson, from $28,590
Much better looker than its predecessor the iX35, but falls short of the Mazda in the key area of standard safety equipment. Auto emergency braking available only with the top of the range model.
Toyota RAV4, from $28,550
Good looker. Much larger these days and continues to be popular, but hasn’t laid claim to the number one position for several years now. Like the Hyundai it also falls short in the area of safety.
Nissan X-Trail, from $27,990
Not the macho, chunky off-roader it once was, but a slick offering nevertheless that represents good value for money. Trails its competitors in terms of both safety and connectivity – but there’s a new one on the way.
Deal or no deal?
New-generation CX-5 is evolutionary rather than revolutionary, and why not?
Despite the odd shortcoming– especially in the NVH department – Mazda clearly knew what it was doing when coming up with the design and packaging of the first CX-5 – a fact confirmed by the car’s standing as this country’s most-loved SUV.
Despite fierce competition from the likes of Hyundai’s Tucson, the Kia Sportage, VW’s Tiguan and those Japanese offerings, the Subaru Forester, the Toyota RAV4 and Nissan’s X-Trail, their chances of unseating the CX-5 from the top step of the podium have just been made more difficult.