Mazda's CX-5 is a mid-sized SUV with a loyal following. Jonathan Crouch checks out the improved version of this MK2 model to find out why.
Ten Second Review
The second generation version of Mazda's CX-5 mid-sized SUV has been lightly improved. As before, it's a good compromise between a Nissan Qashai-style family Crossover and a Toyota RAV4-style SUV, offering good driving dynamics, efficient running costs and decent practicality. This may not be the first car you consider in this sector, but try one and you might just think it to be the best.
The CX-5 has proved to be a crucial car for Mazda. Launched in 2012 relatively early on in the current craze for mid-sized SUV and Crossover models, it's since sold prodigiously. To the point where this model line now accounts for a quarter of all the Japanese brand's global sales. Over 1.5 million CX-5s have been sold worldwide, with 32,000 examples having found UK owners.
Will those people continue to like this sharp-looking second generation version? It'll be interesting to see. The engine-ware hasn't changed as part of the minor update we're looking at here, but there's better infotainment provision and improvements to efficiency and refinement. All of which this car will need to stay competitive in the face of crowded competition for sales of cars of this kind. Let's judge this CX-5 on its merits.
Mazda reckons that NVH (Noise, Vibration and Harshness) has been significantly improved on this enhanced CX-5. The engine range hasn't changed much, though the brand has incorporated a cylinder deactivation system into its 2.0-litre 165PS 'SKYACTIV-G' petrol unit - an engine which can only be ordered with front-wheel drive (though it does now feature an auto option if you want it). This petrol variant also now features what Mazda calls 'steering vibration counter-measures'. The volume 2.2-litre 'SKYACTIV-D' diesel unit that most UK buyers want offered with either 150 or 184PS and can be specified with auto transmission and (in 184PS form) with AWD too. AWD variants now get an Off-road Traction Assist system.
Like many new-era Mazda models, this one's a product of the company's 'Jinba-Ittai' 'car-and-driver-as-one' philosophy which aims to deliver more focused levels of levels of driver engagement and comfort. This time round, particular attention has been paid to reducing noise and vibration within the cabin. Plus a 15% improvement in torsional body rigidity, along with refinements to the steering, suspension and brakes, all contribute to an improvement in the handling precision that marked out the previous model. Further helping in this regard is a freshly introduced 'GVC' 'G-Vectoring Control' torque vectoring system that transfers traction to the wheel most needing it when you're going at speed through tight corners.
And off road prowess? Well, as with the systems employed by most of its rivals, this car has a set-up in which the torque is automatically split according to the terrain you're on, so it can direct 100% of drive to the front wheels in normal conditions, with up to 50% then directed to the rear wheels if slip is detected.
Design and Build
Nothing much has changed with the look of this second generation CX-5 - but then, nothing much needed to. This MK2 model takes its cues from the stunning 'RX Vision' concept car the brand displayed at the 2015 Tokyo Motor Show and offers a sharp and mature design that British buyers seem to like. There's a sleek profile and a reatively low roofline that underscore this SUV's solid stance and elegant proportions. Under the skin, the body structure has been created under the concept of what Mazda calls 'Refined Toughness'.
Inside, changes to this updated model include the integration of a slightly larger 8-inch centre-dash touchscreen. As before, this display differs from rival set-ups in its provision of a lower rotary controller: and it includes navigation as standard. Other minor changes include the addition of LED interior lighting, a redesigned key and the availability of black half-leatherette seats on plusher variants. In terms of overall quality, the finish still isn't quite up there with a rival Volkswagen Tiguan, but it's certainly an improvement over what you'd get in competitors like Ford's Kuga and Kia's Sportage. In the back, there's plenty of legroom, despite the provision of a decently-sized 506-litre boot, extendable to 1,620-litres on retraction of the rear bench.
Market and Model
List pricing sees CX-5 ownership pitched much as before, with prices ranging in the £27,000 to £40,000 bracket. There are three trim levels - 'SE-L', 'Sport' and 'GT Sport' and three engines, a 2.0 165PS petrol unit and 150 and 184PS versions of the familiar 2.2-litre diesel. You have to have a 184PS diesel if you want to be able to pay the £2,000 premium that Mazda demands for AWD. Automatic transmission is an extra £1,500.
All models feature a generous standard equipment tally that includes LED headlights, auto power-folding door mirrors, dual-zone climate control, a DAB radio and a 7" colour touch-screen display with Mazda's integrated navigation and 'Apple CarPlay/'Android Auto' smartphone-mirroring. 'Sport Nav' cars add to this with a reversing camera, an 8-way power adjustable driver's seat and Smart keyless entry, plus heated front seats and steering wheel, a power lift tailgate and a new head-up display that projects directly onto the windscreen and features Traffic Sign Recognition.
As part of the revised line-up, this model gets even more active safety equipment as standard, including an updated version of the CX-5's 'Advanced Smart City Brake Support' system, which incorporates night-time pedestrian detection for the first time. This Advanced SCBS set-up uses a forward-sensing camera to detect vehicles and pedestrians ahead and help avoid collisions or mitigate damage in the event one does occur. There's also Mazda Radar Cruise Control, Advanced Blind Spot Monitoring with Rear Cross Traffic alert, High Beam Control and Lane Keep Assist with Lane Departure Warning standard across the range. In addition, the optional safety pack on 'Sport' models features a 360-degree view camera and Adaptive LED Headlamps.
Cost of Ownership
The CX-5's unexpectedly imperious progress continues when it comes to cost of ownership and this is where the SKYACTIV technology really pays off. Let's get to the WLTP figures. The 2.2-litre 150PS diesel variant many will choose returns up to 49.6mpg in manual form (or 43.5mpg as an auto) and up to 151g/km (171g/km). For the 2.2 184PS diesel, the figures are 42.8mpg (39.8mpg) and 175g/km (186g/km). The 2.0-litre petrol model now manages up to 160g/km - or 173g/km in auto form.
Clever use of low compression ratios for the SKYACTIV-G petrol and SKYACTIV-D diesel engines means that ignition takes longer, ensuring a better mixture of air and fuel. This approach also enables the engines to run with less mechanical stress, which allows the use of lighter weight materials, in turn meaning that the finished vehicle will need less energy to move through the air. And no energy at all of course when it comes to a temporary stop, say at the lights or in traffic. At that point in this Mazda's case, an 'i-stop' engine stop/start system (the fastest-reacting set-up of its kind on the market) will cut in, reducing fuel consumption by up to 10% all on its own.
As for peace of mind, well given the reliability of Mazda products, you'd have thought the company might have wanted to improve upon its usual three year/60,000 mile package and take on the Korean brands. Not so. That familiar standard warranty remains in place for this car.
The CX-5 isn't one of those cars that jumps out at you on first acquaintance. But as with many Mazdas, its modesty hides a product packed with innovation. The result is excellent packaging, strong economy and emissions and driving dynamics that are amongst the best in this sector. Add in a high specification and competitive pricing and you've a compelling proposition, especially with the minor refinements made to this updated model.
In summary, what we've got here is yet another example of Mazda going its own way, doing things differently. Which means? Well something quite simple really. If you're looking for a car of this kind, make sure you also try this one.