It's no sports car, but the all-new, tech-packed CX-5 could be the most exciting Mazda for years. David Vivian checks it out in 2.2 150PS form.
Ten Second Review
The name might lead you to think that the CX-5 is nothing more than a perfunctory scaling-down of CX-7 SUV to fill the appropriate market slot. But it's far more than that. Part of Mazda's 'Skyactiv' programme, the CX-5 really is all new, from its engines to the way it's built. Most will want the 2.2 150PS diesel variant we look at here.
The CX-5 is Mazda's third SUV, following on from the larger CX-7 and much larger CX-9 (not sold in Europe). It's also the most important and interesting. Important because it competes in the key compact SUV sector, tasked with taking on impressive newcomers like the Audi Q3 as well as established stars such as the Land Rover Freelander, Ford Kuga, Skoda Yeti and Volkswagen Tiguan. Interesting because a) it's the first production car to feature Mazda's new Kodo design language, showcased by theMinagi (a concept base for the CX-5) and Shinarishow cars and b) it's the first production car to implement Mazda's new Skyactiv technology which seeks to save fuel and the planet by matching rigid, lightweight construction with new super-efficient powertrains. Mazda's claim at launch is that CX-5 is the most eco-friendly compact SUV you can buy.
All-new Skyactive engines, then: a 2.0-litre petrol unit and the twin-turbo 2.2-litre diesel we look at here in 150PS form. Intriguingly, both share a 14:1 compression ratio, which is a very high value for the petrol motor, but said to improve economy, and lower-than-average for the oil-burner to reduce NOx. Thanks to the lower compression, the diesel'sblock can be made out of aluminium rather than iron, saving 25kg.It comes in two power outputs (175PS as well as 150PS) and both meet the super-stringent 2014 Euro-6 pollution regulations without the need for a Nitrogen Oxide trap. The chassis has some impressive moves, too, in some respects feeling more like it belongs to a well-sorted family hatch than a high-riding SUV, even if the steering is a little dead around the straight ahead. There's plenty of grip, a pleasing reluctance to run wide when negotiating tight bends and tautly controlled body movements. The suspension system is refreshingly straightforward - MacPherson struts up front, multilink at the rear and passive dampers - with none of the 'adaptive' electronics found on some rivals. The ride is on the firm side but, even rolling on 19-inch alloys, never uncomfortable. Refinement is very good indeed, wind- and road-noise only becoming notably intrusive at higher speeds, and the engine's contribution is well suppressed, too, especially on the motorway.
Design and Build
It's a good-looking little SUV, the CX-5. Very much in the current Mazda idiom, it's a tautly contoured, cohesive design with a minimum of brightwork. It's exceptionally well packaged, too. Although significantly smaller than the CX-7 on the outside, there's actually more leg room in the rear and the materials used in the cabin are of higher quality. Not only is the rear seat roomy enough to carry two full-sized adults or three children without complaint, but the backrests have a useful 40/20/40-split arrangement to accommodate long or bulky items. All three portions can be released from the 480-litre boot, which also offers some underfloor stowage space. Up front, the driving position offers a fine, elevated view down the road while still feeling comfortably car-like. And front seat occupants will appreciate the upgraded infotainment equipment which comprises a 5.8-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth and the usual USB and auxiliary connections.
Market and Model
With two model lines and three engines to choose from, expect to pay between £21,000 and £29,000 for your Mazda CX-5. There are two trim options for each engine, starting with the 2.0-litre petrol unit which comes with a six-speed manual transmission. The diesel models are offered in both two- and four-wheel drive - the front-driver using the 150PS motor while 4x4 customers can stick with that or go for the 175PS powerplant and gain the option of a six-speed auto transmission. The base trim level includes 17-inch alloys, front foglights, dual-zone climate control,parking sensors, privacy glassand Smart City Brake Support, which is Mazda's emergency braking function. Sport trim adds 19-inch alloys, active xenon headlights, leather trim with heated front seats, an electrically operated driver's chair and a reversing camera.
Cost of Ownership
As you might hope, given the build up, the Mazda CX-5's economy and emissions stats are pretty spectacular. Best in range is the front-drive 150PS 2.2-litre diesel we tried which, when teamed with a six-speed manual gearbox, returns 61.4mpg on the combined cycle and emits just 119g/km of CO2, which puts the car in the £30 per year road tax band C. The 175PS diesel model with the auto 'box fitted is rather impressive, too, emitting 144g/km of CO2 while travelling over 51 miles on each gallon of DERV. To put that in some kind of perspective, a 138bhp VW Tiguan with the DSG 'box emits 158g/km and does 47.1mpg.
It's hard to see how the CX-5 can avoid being anything other than a big hit for Mazda, especially in 150PS 2.2-litre diesel form. An altogether more advanced prospect than the CX-7 (which will continue as a run-out model), it delivers understated style, excellent packaging, class-leading economy and emissions and very competitive equipment and pricing. If isn't quite the best drive in a highly competitive sector, it has everything it needs to be the best all-rounder.