The previous Mazda CX-5 was an impressive vehicle. The latest version is even better. Mazda is now nipping at the heels of the segment’s premium manufacturers.
At the official local launch of the latest Mazda CX-5 a few months ago, Mazda South Africa did something unusual: not only did the company present the new model to the press, but it also brought along a handful of outgoing CX-5s, just to show how much the vehicle has evolved. The overall exterior design hadn’t changed much, but the new version had a lot more of a premium feel than the vehicle it replaced. One could hardly describe the interior of the old CX-5 as cheap or drab, but there’s no denying that the cabin of the new car is much better. This is the sort of interior you would expect from a Teutonic brand, not from an affordable Japanese brand. This is not an anomaly in terms of Mazda’s latest and upcoming vehicles. It is the company’s aim to position itself as a genuine alternative to premium brands: perhaps not quite as plush and impressive, but then also more affordable.
Of course, this means that a brand-new Mazda isn’t exactly cheap. The top-spec CX-5 2.2L DE Akera AWD Auto is priced at R557 500, which is a lot of money for a compact SUV, but still far more affordable than an entry-level Audi Q5 or BMW X3. Moreover, Mazda is not alone in upping the quality and price of its vehicles. Other compact SUVs, like the Ford Kuga, VW Tiguan and new Honda CR-V, have undergone a similar transformation. The new CR-V, for example, is a plush and competent SUV, but the top-spec 1.5T Exclusive goes for R626 900. The top-spec 2.0TDI 4Motion Highline VW Tiguan, at R558 300, is arguably far more bothersome to the CX-5, since it is a truly excellent SUV that throws a coveted German badge into the deal. How well is the new CX-5 positioned? Can it compete with popular vehicles like the X-Trail, Kuga, Tiguan, CR-V and RAV? And what about those truly premium compact SUVs?
Engine and gearbox
The CX-5 is available only with the combination of an oilburner and an AWD system in top-spec guise. In fact, the flagship 2.2 Akera AWD Auto is the only vehicle in the CX-5 line-up with an AWD system at all. Also, while the 2.2-litre oilburner is available in two power outputs in other markets like Britain, there is just one version locally, which delivers 129kW of power and 420Nm of torque. This is not a new engine. For the most part, it has been carried over from the previous model, but while it might not be new, there is nothing wrong with it.
It is a solid engine that delivers an adequate amount of power and a nice dollop of torque, even from low down on the rev range. In the relatively compact body of the CX-5, the engine feels lively and eager. Noise and vibration from the oilburner is kept well at bay, adding to the premium feel inside the cabin. The engine is mated to a six-speed automatic gearbox that is unremarkable but perfectly serviceable. And compared to some of the CVT transmissions used by the competition, it is a joy. When it comes to the performance of the engine/gearbox combination in the CX-5, Mazda might not be pushing the technological envelope, but it doesn’t feel outdated either. Overall, it suits the nature of the CX-5 well.
Ride and handling
Few compact SUVs in this price range provide a fun or involving driving experience, and the CX-5 is still a fairly tall and heavy vehicle, but it undoubtedly provides more smiles on a twisty road than much of the competition. The steering is direct, body roll is kept in check, and the suspension feels sporty without being too stiff. Indeed, the level of comfort inside the cabin of the CX-5 is impressive. Seats are comfortable, the cabin is spacious for an SUV of this size, and NVH levels are low. Mazda’s new SUV also has something called G-Vectoring Control (GVC).
It is the world’s first control system to vary engine torque in response to steering inputs in order to provide integrated control of lateral and longitudinal acceleration forces and optimise the vertical load on each wheel for smooth and efficient vehicle motion. GVC detects steering inputs and slightly restricts engine torque output to shift vehicle weight forward slightly, adding more downforce to the front tyres. According to Mazda, it is “a handling aid that aims to make race car-like cornering something that every driver can enjoy”. While it definitely doesn’t turn the CX-5 into a race car, it certainly feels as if it improves the composure of the new model.
Technology and safety
The latest CX-5 is packed with impressive comfort and safety features, and unlike with many premium SUVs, just about all of it comes standard in the top-spec 2.2 Akera AWD. Comfort and entertainment features include a seven-inch MZD Connect system, Bluetooth connectivity, satellite navigation, dual-zone climate control with rear ventilation, rain-sensing wipers, Bose sound system with 10 speakers, leather seats, power sliding and tilt sunroof, and power tailgate. When it comes to safety, the CX-5 has all the obvious safety features you would expect from a vehicle in this class, such as six airbags, Isofix child-seat points and a blind-spot monitoring system, but it also has a whole host of features you might not expect.
For instance, it has a lane departure warning system (LDWS) which detects line markings on the road surface and warns the driver of unintentional lane departures, as well as lane keep assist (LKA) that adds a slight amount of torque to steer the vehicle back into the lane (operates at speeds over 65km/h). It also has smart city brake support (SCBS) which helps prevent or lessen low-speed impacts. The system monitors a vehicle in front to assess the possibility of a collision at speeds of 4–80km/h. If the system detects a high risk of impact, it issues visual and audible warnings and primes the brakes for a faster response. In short, the new Mazda CX-5 is an incredibly well-equipped SUV. At R557 500, the vehicle might seem expensive, but it isn’t. At least, not compared to many of its competitors. It is an impressive and well-rounded package that provides a lot of SUV for your money..
Mazda CX-5 2.2L DE Akera AWD Auto
Engine 2.2-litre turbocharged diesel
Maximum power 129kW
Maximum torque 420Nm
Transmission Six-speed automatic gearbox
4×4 system Permanent AWD system
Luggage space 506–1 620 litres
Price R557 500
Service plan Three-year/unlimited kilometre
Warranty Three-year/five-year corrosion