Mazda’s CX-5 raises the bar

MAZDA CX-5: High build quality.

You don’t have to look hard to see the quality of product that has become Mazda’s new CX-5. The fit and finish, and trim materials are nothing short of high grade.

That sets the entire tone for the new series, Mazda has engineered its popular mid-size SUV so that it appeals both cosmetically and mechanically.

The latest generation CX-5 was launched in May and it lands here in three specification levels, with three engine options and choices of two or four-wheel-drive. I’m scheduled to drive a 2.2-litre diesel a little later in the year, but this evaluation focuses on the GSX four-wheel-drive model with a 2.5-litre petrol engine. There is also a 2-litre petrol engine in the line-up.

The evaluation car lands here at $45,995, with the range starting at $39,995 and ending at $57,495.

I’m a great believer in low to mid-grade product, often a buyer doesn’t want or need all the bells and whistles, but in saying that, the CX-5 in GSX form is far from bare bones. It gets as standard leather-type trim, keyless entry and ignition, satellite navigation, paddle-shift gear selectors, head-up display and dual zone climate control, amidst other key features.

I-Activesense, a suite of safety technologies that Mazda is building into most of today’s product, is fitted and it includes G-Vectoring Control which is the latest technology to promote handling and ride quality within the safety structure.

The new CX-5 picks up from where its predecessor left off, it is the quintessential family wagon that competes squarely with Honda’s CRV and Toyota’s RAV 4, both formidable opponents. However, the CX-5 not only leaves other manufacturers playing catch-up in terms of specification, it sets standards in terms of ride quality, noise, vibration and harshness, economy and performance.

I’ve written many times about Mazda’s SkyActive technology, it’s a programme that Mazda’s engineers have developed to make all of their models efficient and effective. The four-cylinder, petrol engine in the GSX is rated with a 140kW power output, it also gets 251Nm of torque.

The characteristics of the SkyActive engine are structured so that mid-range torque is utilised, it doesn’t need to work hard to glean performance and that has a beneficial effect on fuel usage.

Mazda rates the 2488cc unit with a 7.5-litre per 100km (38mpg) combined cycle fuel usage average. That sits well with the 8.8l/100km (32mpg) figure constantly showing on the trip computer readout during my time with the evaluation car, and the 6l/100km (47mpg) instantaneous figure showing at 100km/h on the highway.

Drive is channelled through a traditional six-speed automatic transmission. There are no surprises there, but for the fact it, too, contributes to the quality feel, the changes are smooth and the ratios are structured so that it offers premium acceleration along with slow engine speed on the highway to maximise fuel use.

I intended to take the evaluation car on my usual highway loop – Waddington, Hororata and Dunsandel – but a storm had settled over the east coast and flooding in the Selwyn River had closed many roads. Even though the road surfaces were drenched, the CX-5 felt solid and secure.

I stopped on the roadside near Darfield to take some notes without realising the soft nature of the berm, the car sank deep into mud. Nevertheless, with gentle application of the throttle I could feel the four-wheel-drive system proportion drive to the corners most likely to get grip. I wasn’t concerned that I would be stuck for the drive mechanicals easily eased the vehicle out of the mire.

The suspension is a fully independent setup to
allow for the inclusion
of drive to the rear, there
is also long movement which promotes a compliant ride.

On that family trip to the West Coast or on the daily school drop-off, the CX-5 constantly looks after its occupants in the way we have warmed to sport utility vehicles.

Also, when you feel the need for peppy acceleration it’s nice to know there’s the punch from that sizeable engine on tap.

More importantly though, the CX5 is all about the everyday role we put SUVs through, and it delivers with the satisfaction we have come to expect from Mazda’s manufacturing process.

I know I’m a little bit biased, there’s a Mazda in the Kiddie family and I often marvel at its design and integrity. Mazda has thrown itself into a path that even though it still sits as a mainstream manufacturer, its processes are bordering on those which ply the premium market.

Price – Mazda CX-5 GSX, $45,995

Dimensions – Length, 4550mm; width, 1840mm; height, 1675mm

Configuration –  Four-cylinder, four-wheel-drive, 2488cc, 140kW, 251Nm, six-speed automatic.

Performance –
0-100km/h, 8.9sec

Fuel usage – 7.5l/100km