If you are in the market for a mid-size sport utility vehicle and have decided a Mazda CX-5 is the wagon for you, then you’ll still have a difficult decision to make.
I’ve made no secret in recent evaluations about the quality of product that is coming out of Mazda factories at the moment, and the CX-5 is just another example of a good car made better. The choice between diesel or petrol power in that model is certainly something that I’d have to agonise over.
I guess that at the end of the day cost would be a big factor; the Limited diesel variant, which this evaluation focuses on, tops the range at $57,495, which is $2000 more than the equivalent petrol model. There’s also a $47,995 GSX diesel but the point I’m making is that diesel models carry a premium and you’d need to weigh that up in terms of how many months it would take to reap the fuel saving benefits of diesel, although by my reckoning it wouldn’t take long.
All that aside, the diesel would probably sway me, its rewarding driving experience and mid-range turbo surge provides urgency. I’m not saying the 2-litre and 2.5-litre petrol models don’t do that, it’s just the diesel does it better.
Under the bonnet sits the turbocharged, 2.2-litre, twin-camshaft compression ignition unit. It is rated by Mazda at 129kW but, more importantly, a healthy 420Nm is available at just 2000rpm. The torque curve of most modern diesels is long and strong, and the CX-5 benefits with healthy acceleration – 0-100km/h in 8.5sec – and will surge through the mid range for a quick highway overtake (4.1sec).
Drive is directed through a traditional six-speed automatic. It is a fabulous transmission with smooth shifts and ratios which are sensible for city driving, providing that keen acceleration from launch, yet broadening to provide low engine speed at 100km/h (1750rpm).
That helps promote a Mazda claim of six-litres per 100km (47mpg) combined cycle fuel usage average. That was complemented by an 8l/100km (35mpg) figure showing on the dash panel readout during my time with the test car.
A couple of other interesting statistics are the way it sips fuel at the rate of 6l/100km instantaneously at the legal open road limit.
When I picked up the car from the local dealership the fuel to empty reading was showing over 600km which suggests its economical nature and the ability to travel long distances without filling, and when it does need a tank top-up it’s nice to know it’s not going to overly stretch the credit card.
In Limited form the CX-5 has drive to all four wheels, the kind of tradition buyers like in an SUV. I didn’t take the test car off the seal simply because when I evaluated its petrol counterpart recently I had an off-road excursion which I reported was achieved with strong levels of grip and control.
However, on my day of open road test the weather was damp and the roads quite drenched. Even so, the benefits of four-wheel-drive capability are many fold in terms of safety and traction. Even if you don’t rely on the system, often it’s nice to know that you are going to have grip at times when slippery surfaces unexpectedly arrive.
I can also report the CX-5 is a quiet vehicle on the open road, which brings me back the point of petrol v diesel, both are so quiet at speed that it would be hard to detect the difference. The CX-5 also delivers handling performance not as you would ordinarily expect from a tall SUV. It is more car-like in a corner, there is little body movement over the suspension, and there is decisive steering turn-in.
The latter can be attributed to the quality of the tyres, the 225/45 x 19in Toyo branded rubber has strong steering feel and promotes accuracy. The suspension too, is a good compromise for comfort and agility. The entire package, including power delivery, is engineered for driver and occupant pleasure.
In Limited form the CX-5 wants for little. As mentioned, the weather was cold and bleak, yet the leather warms quickly as does the heating and ventilation system.
The interior features are too extensive to detail at length but I must mention that the safety elements built into the new model are vast and contain all the trick gear Mazda is building into its models such as the I-Activesense suite of safety gear that helps keep the vehicle out of trouble in the first instance.
I’m picking I’ll never again face the excitement of buying a car new from the showroom floor, but if I was an SUV buyer the CX-5 would be top of the desirables.
For the many people who are presenting to the Mazda dealerships, I can guarantee you are in for a decent buying experience even if the choice is a hard one to make.
Price – Mazda CX-5 Ltd, $57,495
Dimensions – Length, 4550mm; width, 1840mm; height, 1675mm
Configuration – Four-cylinder, four-wheel-drive, 2191cc, 129kW, 420Nm, six-speed automatic.
Fuel usage – 6l/100km