Mazda New Zealand is well pleased with the performance of its sport utility vehicle range.
So much so, that a new model has just recently joined the line-up – the CX-8. In total Mazda has four sport utility vehicles of varying sizes, but the most popular by far and consistently topping the sales charts in medium SUV market is the CX-5.
The CX-5 has been around since 2012, and early last year it underwent a huge life cycle change, reinforcing its desire to buyers and not relinquishing its command in the market.
That’s no surprise to me, if you take any vehicle out of the Mazda stable today you’ll find quality and one which is pleasing in almost every respect.
Mazda hasn’t rested on its laurels with CX-5, just a short time after the latest generation model was released, the SUV has had a bit of a makeover, there’s a realignment of specification, and an increase in specification for safety. There’s also an engine upgrade across all driveline variations – 2-litre petrol, 2.5-litre petrol and 2.2-litre diesel. Economy has been improved, emissions lowered further and refinement further increased.
The latter is important, for the CX-5 has become a vehicle which thrills with its sophistication, it is smooth, quiet and amazingly civilised for what would be deemed a mainstream car.
Mazda offers the CX-5 in six variants ranging from $39,995 for the entry-level 2-litre, and ending at $57,995 for the range-topping Limited diesel. Incidentally, Mazda’s prices include on-road costs and a three-year/100,000km free servicing programme.
The evaluation car was the range-topper, albeit with the 2.5-litre petrol engine. Column space doesn’t allow comprehensive detailing of the engine’s combustion changes, but I can report the new unit is a work of art, it is strong, responsive, and delivers without vibration nor harshness.
With outputs of 140kW and 252Nm, the 2488cc four-potter also has power and torque which will satisfy under most conditions. The CX-5 is quick for an SUV, it will scamper to 100km/h from a standstill in around 9sec and will make an overtaking manoeuvre in 5sec. Drive is channelled to all four wheels through a conventional six-speed automatic transmission.
The latter has also had some technical changes so that it works more in harmony with the engine, the result is a fluid and balanced change of ratios, bearing in mind, too, that the driver can enhance engine urgency through a console-mounted sport mode.
Personally, I used the standard normal mode for most of my evaluation at city speeds, it works intuitively and doesn’t load the engine greatly, further enhancing that economy equation.
Of course, if you like the speed of sport mode the CX-5 takes on a lively personality that is useful on the long highway trek, overtaking for example, or if the driver feels like a bit a push through the tight and twisties.
I had a Trade Me item to deliver to an address in Rangiora, soon return to my home in the city I used the roads from Loburn to Oxford, crossing the Waimakariri Gorge bridge to the Old West Coast Rd. While the vast majority of this route is straight, there are some tricky corners and it was nice to feel the CX-5’s clingy road manners.
At almost 1.7m tall the CX-5 could be excused for being a little unbalanced in a corner, but that’s not the case, with sensible spring and damper rates and a sophisticated fully independent suspension set-up there is controlled body movement and decisive suspension absorption.
To be fair, the CX-5, and all others of its ilk are not serious off-road vehicles. The CX-5 is a handy wagon that will take you cross-country in style, and it is useful when the seal runs out.
However, the CX-5’s four-wheel-drive system is more for the benefit in low-grip situations, and on my journey, I had to make a detour through a long gravel section, the test car felt well attached to the road and comfortable when pushed on the greasy surface. That being the case, I have no hesitation in saying that it is a car which will suit the ski-field access road, and I’m sure many owners use it for that purpose.
On that subject, the CX-5’s popularity doesn’t stop with just new car buyers, the range also commands good coin in the pre-owned market, which is a testament to the quality of product and the way buyers view Mazda vehicles in total.
Price – Mazda CX-5 Ltd, $55,745
Dimensions – Length, 4550mm; width, 1840mm; height, 1675mm
Four-cylinder, four-wheel-drive, 2488cc, 140kW, 252Nm, six-speed automatic.
Fuel usage – 7.4l/100km