Mazda's CX-5 is a mid-sized SUV with a loyal following. Jonathan Crouch checks out the improved version of this MK2 model to find out why.
The CX-5 has proved to be a crucial car for Mazda. Launched in 2012 relatively early on in the current craze for mid-sized SUV and Crossover models, it's since sold prodigiously. To the point where this model line now accounts for a quarter of all the Japanese brand's global sales. Over 1.5 million CX-5s have been sold worldwide, with 32,000 examples having found UK owners.
Will those people continue to like this sharper-looking second generation version, now usefully revised? It'll be interesting to see. There are extra drive modes, improved refinement, slight changes to the styling and revisions to the range structure. All of which this car will need to stay competitive in the face of crowded competition for sales of cars of this kind. Let's judge this Mazda on its merits.
Let's cover what's different with the lightly revised CX-5 under consideration here. It introduces Mazda Intelligent Drive select (Mi-Drive), which enables the driver to select the most appropriate drive mode with one touch of a switch. Some model grades equipped with i-Activ AWD further benefit from an Off-Road Mode, which makes driving feel more natural on un-made and slippery surfaces. Mazda's next generation of Skyactiv-Vehicle Architecture has now been applied to this mid-sized SUV, further evolving the bodyshell, suspension and seats to enhance ride comfort and reduce fatigue. Mazda claims that road noise has also been greatly reduced, particularly when driving on rough surfaces such as gravel.
The base 2.0-litre 165PS SKYACTIV-G petrol version (offered with manual or auto transmission) still can't be had with AWD, but this engine has recently gained what Mazda calls 'steering vibration counter-measures' and these days features a cylinder deactivation system. You can have a petrol-powered CX-5 that does have AWD though - a 2.5-litre 194PS SKYACTIV-G powerplant at the top of the range, which only comes in 4x4 form. Most CX-5 folk though, still defiantly choose the brand's 2.2-litre SKYACTIV-D diesel unit, now updated for RDE2 compliance. As before, this diesel engine is offered with either 150 or 184PS forms, can be specified with auto transmission and (in 184PS form) with AWD too.
Like many new-era Mazda models, this one's a product of the company's 'Jinba-Ittai' 'car-and-driver-as-one' philosophy which aims to deliver more focused levels of levels of driver engagement and comfort. Further helping in this regard is a 'GVC' 'G-Vectoring Control' torque vectoring system that transfers traction to the wheel most needing it when you're going at speed through tight corners.
And off road prowess? Well, as with the systems employed by most of its rivals, this car has a set-up in which the torque is automatically split according to the terrain you're on, so it can direct 100% of drive to the front wheels in normal conditions, with up to 50% then directed to the rear wheels if slip is detected.
Design and Build
Nothing much has changed with the look of this updated version of the second generation CX-5: there's a restyled more three-dimensional grille and signature wing design, plus both front and rear lamp clusters have also been revised. That's about it. But then, nothing much needed to change here: this CX-5 still looks pretty fresh. This MK2 model takes its cues from the stunning 'RX Vision' concept car the brand first displayed at the 2015 Tokyo Motor Show and offers a sharp and mature design that British buyers seem to like. There's a sleek profile and a reatively low roofline that underscore this SUV's solid stance and elegant proportions. Under the skin, the body structure has been created under the concept of what Mazda calls 'Refined Toughness'.
Inside, there aren't really any changes apart from the addiution of a wireless Qi phone charging tray. The cabin had already been updated not long ago with a larger, faster and clearer 10.25-inch centre display screen, more intuitive Mazda Connect Commander operation and an expanded range of Connected Services operable by the latest MyMazda App. If you haven't looked at this MK2 CX-5 since launch, you may also notice that it now includes LED interior lighting, a redesigned key and the availability of black half-leatherette seats on plusher variants. In terms of overall quality, the cabin finish is now almost up there with a rival Volkswagen Tiguan - and it's certainly an improvement over what you'd get in competitors like Ford's Kuga and Kia's Sportage. In the back, there's plenty of legroom, despite the provision of a decently-sized 506-litre boot, extendable to 1,620-litres on retraction of the rear bench.
Market and Model
List pricing sees CX-5 ownership pitched much as before, with prices ranging in the £28,000 to £39,000 bracket. There are five trim levels - 'SE-L', Newground', 'Sport', 'Sport Black' and 'GT Sport' and four engines, 2.0-litre 165PS and 2.5-litre 194PS petrol units and 150 and 184PS versions of the familiar 2.2-litre diesel. AWD is mandatory on the 2.5-litre petrol model - and an option at just under £2,000 more on the top 184PS version of the 2.2-litre diesel.
The 'Newground' version features silver underguard-style treatment to the front and rear bumpers and door garnishes, black door mirrors, lime green accents to the front grille and 17" silver or 19" black machine-cut alloy wheels. The interior combines suede upholstery with lime green stitching and air-conditioning louvres.
'Sport Black' trim boasts a sporting, gloss black finish to the front grille, signature wing, lower bumper sections, wheel arches, door garnishes and door mirrors, giving the body a taut, athletic look. 19" alloy wheels are finished in black metallic paint, and the front grille incorporates red accents. Red stitching trims the black leather seats, steering wheel, gear shift lever and door panels. Top 'GT Sport'-spec offers bright silver 19" alloy wheels, Nappa leather upholstery and woodgrain cabin trim.
Across the range, the CX-5 gets even more active safety equipment as standard thanks to the addition of 'Cruising & Traffic Support', which helps reduce driver fatigue by assisting with accelerator, brake pedal and steering operations when stuck in traffic jams. All models get Mazda's 'Advanced Smart City Brake Support' system, which incorporates night-time pedestrian detection. This Advanced SCBS set-up uses a forward-sensing camera to detect vehicles and pedestrians ahead and help avoid collisions or mitigate damage in the event one does occur. There's also Mazda Radar Cruise Control, Advanced Blind Spot Monitoring with Rear Cross Traffic alert, High Beam Control and Lane Keep Assist with Lane Departure Warning standard across the range. In addition, the optional safety pack on 'Sport' models features a 360-degree view camera and Adaptive LED Headlamps.
Cost of Ownership
The CX-5's unexpectedly imperious progress continues when it comes to cost of ownership and this is where the SKYACTIV technology really pays off. Let's get to the WLTP figures. The 2.2-litre 150PS diesel variant many will choose returns up to 50.4mpg on the combined cycle in manual form (or 46.3mpg as an auto) and up to 147g/km (160g/km). For the 2.2 184PS 2WD diesel, the figures are the same. For the 2.2 184PS AWD diesel, it's 44.8mpg for the manual (42.8mpg auto) and 165g/km (173g/km). The 2.0-litre petrol model now manages up to 42.2mpg and 152g/km (34% BiK tax group) - or up 38.7mpg and up to 164g/km in auto form (36%). The 2.5-litre 194PS SKYATIV-G petrol delivers up to 35.3mpg and up to 182g/km of CO2 (37% BiK tax group).
Clever use of low compression ratios for the SKYACTIV-G petrol and SKYACTIV-D diesel engines means that ignition takes longer, ensuring a better mixture of air and fuel. This approach also enables the engines to run with less mechanical stress, which allows the use of lighter weight materials, in turn meaning that the finished vehicle will need less energy to move through the air. And no energy at all of course when it comes to a temporary stop, say at the lights or in traffic. At that point in this Mazda's case, an 'i-stop' engine stop/start system (the fastest-reacting set-up of its kind on the market) will cut in, reducing fuel consumption by up to 10% all on its own.
As for peace of mind, well given the reliability of Mazda products, you'd have thought the company might have wanted to improve upon its usual three year/60,000 mile package and take on the Korean brands. Not so. That familiar standard warranty remains in place for this car.
The CX-5 isn't one of those cars that jumps out at you on first acquaintance. But as with many Mazdas, its modesty hides a product packed with innovation. The result is excellent packaging, strong economy and emissions and driving dynamics that are amongst the best in this sector. Add in a high specification and competitive pricing and you've a compelling proposition, especially with the minor refinements made to this updated model.
In summary, what we've got here is yet another example of Mazda going its own way, doing things differently. Which means? Well something quite simple really. If you're looking for a car of this kind, make sure you also try this one.