Mazda CX-5 review - hands-on
The all-new Mazda CX-5 is Mazda’s first foray in to the burgeoning compact SUV market, but this isn’t just another ‘me-too’ saloon-on-stilts. Mazda has imbued the CX-5 with SkyActiv technology, which is Mazda’s term for its collection performance-enhancing and environmentally friendly features. The CX-5 is completely new and nothing has been carried over from previous models..
To sample the fruit of this new technology, we drove a 2WD 2.2-litre diesel variant through Skye and the highlands, and the blustery, torrential weather was perfect for experiencing the CX-5’s road-handling and safety features.
The all-new Mazda CX-5
Starting the car is easy, and involves nothing more than depressing the clutch and pushing the Start button. The first thing that struck us was the quietness of its diesel engine, and the relative serenity of Mazda’s new powerplant was to impress us throughout our time with it. The second thing was the immense cabin. With the driver’s seat in a realistic driving position, we were able to sit behind it and still stretch our legs out. The boot has a 503-litre capacity that can be fully utilized due to its straight sides and flat floor, but drop the rear seats and the capacity increases to a massive 1,620 litres.
The Mazda CX-5 has a spacious interior
We found the driving position comfortable, even after many hundreds of miles. The seats had more spring to them than we’re used to, but that suits a car such as this, and they were comfortable, with good lumbar and lateral support. Thankfully, Mazda has given the CX-5 a relatively small steering wheel, which increased comfort but didn’t obscure the instruments in front of us either.
Controlling the multimedia system is easy with the CX-5's steering wheel
Driving it was just as natural, and its diesel engine pulled away quickly and continued to provide positive amounts of power smoothly as we accelerated to 60mph. It feels like a large saloon car to drive, and this is helped in no small part by its heavy power steering. This is great when driving around town or parking because you can just throw it in to reverse and quickly manoeuvre the CX-5 in to a space, but we felt it could afford to be lighter when driving at speed.
The CX-5’s new 6-speed gearbox further increases its driving comfort. Mazda is proud of its MX-5 gearbox and wanted the CX-5 to have the same short-throw feel enjoyed by the MX-5. As a result, the CX-5 has a 45mm throw that feels more, but not exactly, like the MX-5’s. Mazda claims that its new thinking and modern approach to gearbox engineering has resulted in a "box with a reduced number of moving parts, a 3Kg weight reduction and a one per cent increase in fuel economy". One thing’s for sure, gear changes are smooth, precise and remind us of the last-gen Toyota Celica’s gear shift, which is a good thing.
The CX-5's 45mm throw gives gear changes a more sporty feel
Its great visibility and large wing mirrors mean that it feels smaller than it actually is. Its handling is superb for such a large car, and we had no problem or scary moments zooming our way across single-track highland roads in wet conditions. Mazda has strived to create a car that’s as lightweight as it can be within its economic constraints, and the use of high-tensile steel no doubt helps it feel lithe and nimble.
Unfortunately, its positive and confidence-inspiring handling means you’re likely to forget about its weight and step-on a bit, right up until something pulls out in front of you. Thankfully, the CX-5’s powerful and responsive brakes soon bring you to a halt. Indeed, each CX-5 is fitted with a superb feature called Smart City Brake Support (SCBS), which helps avoid low-speed collisions if you’re momentarily distracted. We put SCBS to the test by driving in to a large obstacle at 15mph. Our instincts told us to slam our foot on the brake pedal as we got closer to the object and nothing happened, but the CX-5 came to a controlled and abrupt stop before we’d even finished our first Hail Mary.