What is it?
Family car buyers, despite the appearance of Mazda’s smart CX-5, read on: it is a car that should be on your shortlist. It’s no Evoque, despite the new ‘Kodo’ design language, but it’s inoffensive enough and actually underplays the Mazda compact SUV. Beneath the surface, there’s a lot more interesting stuff going on.
Nothing here has been carried over from other Mazdas: the chassis is new, the engines are new, even the way it’s built is new. Is it enough to make Mazda a real player in this sector? Well, actually, yes. It is.
The CX-5 is a very mature model to drive. Only the Ford Kuga matches it in the mainstream sector: otherwise, it has the taut dynamics and impressive agility to match the German brands. It even steers nicely, yet also has an easy-going, relaxed feel.
The two engines are ‘Skyactiv’ units: one remarkably high-compression petrol, or a remarkably low-compression 2.2-litre diesel with two power outputs. 85 per cent sold in the UK will be diesel so it is a significant new engine and it is also a peach, proving incredibly smooth and quiet yet also willing to rev way beyond 5,000rpm. Of the two power outputs, the lower one is all you need: even this has a fine turn of speed and also returns excellent economy too. And the petrol? It’s nice enough, but can largely be ignored here.
On the inside
We wish Mazda had spent a bit more on the cabin materials, because they lack tactility in places and the design could be more interesting. Refinement and comfort more than make up for this, though. Mazda has gone as far as inventing a new type of noise insulation material, and it really works, giving a Germanic refinement at all speeds.
It’s very practical inside, with ample head and legroom all round plus a 503-litre boot that expands to 1,620 litres with the 40:20:40 split rear seats down. It may look Qashqai-sized on the outside, but it’s much bigger than that. Mazda’s even cured the problem of storing the parcel shelf, by designing a home for it under the floor.
Reflecting the fact these cars come from Japan, trim levels are simple: just SE-L and Sport, both with a very good level of standard kit (Sport has bigger wheels and thus a slightly stiffer ride). They’re keenly priced but the clincher is exceptional fuel economy. Avoid the auto and 4WD options, and the Skyactiv-D diesel can return a remarkable 61.4mpg, and emits just 119g/km CO2. A Ford Kuga can’t get above 50mpg or below 150g/km, illustrating just how impressive the Mazda is here, too.