First Drive: Mazda CX-5
Key features: SkyActiv technology covering all aspects of car
Our view: Mazda’s first serious entry into the burgeoning crossover market is making plenty of headlines, mainly because it marks the debut of the SkyActiv technology programme that is about to redefine the brand’s entire output.
Here on CarandVanNews we have featured SkyActiv in depth (you can read about it here), but the question remains, is the CX-5 actually any good? On the evidence of our first drive in the wilds of Scotland, yes it is…
Mazda’s challenger in the market that the likes of Nissan are particularly exploiting comes in 18 different models across two engines (a petrol and a diesel) and three power levels (petrol 162bhp, diesel 148 or 172). You can have the petrol and smaller diesel in front-wheel drive, but both oil burners also offer all-wheel-drive and auto gearbox options.
As detailed in our linked feature, the SkyActiv technology extends across all mechanical aspects of the car, and the most important aspect of it as far as the buyer is concerned is the effect on fuel economy and emissions.
Pace for less pounds
To give one example – the smaller 2.2 diesel in front-wheel-drive form has a bigger engine than three major rivals all of two litres – VW’s Tiguan, the Ford Kuga and Audi Q3. Yet it does seven more miles to the gallon than the Audi, eight and 13-plus over respectively the VW and Ford. And it destroys all three on emissions – 119g/km compared to 138 (Audi), 139 (VW) and 154 (Ford).
All of which means the Mazda will be cheaper to run – no road tax in the first year, and if you are a company car buyer anything from £12 to £55 a month less in benefit-in-kind tax. Oh and it’s cheaper to buy too, with more equipment…
All of which would matter not a jot if the car itself was a bit of a lemon. But there are no worries there. For a start, it looks the part. Almost lost in the SkyActiv hype is the fact that the CX-5 also debuts Mazda’s new design language, dubbed ‘Kodo – Soul in Motion’. The result is a low, purposeful stance with tight shut lines and neat styling touches.
Step inside and one finds plenty of room, front and back. Boot space is a useful 503 litres, jumping to 1,620 with the rear seats folded flat. And it is also an environment of quality, with quality soft-touch trim and well thought-out use of chrome for the detailing.
The driving position is excellent, with a good all-round view and lots of adjustability in seat and steering wheel. Once settled one faces a dash that is as notable for its quality as its sensible layout – Mazda has made significant progress here.
Out on the road the Mazda can be summed up simply – you soon forget you are driving an SUV. The diesel engine with its lowest-ever compression ratio ticks all the economy and emissions boxes, yet it also offers potent power with enthusiastic response to the right-hand pedal. This is helped by the fact that the body, complete with a large proportion of high-tensile steel, is both stiffer and lighter than predecessors.
Gear changes are slick –- we are told that the manual gearbox has been aimed at more closely replicating the MX-5 sports car’s unit, with a shorter, more direct throw.
The chassis has had the SkyActiv treatment too, and the result sees a comfortable ride, smothering all but the worst of bumps, and confident cornering with well-weighted steering.
While undercutting several rivals the CX-5 is not the cheapest crossover out there. But apart from the eco considerations equipment levels are generous, with all cars including such niceties as dual-zone climate control, Bluetooth, cruise control, and Mazda’s Smart City Brake Support system. This automatically applies the brakes at speeds under 20mph if an obstruction appears and the driver doesn’t react in time.
In short, the compact crossover market may already be crowded but it just got a major new player. This is probably Mazda’s most significant car for some time and assuming the SkyActiv treatment is as effective when applied to other models, the brand’s future is looking brighter than for some time.
Officially Mazda UK is predicting sales figures by the end of 2012 of at least 4,000 CX-5s. Privately the brand’s UK boss Jeremy Thompson is highly hopeful of going to his Japanese superiors and asking; “can I have some more?” We think his hopes are well justified…
Model Tested: Mazda 2.2 AWD SkyActiv-D Sport
On Sale: Now
Price: £27,195 (range starts from £21,395
Power (bhp): 172 (also 162 petrol, 148 diesel)
Torque (lb/ft): 420 (210, 380)
0-62mph (sec): 8.8 ( 9.2, 9.2-10)
Top speed (mph): 129 (124, 122-126)
Fuel economy (combined, mpg): 54.3 (47.1, 53.3-61.4)
CO2 emissions (g/km): 136 (139, 119-136)
Key rivals: VW Tiguan, Ford Kuga, Audi Q3
Test date: May 2012
Words by: Andrew Charman