Second-album syndrome is the music-equivalent muse for the 2017 Mazda CX-5.
Just like a band that smashes its first-ever album out of the park, the original CX-5 came from nowhere in 2012 to become the best-selling SUV in the country for four years straight. Now the follow-up act arrives, mostly singing to the same hymn sheet.
Three engines – a 2.0- and 2.5-litre petrol, and 2.2-litre turbo-diesel – remain, in familiar Maxx, Maxx Sport, GT and Akera grades, plus a new Touring in between.
The Maxx Sport with the larger petrol engine is tested here, which is claimed to be the most popular model grade, with the most popular drivetrain, for the first year the new CX-5 is on-sale. Can it again become Australia’s next top medium SUV model?
Vehicle Style: Medium SUV
Price: $37,390 (plus on-road costs)
Engine/trans: 140kW/251Nm 2.0 four-cylinder petrol | six-speed automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 7.5 L/100km | Tested: 10.7 L/100km
At $37,190 plus on-road costs, there is a reason the 2.5-litre CX-5 Maxx Sport might be the most popular Mazda medium SUV. It really does squeeze nicely in between the base-auto $30,640 (plus orc) 2.0-litre Maxx and $44,390 (plus orc) 2.5-litre GT.
There is, however, now hardly a stretch to the new $38,990 (plus orc) 2.5-litre Touring, though it only adds electric-fold door mirrors, head-up display, fake leather/suede trim, front parking sensors and keyless auto-entry to the below list.
Either way, Maxx Sport is all-wheel-drive-only with the larger petrol engine. A buyer can also save $3000 and, for $34,190 (plus orc), choose the 114kW/200Nm 2.0-litre front-driver. But we wouldn’t – a milk-bottle-sized engine is too tiny for any SUV.
Going the other way is more tempting. For $3000 more a buyer can trade this 140kW/251Nm 2.5-litre petrol and, for $40,390 (plus orc), receive a gutsier yet more fuel efficient 129kW/420Nm 2.2-litre turbo-diesel in the Maxx Sport. History indicates this engine is fantastic; though we’ll stick with the cheaper $37K inbetweener here.
- Standard Equipment: Cruise control, keyless entry with push-button start, leather-wrapped steering wheel and gearshifter, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, dual-zone climate control air-conditioning, power windows and mirrors, and automatic headlights and wipers.
- Infotainment: 7.0-inch colour touchscreen with rotary controller, digital radio, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, USB inputs, Aha/Stitcher internet radio connectivity, satellite navigation, voice control and six speakers.
- Options Fitted: None.
- Cargo Volume: 442 litres.
This second-generation CX-5 is only 10mm longer than the original, while width is identical and overall height is reduced by 30mm. Best not look to the figures, then, to explain why this Mazda SUV feels bigger than before.
Cloth-trimmed front seats feel wider and cushier than before, while the depth of the soft-touch door and dashboard plastics appear more premium than previously. Even the rear door trims get soft-touch material, while all storage bins and cavities are now larger. The back seat is more generously padded, and it scores air-vents for the first time plus an armrest with USB ports (both only for Maxx Sport and above, though).
This is no revolutionary transformation of the CX-5, however many small and cleverly thought-out changes add up to a much greater whole. Note, too, that not only is the boot now larger (moving from volume of 403 litres to a class-average 442L), but the sides of the space are now lined in carpet, where previously they were plastic.
The brilliant 40:20:40 one-touch fold-down rear backrest also remains, while it now picks up a two-stage reclining function – although a sliding bench doesn’t feature, like it does in arch-rival the Volkswagen Tiguan – and legroom is excellent overall.
There is now a distinctly semi-premium vibe to even this middle-tier Maxx Sport trim, and it only extends further by moving to the GT with proper leather that extends to the sides of the console, and a head-up display that projects speed onto the windscreen rather than a flip-up plastic piece (as per the faux-leather-clad Touring).
Especially for the pricetag, there isn’t much that the Maxx Sport misses out on. With leather for the steering wheel, knurled-silver dual-zone climate controls, auto on/off headlights and wipers, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, plus a high-resolution display with easy-to-use satellite navigation and digital radio (although the signal is poorer than rivals), it’s fairly fully featured.
There’s impressive standard safety kit, too, with autonomous emergency braking (AEB) up to 80km/h in drive and 8km/h in reverse, a rear cross-traffic alert, and a blind-spot monitor (although its calibration needs work: it detects vehicles two lanes over, and the light on each mirror lingers on well after a driver has passed a vehicle).
The only features a family are likely to miss are keyless auto-entry and an electric tailgate. For reference, though, an equivalent all-wheel drive Tiguan 132TSI Comfortline misses these items, and it costs $41,490 plus on-road costs.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 140kW/251Nm 2.0 four-cylinder petrol
- Transmission: Six-speed automatic, AWD
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front and independent rear
- Brake: Ventilated front and solid rear disc brakes
- Steering: Electrically assisted mechanical steering
The original CX-5 deemed its SUV categorisation as a guide only. It was quite firm in its suspension, and dynamically it felt like an inflated hatchback; agile and spirited. It only takes moments with this new CX-5 to realise that its newfound semi-premium interior ambience also translates to a calmer, more polished experience on the road.
Wearing sensible 65-aspect 17-inch tyres, this is the first SUV we’ve tested that can ride over urban lumps and bumps at low speeds with cushiness and control to rival the Australian-made Ford Territory that ended production last year. The larger CX-9 comes close; but the CX-5 nails it.
At middling speeds this Mazda does feel a fair bit firmer than at low speeds, though, but it remains comfortable while being quieter than before. It still isn’t ultra-hushed, but is now decently quiet and certainly class competitive.
Unlike some rivals, such as the Tiguan, the CX-5’s four-cylinder petrol engine eschews turbocharging for larger cubic capacity. The 2.5-litre delivers 251Nm of torque at 4000rpm, whereas Volkswagen’s 2.0-litre turbo makes 320Nm at 1500rpm.
The Maxx Sport is no lightweight either, tipping the scales at 1633kg, and so even the 140kW of power at a screaming 6000rpm (Tiguan: 132kW at 3900rpm) looks to have plenty of work cut out for itself.
Superb tuning of the throttle and six-speed automatic transmission, however, means this Mazda never struggles. Instead it feels perky off the line, while the auto is absolutely flawless in picking the right gear instinctively, intuitively and instantly. The only issue is fuel consumption, which exceeded its claim by 50 per cent on test.
That said, the CX-5 remains the only medium SUV to embrace spirited driving. Despite its newfound maturity, this Mazda offers superb handling that is perfect for, say, a newly domesticated parent who perhaps once owned a hot hatchback.
Whether around town or on the open road, the steering is sharp, direct and consistently mid-weighted. There’s a new Sport mode for the auto, which delivers aggressive and beautifully timed downshifts when braking, plus new torque vectoring control that uses electronics to help manage weight transfer in this tall medium SUV.
It all works brilliantly: the Maxx Sport is fun yet stable, engaging yet with a superb electronic stability control (ESC). The chassis is so good that the Yokohama Geolander tyres are a weak link. They’re not bad, but are best suited to a RAV4.
The best part of the Mazda CX-5 is that it delivers all this driving fun while soothing occupants’ backs, bums and ears to a greater degree than before.
ANCAP has not tested the Mazda CX-5.
Safety Features: Six airbags, ABS and ESC, autonomous emergency braking (AEB) up to 80km/h with pedestrian detection up to 60km/h and in reverse to 8km/h, blind-spot monitor, rear parking sensors with cross-traffic alert, and reverse-view camera.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/unlimited kilometres.
Servicing: Mazda’s service program includes annual or 10,000km intervals at a cost of $305 for the first service, then $397 (second), $305 (third), $466 (fourth), $305 (fifth), $459 (sixth), $305 (seventh), $466 (eighth), $305 (ninth) and $397 (10th) up to 100,000km, which is higher than average.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
The Escape is old and dated, but adept. Conversely the CR-V is new and well-equipped, and it offers the option of seven seats. The RAV4 is a popular pick, but is past it, while the Tiguan, Tucson and Sportage best give the CX-5 a run for its money – though the Volkswagen is $4000 pricier, and the Hyundai/Kia lack ultimate finesse.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
A very high score is all too easy to give to the CX-5 Maxx Sport. It will be music to Mazda’s ears, but this follow-up album really is even more brilliant than the original.
With the exception of high-ish servicing costs, imperfect blind-spot monitor and digital radio calibration, and questionable fuel economy, this $37K all-wheel drive petrol delivers a semi-premium cabin and driveability for relative nix.
Only a back-to-back drive could now reveal whether spending the extra $3000 to the diesel would be worth it, though; but at least the 2.2-litre would improve economy.
Either way, for its mix of comfort and control, space yet agility, and price and kit, this latest Mazda CX-5 Maxx Sport has made one of the best SUVs even better.
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