What’s hot: Quieter, more comfortable, just as dynamic and appealing.
What’s not: Manual trans only for base-spec cars, 2.0 litre has to work pretty hard.
X-FACTOR: The updated CX-5 makes a terrific car a better one. Absolutely the ideal family car: a sporty feel, plenty of room and a delight to drive.
When the Mazda CX-5 arrived, it was a ‘Yes’ moment for Australian car buyers.
Yes, priced right, sized right, and styled right; it landed, captured hearts, and then took off.
Few cars of the modern age have ‘hit the spot’ with buyers quite like the CX-5. It is now the top selling SUV in the country, across all segments, bar none.
So you don’t mess with success like that. And Mazda hasn’t: the updated CX-5 is the 'old' one, only better.
It’s much quieter on road, and the ride - always among the best - is now more settled and comfortable, and easily able to calm the patchiest of road surfaces.
The engines, SkyActiv 2.0 litre petrol, 2.5 litre, and 2.2 litre diesel, are as before; the changes, though subtle, improve the driving dynamics where it matters most.
And the feature list has been widened: all models get more, and get it for less. The CX-5 is now a little cheaper than before.
We are very impressed with this car.
Key interior features, standard across the range, include:
- ‘MZD Connect’ connectivity system
- 7-inch touchscreen with rotary controller
- Electric parking brake, fuel-saving i-stop technology
- Push-button engine start
- Audio system: AM/FM, CD, MP3
- Multi-function steering wheel
- Bluetooth connectivity, internet radio integration (Pandora, Stitcher and Aha)
- Reversing camera and tyre pressure monitoring
- ISOFIX child restraint anchor points
- And a host of additional features, including electric seat adjustment and heating, LED daytime running lamps and tail-lamps, and more, in Grand Touring and Akera models
There was never anything wrong with the CX-5’s interior, so there is nothing wrong with this new one.
Aside from the deletion of the handbrake (replaced with an electric toggle in the centre console), it all looks much the same.
Though strangely roomier. That impression is the result of a wider, longer centre console, a larger console ‘bin’ below the padded arm-rest, and a few more nooks for phones, keys and the like.
And all that is possible because the old-model’s handbrake lever has been deleted. Curious how such a small thing, like cleaning up the centre console, can alter an interior feel.
And this is a smart interior.
The touchpoints on the dash, the rotary controller and button controls have an upmarket quality feel. It’s enhanced, again by a very small thing, by the addition of a metal tip to each of the button controls.
There are other new metal garnishes; most noticeable is the brushed-alloy dual-toned strip running the width of the dash, and the chromed eyebrow above the centre touchscreen.
The dials too are slightly altered for improved readability, and the multi-function tilt-and-reach adjustable steering wheel feels alert (the CX-5 steers very well) and is nicely sporty in the hand.
The seats are easily adjusted - forward, aft, tilt, up and down - with a comfortable squab (that is slightly longer under the thighs) and enough scalloping of the backrest to hold this buffed bod in place when giving it a bit of a poke through the hills.
We’ve always found Mazda’s seats pretty good; erring on the softer side, which appeals to me. We have never found them wanting on a long highway stint at the wheel.
The rear offers good legroom (as these photos attest), despite the longer squab, though it still feels a little upright when you first slide in there.
The winner in this is a good-sized boot with 403 litres to the window-line, opening up to 1560 litres with the split-fold seats tipped flat.
On the models we drove, the 2.5 litre Grand Touring and Akera diesel, the screen over the boot lifts up when the rear hatch is raised (unlike some, where it remains in place).
This makes loading and unloading shopping easier and relieves the driver of endlessly fiddling with the cargo cover when using the boot.
Mazda Australia expects (correctly) the same 5-Star rating for the refreshed CX-5, as per the older model.
However, aside from the expected dynamic and passive safety aids like seatbelt warnings, front, side and curtain airbags, ABS and stability controls, the updated models gets some new smarts in this area.
Like Mazda’s new suite of ‘i-ACTIVSENSE’ safety technologies (yet another of those goofy corporate baby-talk words); like adaptive LED headlamps, lane-keep assist system, driver attention alert, city brake support, forward/reverse obstacle alerts and radar cruise control.
The ‘driver attention alert’ is especially smart. It monitors the driver for 20 minutes to establish the driver’s normal patterns and reactions, then provides a warning should the driver later show signs of tiredness or inattention (against the ‘learned’ parameters of first 20 minutes).
ON THE ROAD
Each of the engines in the updated CX-5 is well-known.
There's the smaller 114kW/200Nm 2.0 litre available only with the entry-level FWD Maxx, or the stronger 138kW/250Nm 2.5 litre with the AWD range. For diesel buyers, there's the very strong 129kW/420Nm 2.2 litre mill.
All offer the efficiency gains and weight-saving of Mazda’s SkyActiv normally aspirated technologies.
They perform exactly as their outputs suggest. The 2.0 litre needs to have some revs on board if it’s to hustle the CX-5’s 1567kg kerb weight along.
It’s not slow, but it doesn’t have the alertness of the 2.5 litre, which is quite a bit more powerful.
The diesel though is the pick. While no quicker off the line (maybe slower) than the 2.5 litre petrol, it’s when rolling that it really comes into its own.
It pulls very strongly out of a corner, or when overtaking, doesn’t half mind a bit of a rev and makes a nice gravelly sound when being pushed along.
This engine, in particular, gives the CX-5 a really sporty feel, and, if you regularly carry a bit of a load, is the one to choose.
That said, the petrol engines are certainly not embarrassed, and the 2.5 litre is nicely settled on-road, thanks to a reasonably useable, loping torque band.
The petrol engine models also feature a ‘drive selection’ switch to sharpen responsiveness; which is noticeable and certainly has it kicking-down more eagerly.
It is also pretty economical. We were pushing the Grand Touring along on our drive through the Yarra Valley and up into the foothills behind Kinglake.
We returned a respectable 8.4 l/100km for this ‘mostly uphill’ winding drive-leg... and on a tight very new engine.
Each we drove had the 6-spd sports auto transmission (the 6-spd manual is only available on the entry FWD Maxx model), with a plus/minus plane for manual shifts (push forward to change down, pull back for upshifts).
There are two big changes at the wheel for on-road feel. Each is a result of relatively minor tweaking, but the results are instantly noticeable.
This refreshed CX-5 is much more compliant on-road. Thanks to a softer calibration to the dampers front and rear, it rides more smoothly over ratty surfaces than the old model (which some found a little firm).
This is a really classy ride, and a country mile from the taut and inevitably twitchy suspension tunes that typify European cars (set-up for the glass-smooth heaven of Euro road surfaces).
Cars driven on Australian roads need a longer-travel suspension feel, and more initial compliance (‘give’) if they are not to jar on our mostly second-rate, secondary roads.
The refreshed CX-5 is very well sprung for managing these surfaces, while also managing to provide a settled, sporting feel when cornering.
There is a bit of body roll, but this is an upright family car (not a rally car), and families will appreciate the new suspension tune.
It’s also much quieter on road - perhaps the quietest of the current series of Mazda models. There was no intrusion on this drive of tyre roar or ‘drumming’ from the wheels.
Mazda has thrown a lot of extra sound-deadening around the wheel arches and into the cabin to address that old chestnut of ‘tyre roar’ (that keeps following it around).
The result is a very quiet, premium feel to the cabin of the CX-5.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Mazda hatched a landmark car with the midsized CX-5. In terms of ‘getting it right’, the instant sales success that the CX-5 became suggests that Mazda - back in February 2012 - absolutely nailed the market.
Australian families, younger buyers in the main, love this car. It is the top selling SUV in the land because it answers so many questions for so many buyers.
And this updated model, better looking certainly - the barred grille, revised LED lights and big 19-inch wheels on the up-spec models give it a much stronger presence than the older model - is a better car all round.
It’s better featured and improved where it matters.
And, thanks to Mazda passing on the tariff savings from the Free Trade Agreement, it is also slightly cheaper than the old model.
That’s a lot of boxes ticked by the updated CX-5. Only the vastly improved Kuga and the evergreen Forester come close to matching the ease at the wheel and settled on-road feel of this segment-defining and so cleverly complete car.
The more you ponder the CX-5, and the way it has captured its market, it is hard to think of anything it does wrong.
And then there’s the capped-price servicing offer.
In a nutshell, with this new model, the ‘segment best’ has just raised the bar again.
MORE: Mazda Australia’s 2015: CX-3, MX-5, Refreshed Mazda6, BT-50
MORE News & Reviews: Mazda | CX-5 | SUV
Pricing (excludes on-road costs)
2015 MAZDA CX-5
2.0 Litre Petrol Front-Wheel-Drive
- Maxx - six-speed manual - $27,190
- Maxx Safety - six-speed manual - $28,420
- Maxx - six-speed automatic - $29,190
- Maxx Safety - six-speed automatic - $30,420
- Maxx Sport - six-speed automatic - $32,790
- Maxx Sport Safety - six-speed automatic - $34,020
2.5 Litre Petrol All-Wheel-Drive Six-Speed Auto
- Maxx - $32,190
- Maxx Safety - $33,420
- Maxx Sport - $35,790
- Maxx Sport Safety - $37,020
- GT - $43,390
- GT Safety - $44,450
- Akera - $47,410
2.2 Litre Diesel All-Wheel-Drive Six-Speed Auto
- Maxx Sport - $38,990
- Maxx Sport Safety - $40,220
- GT - $46,590
- GT Safety - $47,650
- Akera - $50,610