Mazda has some big ideas to keep Australia's most popular family SUV at the top of the list of best-sellers when the second-generation CX-5 goes on sale across Australia in the first half of 2017.
But this doesn't include getting audacious with the looks and the rest of the successful formula that propelled the mid-sized five-seater to the top of the sales charts for three consecutive years.
The new 2017 CX-5 was revealed to the world at last month's Los Angeles motor show, the key changes being to refinement, a fresher (evolutionary) exterior, modern look to the cabin, bigger boot and 15 per cent stiffer body.
Mazda's local marketing boss, Alastair Doak, is cautiously keeping his powder dry until much closer to the launch date. Full specifications and pricing will have to wait.
But he did indicate the new-gen CX-5 will get much of the technology that we've seen in the latest CX-9 large SUV, including better road noise suppression (a reaction to one area of criticism of the current model).
The original CX-5 launched in 2012 was Mazda's first all new SKYACTIV model (the all-encompassing term used for all of Mazda's technologies – engines, transmissions, chassis, safety and more). It was also the first to speak then new big-nosed 'Kodo' design language.
It quickly became Australia's most popular SUV so it's no surprise that Mazda has taken the evolutionary approach with its successor.
Market research confirmed that current owners stressed they loved most things about the CX-5. Don't mess with it, was the strong message.
The current powertrain line-up comprising 2.0 and 2.5 petrol, and 2.2 turbo diesel engines will continue and Doak did hint that Mazda's ongoing emphasis on fuel efficiency (already as low as 5.4L/100km) will be reflected in the new CX-5.
Mazda hasn't yet revealed any power, torque or fuel economy figures for the new-gen range.
The safety pack recently added to the outgoing CX-5 will obviously carry over too, giving buyers smart city braking support, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert.
Doak also revealed – and don't bother with a drum roll, thanks – that the new model will get air vents for the second-row seat passengers.
And a power tail-gate on some variants.
Obvious exterior updates include new-look headlights while driver visibility has been improved by moving back the front windscreen pillars and the glass line of the car has been lowered. The door-mounted external mirrors are now smaller too.
While the cabin is about modernity, the actual space is unchanged mainly because the platform is carried over from the existing model. The front seats have been reshaped to make them more comfortable and supportive, while the rear seats now have handy two-way adjustable recline.
The cabin also ushers in some welcome styling and practical improvements including relocating the infotainment screen to the top of the dashboard and putting the gear selector within easier reach.
But to sharpen the dynamics, Mazda has widened the track (the side-to-side measurement between the wheels) and slightly lowered the centre of gravity. Another fresh feature is the G-Vectoring Control, which can add torque to the front wheels when turning, thus improve handling. Also helping safety and dynamics too is attention to firming up torsional rigidity due to the wider use of more higher-tensile steel.
Mazda Australia is also increasing the number of grade variants from four to five, slotting in a new model between the existing Maxx Sport and GT. Called the Touring, it will be aimed specifically at those owners who are keen to buy another CX-5 but can't quite stretch to the GT. "We want people to come back to the CX-5," Doak says. The Touring, likely to be priced in the low $40s, gives less of a reason to abscond to a rival make.
Mazda's greater shove behind SUVs is a reaction to Australian buyer interest cranking up in the versatile, higher-riding vehicles. The strength of the Mazda CX range has lifted SUV sales to almost parity with passenger cars in November, when Mazda sold 4280 SUVs and 4351 passenger cars for a rounded 50/50 sales split. Year- to-date, passenger cars hold sway 46/54, but the time is rapidly approaching, says Doak, when SUVs will be the dominant sales force.
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