For Mazda, mid-cycle updates do not come any bigger than this. The CX-5 SUV accounts for roughly 25% of all its new car UK sales, so the thinking goes that a raft of specification tweaks and visual changes should help it stand out in a market brimming with talented competition. Absolutely no pressure, then.
WHAT’S DIFFERENT WITH THE CX-5?
As mentioned in the introduction to this road test, quite a lot rests on this facelifted CX-5. Given how well the original second-generation car has aged over the last nine years, and how well it has gone down with punters, Mazda has been careful in the changes it has applied. With that in mind the tweaks are not obvious at first glance, although they do add another layer of sophistication to what was an already handsome SUV. The headlamps and tail-lights feature sleek C-shaped LEDs, the grille has a three-dimensional pattern, and both the front and rear bumpers have been reprofiled. Other revisions include a funky new colour called ‘Zircon Sand Metallic’ and fresh alloy wheel designs. Buyers won’t be stuck for choice because, once engines, transmissions and trim level are factored in, the new CX-5 line-up consists of a whopping 20 different models to help ensure that all bases are covered.
NEW LOOK, NEW GRADE
That 20-strong model count has been arrived at by introducing a fifth derivative to the CX-5 range. Called ‘Newground’, along with ‘Sport Black’ and ‘GT Sport’, it’s billed as a “stand-out” grades meaning they come with unique styling cues, so that’s something to get excited about. In the case of our test car, 19-inch black diamond cut wheels, gloss black mirror caps, a luminous green front grille accent and silver flashes for the bumpers and skirts all feature. If you want the ‘Zircon Sand’ paint, though, that will set you back another £580 and yes, its appeal does grow with time. Mazda points out that this particular shade “expresses the sparkle of zircon sand – a mineral which is also used in foundry castings”. On a sunny Spring day it makes quite an impression and is a refreshing change from grey, black and silver.
MORE OF THE SAME INSIDE
Inside, the biggest change is the adoption of a rather neat 10.25-inch multimedia system. It’s a sexy looking-thing, with a smartphone slime bezel and easy-to-read graphics, although compared to what rivals now offer, they aren’t the flashiest. Commands continue to be carried out via the lower console-mounted rotary dial and there are buttons and switches for the commonly used cabin functions. In a very short space of time, you feel right at home in the CX-5. Lower-spec car make do with a part-analogue part-digital drive binnacle, the 4.6-inch TFT screen reserved for the right-hand dial. It’s still large enough to pick up safety guidance information and live efficiency data with a cursory glance. Smartly finished and constructed from high-grade materials everywhere you look – and more importantly, touch – the cabin is airy and modern while visibility from behind the wheel is pretty good.
A SUV THE WHOLE FAMILY WILL LOVE
It won’t come as a shock to discover the CX-5 excels in its mission to be a comfortable and spacious SUV. Apart from knee and leg room being neater for those occupying the middle second-row seat, there is plenty of shoulder and head room in the front and back on top of adequate door bins, deep cubbies and map pockets to keep items out of the way. Access to the cabin is excellent and you needn’t worry about getting your trousers dirty as Mazda has designed the doors to cover the sills when shut. Boot space is also agreeable: with the 40/20/40 split-folding rear seats in place the CX-5 has 522-litres of space as well as a ‘hidden’ storage area where you would expect to find the spare wheel. Dropping the rear seats by using the handles in the boot increases total capacity to 1,620-litres. One gripe is the lack of a powered tailgate on ‘Newground’ models; even workout freaks will find the tail-gate weighty.
SIZE ISN’T EVERYTHING
Our car’s non-turbo petrol sounds good in theory: it’s a 2-litre, four-cylinder unit that channels its 163bhp to the front axle. But in practice, the naturally aspirated ‘Skyactiv-G’ motor is a little gutless, particularly at low revs which means if you need to get a spurt on you could be waiting a while as 62mph comes up in 10.5 seconds. Refinement is excellent even when you hustle the engine and the same applies once you are at cruising speeds. This is the sole engine for ‘Newground’ examples, although there is the option of an automatic. If you do opt for this grade, we would save the money and stick with the 6-speed manual; the shift action is slick and precise and the clutch is super light. New dampers, slightly softer springs and redesigned seats boost comfort levels but what it gives in this department it takes away as a daily driver. Steering feel and body control are on par with what we have come to expect from a Mazda product but crumbly Tarmac often reveals a vulnerable side to the CX-5’s suspension.
PROS AND CONS
+ Updates strengthen CX-5’s appeal
+ Smart and spacious cabin
+ Joyous drive for an SUV
– Ride can turn sketchy
– Petrol is asthmatic
– 7-seats not an option
NEWGROUND SPECIFICATION: These versions of the CX-5 feature unique details inside and out. The green flash present on the front grille is carried across to the stitching and piping on the reshaped front seats as well as the cabin’s air vent surrounds. Unquestionably, it lifts the ambience inside the SUV but given the shade in question, it is either going to be a love-it or hate-it design feature for some.
INTERIOR: Half-leather half-suede seats, dual zone climate control, a 10.25-inch multimedia display incorporating Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, and an auto dimming rear view mirror are some of the creature comforts that come as standard ‘Newground’ cars. The only thing missing that we would have liked given the size of the CX-5 is a reversing camera, although there are parking sensors.
STYLING: Mazda’s designers have struck the right balance between breathing new life into the CX-5 while keeping the overall look unmistakably familiar. Appearance varies by grade and in ‘Newground’ spec 19-inch alloys, black mirror caps, rear privacy glass, silver-coloured front and rear under guards and side skirts make an appearance. Automatic LED headlights are adaptive and brilliantly effective.
PRACTICALITY: Boot size is big but varies according to engine; petrol cars boast 522-/1638-litres and diesels, due to the addition of the AdBlue tank for emission purposes, 510-/1626-litres. Untouched is the ability of rear seat passengers to recline their seats. Other highlights include a glovebox that can accommodate a 10-inch tablet, and door lined pockets to stop items sliding around when on the move.
Price: £30,825 (as tested)
Engine: 2-litre, 4cyl petrol
Power/torque: 163bhp/157lb ft
Transmission: 6-speed manual, front-wheel drive
0-62mph: 10.5 seconds
Top speed: 125mph