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Mazda CX-5 2012 Road Test

The new Mazda CX-5 SUV is the first Mazda to reach the UK employing Mazda’s latest Skyactiv technology.

The idea of this is to get emissions as low as possible and economy as good as possible using conventional internal combustion engines alone.

So no hybrids, no plug-ins, no electric motors. Just good old engines developed to be more efficient.

The explanation is all in the Skyactiv news item.

Headline news is 119g/km CO2, which is very impressive for this sort of vehicle. However, like the Range Rover Evoque and the Nissan Qashqai, it only gets down to its lowest CO2 in front wheel drive manual form. Add and autobox or four wheel drive or both and emissions inevitably creep up.

All are well equipped. For the UK, even the ’base’ model SE-L comes on 17” alloy wheels with 225/65 R17 tyres and has cruise control, dusk sensing lights, rain sensing wipers, dual zone climate control, electric windows all round, integrated Bluetooth, ‘Karakuri’ one-touch folding rear seats, electric folding rear mirrors. While, for the launch period, all CX-7s come with ‘free’ Integrated TomTom satnav, with the TomTom live subscription pre-paid for the first three months.

An additional feature fitted to all UK bound Mazda CX-5s is ‘Smart City Braking System’ (SCBS). This is a bit like the system I risked my life demonstrating in the Ford Focus video. At low speeds from 2.5 to 19mph, laser sensors pick up any obstructions in the car’s path and if the driver doesn’t react, the system does. It also works if the speed difference between the CX-5 and the vehicle in front is less than 19mph, helping to prevent concertina type crashes in motorway contraflows where, after 10 – 15 miles, many drivers fall half asleep.

I drove a 2WD 150PS diesel automatic (as featured in the video), a 2WD 175PS diesel manual ‘Sport’, a 4WD 175PS diesel manual ‘Sport’, and a base model 2WD 165PS petrol manual SE-L.

It was wet the day I drove the 2WD 150PS diesel auto, as you can see, and that exposed its weakness. A lack of traction on rain-soaked roads. Not what you expect from a diesel automatic SUV. But a very comfortable ride on its 225/65 R17 tyres.

Next up, in dry conditions the next day, and on a much longer route, the 2WD 175PS diesel manual Sport on 225/55 R19 tyres.

It fell about on its tyres less than the 150 did on taller rubber, yet still did not inspire me with the confidence that my long-tern Mazda 5 1.6 diesel did.

Even though the CX-5 is comparatively light for an SUV, its engine and gearbox aren’t, and I could actually feel the weight transfer when cornering.

The 4WD with the same engine and gearbox obviously gave much greater security on corners (a bit Audi quattro-like), but at the expense of yet more weight and mechanical noise, and the car I drove also displayed a bit of driveline shunt at steady speeds. That wasn’t me labouring the engine because it did it in 6th, 5th or 4th at the same road speed. In 6th, the diesels were offering around 35mph per 1,000rpm.

Lastly, on to the cheapest CX-5, the 2WD 2.0 litre 165PS petrol SE-L on 225/65 R17 tyres. And, for me, this was the pick of the bunch.

With 100kg less engine and gearbox at the front (200kg less than the 4WD diesels), it was much more responsive to the steering wheel, much more predictable, much more confidence inspiring and simply nicer to drive.

I actually liked this car and could happily motor 1,000 miles a day in it, cruising at around 30mph per 1,000rpm in 6th. All lacked was the TomTom satnav, which is available for an extra £400 on top of the price of £21,395.

But for the launch, all CX-5s have a free upgrade to Nav, so that’s £400 saved before you even start.

250 More Miles

A second drive of 250 miles of Scottish Highland roads and tracks was obviously a lot more revealing than the smooth surfaces around Vienna.

The 2WD 2.0 litre 165PS petrol still felt a nice car at the lower end of the CX-5 price range. The engine revs very sweetly and at 38.4mpg was showing almost as good economy as the diesels.

But with more torque at low revs and the security of four wheel drive the 4WD 175PS diesel manual is a more accompliashed all-rounder, offering a tidy drive, no worrying moments and around 40mpg driven briskly.

And the 4WD 175PS 6-speed automatic does exactly what Mazda said it would do. It gives a surprisingly sporty drive left entirely on its own (no paddles behind the steering wheel). It's quick, smooth and it stays in the right gear round corners. 

But with safety pack and metallic paint it comes to over £30,000 and that's getting a bit too close to BMW X3 territory.

At the lower end, the CX-5 is up against the Nissan Qashqai 1.6DCI 130. At the upper end it's picking a fight with the X3, Audi Q5 and top-spec Honda CR-Vs.

The quality is there. It just remains to be seen whether the public will rate a CX-5 along with an X3 and Q5 rather than think of it as another Qashqai.

But if it can do for Mazda what the Qashqai did for Nissan, then Mazda will be back in a big way.

More at Mazda

FOOTNOTE

7-4-2013: Mazda CX-5 2.2D 150 Sport 2WD on 19” alloy wheels with 225/55 R19 tyres proved to be seriously good fun on a week long loan during a recall of my Mazda 6. Also returned a creditable 46.7mpg (on the meter). 

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