Mazda CX-5 2017 first drive review

Talking points

• Attractive appearance
• Smoother and more enjoyable to drive
• Substantial reduction in cabin noise

When a model has been as successful as the first Mazda CX-5 – Australia’s top-selling SUV for the past four years – there’s a lot of expectation on the next version, as well as the potential to get it horribly wrong.

To this end Mazda has taken a conservative approach, with a host of subtle styling and refinement changes that build on CX-5’s well-proven formula. While the changes may not appear dramatic, this second-generation model, which Mazda calls the Next-Gen CX-5, is a lot more than a facelift.  

It is marginally longer and a little lower than the previous model, with the windscreen pillars moved back 35 millimetres and cleaner body lines to give CX-5 a smoother, more athletic appearance. The front incorporates slim LED headlights, emphasising the latest Mazda family look.

Improved safety

Safety has been improved across the range, including greater use of ultra-high-tensile steel and increased torsional rigidity, while higher grades get some standard safety features that are often extra-cost options on more expensive luxury brands. Even lower-spec versions are relatively well kitted out, including comfort features. While this line-up has not yet been tested by ANCAP, Mazda is confident it will get a five-star rating, just as the previous series had.  

The Next-Gen CX-5 comes in five grades, including a new Touring spec which slots in between the Maxx Sport and the GT. It starts at $28,690 (plus on-road costs) for the front-wheel-drive Maxx, with a 2.0-litre petrol engine and six-speed manual gearbox. Topping the range is the $49,990 Akera 2.2-litre all-wheel-drive diesel with a six-speed automatic. We drove the Touring auto all-wheel-drive version with the range’s third engine choice (2.5-litre petrol) and also spent time in the Akera diesel.

Stepping into the CX-5, you notice the premium quality and attention to detail of the fit and finish. With the greater use of soft-touch materials, it has the look and feel you expect in a luxury brand. A seven-inch centrally mounted touch-screen produces a clear image with reduced reflections to display Mazda’s MZD Connect, which we have found to be one of the easiest infotainment systems to use, but it does not support Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Improved seat shaping and structure provide better comfort and support for all occupants, while up the back Mazda has found a little more luggage space but it is still not class-leading. From Maxx Sport up, air vents are now provided for back-seat passengers.

Added polish

A number of small changes have added a lot of polish to the driving experience. Maximum power of the 2.5-litre petrol engine is up by a mere 2kW and 1Nm, and its official fuel consumption has actually increased by 0.1L/100km, but Mazda claims its focus was on real-world driving where they are predicting a four per cent improvement. Confirmation of that, however, will have to wait until we conduct a full road test on CX-5.  

The adoption of G-Vectoring control plus refinements to the steering and suspension give a sense of being securely connected to the road. A lot more obvious, though, and one of the most impressive things about this new model, is the substantial reduction in NVH (noise, vibration and harshness). There is still a hint of tyre noise, and in our Akera an occasional slight engine rattle under light load was a subtle reminder we were driving a diesel.  

MAZDA CX-5
Price range:
$28,690–$49,990 (plus on-road costs). Premium paint $300.
Drivetrains:
1998cc petrol engine; 114kW@6000rpm, 200Nm@4000rpm. 6.9L/100km (91 RON petrol). Six-speed manual or six-speed automatic.
2488cc petrol engine; 140kW@6000rpm, 241Nm@4000rpm. 7.5L/100km (91 RON petrol). Six-speed automatic.
2191cc diesel engine; 129kW@4500rpm, 420Nm@2000rpm. 6.0L/100km. Six-speed automatic.
Spare wheel:
Space-saver.
Standard safety:
Six airbags. Autonomous emergency braking. Rear-view camera. Reversing sensors. Hill-start assist. Blind-spot monitoring. Rear cross-traffic alert.
Standard features:
Seven-inch touch-screen. Satellite navigation (option in entry-level Maxx). LED headlights and tail lights. Digital/internet radio. Keyless start. Electric folding mirrors. Fully adjustable steering column. Reclining rear seats.
Warranty:
Three years/unlimited kilometres.

Written by Greg Hill
June 29, 2017