Review: Mazda CX-5

Here's a thing. On the last two occasions I have driven a Mazda CX-5 I have lost a wing mirror. The first time, in 2012, was near Torridon in the northwest Highlands. The occasion was the press launch, based on the genteel hotel there, which Mazda had block-booked.

The Mazda CX-5 SE-L Nav
The Mazda CX-5 SE-L Nav

Whack, a speedy oncoming blue van took off the mirror. The other whack was last week on the debut drive for the new CX-5, this time near Inverness (baronial Meldrum House was our base).

Mazda likes launching new cars in Scotland and using its comfortable lodgings. The roads are demanding, with surfaces which test the car to its core. Traffic is “light” and it wasn’t too hard to put in a 250-mile drive between lunch and teatime. Betwixt was the oncoming foreign camper van, which completed my brace of bashed Mazda mirrors.

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There was consolation – the mirror housing was undamaged. Mitigation: I was touching the nearside kerb. Not wise enough though. “We folded our mirrors in. I know what it’s like up here”, said another driver, old enough to be my son.

I have driven hundreds of new cars in the intervening between-mirrors years. Some of them have been Mazdas. Its Mazda3 hatch is a cracker, but apart from the MX-5 two seater, it’s a brand which is not well-known.

When you “think” of soft SUVs your mind clicks on the Nissan Qashqai, the Honda CRV, maybe the Ford Kuga, probably a Volkswagen Tiguan and the posher Audi Q5. And a CX-5?

A regular in the Camshaft Arms likes the Mazda but it’s not a model which jumps to mind. That’s a consequence of marketing and market presence. Mazda UK did not advertise the 2012 CX-5 for several years nor offer incentives for three years. Sales met their expectations without shelling out on media campaigns.

It is their best seller in Europe and in the UK (32,000 in five years). It takes 25 per get of Mazda global sales (1.5 million).

It is, then, a very big deal for Mazda. Before you head for the showroom you’ll need some Mazda vocabulary, with which you’ll be assailed in brochures and sales patter.

SKYACTIV: this was introduced on the 2012 model. It is Mazda-speak for mechanical efficiency, and favours larger non-turbocharged engines over smaller engines with turbo boosting. One asset is that, in the car’s later years, you will not face an expensive turbo repair.

KODO: not a dragon but the “soul of motion” design philosophy springing from the company’s Japanese heart.

Still with it? Then meet Jinba Ittai: this is something to do with the unity of horse and rider (Japan is big on cultural imagery) or in this case, the bond between car and driver.

Even in the Smallbore Bar I have never heard these phrases being used – though Jinba Ittai would fit the attachment of some patrons to the serving counter.

Moving on, the car is pretty much all new or improved, carrying over the engines and gears. There’s nothing to dislike. It’s a beauty and rides well.

Against the trend of making a new model lighter, Mazda has put 50kg of noise and vibration suppression into this CX-5 to improve refinement. The structure is 15 per cent stiffer. The body styling (KODO) is sleeker. All models have slim LED front headlights under beaky-edged bodywork.

It’s all-change in the cabin (Jinba Ittai I suppose), with nicer materials and, thinks Mazda, better comfort. It stands comparison with an Audi. Door pockets are now deeper and the rear seats can be reclined slightly. New options include a powered tailgate and coloured head-up repeater display projected on to the windscreen in front of the driver. Both are standard on the premium Sport Nav model.

Prices have lifted only slightly and start at £23,695 for the SE-L Nav with the two-litre, 163bhp petrol engine. Add another £3,000 for the same engine with Sport Nav specification. And that, folks, is the petrol offer. If you want automatic gears or all-wheel drive you’ll be picking from the diesel range. Six of the eight diesel versions use a 148bhp, 2.2 diesel, from £25,695 for the SE-L Nav.

That price is a £2,000 hike on the petrol engine. Diesel took 84 per cent of the last CX-5 and at this stage Mazda’s UK chief, Jeremy Thomson, is not expecting a drop, despite diesel fuel having a bad boy image. He says the public needs better information that the latest diesels have a clean sheet. He thinks diesel sales will rebound from the 20 per cent slump in May.

On paper, diesel is cheaper to run. Mazda test bed figures claim an average 44.1mpg and 149g CO2 for petrol and 56.5mpg and 132g for diesel with manual gears and front-wheel drive. The diesel also knocks a second off the petrol model’s 0-62mph time of 10.4 seconds.

On the Highland roads we got 42mpg from diesel and 35mpg from petrol – driven within speed limits and cruising not charging. The diesel car was the nicer drive.

Verdict: Really worth a look inside. High satisfaction ratings by owners.