Motoring: Mazda’s magic worth the wait

All-New Mazda CX-5
All-New Mazda CX-5
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The CX-5 impresses with new technology, says Frederic Manby

WELL, has the build-up been justified? Mazda has been blurbing the delights and aims of its CX-5 for months. Now its first “compact crossover SUV” is here, a chunky but nicely styled five-door, five-seater.

The CX-5 introduces Mazda’s weight-saving, fuel-saving technology which will spread to all models, and a new platform which will be used by most forthcoming Mazdas, called SkyActiv.

The British media was hosted at Torridon in Scotland’s north-west: ratty single track with potholed edges, hairy ascents and descents on the Applecross peninsular and frequent emergency stops as the locals came blasting through. Oh, and snow too.

The tally included nine shattered wing mirrors and several chipped windscreens. I lost a mirror to a “can’t stop” Hyundai SUV. Remarkably, reduced to a skeletal frame and crazed mirror, it still worked on its electric power.

There is a 162.7bhp 2-litre petrol with manual gears and front-wheel drive; a 148bhp 2.2 diesel with the options of front or all-wheel drive (an extra £1,700), manual or automatic gearboxes (£1,300 with 2WD, £1,200 with 4WD) and a 172.5bhp Sport version with all-wheel drive and a choice of manual or automatic gears.

So how did they do on the topsy-turvy cut and thrust of Wester Ross? At first, on the main-road approach from Inverness airport, nothing felt special. I was in the 148bhp 2.2 diesel with front drive and manual gears and Sport spec, costing £25,595.

As the morning opened up and the road closed down to the nitty-gritty roughhouse of patched asphalt so common after bad winters and lack of funding, the CX-5 began to impress. It steers well, handles nicely, rides the torn surfaces as well as could be hoped on 19in wheels and returned 46mpg over the sort of hill terrain where only the fit will cycle.

The next day, the two-litre petrol model, same transmission and the standard SE-L spec, which among other things means 17in alloys. They should have been quieter but there was more tyre noise on the same route. It was on Yokohama treads. The Sport had been on Toyo. Economy was 40mpg. At £21,395, this is the cheapest in the range.

Verdict: Job done. Nicely styled.