Injection of ZOOM

09 March 2019
Matthew Hansen | Weekend Herald, Auckland


The Mazda CX-5 is a big old labrador now - a faithful piece of furniture in the landscape of one of the most important segments in current-day motoring.

Testament to the model's popularity is its continual position as a sales hero for Mazda.

Last month it was New Zealand's best-selling passenger car, pipping the Kia Sportage, Suzuki Swift and Toyota Corolla. Not bad for a vehicle nearing its second birthday.

Despite being a teenager in car years, the CX-5 is still a firm frontrunner in the SUV space.

It's certainly still a popular player amongst the Driven team, thanks largely to the way it corners with ease, its looks and high quality cabin.

And now, there's a shiny new trim level to consider.

Those familiar with the Mazda lineup will know about its top-line Takami models in the 6, CX-3, and CX-9. And late last year, a Takamispec all-wheel drive CX-5 priced at $61,495 ($3,450 more than diesel Limited) was released.

A gift and a curse of Mazda's overall lineup is that it's hard to tell them apart regardless of specification. That's happy news for those shopping in the bottom or middle of the range, but perhaps an irritation for anyone wanting more visual neighbourshaming bling for their money.

It's a case that remains consistent with the CX-5 Takami, which is generally identifiable only through its large 19in wheels and low-profile tyres.

But we're not complaining. The CX-5's implementation of Mazda's "Kodo" design language is among the most successful, best-ageing of the range. Comparatively narrow black wheel-arch extensions and headlights that feed into its chrome mouth give the CX-5 a mature appearance, as does the lack of complex cuts and contours in the bodywork.

The grown-up theme continues inside - as it always has with the CX-5. The quality of materials is up there with anything European in this size bracket, with soft surfaces, stitched leathers and tasteful garnishes of metal and wood making it a lovely place to sit.

For the Takami model, chocolate brown Nappa leather treatments have been added to the seats, transmission tunnel, and doors. It's a curious addition, given that the darkness of the material means it blends into the black that adorns every other surface.

Among other updates that come with the Takami is a slightly revised infotainment system. It now (thankfully) comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto out of the box, along with satnav and a potent Bose sound system.

But, there's still plenty of room for improvement. For one, loading times on vehicle start-up are slower than most. And while the centre-mounted scroll-wheel is easy to use, those wanting to touch the screen while driving are blocked from doing so by the car's safety nannies. At 7in, it's also much smaller than most other systems.

The most disappointing element, though, is the cameras.

The CX-5 Takami comes with front and rear-facing cameras, and a 360-degree camera. Resolution across the board is poor, while large black lines that divide the 360-degree camera display make it hard to use. It's a sad time machine to 2008-tech, in a car that many would expect better from.

The CX-5 tries to claw back points with its practicality; and in some ways it's successful.

Second-row space is sufficient for tall adults and the seats are among the easiest in class to fold flat when accessed from the boot.

On the flip-side, the 442L boot space is less than what a Volkswagen Tiguan or a Honda CR-V offers.

The hard work to make the CX5 appeal to premium buyers is also partially undone by relatively firm ride quality. While this helps those aforementioned cornering dynamics, it does seem contrary to the Takami's luxury intentions.

However, these elements haven't stopped buyers from migrating to the CX-5 in droves.

And none of them has anything to do with the Takami's biggest party trick; its engine.

It's the SkyActiv-G 2.5T; the first turbocharged petrol engine to join the CX-5 ranks and the same engine that's fitted to the Mazda6 Takami. It makes 170kW and 420Nm - 30kW/168Nm more than the naturally aspirated 2.5-litre petrol engine offered in mid-spec models, and more power and torque than just about anything else in the segment.

In real-world practice, those numbers make for performance that's beyond compelling. The Takami accelerates to 100km/h in a sharp 7.7secs that feels even quicker from behind the wheel.

The traditional six-speed automatic is quick to drop a few cogs with each sharp application of throttle and happy to let the engine rev out to red-line. Not that such theatrics are necessary, given that peak torque comes at just 2000rpm thanks to the variable geometry turbocharger.

It is the best power-train of any vehicle in this class. And I don't say that lightly.

But the best thing about the unhinged four-popper is that, behind the big numbers and bigger grins, it's a quiet, refined, and perfectly easy to live with.

Our combined fuel economy figures of 9.5L/100km were solid for a vehicle of this size particularly impressive given that you can fill the Takami with 91-octane petrol.

So yes, the CX-5 might be a little longer in the tooth than some of its rivals. But, the old labrador has plenty of new tricks up its sleeve.

BT-50 commercialcare disclaimer

** is also available to new BT-50 owners where every scheduled service completed by Mazda specialist technicians for a 3 year/100,000km term (whichever wherever occurs first) will cost no more than $200 (incl. GST) per service for models built after 1 November 2012. *** 3,350kg applies to earlier models.

* whichever occurs first