Mazda improves CX5

28 December 2018
Bob Nettleton | Greymouth Star, Greymouth West Coast

Mazda's commitment to constant improvement and always striving to do things better has helped it along the road to becoming a highly respected brand on our new car market.

A good example of this is the upgrading of one of their most popular sport utility vehicles, the CX5. The current model made its debut here in 2017 and enjoyed the same enthusiastic response as its popular predecessor. While a relative newcomer the "we can do better attitude" of Mazda has seen this model revamped with several engine upgrades, and re-engineered for even greater efficiency and responsiveness. When combined with new safety technology and improved specification levels, it makes the CX5 an even more compelling package.

This latest round of engine revisions has a great emphasis on improving combustion to reduce energy losses from cooling, pumping and mechanical friction and exhaust.

Power and torque has increased for the Skyactiv-G two-litre and 2.5-litre petrol motors and 2.2-litre turbocharged diesel.

The entry-level GLX and mid-range GSX receive noise, vibration, and harshness improvements. The new Skyactiv-D 2.2L pack a much heftier punch off the back of 450NM of torque and 140KW of power.

The engine features a new combustion process called rapid multi-stage combustion, which has lifted peak torque by 30NM and increased maximum power power by 11KW.

While things are on the up on that front, fuel consumption and emissions are down.

The result is quieter and more economical performance.

A lower centre of gravity, shorter overhangs and wider front and rear tracks make the CX5 one of the sharper looking vehicles in its class. It is helped in this regard by a distinctive front end with a lower and wider grille and sleek LED headlamps. All models continue with the proven SkyactivDrive automatic.

Prices have edged up a smidgen.

Depending on the model, increases vary from $250 to $1250. There are six variants available starting at $39,995 for the 2.0L litre 2WD GLX petrol and $42,995 in mid-range GSX guise. The GSX steps up to all-wheel-drive when teamed with the 2.5-litre petrol and 2.2-litre turbocharged diesel which retail for $46,245 and $48, 495 respectively. This same engine combo is offered in the flagship Limited model.

The petrol model provided for this road test is priced at $55,745 with a modest $2000 premium for the turbo diesel. The Limited petrol seems a bit pricey when you cast an eye over the alternatives, with one of the strongest being the top-spec Subaru Forester Premium 2.5-litre petrol at $47,490. Earlier this month it won the NZ Motor Writer Guild's 2018 Car of the Year which makes it an even more attractive buy.

Powering the Limited model I test drove with its 140KW 2.5-litre petrol Skyactiv-G engine was lively enough driving proposition. A major point-of-difference between this motor and those found its rivals is a clever cylinder deactivation system, to reduce fuel consumption when driving at constant cruising speeds. The outside two cylinders can shut down when the vehicle is operated at steady speeds between 40kph and 80kph, but all four cylinders work instantaneously when needed for maximum power. A centrifugal pendulum has been adopted in the torque converter of the automatic, counterbalancing any vibration that might be felt when running on two cylinders. The transistion between two and four-cylinder modes is fairly seamless and offers worthwhile real-world benefits with fewer engine emission and reduced fuel consumption.

The smooth shifting six-speed SkyactivDrive transmission did all that was asked of it. While six-speeds is a bit of "do minimum" effort these days, especially when the opposition is rolling out eight and ninespeed automatics. However, its not always about the gear count bragging rights, as six ratios CX5 auto works perfectly.

A modern and contemporary cabin looks modern and sharp, less endearing is the dark and dour cabin colour scheme. The elevated driving position is good and so to are the panoramic views the driver enjoys. There isn't an abundance of cabin space compared to other models in this class, and taller back seat passengers will lament the lack of rear head and leg room.

The Limited is fitted with an impressive array of safety features headed up by i-Activsense safety technologies. These include autonomous emergency braking, advanced smart city brake support, blind spot monitoring and traffic sign recognition.

Exclusive to the Limited is lane departure warning, driver attention alert, a good tool for raising driver awareness of fatigue and radar cruise control. This always ensures a safe distance between the CX5 and the vehicle in front. I thought the adaptive LED Headlamps that automatically controls your front lights in high beam, is a brilliant idea and makes night driving so much easier.

The CX5 has a well-earned reputation for exceptional roadholding over a range of roads and in all weather. The adoption of G-Vectoring Control on this latest model provides even crisper handling and a more compliant ride by providing more cohesive chassis control. Sweeping corners or tight bends that wear their poor road surfaces and alignment like a badge, could not shake the composure of the test vehicle's suspension.

The active torque split all-wheel-drive is computer controlled, constantly monitoring wheel speed and engine data to provide traction when and where it is needed, and all in an instant. This along with accurate and responsive steering take the drivability of the CX5 to new heights.

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