Six years after the launch of the original CX-5 SUV, Mazda’s SkyActiv model revolution has come full circle.

Having touched the Mazda 3 hatchback and saloon, the bigger 6 saloon, the 2 supermini, the CX-3 crossover and even the fourth-generation MX-5 sports car, this curiously named programme of technological overhaul – which has brought new platforms, new engines and new thinking to the Japanese firm – has returned its focus to this: the second-generation CX-5.

Predictably, there’s less of a gleam of radical newness to this car than there was to its predecessor, as Mazda inevitably enters a period of consolidation and refinement.

But there’s now a weight of expectation on the CX-5’s shoulders created by the success of the car that it’s replacing.

The first CX-5 got in fairly early on the current craze for SUVs and of which a remarkable 1.5 million units were built and sold around the world over a six-year lifespan. The CX-5 now accounts for 25 percent of Mazda’s global sales volume.

Such popularity could be significant for this replacement, since a stronger established business case will likely have markedly increased the money and resource Mazda was willing to sink into this car than might have been invested otherwise.

There’s no expensive new platform to eat up the lion’s share of that development budget, either: the car sits on an updated version of its predecessor’s mechanical underpinnings, although an extensive model replacement programme has – according to Mazda – altered the car’s dimensions and exterior styling, made it more rigid, improved its steering, suspension and braking systems and given it a completely new interior.

This time around, Mazda is promising the same taut and agile handling that made the previous CX-5 so appealing to keener drivers shopping for a typically soft compact SUV, but partnered with a much more expensive-feeling and better-equipped interior and much improved cabin refinement.

The company plainly has the SUV segment’s premium and ‘semi-premium’ brand players in its sights but is setting out to undercut them by several thousand pounds in some cases once equipment level is taken into account. So where’s the catch?

Save money on your car insurance

Compare quotesCompare insurance quotes

Top 5 Family SUVs

First drives

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S road test review hero front
    Car review
    22 June 2018
    Is AMG's rapid GLC 63 SUV the answer to your prayers, or to a question nobody’s asking?
  • Dacia Duster 2018 first drive review hero front
    First Drive
    22 June 2018
    It's still not as refined as other SUVs, but in terms of sheer value the second-generation Duster is very much in a class of its own
  • Ford Ka+ Active 2018 first drive review hero front
    First Drive
    22 June 2018
    This SUV-inspired makeover for Ford’s city-friendly small car will find its fans, but the Ka+ Active doesn’t set any new benchmarks for the class
  • Suzuki Swift Sport 2018 long-term review hero front
    First Drive
    22 June 2018
    The Japanese hot hatch is all grown up in terms of character, technology and price, but is it still a fun-loving kid at heart? Let’s find out
  • 2018 Mitsubishi Shogun Sport 4
    First Drive
    21 June 2018
    Shogun Sport name returns to the UK, attached to a seven-seat 4x4 that, Mitsubishi hopes, deftly combines practicality, comfort and toughness