What is it?
The Mazda CX-5 is the first model from the company that incorporates the full complement of Skyactiv technology. The clever, all-new platform - which might be described as a kind of steel spaceframe - has been designed to be lighter, stiffer, safer and easy to scale so it will underpin cars from the next Mazda 3 to the next CX-7.
More remarkable is the Skyactiv 2.2-litre diesel engine. Marked by the exceptionally low compression ratio (14:1), this twin-turbo unit comes in two power outputs (148bhp and 178bhp) and can meet the super-stringent 2014 Euro-6 pollution regulations without the need for a Nitrogen Oxide trap.
We tried this 148bhp, front-drive, late-stage prototype on the broken roads of southern Italy.
What's it like?
This car is well packaged, with impressive rear legroom, the largest boot in class (with a clever three-section folding rear seat) and a really well-judged seating position, which is no higher than it needs to be. The interior styling is reserved, but typically Japanese in its thoroughness and detailing.
The immediate impression from behind the wheel is of the engine’s exceptional refinement (both audibly and in terms of NVH through the driver’s contact points) even when accelerating with wide throttle openings.
This front-drive CX-5 had a handy turn of speed and a very slick, closely spaced, manual 'box. Mazda went to a great effort (re-locating the pivot point of the rear trailing arms) to replicate the kind of mature, easy-rolling ride that rounds off the edges of imperfections. It has undoubtedly succeeded, delivering something that feels credibly European.
Mazda engineers have also succeeded in eliminating the high-frequency in-cabin noises that are so annoying to European ears.
Should I buy one?
This car is radical under the skin, polished on the surface and impressively economical. The real test will be when full prices and specs are released early next year – but the signs are incredibly promising.