Things certainly look good at first glance. The outgoing CX-5’s soft, cuddly exterior has been swapped for a sharper, more mature design that borrows lines from the stunning RX Vision concept shown at the 2015 Tokyo motor show. This trend continues inside, where clean Japanese design and soft-touch materials are located alongside a generous list of standard tech that includes a 7.0in touchscreen with sat-nav as standard.
UK trim levels are yet to be confirmed, but the ‘high-spec’ model we sampled – likely to retain the Sport Nav moniker - features a leather-covered dash and door trims, leather seats with contrasting stitching, four heated seats and two USB ports in the front with two more in the back. There’s also a head-up display, which projects useful driving information onto the windscreen in front of the driver.
Interior quality is good, and the dashboard in particular is a great example of simplistic design. However, the CX-5’s interior just falls short of class-leading rivals in other areas, with the standard of stitching on parts of the seats, for example, not quite up there with the Tiguan. However, Mazda says quality will be improved slightly when the car enters production in April.
Overall, the CX-5 covers the boring stuff off well, with plenty of leg room in the back and lots of head room. There's also an electric tailgate on certain models.
But where the new CX-5 really excels is on the road. There's less wind and road noise than in its predecessor, and the new CX-5 responds well to being hustled along a country road – something Mazda is keen to stress was a priority during development.
Compared to the firmer-riding Tiguan, the CX-5 is more supple over bumps and on par with the Nissan Qashqai, but when pushed it flaunts better body control than the cheaper Nissan and ultimately this makes it feel more like a warm hatchback than an SUV. There is some body roll in corners, of course, but the CX-5’s handling is composed and its ride comfortable.
The new car’s structure is 15% stiffer than the old CX-5’s and the chassis gets the brand’s clever G-Vectoring Control (GVC) technology. The system adjusts engine torque in response to steering angle to optimise the vertical load on each wheel, lessening the need for the driver to make steering corrections. It also makes the car feel agile and quick to respond to direction changes and, when coupled with the optional four-wheel drive, means cross-country pace is highly impressive.
Our test car had 19in alloys with Toyo Proxes R36 tyres, which gripped surprisingly hard. We were able to send the car charging into corners on our Italian test route, and the nose always went where it was pointed, albeit with the gentlest hint of understeer.