What is it?
The Mazda CX-5, new and improved, and driven in the UK for the first time. Styling, refinement and stiffness gains are the notable bullet points in a comprehensive, if somewhat shallow, update to Mazda’s well-proportioned crossover.
Those proportions are given top billing by a design makeover intended to simplify and sharpen the model’s appearance. The result, neatly poised on the wide-mouthed grille and glowering headlights, makes the CX-5 marginally larger than it was previously – but infinitely sleeker, too.
The obliging sense of tautness continues beneath the skin. Thanks to detailed revisions made to the car’s construction, Mazda claims a 15% improvement in torsional rigidity – a dynamic enhancement supplemented by a revised chassis and the introduction of a new torque vectoring system.
Track widths have been slightly broadened as well, and the car is 35mm lower than its predecessor. The platform, though (and therefore wheelbase) are the same, as is the engine line-up, which centres on Mazda’s robust 2.2-litre diesel unit. We're sampling this here in its more powerful 173bhp format, which includes adaptive four-wheel drive and a six-speed manual gearbox as standard.
What's it like?
Much like outside, the CX-5’s interior enjoys a useful bump in appearance. Architecturally, the hardpoints are generally the same, although the isolation of the now free-standing infotainment screen and the elevation of the centre console – not to mention a rethink of the trim materials – has gently elevated perceived quality.
As well as assuaging your eyes and fingertips, Mazda has also devoted significant time and energy – and reportedly extra weight, too – to appeasing the ears. The list of modifications made in pursuit of a quieter ambience is long; long enough, in fact, to suggest that the upshot ought to have been more impressive than it is – the CX-5 is doubtless better isolated than its predecessor, but probably still not in the latest Volkswagen Tiguan’s league.
It is that not-much-more expensive rival, one suspects, that the manufacturer is keen to close the objective gap on. Certainly in some respects, not least in the way it drives, Mazda has taken noticeable strides. The CX-5 – never less than competent – has benefitted from its more rigorous spine: roll and pitch are kept scrupulously in check, and save for a slightly indifferent steering response, the car changes direction about as well as you could hope from a mainstream crossover.
Added by the mostly indiscernible shuffling of power to the back axle, lateral grip (even in miserable Scottish weather) proved commendable, and a wholly satisfying match for the 310lb ft of torque delivered by the four-cylinder engine (bewilderingly superior to the 280lb ft of the bigger-selling detuned version). Lingering doubts about firmness of the low-speed ride remain, especially in the front-wheel-drive model, but this four-wheel-drive model's amiable relish for fast A-roads was as conspicuous as it was laudable.
Should I buy one?
There’s no functional reason why not. The notable absence of any alteration in the engine bay aside, the CX-5’s renewal is a creditable one – rendering not only a manifestly better-looking car inside and out, but also one that drives with sufficient proficiency to make experience if not entertaining, then at the very least agreeable. It’s also as decently sized and as practical as ever.
The pragmatic rub, as it often is with Mazda, is located less in the car than on the price its maker puts in the brochure. At £31,395, this all-wheel-drive Sport Nav model – the one you really want – is only around £1000 cheaper than the 187bhp 2.0-litre TDI 4Motion SE Tiguan, which comes complete with a DSG automatic gearbox.
And while the qualitative daylight between the two cars has dwindled, enough of it remains for the new CX-5 to land high among the respectable also-rans rather than on par with the class-leader.
Mazda CX-5 2.2 AWD Sport Nav
Location Inverness, Scotland; On sale June; Price £31,395; Engine 4 cyls, 2191cc, turbocharged, diesel; Power 173bhp at 4500rpm Torque 310lb ft at 2000rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual; Kerb weight 1732kg; Top speed 129mph (est); 0-62mph 9.0sec; Economy 52.3mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 142g/km; Rivals Volkswagen Tiguan, BMW X1, Ford Kuga