Say what you will about Mazda’s earnest repetition of its mildly silly ‘Jinba Ittai’ car-and-driver-as-one mantra, but the manufacturer has a proven track record for delivering mainstream models with an appreciable focus on proficient handling.

Plainly, this extends to the familiar challenge of making a crossover drive credibly, as the latest CX-5 seeks to improve not only on the basic aptitude of its predecessor but also the wider standard of the segment.

Matt Saunders Autocar

Matt Saunders

Road test editor
The front end goes light into immoderate dips. Lift off at this point and it’ll be the stability control tempering the unsettled rear

As a result, the 15 percent improvement in rigidity delivered by the engineers is not wasted by the chassis tuning department.

Reducing the delay between steering input and body response has clearly been a preoccupation, and the result – for an SUV of notable size and weight – is an impressively honed change of direction.

Simultaneous efforts have been made to revitalise the steering, too, with rigid couplings adopted in an attempt to provide a more direct connection to the running gear.

This is moderately less successful – there isn’t quite the initial bite that the car’s pointier attitude probably deserves – but nevertheless, in the rate of response and broader accuracy, it’s worthier than most.

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The lingering doubt, at any rate, is not in the wrists but in the hips and back. Generally speaking, the mechanical compromise between having a heavy, high-sided car corner adeptly on passive suspension and still ride satisfactorily is well struck.

The CX-5 is patently at the firmer end of the market, yet its damping is considerate enough at speed to make the secondary ride seem consistently fluid.

About town, though, or when dealing with larger intrusions, less keen drivers might conceivably wonder if the concession to handling is one worth making. Undeniably, a Tiguan on adaptive suspension would make a fairer fist of isolating its occupants from the average high street than the Mazda does.

That’s an objective observation, of course. Subjectively, our opinion of the CX-5 has gone up by a qualified notch.

On the hill route’s few genuinely fast, sighted bends, the Mazda demonstrates the same well-controlled roll as on the road.

However, it’s in the sharper bends, taken at unreasonable speed, that the CX-5’s initial and robust resistance to lean is overcome by its high roll centre and not inconsiderable mass.

The tyres come under notable stress, too, and are not ably assisted by a stability control system apparently surprised by all the unbalancing going on above.

There’s no switching out the traction control completely, and the ‘TCS off’ button doesn’t change the car’s demeanour. That’s probably for the best because the CX-5 is prone to pivot quite strikingly when its weight is provokingly shifted mid-corner.

None of this seems particularly ominous, of course, but it does suggest that something like the smaller, lighter Seat Ateca is ultimately better resolved under the same conditions.

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