If you have never driven a Mazda CX-5 before, you might be wondering why it has become so popular. After all, it does not have turbocharged drivetrain options.
The CX-5 does not have all-wheel-drive variants either. To the uninitiated, it seems like just another Japanese SUV.
But as we shall soon see, the CX-5 is one of the most unique contenders in its segment.
It’s actually been updated!
The CX-5 doesn’t look any different from the pre-facelift model.
That’s a testament to its strong design language, which is still as attractive and as relevant as before.
I can still recall the first-gen CX-5 that I tested on many occasions. The first time was seven years ago, in 2012!
That said, there are tell-tale changes to the latest model. The CX-5’s front grille has a slightly different pattern and the wheel designs are different, too.
Big changes inside
Get behind the wheel of the CX-5 and that’s where you’ll see the updates. The previous model had a well-built and decent interior.
The latest one, however, has taken things up a notch (or even two).
It feels swankier than before, with materials such as wood on the doors.
The Luxury variant I tested even has nappa leather upholstery.
This hide is something you only get in more expensive luxury models. Mazda has tried to digitise the instrument panel, too. The analogue-style speedometer is actually digital. But strangely, the other gauges remain analogue units.
Perhaps an all-digital dashboard is in the works for the next-generation model.
The CX-5 has a comfy backseat, and more importantly, tall backrests. These can be reclined to adapt to occupants’ preferences.
There are many SUVs, crossovers and even MPVs out there whose backrests are too short. You end up having to raise the headrests just to be safe and comfortable.
The CX-5’s headrests, however, are strangely uncomfortable. They are too stiff.
Fortunately, the rear bench does have other amenities. Rear air-con blowers, for instance, help cool the cabin after the car has been parked in the sun. And there is a pair of USB ports in the centre armrest for charging devices on the go.
The biggest thing that sets the CX-5 apart from segment rivals is its sparkling drive. This model has, hands down, the most eager and responsive drivetrain in its segment.
The Luxury variant we tested has a 2.5-litre motor that pumps out 191hp and 258Nm.
As a naturally aspirated unit, it thrives on revs. It loves being pushed, too. Power delivery is smooth and linear. Most of all, its responses are snappy.
The moment the system detects more pressure on the accelerator pedal, the 6-speed auto immediately responds.
Seamlessly, the CX-5’s gearbox will drop a cog (sometimes two) and send the tachometer needle to the right of the dial.
The CX-5’s eagerness would have been for nought without its chassis. The use of lightweight, high-strength steel has paid dividends. The CX-5 body is strong, stiff and doesn’t transmit undulations easily.
With the stiffer body/chassis, the suspension can be tuned to be more pliant.
Agility, however, seems unaffected. The CX-5 will play along with drivers who want to string along a series of corners. It will eagerly turn in, and although there is some lean, the CX-5 willingly follows your chosen line.
Few, if any, SUVs in this segment can claim the same level of athleticism.
Traction aids further enhance handling
New to the CX-5 is Mazda’s G-Vectoring Control Plus (GVC Plus), a torque-vectoring function. It helps you tackle corners by reducing engine torque upon turn-in.
It gradually feeds torque back in as you start to pick up speed. As you exit the corner, some braking is applied to the outer wheels for better stability.
Like everything else in this SUV, it works seamlessly and behind the scenes. So, unfortunately, you can’t actually feel it in action.
Like GVC Plus, Cylinder Deactivation is another feature that works seamlessly.
Only available on the 2.5-litre engine, it shuts off two of the four cylinders during low speeds and steady cruising. Like the torque vectoring function, you can’t tell when it occurs and when the cylinders come back online.
If you’re in the market for a CX-5, the next closest rival is the Toyota Harrier Turbo.
It has a larger boot (rear seats up) and crucially, a more powerful engine.
Cruising comfort and refinement are its specialties. But cabin-wise, equipment-wise and abilities-wise, it is the CX-5 that will compel you.
And if you love to drive, then the CX-5 is a proposition that’s hard to resist.
Mazda CX-5 Luxury 2.5 (A)
ENGINE 2488cc, 16-valves, inline-4
MAX POWER 191hp at 6000rpm
MAX TORQUE 258Nm at 4000rpm
POWER TO WEIGHT 118.3hp per tonne
GEARBOX 6-speed automatic with manual select
0-100KM/H 8.9 seconds
TOP SPEED 201km/h
CONSUMPTION 13.9km/L (combined)
PRICE INCL. COE From $158,888 (after $10k VES surcharge)