First report: the arrival of the Mazda CX-5 SUV has injected some Japanese flair into our test fleet.
When I found out that the latest family SUV to join our test fleet would be the Mazda CX-5, I couldn’t help but think of all my favourite things about the country it comes from.
From clothing to cuisine to comics, there’s so much to love about Japanese products. I’m always happy with a bento box for lunch, and my new running shoes make burning off the calories that bit easier afterwards. And it’s the same story with cars, as the Japanese-built models I’ve run over the years have been brilliant.
The previous Mazda I ran for Auto Express was the 3 hatch, and I was looking forward to finding out how the latest model compared with the fun-to-drive hatchback.
You can see the connection when you hop in, but the driving experience is what really impresses. Despite being a high-riding SUV, the CX-5 is still great from behind the wheel; the grippy chassis, well weighted controls and slick six-speed manual gearbox all contribute to a superb driving experience.
The engine is another highlight. It’s a 2.2-litre four-cylinder diesel that’s not only punchy and powerful, but quiet and smooth as well. Thanks to refinements made with this new model, it’s a great companion for the many motorway miles I do every week – it’s quiet at a cruise, and the performance allows me to overtake slower traffic at a moment’s notice.
I’m also glad to be back in a car with non- adaptive cruise control. The active systems I’ve tried don’t work on British motorways, as other road users are too unpredictable for a computer to keep up with. With the normal cruise, I can use my own judgement about when I’ll need to change my speed. I’ve been enjoying the agile CX-5’s handling away from the motorway as well, since it rides reasonably well on bumpy roads. It’s not as smooth as the best cars in its class, such as the Skoda Kodiaq, though.
Still, I’m glad that the CX-5 has a similarly pleasing driving position to my previous Mazda 3, which in the SUV is low enough to be immediately comfortable to sit in, but not so low as to hamper visibility. It’s not quite so easy to see out of the back of the car, but the reversing camera on our model takes the stress out of parking.
The Mazda’s interior has been really well thought out. The control weights, button placement and useful boot shape are good examples. The steering wheel and gearlever are placed exactly where you want them, too. New G-Vectoring technology on this model is designed to supplement this, improving long-distance comfort by subtly changing engine torque while cornering – and we’re keen to see how well it works over our time with the car.
As with my trendy tracksuit, the CX-5 also has a very Japanese exterior look. The sharp lines remind me of the art style in one of my favourite animated films, Akira. This is one of the most interesting-looking cars in its class, and while – as with sushi – it won’t be to everyone’s taste, I’m very much a fan.
Model: Mazda CX-5 2.2 SkyActiv-D 150ps Sport Nav
On fleet since: October 2017
Price new: £28,695
Engine: 2.2-litre 4cyl turbodiesel, 148bhp
Options: Soul Red Crystal metallic paint (£800)
Insurance group: 19
Any problems?: None so far