Just the ticket: we drive the new Mazda CX-5
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An early influencer from day one, this SUV continues to set the bar
When it comes to the burgeoning medium SUV market, there is one major influencer in New Zealand: Mazda's CX-5.
The first-generation model was launched in 2012, just as the mainstream medium SUV/crossover segment began to make big moves in our market.
While the Suzuki Vitara, Toyota RAV4 and Honda's CR-V were main players in the market, the CX-5 brought a refinement to the medium SUV segment thanks to Mazda's Kodo design and SkyActiv motors.
Now Mazda NZ has launched the second generation, and it expects the new CX-5 to retain its influencer title.
There are three grades of the all-new CX-5 — GLX, GLS and Limited — with three powertrains, six-speed automatic transmission, and front-wheel or all-wheel-drive available. The GLX is available only as a 2-litre petrol FWD and is priced from $39,995. The GSX comes as a FWD 2-litre ($42,995), AWD 2.5-litre ($45,995) petrol or 2.2-litre AWD diesel ($47,995). And the top spec Limited is available as the AWD 2.5-litre petrol ($55,495) or 2.2-litre diesel ($57,495).
The CX-5 has the same engines as the previous generation but they have been slightly tweaked.
The SkyActiv-G 2-litre FWD petrol produces 114kW of power and 200Nm of torque with fuel efficiency figure of 6.9l/100km.
The 2.5-litre AWD petrol has 140kW of power and 251Nm of torque and 7.5l/100km. But during Driven's week-long test of the Limited petrol, the average was 10.9l, including extensive country, open-speed limit driving, motorway routes and city roads.
The SkyActiv 2.2 diesel AWD produces 129kW/420Nm and 6l/100km.
The new line-up gained safety features such as rear view camera, rear sensors and advanced city brake but the Limited has the most Mazda i-Activsense technology, including driver attention alert, lane keep assist and radar cruise control.
That radar cruise control is one of the simplest to operate, thanks to steering wheel-mounted controls. It made driving on the motorway stress-free as I set the speed and distance between us and the vehicles ahead and just slowed or sped up depending on the conditions and other drivers.
Blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert are in the GSX and Limited. It's a shame GLX doesn't get those two superb safety features.
Mazda NZ expects the GSX AWD petrol to be the most popular model in the CX-5 range, making up around 70 per cent of sales.
For five years, the CX-5 has been New Zealand's top-selling medium SUV and is the highest-selling Mazda car, taking out a third of passenger vehicle sales for the brand.
Worldwide, the compact SUV has been a "mega hit", according to CX-5's programme manager, Masaya Kodama, who was attending the media launch in New Zealand.
He said globally around 370,000 CX-5s were sold each year, and the theme for the "fully redesigned" CX-5 was a "new dimension of driving pleasure" and "less is more" when it came to the interior and exterior design.
"The driving dynamics were important (for the new CX-5) ... and with the g-vectoring control it is improved from the ground up with more linear and stable feeling," he said.
The g-vectoring control is an important aspect for Mazda and aims to provide a smoother drive. When cornering, the system adjusts power and torque and shifts the vehicle weight.
This means less body roll and flatter cornering. In reality, it means you don't get moved around in the cabin.
Kodama-san was previously in charge of the all-new Mazda3, and leads the CX-5 and CX-9 programmes.
The CX-5 has similar aspects as the CX-9, in particular the driver-focused cabin, while the clean lines on the dash, small air vents and the floating infotainment screen gives the interior a quality feel.
The cabin has improved sound-proofing, which was noticeable during country roads where the bitumen can be harsh.
But it's the outside that has had the focus of design, especially the "floating" bonnet that gives it a premium look and makes it stand out on the road.
The lines through the side panels lower the line of vision and create a sporty look, while the long bonnet and large grille gives it a masculine stance.
The CX-5 Limited has the improved head up display that is now in colour and can show your speed, the speed limit, navigation directions or your cruise control settings.
It's one of the best HUDs around, including premium and luxury brands, and makes driver not only simpler but safer as you don't need to take your eyes off the road.
But it's on the road where the CX-5 has its pros and cons. The g-vectoring control is superb when it comes to winding roads and creates a comfortable ride.
But when it came to overtaking at speed, I found I needed to have the CX-5 in sport mode to give that needed instant torque, though maybe I shouldn't have put it in sport mode when a Waikato police patrol car gave me a ticket for speeding during the launch.
Hey, it was my first ticket for 10 years, and I learned an expensive lesson: use radar cruise control.
Mazda CX-5 Limited
2.5-litre, auto petrol
Pros: Great design, inside and out
Cons: Speeding ticket