Mazda CX-5 first drive: bit of rough and a twist of lime
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Mazda CX-5 Activ
- New Activ brings more personality to range
- Off Road mode brings extra cred to Activ, Takami
- Improved refinement across the range
- Excellent diesel no longer wanted/needed
- No electrification for CX-5
- No turbo option for Activ
You might be aware that Mazda has a bunch of new electrified SUVs on the way. If you are, you might also be a bit confused about where where they will all fit in; don’t worry, you’re not alone.
There’s a CX-50 that has been designed for the US market, so don’t worry about that. There are also CX-60, CX-70, CX-80 and CX-90 models coming, with a range of mild-hybrid and plug-in powertrains, which are more relevant for New Zealand. That’s a lot to take in, although perhaps appropriate for a company that claims to have a “multi-solution” strategy to future technology.
For the record, Mazda NZ has confirmed it will definitely kick off this new generation with the CX-60 and yes, it will come as a Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV), although not until mid-2023.
For now, the company is going great guns with the existing CX-5. It was the second best-selling SUV in the country for March, which also happened to the biggest month for the model in its decade-long Kiwi history. That has also tipped the CX-5 just over 28,000 sales during its decade in NZ.
Now there’s a new model – the first major change since 2017. Well, a mild facelift is more like it, but it does bring a new version called the Activ, complete with bright green trim and extra off-tarmac credentials. Think of it as a rival to Subaru’s X-models and the Toyota RAV4 Adventure.
Activ sits bang in the middle of the CX-5 lineup, above the GSX (currently the most popular CX-5 variant) and below the Limited.
You’ll know it by the lime green accents on the grille and interior - and maybe in lots of promotional images with Mazda’s new Zircon Sand Metallic colour - although the earthy paint finish is actually available right across the new range (Activ pictured above in Zircon).
Activ comes only with the mid-range naturally aspirated 2.5-litre petrol four, and only with AWD. Mazda’s renamed “Mi-Drive” drive-mode switch gets the standard Normal and Sport settings, but gains an extra Off Road option in the Activ, recalibrating powertrain and traction systems for off-tarmac use. For example, the stop-start system is disabled, there’s constant drive to the rear wheels above 40km/h and the braking system really clamps down on wheelspin to keep the car moving in the rough.
It’s actually the same AWD setup that’s fitted to the (smaller) US-market CX-50, which was conceived as a more off-road-oriented Mazda SUV. So while the company is still not making any great claim of turning the CX-5 into a true mud-plugger, it says the new Off Road mode does bring tangible benefits to the Activ in low-traction conditions. It also brings a dirty brown graphic backdrop to the instrument panel, which is kind of cool.
All CX-5s get a new face, with a reshaped grille and bumper. There’s a new tailgate at the rear (the only truly new sheet metal for the 2022 model) and there have been subtle changes to some of the exterior trim and detailing.
The Activ also gets a nifty reversible boot-floor cover that has a more durable wipe-clean surface on one side (it’s dual-layer as well).
A 115kW/200Nm 2.0-litre engine still powers the entry GLX and GSX (pictured here in white) models, the 140kW252Nm 2.5-litre serves in the GSX, Active and Limited AWD variants and Mazda is still offering the higher-powered 170kW/420Nm 2.5-litre turbo in the sports-themed SP25T and flagship Takami.
What you won’t find is a diesel option. Excellent though it was, it’s been a slow seller (less than 10 per cent of volume in the mainstream GSX) and has been discontinued for NZ. That’s not a Clean Car related decision, by the way: the diesel would have been in the no-fine zero-band had it continued.
Something for the train-spotters: the SP25T is the only model other than Activ to get those flecks of colour on the grille, in red for this model (pictured above, although the shapes are still there on other models, just invisible in black). And the Takami is the only model other than Activ to get the Off Road mode in its Mi-Drive controller.
The SP25T, Limited and Takami also have new 20-block adaptive LED headlights (previously 12-block) and Cruising & Traffic Support (CTS), a more sophisticated lane-keep function attached to the adaptive cruise control.
There’s been some minor magic worked underneath across the range, with relocated suspension components and extra structural adhesive intended to improve refinement and suppress noise, vibration and harshness (NVH). The G-Vectoring Control system (which imperceptibly modulates the throttle in corners to reduce pitch and roll) has also been further improved.
We had the briefest of drives during Mazda NZ’s media launch event in Auckland in both the Activ and SP25T, but first impressions suggest the new CX-5 is one of the quietest, most driver-oriented medium SUVs around. If it wasn’t already.
ENGINES: 2.0-litre or 2.5-litre naturally aspirated petrol fours, 2.5-litre turbo-petrol
POWER: 115kW/200Nm, 140kW/252Nm or 170kW/420Nm
GEARBOX: 6-speed automatic, FWD (2.0) or AWD (2.5)
CONSUMPTION: 6.9-8.2l/100km (NEDC), CO2 161-213g/km (3P-WLTP)
PRICE RANGE: $42,290-$64,290