Mazda CX-5 Tamaki review: a level above (and slippery below)
Search Driven for Mazda for sale
Mazda CX-5 Takami
- Real touch of luxury for a medium SUV
- Still a rewarding drive on-road
- Clever off-tarmac AWD setting
- Body-coloured trim not ideal for off-roading
- Too subtle for its own good?
- Infotainment lacks processing power
The undoubted star of Mazda New Zealand’s mildly facelifted CX-5 range is the new Activ model. It has green highlights and an upgraded AWD system borrowed from the US-market CX-50, including a special Off Road mode.
That CX-5 facelift is very mild indeed, by the way: the front bumper and some exterior trim elements have been tweaked, but to be honest it’s hard to tell unless you see new and old side-by-side. The tailgate is the only truly new piece of sheet metal… and that’s not exactly radical, either.
This is all perhaps to be expected from the Japanese brand that values subtlety above all else. But it does also mean you have to go looking for other highlights in the revised range.
Here’s one: the flagship Takami (pictured above, centre). Oddly, with so much focus on the go-green Activ (above, right) and blacked-out SP25 (above, left in red) with its 170kW turbo engine, it’s easy to overlook the luxury-oriented Takami. The name means "elevated", or "a level above" by the way.
It certainly doesn’t grab you visually: with lots of chrome, in the muted Machine Grey of our test car, it doesn’t look dramatically different from the best-selling mainstream GSX. The facelift model has even ditched the narrow black wheelarch borders for body-coloured trim, so it’s especially reductive.
But the Takami is still the CX-5 with everything – even more so in this 2022 update. It gets the same smooth 170kW/420Nm turbo engine as the sports-themed SP25, giving it an extra 30kW over the attention-hogging Activ.
All very well you say, but the Activ has that fancy AWD technology. Well, so does the Takami, even though Mazda NZ isn’t exactly shouting about it. The Takami is actually the only CX-5 you can buy that gets you the grunty turbo engine combined with the clever AWD.
It’s still much more luxurious than rugged, though. Takami rides on 19-inch alloys like the SP25 and adds a few other niceties for the extra $3k ask, including very nice Nappa “Aged Merlot” leather upholstery, 360-degree surround view cameras and a hands-free power tailgate. You’d think those last two items would be standard on most upper-level CX-5 models by now, but they’re not. Regardless, on face value you’re still getting a lot for your money in CX-5 world with the Takami.
What the Takami doesn’t wow you with is a huge touch screen, so that in that respect it’s a little behind the current fashion. The infotainment system is also a little short on processing power compared with new rivals, taking a while to boot up or load menus. But you do get Apple CarPlay and Android phone projection, and the graphics all-round are crisp and colourful.
The CX-5 still oozes class and quality among the mainstream SUV segment, the Takami helped along by that boosted engine that’s tuned to give maximum torque low down where you need it, rather than add extra tingle at speed.
We occasionally grumble about Mazda’s insistence on sticking with a six-speed transmission in its SkyActiv models, but in the CX-5 Takami (and presumably SP25) it’s smooth and relaxed.
The downside of the powertrain is relative thirst and therefore an extra financial slap on the wrist from the Government in the form of a $1552 Clean Car fine. So you have to pay for that turbo pleasure. No electrification in sight for the CX-5, either. That'll come with next year's CX-60 plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV).
The chassis has pleasingly confident cornering demeanour, assisted by the latest version of Mazda’s proprietary G-Vectoring Control Plus; it’s sort of a traction control system that delicately modulates power through corners to maximise directional stability and minimise body roll. You don’t really feel it working and aren’t supposed to, but it’s a key part of a chassis package that has a lot of poise.
So you’re cruising, feeling good about life, nestling in that soft leather and enjoying the three-stage ventilated front seats. What about that AWD system again? Oh right.
The Takami (or indeed any CX-5) isn’t a rock-hopper and doesn’t claim to be. But the Off Road mode accessed via the Mi-Drive controller does allow a lot more off-tarmac security: the powertrain is recalibrated, there’s constant drive to the rear wheels above 40km/h (unlike the “on demand” setup of lesser CX-5s) and the traction control gets a lot more proactive in quelling wheelspin.
It’s good tech to have for a Kiwi winter, when extra traction makes a medium SUV much more attractive. It’s not limited to low speed, meaning you can use Off Road very much on the road when it’s warranted.
The CX-5 Takami is very impressive overall and now we feel sad we made fun of our test car’s low-key colour. In fact there are a plethora of sharp hues available, including Polymetal Grey, Eternal Blue, the obligatory Soul Red and even the attention-grabbing Zircon Sand that’s been showcased on the new Activ so much. Like we said, you can have everything.
MAZDA CX-5 TAKAMI
ENGINE: 2.5-litre turbo-petrol four
GEARBOX: 6-speed automatic, AWD
ECONOMY: 9.1l/100km, 213g/km (3P-WLTP)