Same car, new heart: we test Mazda's 2.2-litre diesel CX-5
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I reckon July's the toughest month.
The six months leading up to July feel like they've blazed by in a whirlwind, gone forever. But, with Christmas and the summer holidays merely a murky mirage on the distant horizon, every minute in the moment tends to feel like an eternity.
Times like this call for calm and reassurance, and it's in this context that being handed the keys to a Mazda CX-5 makes sense.
It's one of the most well-rounded cars money can buy -- in any segment. It's attractive, it attacks corners with a level of poise and precision that defies its dimensions, and its sumptuous interior is one of the best in any sub-$50k car.
And, if you're a regular Driven reader, you'll already know all of that anyway, since we road tested it in April. On that occasion, however, it was the front-wheel drive 2.5-litre SkyActiv-G petrol-powered Limited that we tested.
This Snowflake White Pearl Mica (in other words, white) CX-5, on the other hand, is a bit different. It's a diesel.
Tucked underneath the bonnet is Mazda's 2.2-litre SkyActiv-D inline four-cylinder turbo diesel engine. It develops 129kW of power at 4500rpm, and 420Nm of torque at 2000rpm. And a six-speed automatic helps drive that power to, in this case, all four wheels.
Those with particularly sharp memories will pinpoint that the 2.5-litre petrol engine in our April tester was one of the few gripes we had with it. At the time, we found that it needed a bit of a kick in the guts to get it up and moving — particularly when passing other cars on the motorway.
This 2.2-litre diesel presents a more than viable alternative contrast; on paper and in practice.
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On paper, it walks all over the entry-level 2.0-litre petrol and matches up well against the 2.5-litre petrol. Power is 11kW less, but torque almost doubles (251Nm versus 420Nm).
And you can feel it, too. Granted, this isn't shut-up-and-hold-on levels of torque but it's still impressive on the go. Initial bite is strong from a standstill but — like in most potent diesels — it's through the middle of the rev range that the engine goes to work.
Peak power appears at 2000rpm, then hangs around a while, making this a deceptively formidable weapon for passing-lane manoeuvres.
Choosing a torquey diesel used to come at the cost of refinement, but that's not the case these days. And the CX-5 is no exception. On start-up and sudden applications of the fun pedal, you'll hear a whisper of that familiar, tractorish, diesel "thugthugthug" noise. But everywhere else in the range, the power plant is smooth and quiet.
And frugal, too. Over our first five days of driving through town, braving the traffic and the supercity's most interesting street-corner characters, we averaged 8.0-litres per 100km. And on the motorway, that figure improved to 5.6-litres per 100km.
Although this engine is a relatively easy one to recommend within the CX-5 range, the rest of the car isn't so simple.
This is the GSX, which sits above the entry-level GLX model and below the Limited. GSX pricing starts at $42,995 for the two-wheel drive 2.0-litre petrol, going up to $47,995 for the all-wheel drive 2.2-litre diesel.
Although, this specific GSX will be hard to get for less than $50k, as Mazda has equipped it with just about everything from its list of accessories. These options range from the logical (the roof rack, tow bar, a rubber cargo tray in the boot) to the extravagant (alloy pedals, and blue mood lighting that illuminates the driver and front passenger footwells in blue when you hop in).
It also comes with a bodykit that is a bit of a miss in the looks department. Whereas it does give the CX-5 a somewhat sporting stance, it clashes with the dynamic swooping lines and curves that made us love the revised Kodo design in the first place. Instead, the kit just makes the SUV look more slab-sided.
As you would expect, the GSX also misses out on a few other features of the Limited. The electric leather seats are traded for manually adjustable leatherette and suede ones, the power tailgate and sunroof disappear, and cruise control isn't radar assisted.
But, it definitely feels like a significant step up from the entry-level GLX, given that you get almost all of the Mazda i-Activesense technology and comfort features from the top spec Limited. Including blind-spot monitoring, parking sensors, rear cross traffic alert, and dual-zone climate control.
In fact, the GSX is probably the best value proposition in the range, at almost $10,000 less than the Limited, but with most of the features that matter. Naturally, Mazda expects that the all-wheel drive GSX will be the most popular player in its CX-5 ensemble, making up around 70 per cent of its sales. One hopes that a healthy portion of those sales are of the diesel. It's the one to have.
2017 MAZDA CX-5 GLX 2.2-LITRE DIESEL
Price: $47,995 ($52,890 as tested)
Pros: Diesel engine packed with torque and refinement, still the segment king
Cons: Naff bodykit, misses out on Limited's toys