Buying a family car is mainly a rational purchase. An SUV’s greatness for instance, is measured by how much space it has, or how fuel efficient it manages to be. However, there is one company who has continually made cars, regardless of price and class, that continually tickles one’s emotions. Far from the mainstream crowd, Mazda has always carved itself a niche into the market as a manufacturer of cars that are passionate and intimate to drive. This Mazda CX-5 is no exception. Even if the Subaru Forester XT is the fastest, while the Honda CR-V i-DTEC is the most practical and frugal, I’d still pick the Mazda CX-5 if I were in the market for a compact small SUV. Here’s why.
The second generation of Mazda’s best selling SUV has taken an evolutionary approach when compared to its generation, and yet people won’t dismiss it as a facelift. With its long hood, cab-rearward design, the Mazda CX-5 look taut and planted onto the ground, even when standing still. The meticulously designed grille that features a mesh pattern nicely blends in with the slim LED headlights with LED daytime running lights. The proportions are very reminiscent of the Maserati Levante, especially when seeing it from a three-quarter rear view, which speaks volumes on how Mazda manages to make cars seem a lot more expensive than they really are. At night, the LED tail lights display a very sharp and aggressive light design, mimicking the LED daytime running light pattern up front. The Soul Red Crystal paint truly bring out the best lines and curves of the CX-5, and it’s a paint option that I highly recommend for anyone to select. It looks menacing at night, and even much more gorgeous during the daytime.
Once you open the hefty and solid doors that feel more teutonic than Japanese, you are then greeted to the plushest and most premium interior in its class, even shaming some luxury SUVs that cost twice as much. Loaded with soft touch materials, stitching, and leather, the Mazda CX-5 is a very nice place to be in, and it’s an interior I wouldn’t mind sitting in traffic with. Oftentimes, rear passengers are treated with only the hard wearing variety as a cost-cutting measure, but not Mazda. The soft touch plastics, leather, and stitching details make it all the way to the rear occupants. The buttons and switchgear also feel very premium, easily matching up to some of BMW’s interior switchgear for heft and quality feel. Even the speaker grilles for the Bose sound system look so good.
Space and Practicality
There’s no shortage of space whether you’re the driver or passenger, but once you do choose to be a driver, you are greeted to what Mazda has continually nailed on all its cars: its perfect driving position. From the position of the organ-type floor mounted gas pedal, to how well the seats and steering wheel fall into your hands once they’ve all been adjusted for, the driving position won’t left you feeling sore even after a long drive.
Whereas the previous generation CX-5 was lacking in terms of functionality, the new one not only manages to have an extremely plush and gorgeous interior, but also one that is filled with plenty of cubby holes and storage places. Also, the second rows can now better accommodate three adults. As a bonus, there are two fast charging ports in the rear center armrests.
Improvements were also made to the CX-5’s trunk usability as well. With the seats folded up, 506 liters is at your disposal. This increases to 1,620 liters once the 40/20/40 split folding rear seats have all been folded down.
Features, Safety, and Infotainment
This being the middle variant of the CX-5 range, equipment is quite impressive. Immediately noticed up front are those sharp automatic LED headlights with LED daytime running lights, LED tail lights, leather interior, electronic adjustment for the driver’s seat, power folding mirrors, sunroof, color head-up display, and of course, the MZD Connect infotainment system with navigation.
MZD Connect continues to be one of my most favorite infotainment systems to use. While the interface has remained almost unchanged for a couple of years now, it’s still one that I find enjoyable to use, thanks to the rotary knob control layout. While the touch screen can be used while the vehicle is stopped, I always prefer the rotary knob layout since as I always mention in my reviews, the system is not distracting to use on the move as the clicks of the knob is better for one’s cognitive abilities and muscle memory compared to tapping on a screen. As ever, the layout and menu structure is logical and easy to use. Unfortunately, it still does not support Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which while I did not really mind due to the system’s ease of use, it would still be a welcome change to be able to use Siri from my iPhone in order to perform functions such as make a call or change the music. Speaking of music, tunes are played through a 10-speaker Bose sound system which sounds impressive. Even at full volume, the sound is free from distortion, delivering a clear and crisp quality with clean bass. If only the Philippines had TIDAL hi-fi streaming, I’d enjoy this sound system even more.
Safety-wise, the Mazda CX-5 is well equipped, with stability control, six airbags being equipped as standard. This comes on top of other active safety features such as adaptive headlights, blind spot warning, and rear cross traffic alert.
Under the hood of the Mazda CX-5 is a 2.5-liter SKYACTIV-G petrol engine that produces 190 hp @ 6,000 rpm and 251 Nm of torque @ 4,000 rpm. Power is sent through an i-ACTIV AWD system via a 6-speed automatic transmission.
How It Drives
One of the most noticeable improvements with this CX-5 is how mature the car drives now. Whereas its predecessor was fun-to-drive, it wasn’t as quiet or as refined as its rivals. This new generation model manages to carry on on the agility and handling the CX-5 has always been known for, but done in a manner that makes the CX-5 a much more family-friendly SUV.
For starters, the Skyactiv petrol engine is much more muted in cold start-ups. While it’s the same engine and transmission as before, Mazda has added plenty of sound insulation, as well as an acoustic windshield to lessen wind noise. All these improvements translates well to the road. Even on corrugated surfaces, the CX-5 emits a lot less tire roar inside the cabin. Once you go out into the open road, wind noise is kept to a minimum. Combined with the car’s rigid body, the CX-5 feels planted and stable at triple-digit speeds. Despite the firm suspension set-up, bumps don’t upset the CX-5 too much.
And yet, despite its improvements on the practicality and refinement side, the CX-5’s well judged steering and responsive throttle inputs make it dynamic to drive as ever. The CX-5 does not have paddle shifters, but for the most part, it doesn’t need any, because of the automatic transmission’s eagerness to downshift to the correct gear when you want to overtake someone, or when you simply just want to power out of a corner. Speaking of corners, the suspension is also well judged. There’s a little hint of body roll; this is still a tall vehicle after all, but the car stays planted through the bends, with G-Vectoring Control making itself transparent as you go through bends. It’s only once you are aware of its existence do you notice the engine trying to dip the throttle, or the brakes trying to do its job to make the vehicle rotate much more cleanly.
Aided by the engine start/stop technology, the Mazda CX-5 manages to achieve an average fuel economy of 9.2 km/l during its time with me, which is impressive considering the transmission’s increased eagerness to downshift compared to the older model. Some 2.0-liter sucbompact SUVs consume just as much as this bigger, 2.5-liter CX-5 with an i-ACTIV AWD system to boot.
On The Downside
Perhaps just to nitpick here, for its price, I do hope that it had a power liftgate when a mid-spec Subaru Forester 2.0i-P has one. The front passenger seats could have used some electric adjustment, too, considering the Nissan X-Trail 2.5 4×4 has electric adjustments for both the driver and passenger, but I’m probably asking too much at this point and might drive the price up too much. Perhaps one that might be valid to ask at this price point is automatic emergency braking, since a few of its competitors already have the said safety feature, with some of them even priced lower than this Mazda CX-5.
The Mazda CX-5 is an SUV that hits the right notes when it comes to driving dynamics. It’s a car that tingles your emotions and yet, it’s all grown up now to become a much more family-friendly option. The kid on the block has now grown some class and poise. Some SUVs try to become the most practical or the fuel efficient, but the CX-5 excels in the intangible aspects—one that can’t be measured by kilometers per liter and millimeters. In a sea of same-same SUVs that try to outperform each other through practical metrics, the CX-5 is a breath of fresh air. It’s an SUV for the car enthusiast, and that’s good news to all of us. Some of us are not fortunate to have a Mazda MX-5. If you have a family, and you need space, practicality, and some mild off-roading capability, this is an excellent choice. Wait, let me reiterate. This is your only choice.
Pricing and Rating
Exterior Design: ★★★★★
Interior Design: ★★★★★
Space and Practicality: ★★★★☆
Fuel Efficiency: ★★★★☆
Value For Money: ★★★★☆
Overall: 4.3 out of 5