A Beast Beneath The Beauty
Mirror on the wall, who’s the nicest looking of them all? Two years have passed since the second generation Mazda CX-5 was released, and yet, it’s still the nicest looking compact SUV out there. Last year, I was able to drive the 2.5 AWD Sport variant and was left feeling impressed. This one though is now the range-topping diesel, and mind you, if you can afford the dough for the diesel variant, by all means, get this one!
A long hood, short rear deck design has been a Mazda signature proportion, and it works extremely well with the CX-5. Two years may have passed, but the CX-5’s still arguably better looking than even some premium SUVs. It even shares many similar proportions with the Maserati Levante. Huge praises then for what is still an SUV that starts at a little over P1.6 million. The way the LED headlights cleanly merge with the wide grille remains to be one of my most favorite design aspects. The side is free from fussy character lines, and as a result, the CX-5’s side profile is clean and sensuous. As with most Mazdas, the exterior looks at its best when dressed with its signature Soul Red Crystal paint.
The interior oozes luxury and quality. I mean, just look at it. It’ll take a lot of effort for you to find an ounce of cheap brittle plastic. In most places, it even puts to shame a lot of entry-level premium SUVs. Car manufacturers, take note. This is what an interior should feel like. All the buttons and switches feel crisp and well damped. It’s not all about aesthetics though. The front quarters have been well thought out. There are cupholders and generously large storage bins. Plus, the glove box is even lined with felt. Analog gauges with a crisp color TFT LCD multi-information display provide a spendy upmarket look, even when compared to some rivals that now utilize a fully digital instrument cluster.
The MZD Connect infotainment system is still my most favorite infotainment system since I heavily prefer using a rotary knob controller than being dependent on a touch screen. Unfortunately, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are not available. On the upside, a 10-speaker Bose sound system provides excellent sound regardless of your music source.
Rear seat space isn’t class-leading, but it’s spacious enough for most people’s needs. Besides, its rear quarters are still much more premium and plush than literally all of its competitors. The soft touch materials and plush leather extend through the rear doors, and that’s something you can’t say from its competitors. In terms of amenities, you do get rear aircon vents, bottle holders, as well as USB ports inside the center armrest.
Trunk space is mostly a battle on who gets to eke out the highest volumetric value, but in case that’s your thing, then the CX-5 has a 506-liter trunk, which is in the upper end of the class. Adding flexibility to the trunk are the rear seats, which split three-way in a 40:20:40 fashion. Selecting this top trim 2.2 AWD Diesel also adds a power liftgate.
As mentioned, this CX-5 is powered by the range-topping 2.2-liter Skyactiv-D diesel engine, which produces 175 hp @ 4,500 rpm and a potent 420 Nm @ 2,000 rpm, sent through all four wheels via a 6-speed automatic transmission.
And oh boy is this the engine to get. Whereas all of its rivals sell the diesel engine because of its fuel efficiency, the CX-5 does it for performance. Sure, it’s the most fuel-efficient choice, but it doesn’t lead its diesel rivals in terms of fuel economy. Where it leads is in the sporty driving experience.
For one, it’s extremely punchy. If you miss the Subaru Forester XT, this is the SUV to get. Power delivery is linear for most of the time, with torque still present at the mid to higher RPMs. There’s a tiny amount of turbo lag when you suddenly put your foot down to overtake, but as a whole, it never feels struggled at any RPM range. It’s so easy to overtake not just one, but even two slower cars when driving through a two-lane road.
And even after you’ve overtaken the slower cars, the acceleration is relentless. It just goes on and on until the redline. Yes, for a diesel, it’s quite a rev-happy one. But unlike other diesel engines, the engine is never vocal. In fact, there’s some throatiness to it under hard acceleration. It never feels rattly in any situation. As a matter of fact, numerous gas attendants have questioned my fuel choice while I was topping up, only for them to realize that it’s truly a diesel when they check the label on the fuel cap.
The relentless power is backed by a chassis that’s willing to dance accordingly. Granted, the electric power steering could use more feedback, but it’s the most responsive and dynamic among its peers. Additionally, the suspension has the right balance of pliancy and firmness. It’s firm enough to counteract body roll but soft enough for your grandmother not to complain. This is a crossover that fulfills both a want and a need.
However, it must be noted that sometimes under hard acceleration, the AWD system has a tendency to lighten up the steering, presumably from a momentary loss of grip, and then settling down a few seconds later. It’s no big deal, but it’s something to take note of.
Back to fuel economy, 12.3 km/l isn’t thirsty, but I was able to achieve 14.5 km/l regularly on a 2WD Honda CR-V 1.6 S i-DTEC. For the sheer acceleration this car has, it’s a compromise I’m more than willing to accept.
The Mazda CX-5 ain’t cheap, but with its premium aspirations, it’s a car that satisfies the emotional wants in a way that no other SUV at its price point can match. If you miss the Subaru Forester XT, the Mazda CX-5 2.2 AWD Diesel more than fits the bill. It’s blisteringly quick, whilst not having to break the bank in terms of fuel economy.
As of this writing, Mazda is offering a host of discounts for its popular compact SUV. Plus, with its 3-year free maintenance program, it’s a deal that will ease the expenses when it comes to running costs.
Pricing and Rating
Exterior Design: ★★★★★
Interior Design: ★★★★★
Space and Practicality: ★★★★☆
Fuel Efficiency: ★★★★★
Value For Money: ★★★☆☆
Overall: 4.5 out of 5