First Drive: Mazda CX-5

The CX-5 is Mazda's contender in the highly competitive C-segment, going up against the likes of the Nissan Qashqai, Volkswagen Tiguan and Renault Kadjar.

AOL Cars got behind the wheel of the new and improved model to find out if the Mazda has what it takes to steer buyers away from the best-selling Qashqai.
What is it?

If you asked anyone from Mazda, they would say that the latest iteration of the CX-5 is in fact an all-new car. However, while the exterior might look different, under the skin the new CX-5 uses the same platform and powertrains as its predecessor – so calling it 'brand new' might be a bit of a stretch.

That said, while the stuff that isn't visible to the eye might be nothing new, that redesigned exterior is a welcome change. Mazda has said itself that the design puts greater emphasis on building upon the looks of the older model than reinventing the popular C-segment SUV altogether.

Like the exterior, the cabin has also been treated to something of a makeover, with a new-look dashboard being the most immediately recognisable change. The infotainment system – which has also been carried over from the old model – receives a new housing, too, and much of the switchgear will look familiar to current CX-5 owners.

What's under the bonnet?

Customers have the choice of three different engines with the CX-5 – two diesels and one petrol.

The petrol engine is a 2.0-litre unit that develops 163bhp. Mazda claims that it can achieve a combined fuel economy figure of 44.1mpg – which is fairly respectable for a petrol-powered SUV. That said, though, the lack of a turbocharger does mean it runs out of breath at the higher end of the rev range.

First Drive: Mazda CX-5

First Drive: Mazda CX-5

The diesels will account for roughly 85 per cent of all sales, and both are based on the same 2.2-litre unit. One configuration of this engine develops 148bhp, while the other produces 173bhp. Both feel far gutsier than their petrol counterpart, and they're also more economical. The 148bhp engine returns 56.5mpg, while the 173bhp power plant boasts a fuel consumption figure of 52.3mpg.

What's the spec like?

Mazda hasn't announced the pricing or specifications for the latest CX-5 as of yet – although it has said customers should expect it to be more expensive than before thanks to the extra equipment on offer.

It wouldn't be unrealistic, therefore, to predict that the prices for the CX-5 will start close to the £25,000 mark, potentially rising to around £33,000 for the flagship diesel automatic model. This would mean the new Mazda SUV would be considerably pricier than the Nissan Qashqai – which currently dominates the C-segment – and roughly on par with the more upmarket Volkswagen Tiguan.

Any rivals?

If there's one thing the Mazda CX-5 isn't short of, it's rivals. The SUV C-segment is awash with contenders, including the Volkswagen Tiguan, the Peugeot 3008 and the Nissan Qashqai.

What's it like to drive?

The CX-5 has always impressed out on the road – and the latest model continues this trend. It might not be hugely different from its predecessor, but that's certainly no bad thing. As it did with the latest 6, Mazda has introduced its G-Vectoring Control system to the CX-5 in a bid to improve refinement – although only the keenest of Mazda aficionados will really be able to notice the difference it makes.

The CX-5 does lose a minor amount of speed as you turn into a corner, but thanks to a grippy front end, it manages to stay impressively composed. You'll really need to be putting your foot down before you need to worry about understeer.

Drivers will also be impressed by the levels of feedback afforded by the big Mazda's steering set-up. Sure, it may not match that of its sports car MX-5 sibling, but next to its rivals it's in another league.

The ace up the CX-5's sleeve, however, is its six-speed manual gearbox. It has a purposeful and slick feel to it – even though it appears on a 1.5-tonne SUV. While all engines are offered with the option of an automatic transmission, the manual makes driving the CX-5 that much more enjoyable.

As far as real-world tasks are concerned, the CX-5 doesn't cease to impress. It's a comfortable long-distance cruiser, and even the high-spec cars with their larger alloy wheels offer a superb ride. The seats aren't half bad, either.

AOL Cars verdict

It's a big shout in this sector, but we're confident that the CX-5 can still lay claim to the title of 'best in class'. The new car only builds on the old model's strengths, thanks to its striking new design language and impressive driving capabilities. As far as practical family motoring goes, the CX-5 will have you covered.

The Knowledge

Model: Mazda CX-5 2.2D AWD Sport Nav
Price as tested: TBC
Engine: 2.2-litre turbodiesel
Power: 173bhp
Torque: 420Nm
Max speed: 130mph
0-60mph: 8.8 seconds
MPG: 52.3mpg
Emissions: 142g/km