Just five years since the Mazda CX-5 was launched, the stylish SUV accounts for one in four Mazdas sold. It was the first model in the Japanese brand’s reborn line-up to combine the company’s two signature taglines: Kodo design language and Skyactiv technology.
The second generation seen here takes strategic design hints from the Mazda 3 and offers some of the best-looking proportions in its class. Mazda’s most important crossover gets a stylish new chrome grille, sleeker headlights and slimmer tail-lights, a fresh new interior with more supportive seats and a more vivid interpretation of the company’s signature Soul Red paint.
Mazda also claims significantly improved noise and vibration levels, says the new G-Vectoring Control (GVC) brings improved steering turn-in, and promises snappier throttle response.
We drove a pre-production version of the 2.2-litre turbodiesel CX-5 on roads near Mount Fuji. Pumping out 173bhp at 4,500rpm and 420Nm of torque at 2,000rpm, the four-pot diesel was paired with a six-speed automatic gearbox – although a six-speed manual is also likely to be offered to UK customers.
According to CX-5 chief engineer Masaya Kodama, revisions on this engine over the previous generation include “air being forced in earlier – a change that enhances throttle response”. The effect is indeed noticeable; even exiting the first corner, the sharper pick-up from low down in the rev range was instantly apparent.
Boost arrives at around 2,500rpm and remains on tap until 4,500rpm, backing up Mazda’s trait of producing diesel engines that actually like to rev. The transmission’s remapped shift schedule also assists in faster exits and downshifts are quicker too.
To improve refinement, engineers addressed the typical diesel clatter by dropping “natural sound smoothers” inside the piston pins, explains Kodama. The result is effective in lowering the intensity of the clatter compared with the outgoing CX-5, but the diesel sound and vibration are still there. The overall level of refinement is improved, though – thanks, in part, to new sound-absorbing materials.
This crossover has always delivered the best performing chassis in its class, and the new CX-5’s steering response is now even sharper thanks to Mazda’s G-Vectoring Control. The GVC monitors three parameters: vehicle speed, throttle position, and rate of steering wheel rotation. This technology reduces engine torque in response to steering inputs, and Mazda claims this brings more precise turn-in and fewer mid-corner corrections.
There’s also extra structural reinforcement around the A-pillars, beefed-up torsional rigidity and more high-tensile steel used in the chassis – and Mazda has used these improvements to deliver improved ride quality as well as even better agility.
The CX-5’s four-wheel drive set-up doesn’t operate all the time. It spends most of its life in front-wheel drive, but when those tyres lose traction, the system will reduce front-wheel torque to regain grip, sending that traction to the rears in what Mazda calls i-Activ AWD. We found a wet patch of road, pushed the car through the corner and were impressed when the rears engaged with no noticeable delay, pulling the car effortlessly around the bend. Purely front-drive editions will feature in the UK line-up too, of course.
The new car gets an updated version of Mazda’s i-Activsense safety package including automatic braking, Driver Attention Alert, radar-based adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring and active LED headlights. All up, these systems work smoothly as they should, although the CX-5 did brake over-aggressively once while using cruise control.
Inside, the SUV is just as stylish as it is outside. The dash design is simpler and more elegant than before, taking definite design cues from Europe’s luxury crossovers. The flatter, more horizontal fascia makes the cabin appear wider and more spacious, and gives the ambience more maturity.