Mazda CX-5

Mild makeover for hugely popular SUV

BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS

FIRST AUSSIE DRIVE

IN THE late 2020s, P-platers will be driving todayís Mazda CX-5 in droves.

With nearly 60,000 sold in three years, Australiaís most popular SUV will be a key future-generation automotive rite-of-passage choice. Just like the Commodore, Pulsar and Laser before it. Probably.

Handsome styling has played a massive part in the Mazdaís success, so the MY15 exterior changes are essentially confined to a new grille and lights.

Inside, however, the lower dash has been redesigned with a BMW iDrive-style controller for the upgraded multimedia system sited next to a now-electric park brake, and more storage. The interior is also enhanced with a larger central touchscreen, more supportive front seat cushions, and classier materials. The Akera flagship gains radar cruise, adaptive LED headlights, lanechange assist and other high-tech driver aids. And prices drop $700 or more, thanks to Australiaís free trade agreement with Japan.

Espousing Mazdaís excellent SkyActiv modular platform components, there was no need to mess with the oily bits, so the smooth and punchy 2.5-litre naturally aspirated petrol Maxx Sport (the volume seller) feels as strong as ever. And now it benefits from a ĎSportí transmission setting that holds onto ratios longer, though it will eventually upshift after three seconds at the redline in manual mode.

Similarly, the 129kW/420Nm 2.2-litre four-pot twin-turbo diesel continues to compel with terrifically refined mid-range pull, making it a deceptively speedy yet stealthy tourer. Sadly, we missed out on driving the base 114kW/200Nm 2.0-litre front-drive Maxx variant at the launch.

Both AWD models preserve the CX-5ís sweet steering and sharp handling status quo that allows the keen driver to maintain a line through fast corners, despite changes to the dampers and bushes developed to take the edge off the ride.

Road noise was the fly in the ointment with the outgoing model, but new sound-deadening and noise-quelling measures including thicker side glass means thereís not as much drone, though itís still present. Certainly the rear seat is quieter, a win backed up by a more supple ride quality.

Too bad the suspension is still too stiff on CX-5s fitted with 19s (GT and Akera).

Letís call the updated CX-5 a work in progress then, because these shortfalls, as well as a drab second row (itís so monotonously plasticky, with no rear-seat facelevel air vents) and some spec gaps (you wonít find a digital speedo or front passenger seatheight adjuster in the $36K Maxx Sport) still require attention. n s

PLUS & MINUS

Still noisy over coarse bitumen; firm ride on 19s; no rear air vents Dynamics; performance; efficiency; quality; quieter cabin; better dash

Nip and tuck

SIDESTEPPING sheetmetal changes, the MY15 CX-5ís facelift is minor indeed. Look for eye-like light lenses front and rear, horizontal bars in the grille and air intakes, sleeker exterior mirrors, a smaller bee-sting roof aerial, a couple of fresh colours and restyled 19-inch alloys. The late, great Joan Rivers had more body work done on a daily basis.