Mazda CX-5

Best-seller plugs the weak spots to better seal the deal

ALEX INWOOD

Model Engine Max Power Max Torque Transmission Weight 0-100km/h Economy Price On sale Mazda CX-5 Touring AWD 2488cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v 140kW @ 6000rpm 251Nm @ 4000rpm 6-speed automatic 1633kg 8.5sec (estimated) 7.5L/100km $38,990 Now

FIRST AUSSIE DRIVE

IT DOESNíT take long to discover Mazdaís second-gen CX-5 is a quantum leap forward where it needed it most.

44 The realisation arrives on the freeway where, after settling on a steady 100km/h, I pause and listen forÖ nothing. Gone is the tyre roar that plagued the original CX-5. Gone is the rustle of wind noise; the constant chatter of background vibration. Now thereís just an eerie stillness; a sense of refinement and polish that pairs perfectly with the elegantly redesigned interior.

We sampled this new-gen CX-5 in California last month, but while that drive provided a tantalising taste, an odd mix of US suspension and steering tunes, and all-weather tyres, meant this is our first chance to deliver a verdict on the local model rangeís specification and dynamics.

Itís worth explaining the CX-5ís generational step change is quite minor. It still rides on the same basic platform, the 2700mm wheelbase is unchanged (though overall length is up 10mm and height is down 35mm), and even the engines, gearboxes, suspension, and front- and allwheel- drive systems are carried over with only minor revisions.

This doesnít mean Mazdaís engineers have been lazy. That marked improvement in cabin refinement has been achieved through a fanatical pursuit of noise/vibration/harshness pathways. And while the exterior isnít shockingly different, the opposite applies to the cabin. All variants in the five-tier line-up (which now includes a new midspec Touring grade in a hierarchy that reads Maxx, Maxx Sport, Touring, GT and Akera) score a leather steering wheel, a higher centre console for improved ergonomics and a classier dash design with strong horizontal lines and touches of chrome.

Importantly, rear seat comfort is much improved with a 10mm-lower hip point, a reclining backrest and greater visibility.

Rear air vents also appear, except for in the entry-level Maxx, which is a disappointing exclusion.

Prices have risen slightly in all variants bar the top-spec Akera, with the volume selling Maxx Sport copping the biggest hike at $900, though standard equipment levels are up (see sidebar).

Drivetrain wise, the most popular choice will be the 2.5-litre petrol paired with AWD.

Itís a muscular performer with a torquey mid-range backed up by smooth and intuitive shifts from the six-speed auto.

Less convincing is the frontdrive- only 2.0-litre four available in the Maxx and Maxx Sport. Itís noticeably louder than the larger petrol and with 114kW/200Nm on tap, is in desperate need of more mid-range grunt.

The big surprise, though, is the 2.2-litre diesel. Now smoother and marginally quieter, the rorty 129kW/420Nm oiler is eager and delivers a lusty turbo-heavy surge that lasts most of the way to the 5000rpm redline.

A stronger focus on comfort and a 40kg increase in weight (depending on trim) has dulled the old CX-5ís sporty edge slightly, though thereís still excellent roadholding and body control, and the steering is fluid, even if it does feel overly light. The ride soaks up bumps with well-judged compliance too, though there is a sharper edge to higher grades that roll on 19-inch wheels (lower spec versions wear 17s).

So the new CX-5 builds on the originalís striking styling and sound dynamics while addressing key weaknesses. Is it as good as our current benchmark, the VW Tiguan? It feels close. Weíll find out for sure in next monthís midsize SUV megatest. Stay tuned.

PLUS & MINUS

No rear air vents in Maxx; hardworking 2.0 petrol; price rises Vast improvement in NVH; classier, comfier cabin; equipment levels

Load(ed) lugger

Every CX-5 now scores that works up to 80km/h (previously 30km/h) in forward and reverse, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic altert, rear parking sensors and a reversing camera.

Inside thereís a new dashmounted 7.0-inch colour display with Bluetooth and digital radio, plus keyless start. Rear passengers in all variants bar the entrylevel Maxx gain a central armrest fitted with twin USB charging ports. an improved AEB system

OR TRY THESE...

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Ford Escape Trend EcoBoost AWD $35,990

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