Mazda CX-5 184PS AWD Auto
How to stand out from the crowd - Mazda delivers a lesson with its 2018 CX-5.
The SUV market is swamped. Over the past couple of years, car makers have been latching on to consumer demand for larger vehicles by launching stacks of roomy and practical models over the past couple of years. The Japanese company has found a way to differentiate its offering by focussing on its well-traversed capability of providing luxurious cars without enormous price tags.
To this end, the interior of the updated CX-5 has received some serious TLC. As well as super padded, comfy seats and room enough to swing a cat, the SUV boasts a plethora of tech. Standard features include the seven-inch touch screen with all the infotainment gubbins, as well as a host of safety systems such as advanced cruise control, advanced blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert, and smart brake support. Opting for the Sport Nav+ trim will get you a stack more, such as a 360-view camera and a new heads-up display unit.
Those familiar with driving new cars today might expect some of the equipment that is exclusive to the Sport Nav+ trim to be standard, such as the reversing camera, keyless entry and heated front seats. Remember a second ago I mentioned the price tag? This is evidently one of the ways in which Mazda can offer the standard CX-5 for as little as £24,795. And yet, the entry level trim hardly feels like the pennies have been meticulously counted and features scrimped on.
Instead, everything inside has that premium Mazda feel to it. Well, almost everything - I have a small gripe, and it really is small. The only unsatisfyingly bland bit of the interior is the steering wheel, specifically the buttons that are used to adjust speaker volume, cruise control settings and so on. These feel and look generic, like any other plastic buttons found on any other steering wheel in any other car. All other bits of detail, however, are distinctly Mazda, adding to that sense of luxuriousness.
The drive is also distinctly Mazda. The 2.2-litre 184ps diesel engine is available only in the top Sport Nav+ trim, and can be matched with either a manual or auto transmission. According to the carmaker, this variant comes with its 'Natural Sound Smoother' and 'Natural Sound Frequency Control' technology, which essentially helps reduce noise in the cabin. However, when prompted by stomping a right foot on the floor, its almost like a choir of Brian Blesseds jump onboard and suddenly start bellowing.
The sound is immensely addictive, and the power that the engine generates is exhilarating. This feeling is further emphasised by G-Vectoring Control, which takes data from the engine, transmission and chassis in order to distribute weight and optimise grip. The result is mouth-watering, particularly on the windy country roads I was whipping about near Horsham.
But all this excitement can soon be forgotten when cruising casually, the diesel engine gently purring from time to time to provide a quiet and comfortable experience. At the same time, the intelligent all-wheel drive system uses 27 sensor signals to monitor a tonne of data, such as the outside temperature, road gradient and steering angle. This allows the car to glide effortlessly over the most uneven of surfaces.
It's all very well having a quick runaround the back lanes in rural England, but the real test for Mazda's big SUV would come in the form of a long road trip with the backseats full of noisy little humans and the boot crammed with holiday gear. I am yet to try this, but from my initial experience, I expect the CX-5 would pass with flying colours.