Mazda has achieved something of a double whammy with the launch of its all-new CX-5: not only is it the Japanese manufacturer’s first compact SUV but, perhaps more significantly, it’s also the debut of its fuel-saving SkyActiv technology which will gradually be rolled out across the full range of new cars, including the imminent Mazda6.
So, what sets the CX-5 apart from its rivals, including the VW Tiguan, Nissan Qashqai and Ford Kuga? How about class-leading emissions from the ultra-efficient engines, which also take advantage of lightweight construction, plus the standard stop/start?
But before we look at the technology — promise, it won’t send you to sleep — let’s see what the CX-5 has to offer in terms of looks and practicality.
Externally it’s something of a headturner, with a clever combination of chunky and sweeping, sharp lines; somehow the two just seem to work together. It’s a clever design.
Inside the cabin there’s a range of high quality finishes, which make it a classy place to sit. And there’s certainly enough room.
As you would expect of any Mazda, the driving position is well nigh perfect, a result of the myriad of wheel and seat adjustments. And the tall seating position ensures you have a great view of the road. There’s also plenty of space for storage: in addition to big pockets in the doors, there’s also a large central bin between the front seats.
Rear passengers are also well looked after in terms of space. Ok, the centre seat might be a tad narrow — let’s face it, that’s the case in the vast majority of cars — but thanks to the CX-5′s long wheelbase, the longest in its class, rear passenger room is excellent.
The rear seats also have a clever 40:20:40 folding system, which can be operated from either the boot or the cabin, and tucks the seats away flush with the floor. Bootspace is impressive too, with 503-litres increasing to 1620 when you fold the rear seats down.
And Mazda has paid attention to security by fitting a clever tonneau cover which is integrated into the tailgate and lifts out of the way when the boot is open. When you don’t need to use it, the tonneau can be stored away under the boot floor.
The flagship of the range, the 172bhp CX-5 2.2D AWD Sport which will set you back £27,195 — the range starts at £21,395 — is well equipped. Full leather trim, heated seats, xenon lights, reversing camera, Bluetooth, a multifunction steering wheel, a Bose stereo and keyless entry are all standard.
And just for good measure, the TomTom satnav system, which is normally a £400 option, is free on all models for a limited launch period until July 31. Not bad, eh?
The CX-5 comes with a choice of one petrol and one diesel engine, though the oilburner is available with two outputs, 148bhp or 172bhp. All three have stop-start as standard, and a choice of a six-speed manual or automatic transmission.
As part of Mazda’s SkyActiv technology, the CX-5 uses lots of high- and ultra-high strength steel. The resulting weight-saving means it’s 57kg lighter than the corresponding Ford Kuga, and 80kg lighter than the Tiguan.
The 1998cc direct-injection petrol unit is claimed to have the highest compression ratio of any petrol engine in the world. It also weighs 10% less than its predecessor, produces 15% more torque, and consumes 15% less fuel.
Good as it is though, thanks to the Government’s CO2-biased tax bands, Mazda bosses expect it to only account for 15% of sales.
In contrast to the petrol, the diesel is claimed to have the lowest compression ratio of any oilburner in the world. There’s also a 10% weight-saving over its predecessor, and it’s 20% more fuel efficient.
The result is the four-wheel drive diesel delivers 54.3mpg and 136g/km of CO2. The lesser-powered diesel does even better: 61.4mpg and 119g/km, making it best in the class.
The diesel is fitted with a two-stage turbocharger, which means it’s no slouch: 0-62mph in 8.8secs, and a top speed of 129mph. And that, mated to the short-shift gearbox which, not surprisingly, was inspired by the sporty MX-5, means the whole package is guaranteed to put a smile on your face.
On the test route in the West of Scotland and ‘over the sea to Skye’, the CX-5 felt perfectly at home on the twisty, narrow single-track roads. Steering is well-weighted and precise, and when combined with controlled bodyroll by dint of the suspension and damper settings, the CX-5 is a delight to drive.
And when coping with the city centre traffic in Inverness, the Mazda’s stop/start system operated very smoothly.
Mazda may have been late to join the crossover party, but in the shape of the CX-5, allied to its pioneering SkyActiv technology, they have a serious contender which will make many of the established contenders keeping a watchful eye over their shoulders.