Mazda CX-5 GT Diesel 2013: Road Test

words - Ken Gratton
Smooth and sporty family SUV a leader among its rivals

Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring SKYACTIV-D (Diesel)
Road Test

Price Guide (recommended price before statutory and delivery charges): $46,630
Options fitted (not included in above price): N/A
Crash rating: Five-star (ANCAP)
Fuel: Diesel
Claimed fuel economy (L/100km): 5.7
CO2 emissions (g/km): 149
Also consider: Ford Kuga Titanium TDCI; Kia Sportage Platinum; Volkswagen Tiguan 103TDI

Mazda's CX-5 is a car that hits so many targets it could be considered the Green Arrow of SUVs. In a recent comparison a petrol-engined CX-5 outgunned all comers.

For this review, the flagship CX-5 Grand Touring boasted a 2.2-litre diesel developing 129kW and 420Nm for strong, accessible performance in a straight line. But the Mazda's on-road manners were exemplary also, and it was refined, well packaged and safe.

Starting with vehicle dynamics, the CX-5's ride quality was better than recalled of the Ford Kuga Titanium tested a month ago, but there was some initial impact harshness, but only over sharp bumps.

Rather than clashing, the Mazda's ride quality complemented its handling and roadholding. Easing off into a corner the CX-5 maintained a tight line, but even powering on through the corner it was impressively stable and predictable.

Eventually the tyres protested, but without any twitchiness from the suspension. The light, direct electrically-assisted steering was nicely communicative and the CX-5 was easily placed on the road. Not as sporty as Volkswagen's Tiguan 155TSI, the CX-5 was more enjoyable to drive than the Tiguan 103TDI, largely due to the Mazda's diesel engine.

You'll pick the CX-5 as a diesel as soon as the engine starts. But other than subdued clatter at lower speeds and low-frequency vibration from 1500rpm in higher gears it wasn't by any means unpleasant.

The engine was willing to rev, and actually picked up faster from speeds around 3000rpm than most diesels in our experience. It sounded better than most as well. What was also endearing about the SKYACTIV-D was its response. Asked to deliver useable power and torque for a quick getaway from the lights while it was still firing up, it produced the goods.

The i-Stop (idle stop-start) system was a useful feature that helped bring down fuel consumption by possibly half a litre of fuel off the figure posted by the trip computer during the week (9.0L/100km). Restarting usually took place without undue rough and tumble theatrics, and the system coped well with prolonged reliance on electric power for the audio and lighting with engine halted.

That figure of 9.0L/100km around town was a far cry from even the Mazda's city-cycle figure of 6.7L/100km, but was respectable during a very cold, blustery wintry week in Melbourne, when the demister was in constant use -- and i-Stop wasn't. Add to that dark nights early in the evening and woeful traffic, and events conspired against miserly consumption. It's also significantly better than the 10.3L/100km figure posted by Ford's diesel Kuga.

The Mazda powerplant drove through a six-speed automatic transmission to all four wheels. This smooth and capable unit balanced the need for high-gear fuel conservation and kick-down performance mode. It worked considerably better with the diesel's low-speed power delivery than with the 2.0-litre petrol engine under the bonnet of the base model. Used manually the transmission was swift to change gear, but left in Drive provided a degree of engine braking without having to drop back two cogs.

NVH at freeway speeds produced a blend of drivetrain rumble and some tyre noise, with the wind noise predominating, but that was on a particularly blustery night. Overall and in ideal circumstances, the Mazda is quiet indeed.

The seats provided the right amount of comfort and support without being too aggressive in their shape. Placed close to the driver's left thigh, the handbrake was where it should be, and the indicator and wiper stalks were located on the appropriate sides of the steering column. Instruments were clear and legible through the wheel, with controls situated sensibly on the spokes to run audio, cruise and computer. Tracking through a streaming playlist from a Bluetooth-capable smartphone wasn't a problem, as it occasionally is in other cars.

A couple of gripes about the interior however: The indicator and wiper stalks felt a bit clunky to use, there was an acrid plastic smell present and the touchscreen for the Tom Tom sat nav was not easy to use for such tasks as setting a destination.

Climbing in or out of the CX-5 (front or rear) was made easier by the car's high hip point. Rear-seat accommodation was generous for teenagers and adults -- and the sunroof didn't encroach on headroom. There was also plenty of room under the front seats and decent levels of kneeroom and legroom for adults of average size or taller.

One issue with the rear seat presenting itself was the lack of face-level vents. This still comes as a surprise in any vehicle around the mid to high $40k price point.

Mazda claims that with the seats upright the CX-5 will hold 403 litres of goods in the boot. That's part way between Ford's Kuga (406) and the Tiguan (395). Either side of the compartment are Mazda's useful flip-forward seat levers, which can be operated while loading larger objects from the rear of the car.

The equipment list was comprehensive for the car's price. Dual-zone climate control, leather trim, front/rear parking sensors, reversing camera, the satellite navigation already mentioned, rain-sensing wipers and auto-on/off headlights were all standard. And those headlights were adaptive bi-xenon units that were excellent, even when set to low beam.

Mazda offers a $2000 tech pack option, combining Blind Spot Monitoring, High Beam Control and Lane Departure Warning. I would recommend it just for the Blind Spot Monitoring; it's easy to miss cars alongside sometimes, thanks to the car's high sides and wide C/D pillars -- even with the well-sized mirrors properly adjusted.

Otherwise however, the CX-5 deserves some credit for establishing an affordable benchmark in the segment.

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Published : Wednesday, 24 July 2013
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