Contact: 2017 Mazda CX-5

Mazda's mid-size SUV accounts for 25% of its worldwide sales, and no less than 40% of sales in our market -this difference deserves to be studied-. The competition is tight, and it is clear that the Hiroshima did not want to be left behind, and have chosen to improve its flagship model -at least in sales- in the aspects that customers value most in this segment: comfort, refinement, and active and passive safety. And without forgetting an aspect that decides many purchases: perceived quality.

The first thing that catches the eye of the new CX-5 is a subtle but important change in proportions, it looks lower, with a more elongated front hood, and a more compact rear. The lowered height, set back windshield and lengthened hood help make it feel sleeker, but there's more to it. The side is now much simpler, and instead of the three curved side character lines - two upper ribs, one lower - there is now just one character line, a taut line that starts at the front light clusters and fades towards the rear wheel arch. In addition, the lower line of the glazing loses its curvature to become straight and more horizontal...

Contact: 2017 Mazda CX-5

The side view is now more dynamic and elegant. Less SUV and more "asphalt".

The front also evolves looking for a greater visual impact, with a very three-dimensional grille and headlights, with a very elaborately designed grille and a narrow and wide optical groups. The rear is somewhat more continuous, but equally interesting, with a curved ribbing that begins and ends at both wheel arches, and that gives visual continuity to the aforementioned side ribbing.

Overall, the new design suggests sophistication, tension, dynamism and maturity, and the feedback we heard during our test drive was very positive. I wouldn't want to overlook the fact that Mazda has achieved a "sporty and dynamic" design without resorting to the now ubiquitous - and ridiculous - fake grilles. Good for Mazda's design team.

Especially appealing is the new Soul Red Crystal color, an evolution of Mazda's "pseudo-official" color of recent years. The new color achieves through a complex three-layer process and sophisticated chemical composition that the different surfaces change the way they reflect light more markedly, very clearly underlining the surface design of the new CX-5. It's not that the other colors Mazda offers for the CX-5 are ugly, on the contrary, some I love, but in this red, the car is spectacular. If you buy it in this color, hand wash it carefully, and don't put it in a tunnel ever, please.

Contact: 2017 Mazda CX-5

The aesthetic and quality evolution is almost more evident in the interior. Starting with the dashboard, which now has a more horizontal and visually light design, with a new display -panoramic- placed in a higher position, and a design of aerators, trims and controls that suggests quality and technology. Mazda has made a great effort to make the car look more premium and has succeeded, both in terms of design and choice of materials. In addition, the quality of the finishes is very high.

Overall, it is distinguished and elegant, as well as welcoming, with great attention to detail; a couple of examples: now the inner frame of the windows is trimmed in black - as in the real premium - and now there is no longer a single centimeter of bare sheet metal in the interior, and the trim of the rear seats have been treated with the same materials, with the doors having an aesthetic treatment and trim similar to that of the front doors.

Ergonomically, the gear lever has been raised 4 cm and the seat padding has been redesigned, so that the raised driving position is more natural, and the controls are closer to hand. Visibility is pretty good overall, but if you're looking for a downside, I found the dome that houses the clocks and head-up display a little too high for my short stature. Otherwise, the CX-5 suffers from the problem of most SUVs, and is that the high waistline greatly limits the vision of guardrails, bollards, curbs ... Paradoxical in a model that "sells" better vision of the environment.

Contact: 2017 Mazda CX-5

As for the comfort of the rear seats, the side seats are very spacious and comfortable -the central one not so much-, and still have good visibility forward and to the sides. The seats can now adjust their inclination, have independent air vents, USB connections... In theory, your kids should have no excuse for being uncomfortable and giving you a hard time on long journeys, but you know what?

As for the boot, it's slightly bigger and its 477 litres give a lot of space, as it has very regular shapes, and it also has another 20 litres under its lower tray, which doesn't house a spare wheel as standard. I asked the people at Mazda if it was available as an option, and they told me that the spare wheel was an accessory that could be fitted at the dealership.

A word of advice, if you're ever going to take your CX-5 on unpaved roads, ask your dealer to fit the spare wheel and jack kit, there's no question of getting stranded on a road that doesn't appear on the maps, and/or can't be accessed by tow trucks. What's more, some insurance policies exclude cover off tarmac roads.

Contact: 2017 Mazda CX-5

A major leap in comfort and improved handling

Mazda has made a major effort to improve sound insulation and reduce vibrations that reach occupants, especially frequencies due to rolling noise and aerodynamics. For example, the new CX-5 now features special front glass with more sound-absorbing material, a 15% stiffer body, hollow front stabilizer... all this has increased the weight by about 40 kg, but now the acoustic comfort and perceived level of vibrations are really good, even better than some European premiums.

Engine noise is still present during acceleration - more so in the case of the 2.0 petrol - but it's not unpleasant at all - at least not for a piston-loving driver. In fact, it's even surprising that the 2.2 diesel engine has a rather pleasant sound, which is hard to identify as a diesel, but we'll talk about the engines a little later.

The feel of the road feel is now somewhat more refined, very premium, and - as usual for Mazda - the driver has a lot of sensory feedback of what's going on and how close to the limit you're rolling. In this respect, the new G-Vectoring technology that acts on the force reaching the wheels during cornering does its bit, especially when the driver makes small errors of judgement when accelerating through a corner.

Contact: 2017 Mazda CX-5

Despite the 40 kg weight gain, the car is still relatively light - between 1,360 and 1,536 kg - and this partly explains its agile handling, which is - if anything - still a little better than the previous CX-5 - a benchmark in the class. It is a car that moves with ease, that does not lean too much in the curves and that is much more dynamic than its volume and height suggest. And all this, while maintaining a level of comfort also above the average in its category.

The only downside in this sense is a slightly strange touch on the brake pedal, it seems as if you have to press the pedal with more or less intensity in the different phases of braking, but after a while behind the wheel, you get used to it and immediately we forget that first impression, and learn to modulate the braking perfectly. Of course, it's not as good as a Mazda3 or Mazda6, but physics is physics.

I would say that this car would be great with an air suspension with two heights asphalt-road, and I asked Masaya Kodama (Program Manager of the CX-5) if Mazda had thought about an air suspension for the CX-5, and he said he couldn't tell me anything about it, but without losing a natural smile...

Contact: 2017 Mazda CX-5

The familiar engines, plus one more

The 2.2 Diesel is still offered in two variants of 150 and 175 hp, but benefits from some improvements aimed at reducing vibrations, such as an ingenious redesign of the connecting rods, which add a special material insert that dampens the typical vibrations of compression-ignition engines. I was able to test the variant of 150 hp associated with manual transmission with 4×4 traction and I liked it a lot, both for smoothness, elasticity, power ... and all with a consumption of the most reasonable, very close to the homologated. The price difference with the 175 hp variant is not much, although colleagues who were able to test the more powerful version commented that the slight increase in torque and power is noticeable and appreciated.

As for the gearbox, the manual has a delicious feel, and in this elastic diesel variant you hardly need to play with the lever, I could not test the automatic, but those who have been able to test it were delighted with it. The automatic is a torque converter.

The 2.0 naturally aspirated petrol is a great engine, but I wasn't convinced by its association with the CX-5. It's a rather bulky and relatively heavy car -compared to a passenger car or compact-, and it demands a relaxed driving. It's not that it lacks power, but it forces you to be very attentive to the gearbox. It is a smooth and willing engine from idle, but it lacks power at low revs to accelerate the car if we do not make frequent and accurate use of the gearbox. On the other hand and because we must visit the top of the rev counter with some frequency, it is a little more difficult to get consumption close to the homologated.

Mazda announces for September a new and modern 2.5 petrol naturally aspirated 194 hp and 258 Nm at 4,000 rpm; includes a system of disconnection of two cylinders, and that homologates consumption only slightly higher than those of the 2.0. It would be interesting to test this engine, as it is likely that in practice, and associated with the CX-5, does not consume more than its little brother the 2.0. What I do have clear is that it will be more pleasant mounted on this car.

Despite the fact that most customers in this category choose their SUV with front-wheel drive, Mazda still offers the option of all-wheel drive with automatic transmission for all engines of the CX-5, although the most powerful versions will only be available as 4×4. Mazda claims to have redesigned its all-wheel drive so that frictions have been reduced by 30%, and according to what they say, the brand's all-wheel drive system is proactive, that is: it anticipates traction losses, increasing active safety. To do this, the control unit takes information from different sensors and parameters - even the rain sensor - and the idea is to engage the rear-wheel drive before the front loses traction.

All-wheel drive adds about 50-60 kg -depending on engine and transmission-, increases the homologated fuel consumption by 0.2-0.4 liters/100 km, and means a price increase of about 3,000 euros. Granted, most potential customers will end up buying their CX-5 with front-wheel drive, and I don't think the 2.0 petrol engine would marry very well with a country use or 4×4 drive, but I think it's great that Mazda is offering all-wheel drive across the CX-5 range.

Contact: 2017 Mazda CX-5

Trim levels and safety equipment.

Mazda has renamed its trim levels, and evolved or added new safety and driving assistance features. The trim levels start from a more than reasonable Origin, through an attractive Evolution and culminate in a Zenith that can be completed with a Leather pack and a Cruise pack.

The Origin already includes almost everything reasonable, and adds on the equipment of the old Style+ (the equivalent version of the previous CX-5): braking system with pedestrian detection, auto-hold function for braking in traffic jams, reclining rear seats, air outlet in the rear seats ... but, to tell the truth, and taking into account the rear visibility of this type of car, I miss the parking sensors and some other driving aids that if they are present in the Evolution.

In addition to the parking sensors, the Evolution adds: rear view camera, sign recognition, lane change warning, full LED headlights with adaptive lighting, blind spot detector, color head-up display, fatigue detector, automatic braking in reverse, automatic folding mirrors... Anyway, and to make it round, the Evolution would have to add the browser, which costs a reasonable 400 euros.

The Zenith - top of the range finish - adds: Smart Full LED headlights with 12 diode matrix and a sophisticated system that allows you to drive permanently with the high beams on, selectively turning off the number of LEDs necessary so that we do not dazzle the cars that roll in front of us or with which we cross, an interesting advance in safety. The wheels go from 17" to 19", the sound system is Bose, equips the browser as standard, an electric tailgate...

Contact: 2017 Mazda CX-5

And if we get a bit more capricious, we can increase the equipment of the Zenith with a Leather Pack, -choosing the seats in black or bone color-, electric seats with memory and heated and head-up display with memory. And if you're really hardcore, you can also add the Cruise Pack, with Head Up Display projected on the windscreen, adaptive cruise control with Stop&Go function, and pre-impact emergency braking.

If you have clear that you need an SUV, this CX-5 is one of the best options, it is not cheap, but if we compare it with the best in the segment has a very reasonable price. Its behavior is one of the best in its category, it is still very spacious, now it is even more comfortable, and on board there is an atmosphere of the most Premium, with finishes, comfort and refinement at the level of the best.

If we apply Mazda's current promotion of 2,000 euros, the price range goes from 24,600 for the 2.0 Petrol Manual 2WD Origin to 39,610 for the Diesel 175hp 4WD Automatic Zenith+ Cruise+Techo+Leather. To get an idea, one of the most demanded will probably be the 2.2 Diesel 150hp 4×2 Evolution + Navigator, which with the promotion would go for 29,350 euros.

Contact: 2017 Mazda CX-5

Which CX-5 should I buy?

The 2.0 petrol engine complies perfectly, as it is very nice and its performance is sufficient, but unless you travel loaded, circulate on twisty roads or with steep slopes, you'll have to keep playing with the gearbox. On the other hand, if you do a lot of kilometres a year you'll have to crunch the numbers, as the real consumption of the petrol version will easily be a couple of litres more per hundred than that of its diesel sibling.

The 150bhp version of the 2.2 SKYACTIV-D is much more decisive and is among the best engines in its class, plus it sounds surprisingly good - often you wouldn't even say it burns diesel - and has reasonable fuel economy. As I said above, I'd have to try the 175bhp to decide if it's worth the price difference.

The manual gearbox is delicious, but everyone who has tried the automatic says that it works great and that they prefer it to the manual... To be honest, and in this type of car, I think that a good automatic gearbox is almost the best option, and this CX5 is it. As far as traction is concerned, I personally don't understand an SUV without 4WD, but the price difference between the two traction systems is considerable, so the decision is yours.

And as far as equipment is concerned, I would only choose the Origin if I was on a tight budget, because for the 2,000 euros more than the Evolution, it adds very interesting safety features, not to mention the parking sensors and reversing camera, almost essential elements if we put a car of this type in most Spanish cities. The Zenith adds interesting elements such as LED matrix headlights and other cool stuff, and all this at a relatively reasonable price -especially if we compare it with its central European competitors- so if you can afford it... why not?

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