Driven - May 2017

South African Launch: 2017 Mazda CX-5

Our First Drive of the New 2017 Mazda CX-5

The automotive space is an interesting one, one in which manufacturers are able to express themselves and the particular traits of their brand which has inevitably been influenced and shaped by the environment in which they were established. Take a look at several vehicles on the market in South Africa and devoid of all branding, one would probably still be able to pin point the origin of a vehicle based purely on elements such as build quality and design. The Italians have their, wait for it….flair and emotion (vomit) and the Germans their no-nonsense and near flawless balance between form and function.

The Japanese, however, have always had an approach which perhaps mirrors their vastly different way of going about life. This is great in that variety and diversity is great, but consumers are unlikely to buy a car painted like a panda bear with a Hello Kitty shaped steering wheel so expression in moderation is a good idea.

New Mazda CX-5

The new Mazda CX-5 is undoubtedly a car with a Japanese design, but it’s certainly more of a geisha than a beckoning cat. Mazda’s KODO: Soul of Motion design language has evolved somewhat from the previous CX-5 and as such, the new model is both distinctly Japanese, yet more mature than the outgoing model. It’s silhouette, a haunchy rear end with a stretched out bonnet, somewhat reminds one of the Maserati Levante and Infiniti FX/QX. Its convex grille, flanked by thin and striking headlights, gives the CX-5 a striking rear-view mirror presence, especially when finished in their new Soul Red Crystal colour which has been fine-tuned to highlight the shadows and curves of the vehicle’s bodywork.

New Mazda CX-5

While Mazda’s have always managed to remain somewhat abreast with advancements in vehicle technology and industry development, their interiors were always a bit of a disappointment. Cheap plastics and the smell of glue come to mind but thankfully, there will be no glue-sniffing in the cabin of the CX-5. Mazda’s long term projection of becoming a viable alternative to the “German three” while ambitious, seems more attainable than ever with this new model really upping the game in terms of perceived quality and finish. The CX-5 really does feel like a premium product and impressive NVH levels also do well to cement this.

As with all things in life, though, it’s not all gentle summer rain and bubble baths as the engine line-up (carried over from the outgoing CX-5) is unchanged. 2.0-litre and 2.5-litre petrol engines and a 2.2-litre diesel are the three engines to choose from and while on paper Mazda’s SKYACTIV Technology works well, in the real world it just feels lacking in certain aspects. This sort of vehicle benefits hugely from the low-down torque on offer from forced induction and while the diesel motor is able to deliver this, the petrols have to be pushed beyond 3 000 rpm to access their not insignificant amounts of torque. Power figures are 121 kW/210 N.m for the 2.0-litre petrol, 143 kW/257 N.m for the 2.5-litre petrol and 129 kW/420 N.m for the diesel and while these seem like decent figures, in practice I couldn’t help but imagine how well a turbo motor would work here. Anyway, Mazda has heard this time and time again, yet they still stick to their N/A ways so rather than complain about it, just get the 2.2-litre diesel – it’s my pick of the bunch anyway.

Active LED headlights, heads-up display, power-lift tailgate and a 10-speaker Bose sound system, lane keep assist, navigation and smart city braking with pedestrian detection all come standard on higher-specced models but standard specification across the board is also impressive featuring self-levelling auto LED headlamps, Bluetooth and a 7-inch full colour touch screen with reverse camera.

MazdaCare comes standard across the range which comprises of a 3 year/unlimted km service plan, warranty and roadside assistance.

A premium product from a brand who are heading in the right direction, the CX-5 is another reminder of how Mazda has benefitted from the Ford split, having come leaps and strides in the past few years. The CX-5 faces tough competition from the likes of Volkswagen’s stellar Tiguan and the Hyundai Tucson, but with bang on pricing and a properly good product, they shouldn’t have much to fear.

Pricing is as follows:

Mazda CX-5 2.0L Active FWD                  R379 900
Mazda CX-5 2.0L Active Auto FWD        R391 900
Mazda CX-5 2.0L Dynamic FWD             R404 900
Mazda CX-5 2.0L Dynamic Auto FWD   R416 900
Mazda CX-5 2.2L DE Active Auto FWD  R459 400
Mazda CX-5 2.5L Individual Auto FWD  R491 900
Mazda CX-5 2.2L DE Akera AWD             R557 500