Australia's most popular SUV has been given a subtle facelift, but receives substantial changes inside and a price cut to boot.
WHAT IS IT?
A very minor facelift, with no sheetmetal changes, just lights, grille, mirrors, wheels and sundry exterior trim. Inside, however, the entire bottom half of the dashboard has been redesigned, an electric park brake appears for the first time in a Mazda, and fresh materials abound. Best of all, though, significant noise-reduction actions have been taken.
WHY WE'RE TESTING IT
Mazda’s popular CX-5 currently rules the medium SUV segment, and it’s not hard to see why. Attractive styling, efficient drivetrains, a great chassis and the company’s enviable reputation for quality and reliability are plus points, but too much road noise, a bland dash, some spec shortfalls and too much road noise have taken off the shine of late.
Ford Kuga, Subaru Forester, Nissan X-Trail, Hyundai ix35, Kia Sportage, Mitsubishi Outlander, Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Holden Captiva 5, Jeep Cherokee, VW Tiguan
THE WHEELS VERDICT
Small price drops, a rise in driver-aid tech (albeit in flagship Akera guise only) and a better-looking nose treatment are the headline changes, but the real advance is in the somewhat quieter rear-seat area, suppler ride quality on the smaller-wheeled versions, nifty Sport mode in petrol autos, and improved multimedia system. Some spec shortfalls remain, however.
PLUS: Dynamics; performance; efficiency; quality; quieter cabin; dash improvements
MINUS: Still noisy over coarse bitumen; firm ride on 19s; drab rear cabin; no digital speedo or rear vents
THE WHEELS REVIEW
IN THE late 2020s, P-platers will be driving today’s Mazda CX-5 in droves. With nearly 60,000 sold in three years, Australia’s most popular SUV will be a key future-generation automotive rites-of-passage choice. Just like the Commodore, Pulsar and Laser before it. Probably.
Handsome styling has played a massive part in the Mazda’s success, so the MY15 exterior changes are essentially confined to a new grille and lights.
Inside, however, the lower dash has been redesigned with a BMW iDrive-style controller for the upgraded multimedia system sited next to a now-electric park brake, and more storage. The interior is also enhanced with a larger central touchscreen, more supportive front seat cushions, and classier materials. The Akera flagship gains radar cruise control, adaptive LED headlights, lane-change assist and other high-tech driver aids. And prices drop $700 or more, thanks to Australia’s free trade agreement with Japan.
Espousing Mazda’s excellent SkyActiv modular platform components, there was no need to mess with the oily bits, so the smooth and punchy 2.5-litre atmo petrol Maxx Sport (the volume seller) feels as strong as ever. And now it benefits from a Sport auto setting that holds on to ratios a little longer, though it will eventually change up a gear after three seconds at the redline in manual mode.
Similarly, the 129kW/420Nm 2.2-litre four-pot turbo-diesel continues to compel with terrifically refined mid-range pull, making it a deceptively speedy yet stealthy tourer. Sadly, we missed out on driving the base Maxx 2.0-litre front-drive version at the launch.
Both AWD variants preserve the CX-5’s sweet steering and sharp handling status quo that allows the keen driver to maintain a line through fast corners, despite changes to the dampers and bushes developed to take the edge off the ride.
Road noise was the fly in the ointment with the outgoing model, but new sound-deadening and noise-quelling measures including thicker side glass means there’s not as much drone, though it’s still evident. Certainly the rear row is quieter, a win backed up by an appreciably suppler ride quality. Too bad the suspension is still too stiff on CX-5s fitted with 19s.
Let’s call it a work in progress because these shortfalls – as well as a drab second row (it’s so monotonously plasticky, with no rear-seat face-level air vents) and some spec shortfalls (you won’t find a digital speedo or front passenger seat-height adjuster in the $37K Maxx Sport) – still need attention.
Model: Mazda CX-5 Sport Maxx
Engine: 2488cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v
Max power: 138kW @ 5700rpm
Max torque: 250Nm @ 4000rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Fuel economy: 7.4L/100km
On sale: February 1