As I've mentioned in other articles, I have a thing for Mazda, especially their CX-3 and CX-5 models. In fact, when a good friend of mine wanted to replace his ageing, and costly, Audi Allroad, I took him straight to our local Mazda garage where he bought himself a 12 month old CX-5, and he hasn't looked back since.
The original CX-5 was introduced way back in 2012, and with global sales of over 1.5 million it now accounts for roughly 25% of Mazda’s global sales volume, with more than 32,000 current-generation CX-5s having been sold in the UK; no mean feat.
Being 5 years old, it’s no surprise then that the wise folk at Mazda have been busy working on a new and improved version, and with enhancements across the board, can they make their already successful SUV more so?
With an all-new interior and a fully-revised body structure, the all-new Mazda CX-5 raises the bar even higher. All that sounds promising, but what are they like to drive? To find out, Mazda flew me up to Inverness for a couple of days to experience it for myself.
Stepping off the plane at a moderately dry Inverness airport, I was introduced to the fleet, handed a key and told to follow the Sat Nav, which would take me on a 250-ish mile trip to Inverurie via the Cairngorms.
My model for the first stint of the day was the 2WD, 165ps, 2ltr petrol SportNav in Soul Red Crystal Metallic, a colour that better suits the CX-5's curvaceous body, in my opinion anyway. The interior was finished in Stone leather, which really gives the CX5 a quality look and feel.
The route from Inverness Airport took me along the A939 and B9007, and although I hadn’t driven a Mazda in a while, I felt straight at home. The seats were firm and supportive, yet comfortable, and the driving position was spot-on.
The B9007 climbs steadily into the moors and narrows to a single track with passing points every so often. At this point I’m not suggesting that the old CX-5 was noisy, far from it, but this new model seems quieter, and possibly even more refined than usual.
Around 50 minutes later I pulled up outside Muckrach House hotel in Granton-on-Spey for lunch, not only was the food wonderful, but it gave me a chance to chat to some of my writing colleagues whom I hadn’t seen for a while. Conversation soon led to our initial thoughts on the CX-5, all of which were positive.
Leaving at around 1.00pm I followed the B970 that runs almost parallel to the A9, but much more entertaining. Before I reached the A86 I passed by the ruins of Ruthven Barracks near Kingussie; I wish I had more time to stop off and have a nosey, but I was on a car launch, not a history tour.
The A86 is one of the great, long sweeping roads that when empty is a joy to drive along, though watch out, because according to http://www.eurorap.org, travelling along this route carries a medium to high risk of suffering a death or serious injury accident!
As you may have gathered, I was alone, just me, the CX-5 and the calming voice from the sat-nav giving me directions like a well oiled navigator. On occasions I did think about putting the radio on, but it would have been an unwelcome distraction, I was having far too much fun, as so far the CX-5 was the perfect companion, much better than some over-zealous DJ.
A product of Mazda’s ‘Jinba Ittai’, car-and-driver as one philosophy, the all-new CX-5 was living up to its motto delivering plenty of driver engagement, as well as comfort; I was having a ball! Mazda say that they’ve paid particular attention to reducing noise and vibration within the cabin, and I'm not going to argue as the level of comfort and refinement was up there with the best.
From the A86 I followed the B889, aka General Wade’s Military Road, which eventually led me onto the A9, and that's when the weather turned nasty, for the rest of the day I was driving into a constant wall of water. The A9 was more like a raging river than a road at times, but the CX-5 kept me on the straight and narrow, even when passing lorries.
As I joined the B924 into Pitlochry, then left passing Moulin, the CX-5 just ate-up the miles. I’m fairly sure that I had a fixed grin all day long, and as I was throwing the CX-5 around these beautiful Scottish roads I was constantly searching for little niggles and faults, and being totally honest, I couldn’t find any. Even the addition of a tablet sticking out from the dash didn’t annoy me as Mazda have made it quite subtle, unlike Mercedes in certain models that make it look like an afterthought.
I turned left just after Kirkmichael onto the B950 for a few miles then left again onto the A93 - Old Military Road towards the Spittle of Glenshee, by this time it was around 3.30pm, and still raining.
Up until this point the 165ps, 2ltr petrol coupled to the smooth 6-speed manual gearbox had been a great combination. However, turning left at the Bridge of Gairn onto the A939 and up towards Lecht Ski School it lacked oomph, I wanted a bit more torque, but to be fair, these were serious inclines.
Eventually arriving at the Clockhouse Restaurant in Tomintoul at around 4.30pm for a car swap, we were also invited in for coffee and cake, which incidentally was lovely.
Leaving the tea shop at 5.00pm I swapped to the range topping AWD 2.2ltr, 175bhp diesel for my final stint of the day, an estimated 1-1/4 hour blast from Tomintoul to Inverurie.
The difference in power was evident straight away, it flies! I know it’s my job to test all models, but I wish I’d had this from the beginning, it was so much fun.
The 2.2ltr hurtled me along the B9008 and B9009 towards Dufftown, and right onto the A920 towards Huntly. I was trying not to let this new turn of speed go to my head! Joining the A96 and the A920 again at Kirkton of Culsalmond, all that was left was the B9001 and B9170 to Meldrum House hotel - phew. The new CX-5 may be quieter and more refined that the outgoing model, but Mazda have made sure that it hasn’t lost its dynamic drive, it’s still well balanced and good fun to throw around corners.
After around 8 hours driving you’d think I’d have more to say about the CX-5, but the problems were the roads and the scenery, the car was just a transportation devise that helped me visit and pass though some of Scotlands most beautiful areas. Would it have been more fun in their MX5? Probably. But I wouldn’t buy an MX-5, I would buy a CX-5.
I have to say that the 8-way adjustable power seats felt wonderful. According to the press release, both the front and rear seats have been extensively revised to offer occupants better core body support, improved fatigue relief and greater comfort, I have to concur, I felt as fresh as a daisy.
At first glance there doesn’t seem to be much difference between the old and new models, but the changes are subtle and it remains a handsome car with a powerful stance. The new version is 10mm longer and 35mm lower than its predecessor, but retains the same 2,700mm wheelbase. Aerodynamically, the latest CX-5’s all-new body has resulted in a drag coefficient that has been lowered by some 6% over that of the outgoing model.
Internally, the boot volume has marginally increased from 503 to 506-litres, and with the seats down there is 1,620 litres of luggage space. Of course it has a ridiculous amount of safety features for both driver, passengers and pedestrians, if they walk out in front of an oncoming CX-5.
After another lovely stay at the Meldrum House hotel, I enjoyed a sedate journey back to Inverness Airport with Frank from the Yorkshire Post. We shared driving the 150bhp 2.2ltr diesel auto, which is according to the Mazda team is their best seller. Again, it had a decent amount of oomph, and the auto box was seamless.
There's a lot to love about the CX-5, and if I had £33k stashed under the couch I would be sorely temped to add one to the Muddy fleet. During the 2 days I couldn't put my finger on any faults as it offered me a good solid drive through torrential rain and hideous mountain climbs. If you liked the old one, you'll love this, and if the CX-5 has never been on your radar before, then put it on there, now!
Prices from £23,695 for the 2.0 165ps 2WD SE-L Nav and £33,195 for the range topping 2.2 175ps AWD Sport Nav Auto